Chicken Cooked with Lentils and Vegetables (Dhansak)

From the fantastic Indian cookbook "The Great Curries of India" by Camellia Panjabi.

This recipe does use a number of hard-to-find ingredients (unless you live near an Indian store, or want to ask me to mail you stuff!) and it also takes a long time, like a couple hours (although it is simple to prepare.) However, it is wonderful. I made this for the notoriously fussy eaters at La Selva and it was universally popular.

Use 1/2 the number of green chile peppers and 1/2 the amount of cayenne, unless you like (quite) hot & spicy.


Spice Substitutions


  1. Make a chicken stock with the bones, neck, giblets and trimmings. (Or just use chicken stock. -ed.)

  2. Wash the toor dal (lentils) and soak in water for 30 minutes. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup water for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Chop 1 1/2 inch piece of the ginger and 4 of the garlic cloves.

  4. In a large cooking pot, put the dal (lentils) to cook in 3 cups water (I use a lot more water than this -ed.) along with the onions, pumpkin, eggplants, potato and dill. Add the tumeric, whole remaining piece of ginger, remaining 2 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of the coriander leaves and 8 of the mint leaves. Simmer until the dal (lentils) are very soft. Allow to cool slightly. Puree in blender or food processor. Season with 1 teaspoon salt.

  5. While the dal (lentils) is cooking, heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the chopped ginger, garlic, 1 cup cilantro leaves, 12 mint leaves, fenugreek, sambar masala, dhansak masala, cumin and coridander powders, cayenne, tomatoes and green chiles and fry for 2 minutes, stirring continously. (I probably saute all this for 10 minutes -ed.) Add the chicken and saute for 2 minutes. (Again, you can saute longer, like 10 minutes -ed.) Season with 1 teaspoon salt and stir well.

  6. Add the chicken to the dal (lentil and vegetable mixture) with 3 cups chicken stock or water. Add the jaggery (sugar.) Simmer until the chicken is cooked through before adding the tamarind water and lime juice; adjust for salt, then simmer for a couple minutes. It is now ready to serve. Serve with rice and raita.

Marianne Mueller
Last modified: May 27, 2005