Tadka means tempering and describes the technique of blooming spices in fat to release their flavor.
The basic ingredients are brown mustard seed, cumin seeds, and ghee. Feel free to change it up by adding chiles, garlic, coriander, or whatever spices you may unearth from your cabinet.
Tadkas are used to finish a dish - usually a dal but my mom always loved using Indian cooking techniques with American staples.
The following is my mom's fix for a regular can of tomato soup. Adding just a few spices breathes new life into the pantry staple, something we can all appreciate at the moment.
1 tbsp Ghee or Olive Oil (not extra virgin, regular olive oil)
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seed
1 tsp Cumin
1 Small Sprig Curry (Kari Patta ) Leaves
1 Chile - We used Guntur Sannam
1 can of tomato soup mixed with 1 can of water
Salt to taste
Heat ghee or oil over medium high heat. Break up chile and add to ghee. When the chile seeds start moving, add the rest of the spices. As they start to sizzle, remove from heat. Add to your already heated dish (in this case soup but normally dal). Don’t waste a drop! Cover with a lid for a few minutes. Add salt and taste. Serve and enjoy. You can pull out the whole pieces of chile and curry leaves. My mom always left them in and said whoever bit into them was the lucky one. Sometimes she changed it to whoever did was loved this most. Every time she would laugh.