Paruppu dhal curry

Paruppu dhal curry

Green Kitchen Travels

The secret behind the most fragrant Sri Lankan lentil soup is to save half the spices until the soup is almost done, then stir-fry them in oil or ghee and pour the lentil soup over them for a more intense flavour. We learned this from a Sri Lankan woman who didn’t speak a word of English. She had a daughter about the same age as Elsa and while they were playing hide and seek we got to spend an hour inside her kitchen, watching her cook and share some of her family recipes. Regardless of how thoroughly we scribble down every step and instruction, it is impossible to get exactly the same flavour once we come home from a trip to Asia. Local spices taste different and coconut milk is made fresh by grinding coconuts with a sharp tool. But when we tried this soup in our own kitchen in Stockholm, we were surprised by how authentic it tasted. Even though it is full of flavour it is also surprisingly mild, with warm tones of cinnamon. Curry leaves are available in Asian stores and some supermarkets.


Quantity Ingredient
100g uncooked red lentils
10 fresh or dried curry leaves
1 small green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 small cinnamon stick, broken into smaller pieces
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
400ml full-fat coconut milk
450ml water
2 tablespoons cold-pressed coconut oil
or 2 tablespoons ghee

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
wholegrain rice
or naan bread


  1. Soak the lentils in cold water for at least 10 minutes. Rinse well and drain. Place in a saucepan and add half each of the curry leaves, chilli, onion, garlic and ginger. Then add the cinnamon, turmeric, curry powder and salt. Pour the coconut milk and water into the pan, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook over low to medium heat for about 10–20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft and the mixture is thick.
  2. Pour the cooked dhal into a heatproof bowl. Heat the oil in the same saucepan and add the remaining curry leaves, chilli, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant and slightly browned, stirring all the time to prevent them burning. Pour the cooked dhal back into the pot and bring back to a boil, stirring.
  3. The dhal is now ready to be served but if you prefer it creamier, keep cooking until it is the desired consistency, stirring all the time. Serve with wholegrain rice or naan bread. The dhal can be stored in the fridge for up to 3–5 days.
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