Dalcha/Curried lentils with lamb and it’s origin

I’ve only been to Hyderabad for a very short time but it still amazed me. It’s a very old city with a rich history and a mix of cultures. The city’s two major populations are very contrasting in nature, one being Telegu-speaking Hindus and the other Urdu-speaking Muslims. Although the majority of the people are Hindus, there is still a very significant Muslim population in the ‘old city’, a legacy of the long-standing Muslim dynasty that ruled over the erstwhile Hyderabad state until 1948.

DSC_0282During the medieval times, the Muslim rulers (originally from Samarkand in central Asia) were fascinated by the rich regional cuisine and couldn’t resist incorporating local dishes into their own cuisine. Being voraciously carnivorous, they modified recipes which were originally vegetarian to satiate their meat-loving taste buds. Dalcha, which falls right into this category, is a delicious concoction of meat and lentils cooked together. As the Muslims were familiar with red lentils (masoor daal) and split chickpeas (chana daal), they used these to make their dalcha, but essentially borrowed the recipe of a local delicacy called sambar (pigeon pea lentil soup with vegetables), of course adding meat which would be unthinkable in the original dish.

Another Muslim delicacy that I haven’t had the opportunity to taste is haleem, but people who’ve eaten my dalcha and also had haleem before, say that they taste similar. I am yet to try making haleem, hopefully soon I can convince myself that it’s doable and cook it. Dalcha is very rich and flavorful and eaten mostly with naan or any other Indian flat bread. I have made it both with goat meat/mutton and lamb and both tasted equally good. I have tried modifying it and instead of adding the traditional fried curry leaf tadka (seasoning), I added Bengali garam masala and ghee (Indian clarified butter) at the end. I must say the tadka makes a big difference in the taste. I liked both varities but the curry leaf tadka is the traditional one.

I am sending this recipe to My legume love affair 55 (MLLA55) from Susan’s The well seasoned-cook. I am so glad to announce that I was the proud winner of the last month’s MLLA54. I cannot express how happy I am as this the first award for my baby blog (only four months old).


I have borrowed the recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook and attaching the recipe directly from her book.



I realized that it might be a little difficult for some people to read it from the scanned page. In that case please see the written recipe below. The procedure might differ a little bit but it’s almost the same. I wrote the way I made it. Both will work.

Dalcha recipe:


Red lentils/masoor daal: 1 ½ cups

Turmeric powder: ½ tsp

Vegetable oil: 4 tbsp

Cinnamon: 1 ½ inces.

Cardamom: 6 whole

Onion: 1 medium, cut into thin half sized

Lamb shoulder: ½ lb

Tamarind: 2 tbsp tamarind pulp or 3 tbsp lemon juice

Ginger grated: 1tsp

Garlic crushed/finely chopped: 1 tsp

Red chili powder/cayenne pepper: ½-1 tsp


Ghee (Indian clarified butter)/vegetable oil: 2 tbsp

Whole cumin seeds: ½ tsp.

Dried red chili (whole): 1-2 nos.

Fresh curry leaves: 8-10 nos.

Garlic: 2 cloves, cut into thin slices (I didn’t use it in the seasoning)


  • Wash the lentils with several changes of water and then bring to a boil with around 3 cups of water. Add turmeric powder while boiling. Boil until the lentils are tender.
  • While the lentil is boiling, cook the meat. In a separate heavy bottom pot, add the cinnamon and the cardamom. Stir for few seconds until they release a nice aroma.
  • Add the sliced onions and sauté them until light brown.
  • Add the crushed ginger-garlic and the red chili powder/cayenne pepper.
  • Cook the spice mix on medium heat until oil oozes out from the spice.
  • Add the meat and cook it for few more minutes and coat the meat with the spices really well.
  • Add around ¾ cup of luke warm water, cover the pan and let the meat cook on medium flame (slightly covered).
  • Once the lentil is cooked, add salt, tamarind pulp and ½ tsp. of chili powder. Mash the lentils with a wooden stirrer or spoon well to make it smooth.
  • When the meat is tender, add the seasoned lentil and cook for few more minutes.
  • Heat up the ghee/oil (I used ghee), when hot, add the whole cumin seeds.
  • When the cumin seeds darken a bit brown, add the dry red chilis and the curry leaves.
  • After few seconds, add the sliced garlic and let them brown a little bit.
  • Pour the seasoning over the lentil-meat mixture and cover the pan.
  • You can add the seasoning right before serving the dish.

7 comments on “Dalcha/Curried lentils with lamb and it’s origin

  1. Debs says:

    Congratulations on your award and wish for many more to come!
    This recipe sounds delicious and would love to make it one day but reading/following from a scanned recipe book might be difficult for me.

  2. Shan says:

    Congratulations! Even though, I am not surprised you won this award. This recipe looks amazing, I cannot wait to try it tonight! I actually happen to have all of these ingredients in my cabinet.

  3. Susan says:

    Beautiful photographs for colorful and luxurious curry. Thank you, Soma, for joining MLLA55!

  4. Simi At Tns says:

    love your blog, and love this post !!

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