Growing up in Trinidad, dhal meant salted meats like pig tails or beef and either curry chicken or tomato choka on the side with rice. My mom would put pieces of salted pig tails or beef into the dhal as it slow cooked that gave it a very unique taste. However, traditional split peas dhal is vegetarian and does not have sort of meat in it. These days when I do make dhal it’s more of a soup, as it’s very filling… with pieces of bread soaked into it. TIP: I usually make a big pot when I cook this and put a couple portions in the freezer for those nights when I feel like eating something hearty. All you do is pop it out of the freezer container and heat it in a pot on very low heat (covered). In less than 10 minutes you’ll have dhal that’s good as if it was fresh made.
Note: It seems that the recipe for dhal varies by person, region and country, as everyone has their own take on this.
2 cups Split Peas (yellow)
4 cloves garlic
salt to taste (about 3/4 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon Turmeric
7 cups of water
2-3 tablespoon oil
1/2 small onion sliced thin
1/4 hot pepper (optional) Habanero, scotch bonnet or whatever hot pepper you like
dash fresh ground black pepper
*TIP: Soak the dhal in water overnight or for a few hours before cooking to reduce the cooking time.
I not much of a prep person as I don’t usually plan my menu in advance, so it means my method take s a bit longer since I don’t pre-soak the split peas. I start by washing the split peas by pouring water into a bowl along with the split peas and massaging it a bt, between my fingers. I usually drain and rinse again. If you look at the pic below you’ll see all the grit like stuff that makes the water cloudy.
In the meantine bring the 7 cups of water to boil and prep the washed dhal for cooking. Drain the water you’ve rinsed the dhal with and put the hot pepper, slices of onions and 2 cloves of garlic (smash or pound it). As the water comes to a boil, pour in everything from the bowl and bring back to a boil. Then add the salt, black pepper and turmeric to the pot. Reduce to a very gentle simmer and place a lid on the pot (a bit ajar). Allow this to cook on very low for about 1.5 hrs or until the peas are tender and are melting away.
You may notice a bit of foamy stuff start to develop at the top of the pot (see image below) using your spoon, skim off and discard. Continue cooking on low.
After the peas are soft and start to melt or lose it’s shape, you now need to break them down to a thick soup like consistency. Using one of the following, whisk away.
After you’ve whisked the now cooked dhal, it’s time to “chunkay” (the process of adding heated oil infused with cooked garlic). In a small frying pan, put the oil and allow to heat, then add thin slices of the 2 remaining cloves of garlic. To get the true “chunkay” flavour, allow the garlic to go golden to dark brown. Then with caution, pour the infused oil on the cooked dhal (forgot to mention that you should have now turned off the heat under the cooked dhal) and stir to blend into the entire mixture.
1. When adding the heated oil to the pot with the dhal, stand a bit back to avoid any burns from splasing hot oil.
2. To cut back on cooking time, feel free to boil the dhal in a pressure cooker. It may take about 15 minutes or until the peas are tender and falling apart. Then chunkay as mentioned above.
3. If you started cooking on a large burner, feel free to move to a small burner where you can really get the heat low to allow the split peas to simmer and get tender without drying up all the liquid.
4. If you do like me and make a large batch to freeze. When you reheat, put a few tablespoons of water in the pot first to prevent it from going overly thick when it’s heat through.
Tonight we enjoyed the dhal with rice and curry stew chicken.
I encourage you to leave your comments and questions and do share you own way of making dhal with the community.