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Food from the Heart- Dhal

Time flies and this is the 3rd time I am participating in Babe in KL’s yearly Merdeka event. Even though I am Singaporean, hubby is Malaysian-and so was my dad. So in our families, both National Day in Singapore and Merdeka Day in Malaysia are highlighted in our calender.

Babe in KL’s theme this year is Food From the Heart. I thought that since Hubby is Malaysia, perhaps he could share with us a dish from his childhood days prepared by his mother or grandmother, and then I could cook it.

Before he gave his answer, I was expecting dishes like “Mum’s Curry” or “Sweet and sour pork”, “Indian curry”..etc. To my surprise, his answer was a simple “Dhal”.

He explained to me that in many ways, his family come together to have dhal. Every Sunday morning, his family will travel to his dad’s favourite thosai places and have thosai with dhal. His mother would also make dhal on weeknights for dinner. Given the mixed heritage that he is from, it seems to be a dish that the whole family would tuck in happily. He recall his mum making this dish and often it would be more flavorsome with more ingredients than what was served out in the shops. Looking back, he said it was probably a good dish to have as money was tight (not that his family ever let him know that), and that he was satisfied with a good bowl of dhal with rice.

It never fail to amaze me that the simplest food can be the most heart warming ones. If someone were to ask me what food did I recall as most memorable as a child, I would say “Sweet and sour pork” that my grandmother would make from scratch (From marinating to deep frying to braising!) to a simple dish of fried egg, soya sauce and rice.

I asked our friend (who happened to be my colleague and AR’s  high schoolmate!!!) her recipe for dhal that she attempted a few months ago when we went over to their place for dinner. She gladly shared it with me. Thanks J! AR said that this resembles what he used to have-except I added in fresh mushrooms that was not available back in those days in Malaysia.

1 1/2 cups red lentils
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup of baby spinach, rinsed
1 cup of chopped mushrooms
1 carrot diced
1 fresh tomato diced
2 tablespoons spread
1 red onion, chopped
2 birds eye chili chopped
2 pieces of curry leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon garam masala

Rinse lentils and soak for 20 minutes. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and saute onions with cumin and mustard seeds, stirring often. Cook until onions are transparent.
Add water, stock, salt, lentils, turmeric and chili powder. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the spinach and other veges and cook 5 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Add more water if necessary.
Stir in garam masala.


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