Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dal Bhat and Tarkari (Nepalese recipe)

(I'm giving away a copy of Your Custom Homestead this week. Head here to enter.)

My husband has been asking me to make Dal Bhat (lentils and rice) and Tarkari (curried vegetables) for years. It's a dish he fell in love with when he lived in Nepal as a teenager.

I delayed making Dal Bhat and Tarkari for three reasons:
  1. I've never eaten it before so didn't know what it's supposed to taste like.
  2. Paul loves it so much, I was nervous about messing it up.
  3. It's lentils, rice and vegetables. How could that possibly taste as good as Paul remembers?
In the end I bit the bullet and decided to make it for Paul for Valentine's Day.

Fortunately Paul had brought a copy of the INF cookbook, Made in Nepal, back from one of his more recent trips to Nepal and I was able to follow that to make the dish he loves so much.

Apparently Nepalese eat Dal Bhat and Tarkari twice a day, mid morning and early evening. You'd think they would get sick of it, but after tasting it, I understand why they don't. It's so tasty and satisfying. Paul and I reckon we could happily eat it three times a week.

This recipe is vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free and super frugal.

Dal Bhat ingredients
  • 1c green/brown lentils
  • 2T oil (I use coconut oil as it has a high heat point)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2cm piece of ginger, crushed
  • 1/2t turmeric
  • 1/2t salt, according to taste
  • 4c liquid, eg. chicken stock, vegetable stock or water

Dal Bhat method
1. Wash lentils and soak for an hour or more.

2. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry onion until golden brown.

3. Add drained lentils, garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt and stir to combine.

4. Pour liquid over lentils and cook over a medium-low heat until lentils are soft and the mixture is like a thick soup.

5. Serve lentils over rice, or as its own soup.

Tarkari ingredients
  • 2T cooking oil (eg. coconut or ghee)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2t cumin powder
  • 1t coriander powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2cm piece ginger, crushed
  • 1/2t turmeric powder
  • pinch chilli powder
  • 1/4t pepper
  • 1/2t salt
  • 3 large potatoes, cubed
  • 3c chopped mixed vegetables, eg. cauliflower, green beans, aubergines, zucchinis, carrots
  • 3 tomatoes, quartered

Tarkari method
1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and fry onion until golden brown.

2. Stir in cumin, coriander, garlic, ginger, turmeric, chilli powder, pepper and salt.

3. Add potatoes, chopped vegetables of your choice and tomatoes.

4. Turn vegetables over to coat with oil and spices.
Beans, zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes from my garden.

5. Cover and cook over low heat until all the vegetables are tender, turning gently from time to time.

6. Serve with Dal Bhat and rice.

Dal Bhat and Tarkari on rice will serve 4-6, depending on your appetite.

Budget breakdown
Oil - NZD$0.30
Vegetables - NZD$3.00
Rice - NZD$0.50
Lentils - NZD$0.50
Spices - NZD$0.20
Chicken stock - FREE if you make your own from scraps
TOTAL - NZD$4.50 for a satisfying family-sized meal

Looking for more gluten-free vegetarian meal inspiration? Check out Kim Wilson's new ebook, Good and Easy Eats.

What's your loved one's favourite dish? Do you love it as much as them?

Linked to Frugal Ways, Sustainable Days.


  1. This looks amazing. Will definitely be trying this one. Thanks Emma.

  2. Oh that does look tasty. My brother and his wife are heading to Nepal in two weeks time - I will have to forward on this recipe for them to try it out.

  3. I want dal bhat now ...

    As they say in the playgrounds of Nepal:

    "Dal bhat tarkari,
    Mero school sarkari!"

    (Loose translation: "Dal bhat tarkari, my school is the best!").

