Pick and rinse the chana dal well in running water.
Soak the dal in enough water for an hour. Or soak in hot water (not boiling hot water) for 30 minutes.
Drain the lentils and add them to a 3 litre pressure cooker along with turmeric powder. Add 2.5 to 3 cups water in the cooker and stir well. For Instant pot add 2 to 2.5 cups water.
On a high heat pressure cook the lentils for 10 to 11 minutes or for 7 to 8 whistles or more, till the dal is softened and well cooked.
In the instant pot, pressure cook on high mode for 10 to 12 minutes.
Allow the cooker or Instant Pot to do a complete natural pressure release before unsealing the lid. That means to let the pressure falls on its own in the cooker or instant pot.
Check the lentils. They should be very soft and easy to mush with the back of a spoon.
Cover and set aside the cooked chana dal.
Making Chana Dal
In another pan, heat oil or ghee.
Add the cumin seeds first and fry for a few seconds till they splutter.
Then add the garlic and fry till they become light brown.
Now add the onions and fry till they get golden stirring often.
Now add the chopped tomatoes, ginger and green chili.
Stir and add all the dry spice powders - turmeric powder, red chili powder, garam masala powder, asafoetida, dry mango powder and coriander powder.
Sauté stirring often till the tomatoes soften and the oil starts to leave the sides of the mixture.
Add the crushed dry fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) and stir.
Pour the cooked chana dal together with its stock to the sautéed masala mixture or vice versa. Season with salt according to taste.
Stir and simmer the dal for 6 to 8 minutes or more till you get medium consistency of the dal. The consistency is neither thick nor thin.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Serve the chana dal hot with some basmati rice or roti or bread.
Chana Dal: Make sure that the lentils are fresh and within their shelf period. Aged lentil take a lot of time to cook. Try to use unpolished chana dal if you can.
Soaking Lentils: Lentils cook faster when they are soaked. If having less time then cook them straightaway. But know that the lentils will take a longer time to cook.
Aromatics and Seasonings: This recipe as-is is perfect but you can always increase the quantity of spices like green chillies and red chilli powder for a spicy chana dal. If you prefer you can omit both onions and garlic in the recipe, but the taste will be different. Omit dry fenugreek leaves if you do not have it.
Dry Mango Powder: Also known as amchur, dry mango powder add some tangy taste to the dish. Swap a bit of lemon juice with dry mango powder when cooking the dal is complete or omit the mango powder completely.
Gluten-free version: To make the recipe gluten-free, omit adding the asafetida (hing) or use asafetida packaged as gluten-free asafetida.
1. If the dal becomes thick, then after adding the sauteed masala tempering mixture, add some water as needed and simmer for some minutes.2. If the dal become thin, simmer for a longer time so that you get the right consistency.
For cooking lentils in a pot or pan:
First soak the lentils for an hour.
Take 4 cups water and the drained lentils in a pot or pan.
Add turmeric powder. Cover and cook the lentils for 45 minutes to 1 hour, till they are softened well. Add more water if required.
If the mixture froths, then cook uncovered initially and then later cover and cook. Adding a few drops of oil reduces the frothing.
Once the lentils are softened, then make the sautéed onion-tomato masala mixture and add it to the cooked lentils. Simmer further until the consistency thickens.