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Recipe: Spicy Lentil Curry

This recipe is for a delicious spicy lentil curry with fried garlic and cumin topping (Masoor Dal Bhaghar). It was shared by Expat Living reader Rehana Sheikh. Rehana has been cooking for over 30 years and loves dishes from her native Pakistan.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes + soaking time. Cooking time: 30 minutes. Serves about 4.


  • 1 cup of dal masoor (red lentils) picked, washed and soaked for 10-15 minutes
  • 1 tsp of ginger paste or a small piece, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Chilli powder to taste
  • 2-3 cups water (depending on the dal)
  • Fresh coriander and a bunch of mint bunch, chopped

For the bhaghar topping

  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2  tbsp cumin seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 red small dried chillies or 1 large chopped
  • 8-10 curry leaves (optional)


  1. Wash the dal and soak it for 10 to 15 minutes, then drain the soaking water.
  2. Boil the dal with fresh water, skimming as it boils.
  3. Lower the heat and let it simmer slowly for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Halfway through cooking, add salt, spices and ginger.
  5. Check the dal is ready – make sure it’s cooked to a soft consistency and looks mushy. If the dal and water don’t separate, then it’s ready! You can keep it thick or soupy, as you wish.
  6. Transfer to a serving dish.
  7. In a pan heat the oil and fry the garlic till brown. Add the chillies and fry till crisp.
  8. Lastly, add cumin seeds and curry leaves. Brown lightly without burning.
  9. Pour the topping onto the dal, then sprinkle over the chopped fresh herbs, and serve with rice or rotis, or simply enjoy on its own.

Rehana’s Spicy Lentil Curry tips

This spicy lentil curry is good for freezing or preparing ahead of time. You can use tamarind water or lemon juice for a more sour-tasting dal.

If you want to learn more about dishes from Pakistan, join one of Rehana’s cooking classes at the YWCA HK.

Like this? See more recipes in our Wine & Dine section:

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