This is a slightly modified version of a recipe I got from a guy named Manu back in my tribe.net days (oh tribe, may you rest in peace). He is a follower of the Ayurvedic lifestyle & does not consume garlic or onions. At first I thought any recipe without garlic or onions had to be bland & awful, but I discovered that the substitute (asafotida) is one of the most amazing flavors on earth. Some of these ingredients will not be available outside of Indian grocery stores.
1 cup channa dal*
6 cups water
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp ghee or olive oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 seeded green chilis, chopped
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp hing/asafotida**
1 1/4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut
chopped fresh cilantro
Bring the channa dal to a boil in 6 cups of water & cook for about 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat & add turmeric.
In Indian cuisine the idea of tempering spices in oil seems important, and it makes sense because everything gets a chance to "marry" before it's even added to the pot. This is especially important for the asafotida, as it is a resin & it needs to break down a bit over heat. Heat 2 tbsp ghee or oil in a pan & when hot add mustard seeds, chilis & fennel seeds. Cook for a minute or so & add ginger, asafotida & brown sugar. Mix for a minute & then pour into the dal. Add salt.
The tempered spices.
In another small pan roast the grated coconut until browned & add to the dal.
The toasted coconut
Garnish with cilantro & serve with basmati rice.
The channa dal begins as pretty much a soup, and any leftovers end up as more of a stew texture as the beans & coconut continue to absorb water. Both ways I put a scoop of rice underneath.
* In a pinch, you could substitute yellow split peas, but the texture will be different & the cooking time much less.
** Asafotida (also known as hing) is pretty much exclusively available at Indian stores. I've never seen it elsewhere. A note to the gluten-free people: Asafotida is available in two forms. There is a powdered form, which usually contains a bit of wheat flour, and a resin form, which does not. If you use the resin kind you will need to use 70% less.