Perhaps I have been making huge potfuls of dal because I was almost in India right now, visiting Nick and his Orphan Sponsorship International program in Pune.  Did my heart make it on the plane, while the rest of me stayed to keep on keeping on with the deli, even though I constantly want to chuck Death by Mocha dough balls at my power-hungry micromanager’s head every time she forbids me from creating a new mochi, baked good, or hummus?

“I feel empty inside, but at least my belly’s full.” -Classic HEE

My travel companions and I are re-planning our trip for next year.  In the meantime, my home kitchen will be fragrant with curry, as I try to get back to center each evening by cooking warm, nourishing whole food meals for the inspiring and amazing people that surround HEE.


This is a selection from boyfriend’s pre-HEE “Bachelor Pantry.”  Rest assured–none of these ingredients were used in the making of HEE Dal.


The dal curries you are familiar with are those secretly spiced, infinitely diverse Indian lentil and vegetable dishes, served with naan, roti, or rice. Not much is authentic about HEE Dal, which often uses whatever vegetables are in the fridge with little premeditated shopping, and might be more accurately described as “curry stew” or “a shitload of lentils and vegetables in a bowl.” I like my dal as I like my men–a little spicy, comforting after a long day in the kitchen, mixed race, and easy to freeze and reheat.

Since I bake professionally–a truly comic manifestation of my usual chaos–I overcompensate in my other cooking by being unable to either follow a recipe or compose recipes out of my own creations.  But everyone always asks, and I want to teach a man to fish or a homemaker to cook dal–however the phrase goes.  So while I’d like to say with confidence that this HEE Dal recipe will result in a dish that recreates what I cook at home, you will need to adjust the spices until your taste buds leap from the sidelines to cheer for team fucking delicious.  So turn HEE Dal into [Insert Your Name Here] Dal, and please don’t send me hate mail if this recipe is about as precise as predicting the return of a lord and/or savior.


The dal part of HEE Dal:

  • 1 1/2 cups lentils and/or beans (soak overnight, if possible)

I use a blend of whatever lentils I have in my pantry.  Ideally, combine lentils/beans that have similar cooking times.  Mung beans, French lentils, chana dal, and yellow split peas are some of my favorites.  Kidney beans and garbanzo are a good combination as well.

The Base:

  • 1/2 a large onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, minced
  • 5-7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 inches of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 tablespoons organic coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seed
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seed
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder (I use local Ka’iulani Exotic Curry. Garam Masala also works well.)
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, optional
  • 1 (15 oz) can of organic tomato sauce or diced tomato, optional
  • 1 (14 oz) can of lite organic coconut milk, not optional!
  • 1-2 vegan bouillon cubes (I use Rapunzel bouillon.)
  • 2-ish cups of water and/or homemade vegetable stock
  • sea salt, to taste
  • cilantro, garnish

The Veggies:

The beautiful thing about dal is that you can incorporate all your favorite veggies in one place, and modify the vegetables based on what’s in season.  Keep in mind that if you use a bountiful cornucopia of vegetables, you may have to add more spices and stock.  I usually chop my veggies like eggplant and sweet potato into bite-sized chinks, chop my carrots a bit smaller, and very thinly slice my kale and collards.  Prep/chop all your veggies before you begin.  I love to take an everything-in-the-CSA-box approach to dal–in my most recent batch o’ dal, I used all the veggie as captured above, as well as a bag of frozen organic peas and an entire bunch of lacinato kale.  I try to use whatever vegetables look stunning at the farmers’ market, rather than deciding ahead of time, “Tonight I’m going to make okra dal!”–and then becoming unhinged when I can’t find okra anywhere, thus beginning the downward hopelessness spiral-which can indeed be triggered by lack of okra if you are a fragile creature such as myself.

Anyway, here are some excellent vegetables to use in different combinations:

  • Eggplant
  • Sweet Potato
  • Peas (frozen)
  • Carrot
  • Greens: Spinach, kale, or collards
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini, yellow squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Ulu
  • Daikon
  • Okra

The Method:

1.  Rinse the lentils and beans.  In a pot, cover the lentils/beans with a few inches of water and bring to a boil.  (f you have a lot of homemade veggie stock, feel free to cook them in veggie stock.)  Cover pot and reduce to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to keep the lentils/beans from sticking to the bottom.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin, sesame, and mustard seeds and stir occasionally–until they begin popping.  Add turmeric, cayenne, tamarind paste and curry power and continue to heat for a few minutes, until fragrant.  I call this the “flavor orgy” step of making dal.  Add onions and saute until translucent.  Add celery, garlic, and ginger and saute for a few minutes more.  Reduce the heat to medium.

3.  At this point, some cooking knowledge and common sense is required.  Which of your vegetables have the longest cooking time?  Which should be added at the very end?  If I’m using carrot, for example, I saute the carrot for a while, and then incorporate the eggplant and zucchini, adding a little water if the mixture is sticking to the bottom of the pan and is too dry.  After five minutes or so (depending on your veggies)–add 2-ish cups of water/stock and the bouillon cube(s).  Stir and bring everything to a gentle boil.  Add the sweet potato and cook until all the vegetables are almost done, stirring every few minutes and monitoring the heat.  If there’s any useful tip I can offer in this post, it is that you do not burn the dal.

4.  Add the cooked lentils and beans (remaining liquid is fine to add).  Add the coconut milk and optional tomato sauce.  Add more water or stock if you went crazy on the vegetables.  Add the quick-cooking greens such as spinach or kale.  Taste, add sea salt, and adjust spices.

5.  Let HEE Dal simmer over very low heat for the amount of time it takes you to enjoy a cup of strawberry vanilla green tea and/or a few vodka tonics.

6.  Serve with warm naan or over whole grains like brown rice and quinoa.  Garnish with cilantro.  For bonus magic, enjoy with Maui Upcountry Green Guava Chutney.

What we do in the kitchen is like what we do in real life–we hope.  We hope that things are going to turn out okay, perhaps even better and more delicious than expected.  So use my “recipe” as a guideline in your dal making adventures, and trust that you’ve chosen the best ingredients possible for the dal and life you’ve been fucking starving for.


6 Responses to “HEE Dal”


    ‎”I like my dal as I like my men–a little spicy, comforting after a long day in the kitchen, mixed race, and easy to freeze and reheat.” AAAAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAH. That was worth waiting four months for.

  2. I was JUST thinking about making dal tonight for dinner! One of my favorite things in the whole wide world. I love your everything but the kitchen sink approach! I’m going to post/link to this (and steal a photo for the post)…

    What else is happening in Hee Land? We’re overdue to catch up!


    • 4 jenn meleana

      I think I make dal too often and need to expand my culinary horizons! The latest in Hee Land is that I want to start a Hee sister vegan food truck–linked to Kale’s, but more mobile so we can do farmers’ markets and be out in the community. But we’ll see–this idea is still in its gestational stages. My new canning kit just arrived in the mail! And I’ve been learning more about growing, which is super exciting. I love our homemaking nerdiness! Let me know how you’re doing!


  3. How do you freeze men?

    You’ve introduced me to my first green drink. I always thought they came from the sewer…stay tuned to my lst green drink.

  4. When making Hee’s Dal, be sure to have your reading glasses on if you need them and put your spices away as you use them. I put 2 tsp of cayenne instead of tumeric and with my delicate stomach, it attacked me. So I figured, why not Hee Dai soup so I added veggie broth and they all ended up in the kitchen sink. When I took a course in nutrition in college, the prof said our garbage disposal was fed the most nutritional food. She was right. I think I’ll wait until Hee sisters Vegan van comes to our door.

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