***THE DAL*** 8 ounces split urad dal (gram beans) -- rinsed and picked through 1 tablespoon canola oil 3 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger 5 serrano chiles -- seeded and julienned 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro salt ***THE TARKA*** 3 tablespoons clarified butter or canola oil 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 2 whole dried red chiles
Place urad dal in a large bowl. Cover with water and soak for 1-2 hours. Drain, then transfer to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, and 1 1/2 cups of water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until urad dal is tender, about 30 minutes. (Dal will look like grains of rice.)
Add remaining ginger, serrano chiles, and cilantro to dal. Cook over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and remove from heat.
Just before serving, prepare tarka: Heat clarified butter or oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin seeds, and dried chiles and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Transfer dal to small bowls, then season with tarka and serve with bread or rice as a side dish.