Most dal recipes are quite simple to prepare. The standard preparation of dal begins with boiling a variety of dal (or a mix) in water with some turmeric, salt to taste, and then adding a fried garnish at the end of the cooking process. In some recipes, tomatoes, tamarind, unripe mango, or other ingredients are added while cooking the dal, often to impart a sour flavor.
The fried garnish for dal goes by many names, including chaunk and tadka. The ingredients in the chaunk for each variety of dal vary by region and individual tastes. The raw spices (more commonly cumin seeds, mustard seeds and/or asafoetida; sometimes fenugreek seeds and dried red chili pepper) are first fried for a few seconds in the hot oil on medium/low heat. This is generally followed by ginger, garlic and onion, which is generally fried for 10 minutes. After the onion turns golden brown, ground spices (turmeric, coriander, red chili powder, garam masala, etc.) are added. The chaunk is then poured over the cooked dal.
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