Dal defines Indian cuisine

Dal defines Indian cuisine


Typical Indian food is incomplete without pulses and lentils, also commonly known as dal.  It is practically cooked daily in every household, however, the difference lies in the way it is being prepared.

If in northern India stewed pulses are consumed with an additional tadka of asafoetida, cumin, onion or tomato, in southern states it is mixed with vegetables and then seasoned with a mixture of spices – what is usually called a sambhar.

Interestingly, with different kinds of pulses, comes a variety of traditional dishes. One of the most popular lentils is moong, used to make delicious dals and curries. Particularly, moong very easy to digest and takes on seasonings and spices very well. It is for the same reason that people make moong dal ka halwa, dahi vada, ladoo, fingers, kebabas, idli, khandvi, korma, mangodi, chila and stuffed rotis. Even moong dal ke pakode is popular as road side snack. 

On the other hand, chana dal, looks and tastes like small kernels of sweet corn and works well in soups, salads, and rice dishes. Chana dal is a very versatile dried-split yellow lentil with a slightly sweet taste and nutty flavour. It is used in a variety of vegetable dishes. 

“In north India, chana dal is grinded to fine, roasted with spices and then filled in small uncooked chapattis. Like momos it is stewed and then fried in oil — popularly known as bhakosa,” says Suman Tiwari, a housewife, who belongs to Uttar Pradesh.

Quite similar to chana dal is toor dal, a dark yellow split pea. The dal has a thick gelatinous or meaty consistency. It takes a little longer to cook than moong or masoor dal. These yellow split peas are made into dal which is served with a side dish of vegetables, rice or flat breads. The south Indian delicacy, sambhar which is an accompaniment for dosa, idli or even rice is cooked with toor dal. 

Urad, also known as black lentils, is another kind of dal. These lentil-like beans have black skins covering creamy white interiors. Whole urad dal derive their strong, rich, earthy flavour from the black skins and have the ability to absorb flavours. 

Split and without the skin urad dal is a white lentil used along with rice to make dosas, and other rice preparations. In south India, urad dal is used as a seasoning with mustard seeds for curries.