As he is wont to do, Josh brought home bacon. He bought it from the local meat shop, owned or at least staffed by Fijian Indians. Without asking for advice, Josh was given some anyway, from the friendly lady who said (conspiratorially?), “It tastes very good in dahl.”
Why an Indian lady would volunteer this information to a guy that looks like Josh is a mystery, but she might have intuited that Josh’s domestic partner is half Indian and has to Josh’s chagrin stocked our temporary kitchen in Savusavu, Fiji with two types of dahl—yellow and black.
Although she isn’t an avid cook, my mom cooks dahl occasionally. When she does, she fries mustard seeds and cumin seeds in the pan first, and then fries onion, chili, and ginger/garlic (which she claims is one word). Then she introduces the lentils and thrice their volume in water, puts on the lid, and simmers until it looks done, usually in less than an hour. Give or take, this is pretty much the way I make dahl. I’ve never made a non-vegetarian dahl.
When Josh came home with this tidbit about how to cook bacon dahl, I thought it sounded like a way to break up the monotony of yellow dahl, which, as you all know, can only get so exciting. Given the poor food diversity in Fiji and lack of other options for home cooking, we were sick of dahl but bacon saved the day and rekindled interest in lentils. If you want to make it yourself, just render the bacon first, and then proceed with adding the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, etc and proceed as usual.
As expected, the result no longer tastes like Indian dahl but more like an Eastern European pea soup. Josh compared it with Quebequois pea soup. Regardless, only thing I would have done differently would have been to add a few sprigs of fresh cilantro on top, but sadly there is no cilantro available in the local markets here. If you decide to make it, please do add cilantro or a fresh herb of your choice—it needs the color and freshness. Then it will be truly dal-icious.