Kalyn's Kitchen

Bengali Red Dal Curry from Jake

I swooned over this Bengali Red Dal Curry when my nephew Jake brought some to my house for me to try! 

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Bengali Red Dal Curry from Jake found on KalynsKitchen.com

I’ve written on this blog more than once about my feelings of intimidation about making authentic Indian food, and confessed that I sometimes use things like Pataks Biryani Paste when I get that Indian food craving. This fear of Indian cooking is still alive somewhere in my cooking psyche, but when my 20-something nephew Jake raved about a dal recipe he’d made, and then showed up at my house with this fantastic dish, I realized I need to get over it.

Jake is a good cook, an almost-vegetarian, and a fan of Indian food, and he found this recipe online and pretty much followed it exactly except for removing the dried red chiles at the end. The recipe was posted by Jonathan Kandell, but I don’t know if he created the recipe or was just reposting it. Maybe he’ll google his name sometime and find it here. However the recipe came about, it was an incredibly flavorful blend of interesting tastes. If there are readers who are more knowledgeable about this type of food than I am, please chime in about the five spice mixture used here, something I’m learning about for the first time.

Bengali Red Dal Curry from Jake found on KalynsKitchen.com

More Recipes with Lentils from Kalyn

Sausage and Lentils with Fried Sage
Curried Rice and Red Lentils

Bengali Red Dal Curry from Jake found on KalynsKitchen.com

Bengali Red Dal Curry from Jake

Yield 6 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

My nephew Jake brought this Bengali Red Dal Curry to my house for me to try, and it was so delicious!


  • 1 1/2 C dried red lentils
  • 3 1/2 C water
  • 6 Serrano chiles (or 3 Jalepeno chiles) either whole or sliced in quarters
  • 1/4 t turmeric, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 4 T + 2 T vegetable oil (or use ghee if you prefer)
  • 1 C minced onions
  • 1 C chopped tomatoes
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 1 T Panch Phoron spice mix
  • 4 dried small red chilies
  • 1 T crushed garlic


  1. There are three basic steps to this recipe: cooking the lentils in water, making a tomato/onion/ginger mush, and making a spiced oil.
  2. Rinse lentils well, add water, Serrano chilies, turmeric and salt.
  3. Bring carefully to boil and cook over low to medium heat, partially covered, for 25 minutes.
  4. Cover and cook another 10 minutes.
  5. Adjust salt.
  6. While lentils are cooking, cook onions in a frying pan in the oil until they are golden brown (approximately 10 minutes), stirring constantly.
  7. Add tomatoes and ginger and continue cooking until the tomatoes decompose into a delicious and fragrant mush (approximately 8 minutes.)
  8. Stir constantly so that tomato mixture doesn’t stick.
  9. Turn heat to low if necessary.
  10. Scrape out this mush into the lentils and stir it in. Let lentils sit while you make the spiced oil.
  11. Do a quick rinse of the frying pan, without soap, and dry thoroughly.
  12. Add the remaining 2T oil and heat over medium high heat.
  13. When oil is hot add Panch Phoron (affiliate link) mix and heat until the seeds begin to pop, about 15 seconds.
  14. Add red chilies and fry for another 15 seconds, until they turn a little darker.
  15. Turn off heat and add the crushed garlic and let sizzle for about 30 seconds.
  16. Stir this mixture into the lentil/tomato mixture and serve with rice. Adjust salt.


Notes about the Key spice used in this recipe:This recipe cannot be authentic without Panch Phoron (affiliate link) spice Mix, also known as Five Spice – do not substitute Chinese Five Spice! Mixture consists of equal proportions of whole cumin, fenugreek, anise, mustard, and kalunji (“Indian black onion” seed). You will need to go to an Indian Store to get the last ingredient if you make your own. It is not related to the onion.

Note from Kalyn added 2-26-07 – Jonathan Kandell spelled the spice mixture Panch Phanon, but after reading about this Bengali Five Spice Mixture online, I have changed the spelling, since it seemed to be spelled with an *r* everywhere I saw it. Thanks to Sandeepa for the tip to look up Panch Phoron on Wikipedia. Apparently you can buy the Panch Phoron already mixed or you can mix your own.

Jake adds this note to the recipe: Dried small red chilies have a burnt taste and should be taken out of the final dish. This would be great served with rice, but when Jake brought it to my house, we just ate a bowl of it alone. I had eaten nearly half of mine with enthusiasm before I had the presence of mind to try to take a few photos so I could share it here.

Recipe posted online here by Jonathan Kandell, shared with Kalyn by her nephew Jake. Reposted with only slight editorial changes to the recipe by Kalyn.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 127Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 709mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 5gSugar: 4gProtein: 6g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

If you make this recipe I'd love to hear how it turns out. Leave a star rating or share on social media with the hashtag #KALYNSKITCHEN, thanks!

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Bengali Red Dal Curry is a good side dish for any low-glycemic diet, including any phase the original South Beach Diet, although limit serving size for phase one. Lentils (Dal) are too high in carbs for a low-carb diet.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Side Dishes to find more recipes like this one! Use the Diet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You can also Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Bengali Red Dal Curry from Jake found on KalynsKitchen.com

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    28 Comments on “Bengali Red Dal Curry from Jake”

  1. Thanks, Kalyn. We made this tonight, increasing the turmeric to 1 teaspoon and maxing out the garlic, and it turned out very well. Also it tastes like a dish where the flavor will just improve over a day or two.

    We served this with a few MTR boil-and-eat entrees. My niece wanted naan or rice to eat with her meal, so I may have a repeat performance with the leftovers and add some starches for her (I'm on Phase 1, so for now bread is a no-no).

  2. I did love it when my nephew made it for me. Hope it works for you.

  3. I can never get Dal just right. Grrr. I think I may try this one though. Nothing beats Indian on a cold, wintry night…

  4. hi kalyn! I found this fabulous recipe via different route, and absolutely loved it!

    as regards panch phoron, i wanted to add that it’s also used in bihar, india, where they add ajwain seeds to it. these are tiny and very aromatic, sligthly similar to how thyme smells. they are truly fantastic. i use them all the time in pakoras, and in this gorgeous bihari aloo:


  5. Thanks for sharing the information about this wonderful mixture. It’s so tasty!

  6. Panch Phoran is perhaps one of the most commonly used spices in a bengali kitchen. It is a combination of five seeds – fennel, kalonji, mustard, methi, cumin. It is used to cook bengali dal(lentil soup), mixed vegetables etc. However, it is probably not used in any other part of India- Anonymous Bengali.

  7. Kalyn, Panch Poron (with accent on each ‘o’ as in “open”) is definitely a true blue Bengali spice mix – no other region in India uses it a a ‘standard’ house seasoning/spice mix. Therefore it is not surprising that even some other Indians who posted here have not heard of it. It is used when making veggies, dal, curries – anything and everything 🙂

    Really like your style and enthusiasm in your writing. thanks!

  8. This sounds like such a wonderful combination of flavors. WTG on getting over that intimidation!