Of all the lentil curries that North Indians eat, this would be the most popular. Tarka refers to the cooking of spices and/or flavourings which is added to an already cooked dish, in this case lentils. This was done to keep those flavours and aromas really sharp but also some dishes take a long time to cook and the tarka can be made alongside and then added in once both are done.
The Spice Tailor Classic Tarka Daal is typical in that it uses yellow mung lentils which give it a creaminess and a buttery flavour as well as channa daal (Bengal Gram) which gives it a nuttiness and texture. Our actual tarka is split in two, the cooked onions, tomato, ginger and garlic sauce and the typical whole cumin seeds and whole red chilli. For that extra special flavour, cook in a little ghee or butter instead of oil.
This is an everyday curry, it would go to work in a tiffin or be served with dinner for many North Indians. It is normally served with Indian flatbreads, a vegetable side and ideally a raita too.