Bengali Red Dal Curry

From: jkandell@Violet.CCIT.Arizona.EDU (Jonathan Kandell)

Key spice: Panch Phanon Mix, also known as Five Spice (do not substitute
Chinese Five Spice!)
Equal proportions of whole cumin, fenugreek, anise, mustard, "Indian black
onion" seeds (kalunji).  You will need to go to an Indian Store to get the
last ingredient.  It is not related to the onion.
1 1/2 C     red lentils
3 1/2 C     water
6           serrano chilies (or 3 jalepeno?), either whole or sliced in        
1/4   t     turmeric, or more to taste
1 1/2 t     salt
4 T         ghee, butter or vegetable oil
1 C         minced onions
1 C         chopped tomatoes
1 T         grated fresh ginger
2 T         ghee or vegetable oil
1 T         panch phanon mix
4           dried small red chilies
1-3 cloves  garlic
There are three basic steps to this recipe: cooking the lentils in water,
making a tomato/onion/ginger mush, and making a spiced oil.
1.    Rinse lentils well, add water, serrano chilies, turmeric and salt. 
      Bring carefully to boil and cook over low to medium heat, partially
      covered, for 25 minutes.  Cover and cook another 10 minutes.  Adjust
2.    While lentils are cooking, cook onions in a frying pan in the oil until
      they are golden brown (approximately 10 minutes), stirring constantly.
      Add tomatoes and ginger and continue cooking until the tomatoes
      decompose into a delicious and fragrant mush (approximately 8 minutes.) 
      Stir constantly so that tomato mixture doesn't stick.  Turn heat to low
      if necessary.
3.    Scrape out this mush into the lentils and stir it in.  Let lentils sit
      while you make the spiced oil.
4.    Do a quick rinse of the frying pan, without soap, and dry thoroughly. 
      Add the remaining 2T oil and heat over medium high heat.  When oil is
      hot add panch phanon mix and heat until the seeds begin to pop, about 15
      seconds.  Add red chilies and fry for another 15 seconds, until they
      turn a little darker.  Turn off heat and add the crushed garlic and let
      sizzle for about 30 seconds.  Stir this mixture into the lentil/tomato
      mixture and serve with rice.  Adjust salt.
Using ghee changes the taste compared with oil.  I prefer it for step 4.  It
tastes good either way though.