This flavorful and warming Afghan-inspired split pea dal is made with creamy yellow split peas simmered in ginger and toasty spices.
A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of how much I missed Afghan food. We had plans in the city one evening, and decided to wing it as to what we’d get for dinner beforehand, once we arrived in Philly. That’s always a fun game, which typically involves no more than a half block stroll down the street before something jumps out at me. On that particular evening, it was Afghan. A wise choice. I think I actually commented to my boyfriend “This tastes like Christmas time.” And it did. In a way. Like in that familiar but it’s been a while and all kinds of fond memories are popping into my head as I nibble away kind of manner.
I think it was the pumpkin that I made the Christmas comment about. You might have already read that I have a special place in my heart for kaddo borani. This night, two weeks ago, was however maybe the first time I ventured out and tried something new in Afghan cuisine, which has always been difficult for me, given how much I love the pumpkin. Since there were two of us, and both ordering off of the vegetarian menu, which might have been a first for me, we decided to get one order of the pumpkin and one of the split pea dal.
The split pea dal was at least as amazing as the pumpkin. It makes me wonder if next time I go out for Afghan food I’ll feel the need to order the dal again, or whether I’ve learned that trying new things leads to happy new discoveries. Time will tell.
So this is my version of the Afghan split pea dal that I had a few weeks ago. If you picked this off of an Afghan menu, it would probably be called dal chalaw. I didn’t name my post that because I’m honestly not sure how authentic it is. I tried to recreate the dish from taste, and while it does taste like what I ordered out, I can’t say for sure what ingredients in my version would be found in the authentic Afghan dish. In any event, it you want something that tastes authentic, or tastes delicious, or both…well, here ya go.
Yellow Split Pea Dal
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups dried split peas
- 1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Asian chili paste, or to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in large saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about five minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute.
Add the broth and all remaining ingredients except for the cilantro. Stir and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat, cover and allow to simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally, until the split peas fall apart, adding up to 1 cup of water during cooking if it becomes too thick.
Divide among bowls and top with cilantro. Serve over basmati rice.