Rinse and soak chana dal in warm water for 10-12 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients and saute the aromatics.
Select Saute on Instant Pot. Wait 30 seconds for it to get hot, then add oil and cumin seeds.
When cumin begins to sizzle, add serrano chili and chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring in between.
Add ginger and garlic and continue to saute for another minute.
Add spices and tomato, stir and cook for 2 minutes, stirring in between, until the tomatoes soften and become mushy. Cancel Saute.
Add chana dal and water and deglaze the pot by scraping off any brown bits stuck at the bottom of the pot.
Lock the lid in place and select pressure cook or manual for 12 minutes at high pressure.
When the cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally. If in a rush, wait for 10 minutes, then follow the quick release method. Unlock lid and remove after the pressure pin drops.
Using the cooking ladle or a potato masher, mash a few chickpeas. Repeat 2-3 times. This thickens the curry and makes it creamy.
Check for seasoning. Add chopped cilantro and a light squeeze of lime, and serve with rice or roti.
Soaking: Soaking chana dal in warm water for 10 minutes prior to pressure cooking will ensure that chickpeas are creamy in texture and easily digested.
How to check if dal is done? The split chickpeas need to be cooked until it can easily be squashed between two fingers.
Creamy texture: Using the back of your cooking spoon, or a potato masher, mash a few lentils after pressure cooking. This makes the curry thicker and creamier.
Extra Tadka (tempering)for Chana Dal Fry: Heat up a tablespoon of ghee in a fry pan and add cumin (or mustard seeds) and curry leaves, and let them splutter for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and add it to the dal and stir. For a slight kick, you can also add ¼-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne to this mix.
Two Popular Variations Of Chana Dal
Chana Dal with Lauki: Lauki (known as Bottle Gourd in Hindi) is a zucchini-like vegetable easily available in Indian and Asian grocery stores. When I can’t find lauki, I typically substitute it with 1 cup of cubed zucchini cut in 1-inch chunks. Simply add it to the Instant Pot with the dal. The larger chunks hold their shape after cooking.
Palak Dal: Palak is the Hindi term for spinach. After pressure cooking and pressure release, remove the lid and turn on Saute. Stir in 2 cups chopped baby spinach and simmer 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach wilts. Add lemon juice and garnish with cilantro.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates. If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.