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Omani-spiced red lentils or Marak dal

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

Omani cuisine Is complex, diverse and wonderful. Historically, Oman played a critical role in the spice trade, from Zanzibar to India, everything from gold, tusks, silk, and especially spices moved through this route. It was a powerful empire that made its wealth as seafarers. Today the kingdom is smaller, but its diversity is maintained by the immigrant labor from Asia. I like, and seek out, new ingredients, flavors, cuisines, cooking techniques and everything culinary, yes even cookbooks. I read about Omani lemons a few years ago and got curious, so on my next trip to the Mediterranean store picked up some, having no idea what to do with them. They sat around for a while until I came across a recipe, that led me to buy this absolutely amazing cookbook. These amazing dried limes (although often called lemons, limu or black limes) have a wonderful distinct tart flavor that is subtle and inviring. The flavor permeates the food and is a combination of aroma and flavor. More on this ingredient here. They are available at any Mediterranean grocery store or on Amazon. This dal is absolutely amazing. Rich in flavor from Indian and Middle Eastern spices, with the permeating tartness from the Omani lemons. I was curious how the potatoes played a part, but they add a dense texture and creaminess to the dish. This dal should be your go to dal for entertainment! Do not let the long list of ingredients dishearten you from making this dal, it is quite simple. I love this dal with rice, but it is just as good with naan or other breads. Makes a large serving for 8-10 people

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


2 cups red lentils, masoor dal

3 cups water

1/2 large red onion, finely minced

2 tablespoons garlic paste

1/2 tablespoon ginger paste

3 tomatoes, finely minced

1 chili, minced, or to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon pepper

Salt to taste

3 tablespoons ghee, or oil of choice

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 1/2 large red onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons garlic paste 1 large, or 2 small potatoes, peeled and chunked

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3-4 dried Omani limes, cut and the dark inside flesh removed

Fresh cilantro, minced

Lime wedges

In a pot, pressure cooker or Insta-pot mix all the first set of ingredients from the red lentils to the salt. Cook till the lentils are falling apart, about 30 minutes in my Instant pot. Set aside.

In a second pot add the ghee/oil and cook the onions for about 5 minutes till soft. Add the potatoes, cumin seeds and garlic and continue to sauté till the onions turn golden, about 10 additional minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix well to coat the potatoes and sauté for an additional minute. It is okay if the potatoes are raw.

Add the cooked lentils and the flesh from the Omani lemons and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and the flavor of Omani lemon. You can adjust the consistency of the dal to suit your preference, however, this is traditionally a thicker dal Serve topped with the fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

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