Gateway to Heaven – Finally Dhansak on a plate

Dhansak in a plate

Dhansak is a Parsee specialty, for those of you who don’t know it’s a combination of different lentils cooked with either chicken or mutton or potatoes. You will never find it at a wedding and it will never be made on a auspicious day i.e: Happy BirthDay, Happy Anniversary Day, Buy Anything New Day or any other Happy Day..You would think that was crazy because it is one of the best meals on the recipe list and is specially dedicated to the dead.

When someone dies the family becomes vegetarian for the first three days. Tradition holds that on the fourth day when they do eat meat its always in Dhansak. Due to its untimely association with death Dhansak is considered mourning food.

Dhansak is eaten with caramelized basmati rice, a blob of butter and some sliced onions soaked in vinegar and lime. Adding some minced Kebab’s would turn this meal into a Funday paradise.

Note for all vegan’s – Skip adding meat and add potatoes instead


For Dal

250gms Toovar Dal / Yellow Pigeon Peas

100gms Whole Masoor Dal / Red Lentils

50gms Split Masoor Dal / Split Red Lentils

100gms Moong Dal / Split Green Gram

(All the above soaked for 1-3 hours)

200gms Baingan / Aubergine / Eggplant chopped

100gms Koru / Red Pumpkin chopped

1/2tsp of Salt

1/2tsp of Turmeric

1/2tsp Red Kashmiri Chili Powder

1 Tomato chopped

dhansak dal shot

For Dhansak Masala

1tsp Turmeric Powder

1tsp Sambhar Masala

1tsp Chili Powder

1tsp Dhana Jeera / Cumin-Coriander Powder

1/2tsp Pepper Powder

(Dhansak Masala is available at a local Indian store and can be substituted for the above masalas – Add 2Tbsp of Dhansak Masala in case of substitution)

Masala Box

For Dhansak

2tbsp. Parsi Lal Masala

2 Onions finely chopped

Chicken pieces

The Dhansak Masala

Tamarind Paste diluted in 1/4th cup of warm water

2″ block of Jaggery thinly chopped

For Caramelized Rice

1 cup of White Basmati Rice

1 Onion Chopped

4pc Whole Peppercorn

1pc Cinnamon stick

2-3 Cloves

2-3 Cardamoms

1-2 Bay Leaf

4tbsp Brown/White Sugar

1/2 cup of water

Masala box1


For Dhansak Dal

– Pressure cook all the soaked dal with some salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder, eggplant, green pumpkin and tomato with 2 cups of water, for 4 whistles.

-Allow the pressure cooker to cool completely before opening the lid.


– Once cooled strain the dal to a smooth paste.

Dhansak 2

For Dhansak

– In another dish fry the onions and add the Lal Masala and Dhansak Masala, allow the masala to cook for 4-5 minutes.

– Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes.

– Next, add the chicken and stir till slightly browned.


– Pour in the dal and allow to cook for 20 min.

– Gently add the Tamarind paste and the Jaggery, stir in to allow the Jaggery to melt.


For Caramelized Dhansak Rice

– Soak 1 cup of White Basmati Rice in warm water for 1 hour then, wash the rice 2 – 3 times.

– In a pan fry the chopped onion (use very little oil) and add the drained rice, allow the rice to simmer on a medium flame till the aroma of rice fills the air.

Rice prep

– In the meanwhile on another small pan heat sugar till it is completely melted and turns to a dark brown.

– Immediately add 1/2 a cup of water into the melted sugar. Take a step back and be careful while doing this step. I usually add water above my sink to prevent my kitchen from the splatter.

Caramalizing Sugar

Note :-

– I use Demerara Sugar that is why I can achieve this dark color. White sugar tastes just as good but do not burn white sugar to such a dark color.

– If the sugar gets stuck on your spoon just leave it in the water mixture and allow it to heat. The sugar will melt of the spoon automatically.

– Next, add sugar water to the simmering rice and stir once gently.

– Add cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and salt,

– Next immediately add 2 cups of warm water.

rice prep 2

– Cook the rice covered on a medium flame for 5 min, then lift the top and allow it to simmer open so that the water can evaporate. cook for another 10 min or till the rice is done.

Rice 2

– Dhansak Rice must be allowed to sit for 10 minutes before eating

– Enjoy your Dhansak and don’t forget to snooze….

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One thought on “Gateway to Heaven – Finally Dhansak on a plate

  1. Tehnaz April 5, 2013 at 12:15 AM Reply

    Excellent!!! Thank you for the very detailed recipe!!!

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