Maah choliyan di dal is pretty much every Punjabi’s favourite dal. When we were kids we used to call it kali (black) dal. A simple mix of maah (whole urad) and chole (split Bengal gram), this dal is my ultimate comfort food. The taste of home. Unfortunately, maah choliyan di dal is also the most misunderstood dal ever. According to my internet research, it’s been mixed up with plain maahan di dal, dal makhani, and everyone’s favourite langar wali dal. My favourite misconception though is that it’s “mother’s dal”. Nope, maah & maa are not the same thing. (One is a type of lentil, the other is your mama <3)
So let’s start the myth busting with a little lesson on langar. Most people know that food served at the Gurudwara is called langar. And yes, while maah choliyan di dal is the closest homemade dal to ‘langar wali dal’, it is not the same. The process of making langar is a very specific religious service. Unless we are hosting a kirtan, kandpath, or religious service in our home, Sikhs do not refer to the regular food cooked in our kitchen as langar. Hence, this is not langar wali dal, it’s a dal that is similar to the kali dal you get in the Gurudwara.
Another myth about this dal is that it has to be heavy on butter. This is not a dal makhani. What gives this dal it’s distinct flavour is the lengthy and slow cooking time.
Maah Choliyan di Dal – Tips & Tricks for Cooking
- My preference for this dal is always to cook it on the stove top or in the slow cooker. I know many people speed it up with the help of a pressure cooker, but trust me when I say – this is dal that tastes different when it’s cooked slowly.
- Don’t stir maah too much! Anytime you are working with any recipe for kali dal, drop it in the water, stir, and then leave it alone. Over stirring actually prevents some of the lentils from cooking. (Funny side note. My Bibi used to hold her breath when she put the maah lentils into the water. She said if you didn’t do that, you would find stones in your cooked dal).
- This dal holds up really well in the freezer. I often cook a double batch and put some away for a busy evening. When I cook a dal to freeze it, I don’t complete the tadka until the day we are going to eat it.
- If you have 6 tadka cubes in your freezer you can use them in place of the tadka in this recipe.
Note: Like most dal recipes, the real key to getting the flavour right is the tadka. If you need some extra tips and tricks to get your tadka (tempering) just right, check out this video where I broke down the whole process.Print
Punjabi maah choliyan di dal is also popularly known as Langar wali dal, or Gurudware wali dal. A classic staple dish, this is homestyle cooking at it’s best.
For the Dal (Boiling Ingredients)
1 1/2 cups maah di dal (whole urad/black gram)
1/2 cup of choliyan di dal (chana/split Bengal gram)
6 cups water
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
1 tbs fresh ginger garlic paste
For the tadka (tempering)
2 tbsp ghee
1 bay leaf
1/2 tbs cumin seeds
1.5 cups onion, chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 green chilis, chopped (optional)
1 cup tomato, chopped
1/2 tbs coriander powder
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp haldi
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup cilantro, washed and chopped
1. Put both the maah and chole in a large bowl. Rinse two to three times until the water runs clear. Soak for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. If you are cooking your dal in the slow cooker, you can skip the soaking step.
2. Cook the dal.
Stove top Method: Place all the ingredients listed under boil (maah, chole, water, salt, turmeric, red chili, and, ginger garlic paste) in large heavy bottomed pot, and place over a high heat. Stir only once. Let the dal come to a boil, stir again, drop the heat down to low, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes. Stir only 2-3 times while cooking. The dal is done when you can easily squish it between your fingers, and it is soft all the way through.
Slow cooker method: Place all the ingredients listed under boil (maah, chole, water, salt, turmeric, red chili, and, ginger garlic paste) in large heavy bottomed pot, and cook on low for 8 hours.
Note – when the dal is cooked, you should be left with about half the water in the pot (3 cups). If this feels too thick for your taste, now is the time to add a little more water. I usually add about 1 cup at this point.
3. While your dal is cooking, prepare the tadka. Start by heating the ghee over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed fry pan. Add the bay leaf and cumin seeds, toast for 90 seconds, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
4. Add onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until they are translucent and fragrant.
5. Add ginger, garlic, and fresh green chili (optional). Cook for 90 seconds.
6. Add tomatoes and all powdered spices. Cook on medium high heat for 5-7 minutes, until all the moisture has evaporated and the tomatoes are pulling away from the pan.
7. Take a few ladles of the cooked maah choliyan di dal and add them to the tadka pan. Stir together and scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan, then transfer the tadka and dal mixture into the larger dal pot.
8. Finish with garam masala and cilantro.
Maah choliyan di dal is best served with a dollop of butter or makhan on top, and fresh roti/phulka on the side.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 45
- Category: Dal
- Cuisine: Indian
- Serving Size: 1 cup