We Have Daal at Home by Sania Saeed

I can picture my mom forcing me to eat just one last bite of Daal so she could finish off the pot and tidy up the kitchen. Her fingers puckered together in wait holding rice covered with daal and zeera seemed overwhelming when I was already so full, but now I happily eat far too much of it by choice.

Many friends and acquaintances have joked about the permanently yellow-stained yogurt container that has held Peeli Daal (yellow daal) for years, but I laud the idea. It is so uniquely South Asian that our Tupperware is old food containers stained every colour of the rainbow, representing our spice collections.

When I am feeling burnt out or uninspired, I make daal at home. It is so simple and accepts any garnishes you adorn it with – coriander, lime, chilli, mint – you can really make it your own.

I recently moved cities and made daal for my friend hosting me. But I couldn’t just serve a plain bowl so I made my own colourful edits. While there is no “right” way to eat daal, it almost always comes with accompaniments.

Photo by Sania Saeed

Peeli Daal-Chawal

  • What corners did I cut?
    • I pre-chopped the veggies for this because I make it so often.
    • I made everything for this in one pot.
    • While most daals are best served with a “tadka,” I find this step too tedious for a home kitchen.
    • I made rice in a rice cooker and I stand by it!

Time: 30-45 min.


  • Big pot
  • Rice cooker


  • 2-3 tbsp. oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly chopped
  • 1 lob ginger, thinly chopped
  • 1 red onion, diced thin
  • 3 green chillies, thinly chopped
  • 1 cup yellow lentils (split peas)
  • 400ml. Coconut milk
  • 1 cup spinach, thinly sliced
  • 1 tomato, in wedges
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 lime, in wedges
Photo by Sania Saeed


  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Mustard (whole or seeds)
  • Garam Masala
  • Chilli Powder


In a large pan, fry the red onion, garlic, 2 chillies, and ginger in oil on medium-high until the onion slices are translucent and the garlic browns.

Add in the turmeric, mustard, and salt and pepper and mix well.

Turn down the heat, and add in 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of yellow lentils. Mix well and let simmer for around 20 mins.

I prefer coarser texture daal (i.e. I don’t process or blend it to soup texture) so, at this stage, have a bite to check the consistency. For coarser daal, you’re looking at 30-45 min, and around an hour or so for a thinner consistency.

Add in the coconut milk, and a pinch each of garam masala and chilli powder and mix well. The daal should start smelling fragrant – like turmeric and coconut.

Once the daal is to the desired texture, fold in the spinach and mix. It should be ready to serve within a few minutes.

Serve with rice and garnish with tomatoes, lime, spinach, and 1 chilli. It is a tradition in South Asia to eat a bite of food and take a bite of chilli on the side of each bite. This last part may just be for the brave.


  • Daal freezes and keeps for a looooong time.

More on Sania’s Work:

Not Your Nani’s Qorma (Issue 6)

The Little Side Dish That Could (Issue 7)

Don’t Mind if I Kaddoo (Issue 8)

Scotch Egg (The Remix)  (Issue 9)

Sania is a Pakistani freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, B.C. She is passionate about seasoning her food, the Oxford comma, and creating painfully curated Spotify playlists.She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit with a focus in race and post-colonial studies, and wants to fill the gaps where she doesn’t see herself represented in writing and media.

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