It would be incorrect for me to say that some of the traditional Indian recipes I have here are of tremendous archival value. They’re not–they’re what every family makes across the country and has versions of their own. What I do try to do here is, preserve some of my family favorites for posterity. Some day, when I am old and nostalgic, I would like to (leaf through?) browse through this blog and find familiar tastes and textures on my tongue.

A few weeks ago, Amma made some Vaatli Daal–simply translated, “Ground Daal“–which is a simple dish of soaked and coarsely ground lentils cooked in their own steam with a simple tempering of mustard seeds, asafetida, curry leaves, and turmeric. It is eaten piping hot as a side. Here’s a step-by-step recipe the way my mum makes it. I can eat platefuls of this on a cold, rainy day like today. It is an excellent choice for days when you have no other vegetables or meat in the house and need something filling to go with hot rotis.

Soaked Chana Daal and Green chilies

Ground coarsely

Tempering curry leaves, mustard, asafetida, and turmeric powder

Adding the ground paste



  • 2 cups chana daal (split Bengal gram)
  • 2-3 green chilies
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • a good pinch of asafetida
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • a small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp. freshly grated coconut


  1. Wash and soak the chana daal in plenty of water for 3-4 hours. (If in a hurry, soak in warm water for an hour.)
  2. Coarsely grind the chana daal in a mixer along with 2-3 green chilies.
  3. Heat oil in an iron kadhai or non stick wok. Pop in the mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the asafetida, turmeric, and curry leaves.
  4. Quickly tip in the ground daal paste. Season with salt and sugar and mix. Sprinkle some water liberally on  the mixture. Cover and cook on a low flame until the milkiness of the soaked daal disappears and a toasty smell emanates. The mixture should come together easily.
  5. Garnish with chopped coriander and coconut and serve piping hot.