I actually learned this in the kitchen of a seasoned Indian homecook! It's a traditional fragrant dish with yellow lentils (toor dhal), ginger, chilli, tomatoes, cumin and garlic. You can also use yellow split peas (moong dal).
I'd like to chime in about the aesofetida. It is also labeled "Hing" and you can find it in most ethnic stores. My Indian buddies tell me that lots of Indians won't even have the stuff in the house (It's really kind of overwhelming). I don't particularly like it, so, be warned and go easy on it, it stinks to high heaven. Substituting onion powder (with a little garlic powder thrown in) is a great idea. - 20 Aug 2006 (Review from Allrecipes US | Canada)
A great basic dahl recipe. It can also be enhanced with all manner of vegetable matter to round out your diet: diced broccoli, sweet corn kernels, red/green/yellow bell pepper, chopped fennel, plus more. We call it the enthusiastic dahl--because we can put everything we've got into it. Adding garam masala towards the end of cooking increases flavour without heat. Lightly toasting dry chilli powder at the start in oil likewise increases flavour without increasing the heat factor as much as adding it later would. Adding a small can of coconut milk during cooking will enrich the flavour for festive occasions and/or provide much-needed fats for (thinner) vegetarians. The dahl can also be garnished with lime juice and tabasco sauce as well as some chopped cilantro. Chapatti fried in butter makes a nice accompaniment and alternative to the basmati rice or brown rice standard. Hing can be stored in a well sealing jar--such as that used for premium instant coffees. Even if you do not drink coffee, it's a small price to pay for a practical solution to the Hing smell issue. N.B. Hing seems to work well with the flavour of cardamom seeds and makes a killer red lentil dahl. - 22 Sep 2007 (Review from Allrecipes US | Canada)
Just FYI - If the dried yellow split peas are round, they're "chana dal". Moong dal is smaller and more oval-shaped. - 17 Dec 2003 (Review from Allrecipes US | Canada)