Spicy Red Lentil {soup or curry, you decide!}

This used to be my anticipated Sunday morning breakfast with roti canai when I was in Penang, Malaysia. Whenever I reminisce my childhood breakfast back home, I really miss all those savoury and “heavy” breakfast that would deem to be more lunch or dinner appropriate meals over here in Australia. I used to have nasi lemak with sambal and coconut curry, fried noodles, soupy curry noodles and wonton noodles….

Oh my, how I wish I can teleport back to Penang right now! “Uhm, may I borrow your Tardis, Doctor? Just for a quick spin for me to tapau some roti canai to go with this gorgeous dish?”

{My take on this dish may not be as authentic as the ones I had back home. My lentil of choice has always been red lentils as they took the least amount of time to cook as compared to other types of  raw lentils. I used to make mine quite thick in consistency but lately, I rather fond of the soup consistency. It could easily being passed off as a soup and would be lovely with crusty bread topped with green chilli and feta, melted under a griller but the Malaysian in me prefers to have it with bread or rice.}

Spicy Red Lentil

(Serves 4 people with rice/warm Lebanese flat bread)


  • 1 cup red lentil
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tsp store-bought garlic paste
  • 1 tsp store-bought ginger paste
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 6 – 7 frozen curry leaves (use 4 curry leaves if they are fresh)
  • 1/2 green chilli (1/4 roughly chopped and finely slice the remaining portion for garnish)
  • A small handful of fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • A kettle of hot boiling water


  • Take one cup of red lentils and place into a sieve. Rinse the lentil under running water to remove any starch/residue. Set aside.

  •  Finely chop onion. Set aside.

  •  Get the frozen curry leaves ready just before cooking.

  • Get your spices ready.

  • Place a medium sized pot over a medium flame with 2 tbsps of cooking oil. When the oil is hot, add onion and curry leaves. Saute until the onion becomes golden brown and curry leaves are aromatic. Then add ginger-garlic paste and spices. Saute until aromatic. When the spices becomes dry and start sticking to the pan, add about 1/3 cup of water and let it simmer over low heat, covered. You want to cook the spices until the oil begins to separate. This is an important step to make sure the curry achieves great flavour and colour. While the sauce is simmering. please check regularly to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pot. Add more water if required (maybe another 1/4 cup of so)
  • When the oil separates from the sauce, add lentils and 4 cups of boiling hot water. Cover the pot and let it simmer over low-medium heat until the lentils become soften (estimate time is between 15 to 20 minutes).
  • When the lentils look mushy and you can test it by pressing with the back of a spoon. Remove the pot from the heat and use a stick blender to blend the curry until smooth (that’s how I like it).
  • Place the pot back to the stove, over low heat, cook the lentil. Add salt to taste, chopped green chilli and a half portion of the chopped coriander. Cook the lentils until bubbling hot and it’s then ready to serve.
  • Transfer the curry to a serving dish and garnish the remaining coriander and sliced chilli. Best eaten with warm Lebanese bread or basmati rice.


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