tofu and green-pea dal

by Heguiberto on February 4, 2011

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By now my Indian dal soups are all about improvisation. I feel comfortable using most of the Indian ingredients and can sort of predict what a soup will taste like if I add more of one spice versus another. It is fun to have that confidence because now I can utilize whatever ingredients are available in my kitchen pantry and still make a delicious meal.

tofu green pea dal

tofu green pea dal

Of course my Indian cooking knowledge is still miniscule! I’m not putting on airs, here. Indian cuisine varies widely between regions and the country itself is enormous. But I’m learning and I’m still enchanted by it, and that’s what matters.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve gotten so far is not to be too exacting about ingredients. And that brings me to tofu. Yep, tofu. That’s not something that you’ll ever see in an authentic Indian kitchen, though if you ask me, it should be.

I find it intriguing that tofu never “made it” in Indian food. You’d think that it would be a sensation! Just look at the wildly successful introduction of some New World ingredients like peanuts, tomatoes, potatoes, hot peppers or cashews. Tofu didn’t need to travel nearly as far as the potato. What’s the problem? Could it be politics that kept it out?

This soup is totally vegan and extremely healthy and flavorful. There is something magical about tomatoes, ginger, cumin and mustard seeds combined with lentils!

tofu and green-pea dal

1 package firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
1½ cups red lentil, picked over and rinsed
¾ tsp turmeric
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 28oz can of tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp grated fresh garlic
¾ tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ Poblano pepper, minced with ribs and seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp canola oil
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
2 cups fresh or fresh frozen English peas
Kosher salt to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Soak tofu in a warm saltwater bath for about a half hour to absorb some flavor. Rinse and set aside.

Add lentils to pressure cooker with enough water to submerge by an inch. Add onion, turmeric, celery and carrot. Cook for 4 minutes after pan starts to whistle. Shake the pan a couple of times to prevent sticking. Remove pan from heat and let cool. Using a stick blender, blend soup till smooth. Set aside, keeping it warm.

Meanwhile, add canola oil to a pot on high heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds. Cook for a couple of minutes. Mustard seeds will pop. Add ginger, garlic and minced Poblano pepper and sauté until raw flavors are nearly gone. Be careful not to burn it. Add tomato paste and stir, add canned tomatoes, salt, pepper and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add peas and tofu then fold sauce into blended lentils. Lastly gently fold in chopped cilantro.

Serve over rice, like this one with carrots and cumin.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon @ Fun and Life February 4, 2011 at 8:38 am

LOVE curry dhal with roti canai. I’ve never had dhal soup though. Never ate it with tofu either but I’m sure it goes great together! And this look really delicious! I love cilantro. It makes ANY dish great.

Sabrina Modelle February 4, 2011 at 10:20 am

I love dal so much, and this one looks really lovely. I’m getting ready for a 28 day vegan cleanse, so you can bet this one is bookmarked and going into rotation. Thanks.

space man robot 5000 February 5, 2011 at 1:42 pm

hahahaha! they thought that lady wanted to have a pornographic license plate, when really she just likes tofu! ILVTOFU also!

Lucia Silver February 7, 2011 at 7:37 am

It looks awesome! I will try it! Happy Birthday!

Heguiberto February 7, 2011 at 8:20 am

Thanks Lúcia!
This is one of my favorite dishes, let us know how it turned out.

Cassie February 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I have a pretty big collection of curry mixed spices from nicer spice shops (I add to my collection in my travels). I would love to try this recipe but would like to use one of the mixes I already have – can you tell me “what kind” of curry this makes?


Heguiberto February 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Hi Cassie,

Thanks for visiting weirdcombinations. I think that you could use a curry made primarily with cumin, ginger, chili, turmeric, mustard and coriander powders.
However the tempering process lends a whole new dimension to the dish with more freshness and smokiness. Tempering consists of popping mustard seeds in oil, and in this case, followed by sautéing cumin seeds, fresh chili pepper, fresh garlic and fresh ginger together prior to adding it to the dal other ingredients maybe also added to it. e.g., asafetida (hing) and curry leaves.

tofu February 16, 2011 at 11:38 am

I didn’t know tofu is not common in indian food. Shame…
Great vegan recipe. I will add it to my todo list 🙂

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