'How Low Can You Go' Winner: Dal, Chilean Style Valerie Gaino, who lives in Pichilemu, Chile, submitted a recipe for dal, an Indian dish. She learned how to cook it six years ago from a fellow traveler from Tasmania. "I've fed many hungry surfers from all different countries with this dish ... nobody has ever complained," Gaino says.
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'How Low Can You Go' Winner: Dal, Chilean Style

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'How Low Can You Go' Winner: Dal, Chilean Style

'How Low Can You Go' Winner: Dal, Chilean Style

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

For this next story, you might want to grab an atlas to keep track of everything. It's the latest in our How Low Can You Go budget cooking challenge. We asked people to submit a delicious recipe that feeds four people and costs less than $10. And today's recipe is an Indian dish, but it comes to us from Chile via Tasmania. And I told you that an atlas might come in handy. Valerie Gaino sent us this recipe. She's on the line with us now from Pichilemu, Chile. Welcome to the program.

Ms. VALERIE GAINO: Thanks, Michele.

NORRIS: So, tell me about this dish that comes to us from Chile via Tasmania, but is actually Indian in origin.

Ms. GAINO: Six years ago, when my husband and I were backpacking to South America, we stayed in this town where I live now, it's called Pichilemu - a surfer destination - and we stayed next to a guy from Tasmania. And he was a great cook and he taught me this recipe.

NORRIS: And what's the dish called? What's the name of the dish?

Ms. GAINO: Well, he called it dal, and that's what I call it, too.

NORRIS: And tell me about the recipe.

Ms. GAINO: It's a lentil-based, it's vegetarian. It's great.

NORRIS: Now, this is a - dal is actually a fairly common Indian food, but what gives it the Chilean kick?

Ms. GAINO: Well, probably it's a lack of Indian spices. Basically we live in a small town, so we use the fresh ingredients that are here. And other than that, just the fact that I learned it in Chile.

NORRIS: Okay, so that makes it Chilean.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: That's good enough for us. Now, this is primarily a lentil dish. Could you describe it for us, what it looks like, what it tastes like?

Ms. GAINO: Well, it's similar to a chili.

NORRIS: Not the country, but the actual…

Ms. GAINO: Exactly.

NORRIS: …one pot dish.

Ms. GAINO: The one pot dish. It's hearty, and it's filling and it's really healthy.

NORRIS: How do you prepare it?

Ms. GAINO: You can cook the lentils first, and then I saute the onions and garlic and hot peppers, add potatoes and carrots. And then you mix it all together, throw in the spices, throw in some tomato sauce and there you go.

NORRIS: And you throw in a little bit of cilantro on top?

Ms. GAINO: Always.

NORRIS: Always. Okay, now, what does that do to the flavor?

Ms. GAINO: Well, it's a hearty, heavy dish and the cilantro gives that little light, fresh spice.

NORRIS: Boy, so I have this image in my mind of you sitting on the beach at the end of the day around a campfire and a big pot's in the middle. Does that sound accurate?

Ms. GAINO: Definitely. I fed many hungry surfers from all different countries with this dish. It's easy to make and easy to clean up. And, well, nobody's ever complained.

NORRIS: Well, Valerie, it's been a pleasure to talk to you. Before I let you go, I have to ask you a question, since we are asking people to send us delicious dishes that cost less than $10. What's the price tag for this?

Ms. GAINO: Well, I counted up how many Chilean pesos I spent and I came up with 3,100 pesos. And when you do the - depends on the exchange rate, but right now that is $5.53.

NORRIS: Oh, I think, whoa, this is the How Low Can You Go challenge, I think you may have been - we may have a winner here.

Ms. GAINO: I think so.

NORRIS: Valerie, it's been good to talk to you.

Ms. GAINO: It's good to talk to you.

NORRIS: Valerie Gaino is from Pichilemu, Chile. And you can find her recipe for dal, Chilean style. You can also hear the other conversations at our How Low Can You Go budget challenge. You can find that all at our Web site - that's at npr.org.

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