Panch Meshali Dal

No matter which month of the year it is, dal or lentils are always an integral part of  our Indian meals. While a moong dal-vegetable stew or a simple masoor dal is usually on the menu, every once in a while, we like a meal of creamy lentil stew with stuffed parathas and raita. Such a meal is specially comforting in winter, when the temperatures drop below freezing point and threaten to drop further...

While Dal Makhani and Dal Bukhara are the popular North Indian lentil preparations, a mixed dal stew like this one is an everyday affair. You can prepare it with which ever dal you have at hand or an assortment of the lentils in your pantry... Just make sure you add a tablespoon or two of whole or split urad dal to the mixture and  simmer the lentils along with the spices for a good 30 minutes to an hour. And there....you are ready for a treat..

Urad dal is one of the lentils that is extensively used in south Indian cooking. Besides being used to prepare dosas, papad and vada, small amounts of urad is roasted along with the spices in the preparation of south Indian stir fries. In North India it is mostly used to prepare dals. When cooked by itself, split urad dal feels a bit slippery. Though many like its texture, it is not a favorite at our house. We however, enjoy it in rich winter dals such as this. Without a drop of extra cream it does wonders to the texture and flavor of the dish at hand...

Urad dal also has several health benefits.  It is rich in iron and believed to be particularly essential for women undergoing menstruation. Different from red meat and other sources of iron, urad dal does not contain high calories and fat. It is a rich and inexpensive source of protein and contains both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers which help in digestion. Because of its high magnesium and folate levels it is also believed to promote cardiovascular health. However when consumed in excess it can cause flatulence... so a recipe like this mixed lentil stew is just right if you want to enjoy the benefits of urad dal without over indulging in it.

In Bengali, Panch meshali dal translates to a 'stew of five dals.' I am not sure if such a dal is part of traditional Bengali cuisine but something similar is popular in North India. It goes by the name of "Panch Ratani Dal" or Panchmel dal. The initial plan was to follow Tarla Dalal's recipe and cook Panch Ratani for dinner. But since the supplies at hand did not quite match up to Tarla-ji's list of ingredients I took a detour and cooked us Panch Meshali dal... 

Panch Meshali dal (Five-Lentil stew)

Recipe by Tanusree Khandai
Prep time: 1 hour                                                                                  Cook time: 80 minutes
Total time: min 2  hour 20 minutes                                                         Serves: 4

To be pressure cooked
  • 1/4 cup arhar dal
  • 3 tbsps yellow mung dal
  • 3 tbsps ch masoor dal (red lentils)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp whole masoor dal
  • 1 tbsp split urad dal
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 big bay leaf
For cooking
  • 1 1/2 tbsps canola oil
  • pinch of asafetida
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3/4 cup crushed tomato 
  • 2 tsps dhana jeera powder
  • 1 tsp chana masala powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kasuri methi, soaked in lukewarm water
  • 1/3 cup to 1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
  • for garnishing yogurt
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine all the dals in a medium sized bowl and wash them several times until the water runs clear.
  2. Soak the washed lentils in lukewarm water for atleast 1 hour.
  3. Drain and put the soaked lentils in the pressure cooker along with 2 1/2 cups of water, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chopped ginger, 1 tsp salt and bay leaf. The water should cover the lentils completely.
  4. Bring the water to a boil then close the lid of the cooker and cook over medium heat for 3 whistles. After that, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes before switching off the heat.
  5. Wait for the steam to escape. Then open the lid of the cooker and keep the contents aside.
  6. In a large kadhai or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  7. Add asafetida, cumin seeds,cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to it and cook until fragrant.
  8. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook till the onion browns slightly at the edges.
  9. Add the crushed tomato and mix well.
  10. Stir in the dhana-jeera and chana masala powder and cook till the raw smell of tomato disappears completely. This takes about 10 minutes. 
  11. In the last 5 minutes stir in the soaked kasuri methi into the tomato gravy and continue cooking.
  12. Once the tomato is well cooked add the cooked lentils in the kadai. Stir in the grated ginger and mix well.
  13. Add 1/2 cup water, check with salt, place the lid of the pan and stirring occasionally cook covered for 10-15 minutes.
  14. Check the seasoning and consistency of the stew, add more salt and water if you like and stirring occasionally simmer the stew for the next 30 to 45 minutes or even an hour if you have the time.
  15. Switching off the heat, garnish with chopped coriander and seasoned yogurt and serve with roti or rice.
Note,  the long simmering time is an essential part of the recipe. So please do not cut it short or else you'll miss on a really delicious and comforting stew....

Ref for facts about Urad dal.


  1. Your party goers will have a treat!

  2. healthy comfort food..looks yumm.

  3. Wow how vibrant and tasty looking! Thank you so much for linking this recipe up at Recipe Sharing Monday. I hope to see you back next Monday. Have a good weekend!

  4. Your Lentils Stew looks fabulous, I can almost taste it! Hope you are having a great week and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen


Thanks for stopping by. It was nice having you here. Have a good day.

Take care and come back soon.
Best, Tanusree

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