(This recipe has been archived on the site, but I am leaving the printer-friendly version here so that anyone who has enjoyed the recipe can still find it.)


  • 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 have some)
  • 1 C minced onions
  • 1 C chopped tomatoes
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger (or minced ginger from a jar)
  • 1 T Panch Phoron spice mix
  • 4 dried small red chilies
  • 1 T crushed garlic (or minced garlic from a jar)


  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.

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