Taste Kerala: the best dal recipe from South India

Posted on 27 September 2017

The best way to get a real taste of a new place is to stay with the locals. This is why we chose to explore the south of India via her heritage homestays.

Read the full story about our Food Editor’s adventure through Kerala in the October issue.

In Kerala we learnt about the traditional cuisine by observing the woman of the house at work in her kitchen. At Vanilla County Rani Vallikappen showed us how to make her dal recipe. Dal was served for lunch and dinner at the homestay and always with rice.

It has the consistency of a sauce and is made of cooked dried, split pulses with fried aromatics stirred through. Rani uses chana dal, which is yellow and related to the chickpea (available in South Africa from spice shops and specialist food stores) and her secret to good flavour to use a healthy amount of onion and garlic and cook it until golden.


Rani’s Dal recipe

Feeds 4 as part of a curry feast.

Rani stands outside the homstay in Kerala; and the gorgeous lunch spread at Vanilla County is pictured on the right. Photo by Brandon de Kock.



1 cup chana dal, soaked in cold water overnight

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

60g onion, sliced into slivers

25g garlic, sliced into slivers

quarter teaspoon chilli powder

handful of fresh curry leaves

half teaspoon to 1 teaspoon sea salt



1. Rinse the dal and add to a small pot with four cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until the dal is soft and smooth with a saucy (but not soupy) texture. If necessary, add another cup of water and keep cooking until it reaches the right consistency.

2. Add the coconut oil and mustard seeds to a pan and heat over a medium to medium-low heat until the mustard seeds start popping. As soon as the popping starts, add the garlic and onion and cook until the garlic and onion is softened and golden but not brown.

3. Add two tablespoons of water to the pan (so the chilli doesn’t burn) and add the chilli powder and curry leaves, cooking until the water is evaporated.

4. Season the dal with salt and stir well. Tip into the pan with the onion-garlic mixture and stir to combine. Heat through if necessary and serve with rice.



See more in October issue of Getaway magazine.

Get this issue →

The best guide to weekending in Golden Gate; how to go shark diving (without a cage); exploring the high peaks of the Rwenzoris and heritage homestays with delicious food in Kerala.


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