Rinse moong dal in cold water 2–3 times until the water runs clear. Add to pressure cooker or saucepan along with water, turmeric powder, and a pinch of salt.
Choose one of the following methods to cook the dal:1. Instant Pot method: Reduce the amount of water to 1 1/4 cup. Ensure the steam valve is on “sealing,” and set the timer to cook on High Pressure for 8 minutes. Allow the pressure to come down naturally for 15 minutes. After that, force release any remaining pressure by carefully opening the steam valve to “venting.” Open the lid and remove it.2. Stovetop pressure cooker method: Use high heat to bring the pressure up to high, then reduce the heat slightly. Cook under pressure for 6 minutes. Allow the pressure to come down naturally for 10 minutes, then open the lid safely. 3. Saucepan method: Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the dal becomes very soft. Add more water if necessary so that the dal remains covered. Reference: How to Cook Beans
Make the dal tadka
Heat ghee in a small skillet on medium heat. Add black mustard and cumin seeds, and sauté until the mustard begin to pop and the cumin begins to brown.
Add the ginger, chili, and shallots. Continue to sauté until the onion starts to caramelize.
Add the asafetida, red chili powder, and turmeric powder, and stir for a few seconds to release the aroma. Add the curry leaves and stir for about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.
Pour the tadka over the cooked dal, and add salt. Stir well, bring back up to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors. Taste, and adjust for salt. A splash of fresh lemon is also lovely in dal tadka.
You could either spoon the dal on top of the rice, or mix the rice and dal together to create the dish known as “dal rice.” For exceptional taste, add a dab of ghee on top of your dal just before serving.
If you do not have ghee, substitute with a mixture of half butter and half vegetable oil. Ghee is a form of clarified butter with a nutty, buttery taste, that is commonly used in Indian cooking. Ghee is generally safe for people with lactose intolerance. It has a high smoke point of 485 degrees Fahrenheit and it is shelf stable at room temperature. Ghee is widely available outside India. To learn more about ghee and where to buy it, see Quality Ghee & Ghee Buying Tips.Moong dal is so tiny that it is not necessary to soak it first, but if you have time, I believe soaking is always better when cooking with dried pulses. 2-4 hours is sufficient. If you need, you can always keep it in the fridge overnight.I mentioned in the post that you could consider combining moong dal with toor dal in equal portions. If you choose this option, I would recommend using a pressure cooker, because the toor dal will take longer to cook.Black mustard seeds are ubiquitous in South Indian cooking. They have a pungent and nutty flavor, much more so than the yellow mustard seeds commonly used in the West.If you do not have black mustard seeds, just leave them out of the recipe. I encourage you to invest in this wonderful spice when you are ready.Asafetida is a powder made from the sap of a plant relative of fennel. It is commonly used in Indian cooking, but virtually unknown in the West.Asafetida is very unique, and nearly impossible to substitute. It is a wonderful spice, with a slightly sulphur taste somewhat comparable to onions or shallots. I highly recommend investing in it when you are ready.Curry leaves, also known as kari patta, are small, fragrant, somewhat citrusy leaves that grow wild in India, but are difficult to find in the West unless you visit an Indian grocery store.You can usually find a package of fresh curry leaves in the refrigerated section of an Indian grocery store. Once you bring them home, store them in the freezer, and they will keep for months.It is very worth using curry leaves if you can find them, but their flavor is subtle, so if you cannot source them, just leave them out.Visit my Guide to Indian Ingredient Substitutions for where to buy these, and other Indian spices.