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Sep 9, 2009 01:42 PM

Indian condiment

I had dinner at an Indian restaurant where there was a dipping suace that was golden yellow and very buttery -- the server said (in halting English) that it was lentil -- but tasted very rich, but not oily. Anyone know what it was?

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  1. Sounds like mashed lentils with ghee, maybe with turmeric and some other spice. With chicken stock I have used this as a gravy. I thought I'd invented it. But let's wait for someone else who really knows the cuisine. Incidentally, can you be more specific with the cuisine? (North / South Indian, Pakistan, Sr Lankan, mainly rice / naan / parata / dosa)

    1. Sounds as though it could have been a daal makhani.

      15 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        but would that be a dipping sauce? I guess it is pretty "saucy." Actually now that I think about it, a dal dish could be described as a "dip" for your naan , paratha, or what have you. So, I could see it being called a dipping sauce. It might have simply been a yellow dal like paulustrius called it.

        Rossinyc - was it grainy at all?

        1. re: gordeaux

          very smooth, and it was for dipping the naan

          1. re: gordeaux

            Yep- you dip roti canai in daal makhani, for example.

            1. re: John Manzo

              I would normally describe eating daal with naan, paratha, or roti as "pinching"

          2. re: Harters

            The daal used in daal makhani is "black daal" and the end result is a cooked dish of very dark reddish brown lentils.

            1. re: luckyfatima

              kinda splitting hairs here, but I thought makhani describes the sauce and not the lentil used, so it could be ANY lentil in the makhani/makhni/butter sauce.

              1. re: gordeaux

                makhani sauce isn't yellow, though -- it's typically toward red-orange, i thought. but i guess that has a lot to do with the recipe. let's say, i've never seen a yellow makhani.

                1. re: alkapal

                  I've never seen a yellow makhani either.

                2. re: gordeaux

                  Daal makhani is a traditional Punjabi dish, it is a particular dish with particular ingredients. It has a village or rural agricultural history, people who think of it as home food and would not consider it the 'real' daal makhani (maa di daal) if it were made with any other lentil. It must be black lentils (sabut maash/kali urad daal), often with a handful of rajma or red chawli beans thrown in for good measure. In addition, I think you would be hard pressed to find a resto serving daal makhani made with any other lentil. Or an authentic recipe online or otherwise called daal makhani requiring any other daal than black daal as the main lentil. The makhni doesn't refer to the sauce at all. There is no sauce. You boil the daal till very soft and creamy, make a masala of tomatoes with seasonings, and pour that into the daal, cook for a while together, and lastly stir in cream and butter. That last step of garnishing with makhan or butter is what makes it makhani.

                  1. re: luckyfatima

                    Maybe they've just used another lentil but in the creamy/buttery style of daal makhani.

                    1. re: luckyfatima

                      butter and tomatoes, right? even if there is butter without tomatoes, it isn't makhani, right?

                      makhan is urdu for butter?

                      1. re: alkapal

                        I have only ever seen/eaten/heard of daal makhani made with tomatoes.

                        Makhan is butter in Urdu as well as Hindi and Punjabi (makkhan)

                        1. re: alkapal

                          whether this version here is authentic or not, it sure looks like a winner for the cool months!
                          i like the perfumed butter concept.

                        2. re: luckyfatima

                          So cool. I love threads like these.
                          I love Indian foods, but I'm not Indian, nor do I have any many Indian friends that I talk to often - actually, I had one person I worked with who I could ask about stuff like this as they came up. Being an American ( I think it's because of the American diet, anyway,) I don't pay much attention to the varieties of pulses that are used as much as an Indian person would, I'm sure. I'm certainly very aware of all of the different kinds of lentils, but I would never have guessed that daal makhani would normally have a specific lentil in it. If I ordered dall M at a restaurant, or made it at home for that matter, I'd probably never think twice about which lentil would be used in it.

                          I would love to sit down and buy you dinner at an Indian restaurant and talk about all the questions I have. Mostly about Indian food, some others about indian culture - relating to food. Know what? I'm gonna start a thread in the next few days about Indian food with some questions in it. Seriously. Hope you'll view it and throw a few responses in. even though I have a ton of Indo-Pak places near me and I eat at as many as I can - hence my waistline, I get stumped by some things.

                          1. re: gordeaux

                            Yep okay sure if I think I can answer your questions I will be happy to contribute in your thread.

                  2. Could have been chana dal, a yellow lentil that is sometimes cooked with onions and other spices to make a dish with a thick soupy consistency. It is usually spooned over rice or can be scooped with bread - but it is not a condiment.

                    1. There are many types of condiments that contain lentils blended into them, usually roasted dried whole channa daal (chutney channa) and in some regions other types of daals like split channa. Or in some regions certain types of daal are fried and poured on top of the condiment/chutney.

                      However, I am not familiar with a daal itself being used as a condiment except rasam (which sometimes contains some type of daal) or sambhar (made with yellow colored arhar/toor daal). Neither of these are buttery. The sambhar could be yellow, though...although I noticed homemade ones turn out yellow but resto ones are often darker colored.

                      How was it served? Are you sure this was a condiment? If so, what was it that you were supposed to put it on/use to dip into it? Perhaps it was a side of lentils that you were supposed to drink as a soup or pour onto your plat and eat with rice/flat bread?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: luckyfatima

                        I don't think of chana dal as lentils - more like split peas - but there's probably room for some difference in vocabulary. But it definitely takes a quite a bit of cooking (or a bit of pureeing) to turn it into a smooth "sauce."

                        Maybe it was masoor dal? It's a true lentil, and is fairly yellow to begin with (okay, it's red to begin with, but turns yellow when you cook it), and the lentils tend to lose their structural integrity pretty easily. Cooked with a little turmeric and finished with some spices toasted in ghee, and it would be even yellower and buttery.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          I'm guilty of using the generic lentil word to mean, mung beans, lentils, split peas etc.

                          The one I use for the 'dip' is split hulled mung beans. They cook quickly and can be turned into a 'mush'.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            In south asian cuisine in the UK, chana (one n) would be chickpeas. Is channa (with two n's) something else?

                            1. re: Harters

                              Channa is chickpeas. My local roti shop is called Channaman. I suspect many words end up with multiple spellings. People are trying to create sounds that have no exact equal in English phoenetics. The prime example is pillau rice ...

                              AKA pillow, pullau , pilau, polao, pilaf and heavens knows how many other alternatives I have seen in 'Indian' restaurants in Canada and the UK.

                              1. re: Harters

                                Per both my Indian - American grocer and the Indian - British cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, chickpeas are "kabuli chana." "Chana" is the smaller, rounder pulse that's generally split into chana dal.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Yes, chana refers to the chickpea, somepeople do call that kabuli chana or white chana. These are also called chola, but that may be Punjabi.

                                  Chana daal refers to a smaller type of chickpea whick has been skinned and split in half. It is a bright yellow split lentil. I don't know if there is an exact Western equivalent.

                                  In Hindi there is no doubling of the -n- in the word, since there is no formal way to transliterate Hindi/Urdu to English, it is just happends that people often write channa

                                  Here is a link to the Platt's dictionary entry for that word:


                          2. there is also Tarkha Dhal - spellings vary.