Dal (Dhal, Dahl), or lentils and pulses, are high in proteins and an excellent food for vegetarians. They are an integral part of any Indian cuisine.
Most dals can be purchased either of two ways – skin on, and skinned/husked (“washed”) lentils. They may also be split in half, or whole. Dals with the skin on need to be soaked overnight, while the ones with the skin off often don’t need to be soaked as long and many can be cooked straight away. Split lentils also cook quicker than whole lentils.
There are different varieties of dals used in different parts of India. South India uses Channa dal (split chick pea lentils), Urad Dal (split black lentils) and Mung Dal (split green lentils). In the North, Whole Urad (whole black lentils), Rajmah (red kidney beans) and Channa (whole chick peas) are frequently used. Toor (Toovar or Arhar Dal) (red lentils) are the most commonly used dal throughout India and forms part of the first solid diet for babies.
In general, when cooking lentils, add a pinch of turmeric which gives the lentils an excellent colour and also acts as an excellent antioxidant. Add a small amount of ghee or vegetable oil (0.5 tspn for 1.5 cups lentils) which gives the lentils a shine or glaze. As a rich source of proteins, a diet high in lentils is also commonly known to cause flatulence, which is countered by the addition of spices which act as anti-flatulents. The turmeric also helps with this.
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