    1. @brent translation : Rice lentil curry , my school is government (owned) ;)

  4. Thanks for the recipe Emma! I made it last night after Jodie told me about it. I even had some left overs for breakfast this morn to try and be authentic nepalise, but it was a bit too tasty for my morning taste buds! Andy was a bit scared about having a non-meat dinner but he liked it too :)

  5. I spent a few weeks in Nepal in the 90s. I didn't fall in love with dal baht, but I did think it was pretty good for being so simple. I've been poking around the internet for recipes for awhile and this is the one I've decided I'll try. Thanks!
    Las Vegas, NV

  6. Thank you. This is so nice of you to share the recipe and show your photos. I had Bhat Tarkari at a restaurant yesterday and I want to make it at home. There was a spicy yogurt sauce on the side that was amazing too. Now I have to find that recipe ...

  7. thanks for the recipe - just got back from nepal where i got hooked on dal baht. i've never felt better energy, and overall feeling than on that diet. it truly felt like i was on steroids or something! since i was in a rural village with no refrigeration, everything was fresh and local. also i think the absence of wheat in the diet has something to do with it.

  8. Thanks for this recipe!! I visited Nepal recently, and this tasted very similar! Delicious!!

    1. Hi Maria, thanks for letting me know. I'm so glad it turned out well for you. I would love to visit Nepal one day too to see the country Paul fell in love with.

  9. thanks for your recipe. was out in nepal in october and this fits the bill as the best recipe ive seen since i got back. do you have one for tibetan bread??

  10. We just got back from Nepal and were craving dal bhat. This recipe was so successful! It tasted like so many of the village dishes we tried around Annapurna. Thanks so much! I think we'll be eating this a few times a week.

    1. That's fantastic news! Thanks for letting me know. It's always a relief when recipes work for others too! Cheers, Emma

  11. Thanks! My son and I are reading a book about a climb to Mt. Everest and the team eats Dal Bhat on the first day. We are excited to try it.

  12. Thanks for putting this on the web. I live alone and am on a tight budget so I made a double quantity of this and froze individual portions. It is delicious, even without the rice! (Sometimes I am mega lazy and I eat it like a soup). I could happily live on this. KJ in Western Australia.

  13. Thank you for the recipe. I lived in Kathmandu from 2004 to 2005 and I miss it terribly. I've been craving Dal Bhat ever since I left, but (like you) I never had the guts to make it. I will try it now!

  14. I miss dal bhat! Don't think anyone makes it quite like my amma
    But I'm going to give this a go!!!

  15. Hi Emma! I do an international night once a month where I cook a dish from around the world. This month I choose Napal. I plan on making your receipe. What's the estimated time for this dish to be prepared? I am trying to figure out if I need to make it on a weekend or if I could make it after work.

    I am excited to try it!!

    1. Hi Nicole, thanks for your query. It does take a bit of time to prepare - maybe an hour or more - so you might want to save it for a weekend when you're tummy isn't rumbling at you while it cooks. Good luck!

  16. Is this recipe gluton free?

  17. Hi Emma, thank you for the recipe. We just got back from Nepal 3 days ago and my 6 yo daughter fell in love with dal bhat :))

    This morning I was frying papad and she was asking for dal bhat for dinner tonight. Luckily I found the recipe in your website and now I can smell Nepali kitchen in house.

    Thanks again Emma

  18. Finally I have been abled to replicate the dhal bat I love from my time in Nepal. Thank you for an excellent recipe!

  19. I have close friends from Nepal who moved to the US several years ago. My friend and his wife are both very good cooks and have taught me how to make dal bhat with curried vegetables, among other native dishes (roti, pickled vegetables, etc.). Last night, we had dal bhat with an asparagus curry -- quite delicious. I've made dal many times, but ALWAYS with a pressure cooker. That's how it's made in Nepal. The orange-colored legumes make the best-tasting dal, IMO. Another tip I learned from the Nepalis is to blend the dal with a rotary hand beater after it has cooked, to give it a smoother consistency. These three things are a wonderful, satisfying taste combination. It's no wonder the Nepalis can eat it twice a day!


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