Sri Lankan Dal with sweet potato

Sri Lankan Dal with sweet potato

Sri Lankan Dal with sweet potato

Sri Lankan Dal with sweet potato

I am clueless on how to spell this dish, but since my trip to Sri Lanka, I do know how it is supposed to taste. We ate dal for breakfast, lunch, diner: any time of the day.

Dal is omnipresent in Sri Lanka. They call it Parippu Hodda or Dahl Curry. After five or six days I still wasn’t sick of it. In fact, when I came back home, one of the first things I did was figuring out how to make dal myself.

I can tell you one thing, it wasn’t easy to get the taste right. After the first attempt, I was so disappointed. The whole dish tasted bland. Though I hate giving up. I found a recipe, changed it a little, added ingredients Sri Lankans told me I should use, and applied a technique I read about in the cookbook. The result is remarkably similar to the dish I ate on the other side of the world. It’s a bit borrowed, a bit of me, and a lot of Sri Lanka. I love it, and I hope you do too!

Sri Lankan Dal with sweet potato

You need:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 200 grams red lentils
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, grind with mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seed, grind with mortar and pestle
  • 3 cardamom pods, grind with morar and pestle, remove pods
  • a pinch chili flakes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 240 ml coconut milk (1 cup)
  • 480 ml water (2 cups)
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges


How to make it:

  1. Soak the lentils ten minutes in cold water. Rinse and drain.

  2. In a large soup pot or a dutch oven, add the coconut oil, and one by one, half of the following ingredients: the curry leaves, the onion, the ginger, the garlic, and the chili flakes. Don’t add the next ingredient before you can smell the one you put in before. This way the flavors enhance each other. Stir well.

  3. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds, the cardamom, the cinnamon, the coriander and the turmeric. Keep stirring.

  4. After a couple of minutes, add the sweet potato, the lentils, and a pinch of salt. Stir again. Make sure everything is combined properly. Then add the coconut milk and water immediately.

  5. Bring to a boil and stir. Lower the heat and let the dal simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Keep mixing regularly and if it is too dry, add a little water. You still want some chunks of sweet potato and whole lentils, but also a creamy consistency.

  6. Transfer the dal to a bowl. Heat some coconut oil in the pan you just used and add the other half of the curry leaves, the chili flakes, the onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute until soft. Stir so it doesn’t burn. Pour back the dal and combine again. Carefully bring to a boil for a couple of minutes, while you keep stirring. Again, if it is too dry, add a little water.

  7. Serve the dal with rice and some lime juice or with naan bread, yoghurt and some mango chutney.


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