Being based in India, lentils are quite the staple for us. And not just that, it’s also a great comfort food bringing back fond memories for us where our Mums used to chase us to feed us Daal-Chawal. So once we did move away from the comfort of our homes, we all crave for that yummy Dal, but for the life of us can’t figure out what Daal is even used in the first place. We had one of our team members in the supermarket once calling her mother and asking, “Ma, what Dal do you use to make that Dal at home?” Yeah, true story.
Hence, this is a simple guide for the few kinds of Dals you have and will come across your life, and what you should do with them.
1. Moong Dal:
India’s signature vegetarian dish, the Dal Fry, ordered fondly by North Indians while living in South India and the ‘perfect’ vegetarian gravy is made by this beautiful yellow Dal. These are actually mung beans that have been skinned and split, so that they’re flat, yellow, and quick-cooking. They can also be fried and make for unhealthy yet delicious snacks that finish quickly in the house. Yes, this is the dal you use to make that dal at home.
2. Toor Dal:
This is the dal which most South Indians would you be familiar with, as it is the main ingredient that goes into the much loved Sambhar. Whole toor lentils are yellow with tan jackets, but they’re usually sold skinned and split. They have a mild, nutty flavor, and they’re often cooked as a side dish or ground into flour. They’re sometimes sold with an oily coating, which you should rinse off. They are also known as Pigeon Peas to the rest of the world.
3. Urad Dal:
Black Dal/Kali Dal, again very popular in both North and South India, and absolutely delicious when cooked right. These lentil-like beans have black skins covering creamy white interiors. Whole urad dal derive their strong, earthy flavor from the black skins and are often used in curries. Split urad dal retain the skins and also have a strong flavor. You would use this dal to make your favourite Dal Makhani. This dal also goes into making those yummy Idlis and Dosas.
4. Channa Dal:
Another variation of the Dal curries, the Channa Dal often has a nuttier flavour to it. With their sweet and nutty flavor, these are the most popular dal in India. They’re made from splitting a small relative of the chickpea in half. They’re a dull yellow and are renowned for causing flatulence (erm…), which Indians try to counter by adding asafoetida to the dish (yay!).
Ok, so this is not considered a lentil per se and are known to the world as red kidney beans, but this staple is considered Rajma dal in India. The red bean is not of Indian origin and was brought to the Indian subcontinent from Mexico. They are a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, and also slow the rise in blood sugar after a meal, help memory, provide antioxidant effects, give you energy, and provide fat-free high quality protein. See? Tasty is good for your health too!
Before we sign off, we wanted to share the recipe of an awesome Dal Makhani dish that will make you lick your plates clean!
- 1/2 cup whole black lentils and a handful of dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight
Zoinkalicious! Dal Makhani
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium-sized tomato, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- Fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish
- Water, as needed
- Salt, to taste
1. Heat oil in a pressure cooker and saute onions till lightly browned. Stir in salt, chilli powder, ginger-garlic paste, and tomato paste and fry for a few seconds.
2. Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes to combine well. Add lentils and beans, and enough water to cover them. Pressure cook for 15-20 minutes till lentils are soft and done. Stir in milk and let it come to a boil.
3. In a separate pan, make a tempering by heating butter and whole garlic cloves slit in the middle. Stir the tempering into the lentils and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
4. Serve warm with soft, fluffy Naans.