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Devini DeSilva's Delicious Dhal

Contributed by: News Canada

Keep Pulsing For Good Health

By Anita Stewart

(NC) - In ancient Rome, lentil stew or 'puls' (Now you know where the word pulse comes from.) was a staple of the poor who ironically had a far more wholesome diet than did their wealthy contemporaries who loved to dine on exotica. Roasted chickpeas were among the earliest bar foods being served in the 'taverna' of the time.

Devini DeSilva's Delicious Dhal (a.k.a 4-D Lentil Curry)
Pulses spread around the globe as various culinary diasporas traveled to new lands including Canada. One of my favourite dishes springs from Sri Lankan Devini Desilva's kitchen. As a pulse researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, action central for pulse studies, she often participates in departmental cook-offs. This is one of her winning recipes. It can also be found in Anita Stewart's Canada: The Food, The Recipes, The Stories (HarperCollins Canada 2008).

Split lentil curry is an essential part of everyday meals in Sri Lanka. It is simple and delicious. Because no soaking is necessary, it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Devini says "If you think more spice is nice, add 1 tsp (5 mL) crushed dry chili flakes when making the curry and for variety, add a handful of one of the following: fresh spinach leaves, freshly picked lamb's quarters, Swiss chard, beet greens or chopped cauliflower."


  • 1 cup split red lentils 250 mL
  • 1 cup water 250 mL
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder 2 mL
  • 1 tsp roasted fenugreek powder * 5 mL
  • 1 tsp curry powder 5 mL
  • 1 hot green pepper, or other chili, seeded and thinly sliced 1
  • 1 small onion, diced 1
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced 4
  • 6 curry leaves (optional) ** 6
  • 2 inches of pandan leaf **(optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk/ soy milk/ cow's milk 375 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt 7 mL
  • 2 tsp lime juice 10 mL


Wash the lentils and drain well. Transfer to a medium-sized saucepan and add water. Stir in turmeric, fenugreek and curry powders; add hot pepper, onion, curry leaves and pandan leaf, if using.

Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and steam for 7 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and lentils are beginning to soften. Add milk and salt, stirring to combine. Cover and return to a boil over high heat. Stir and cook until mixture is bubbling and thickened.

Remove from the heat and discard pandan leaf. Stir in lime juice. Serve immediately with rice, roti or French bread.

* Roast the fenugreek seed in a dry skillet for 2 - 3 minutes or till golden. Crush with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

** Available in Indian or Asian food stores.

Serving Size: Makes 6 - 8 Servings

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