Dhal is a staple of all South Asian cuisines. Rice with dhal is the most basic a meal can get. There are different varieties of dhal. The classic Sri Lankan dhal uses red lentils, also called masoor dhal.


A meal in itself, this lentil based dish is an accompaniment at virtually every Sri Lankan meal
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Sri Lankan
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4


  • 200 gms red (masoor) dhal
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 50 gms onion
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 or 2 red or green chillies
  • 2 thin slices ginger
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon (about 4 cms)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • water


  • First wash the dhal to get rid of any powdery starch or grit. To do this, put the dhal in a bowl, cover it with cold water, use your hands to stir the dhal in the water. Drain the cloudy water off. Repeat two more times.
  • Chop or slice the onion.
  • Chop the garlic, ginger and chillies very small.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan.
  • Add the onion and cook till it is soft.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, chillies, turmeric to the pan.
  • Strip the leaves off the curry leaf sprig and add them to the pan.
  • Add the stick of cinnamon and let the ingredients in the pan cook for another minute or two.
  • Add the washed dhal.
  • Add enough water to cover the dhal to about 3 cm.
  • Add a pinch of salt.
  • Bring to a simmer and simmer until the dhal is soft. You may need to add a little more water from time to time as the dhal expands. You want to end up with dhal the consistency of porridge or muesli.


If you like, you can add a handful or two of chopped spinach or beetroot leaves to the dhal about five minutes before you serve it, cooking them just long enough for them to wilt and for the stems to soften.