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|Main ingredients||Lentils, peas or beans|
The outer hull is usually stripped off; dal that has not been hulled is described as chilka (skin), e.g. chilka urad dal, mung dal chilka. The word dal is also used to name the thick stew prepared from these pulses, an important part of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, West Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine. It is regularly eaten with rice in southern India, and with both rice and roti (wheat-based flat bread) throughout northern India and Pakistan as well as Bangladesh, East India, and Nepal where Dal Bhat (literally: dal and rice) is the staple food for much of the population. Dal is a ready source of proteins for a balanced diet containing little or no meat. Sri Lankan cooking of dal resembles that of southern Indian dishes.
Usage in South Asia
Dal preparations can be eaten with rice, as well as Indian breads in North India. In India, it is eaten with rice and with a wheat flatbread called roti. The manner in which it is cooked and presented varies by region. In South India, dal is primarily used to make the dish called sambar. It is also used to make pappu that is mixed with charu and rice.
Dal has an exceptional nutritional profile. It provides an excellent source of protein, particularly for those adopting vegetarian diets or diets which do not contain much meat. It is typically around 25% protein by weight, giving it a comparable protein content to meats. It is also high in carbohydrates whilst being virtually fat-free. It is also rich in the B vitamins thiamine and folic acid, as well as several minerals, notably iron and zinc.
- Toor dal, i.e. yellow pigeon peas, is available either plain or oily. It is called thuvaram paruppu in Tamil Nadu and is the main ingredient for the dish sambar. In Karnataka it is called togari bele and is an important ingredient in bisi bele bath. Toor Dal is called kandi pappu in Telugu and is used in the preparation of a staple dish pappu charu. It is also known as Arhar dal.
- Chana dal is produced by removing the outer layer of kala chana (black chickpeas) and then splitting the kernel. Although machines can do this, it can also be done at home by soaking the whole chickpeas and removing the loose skins by rubbing. Other varieties of chickpea may also be used, e.g. kabuli dal.
- Yellow split peas, while not commonly used on the Indian subcontinent, are very prevalent in the Indian communities of Fiji Islands, Guyana and Trinidad, and are popular amongst Indians in the United States. There, it is referred to generically as dal and is the most popular dal, although masoor dal and toor dal are also used. It is prepared similarly to dals found in India, but also may be used in a variety of other recipes.
- Mung dal or moong dal, split mung beans, is by far the most popular in Bangladesh. It is also used in parts of South India, such as in the Tamil dish ven pongal. Roasted and lightly salted or spiced moong dal is a popular snack in most parts of India.
- Urad dal, sometimes referred to as "black gram", is the main ingredient of the Tamil Nadu (South Indian state) dishes idli and dosa. It is also one of the main ingredients of East Indian (oriya and Bengali or Assamese) bori, sun-dried dumplings. The Punjabi version is dal makhani. In Karnataka, it is called uddina bele. It is rich in protein.
- Mussyang is from dals of various colours found in various hilly regions of Nepal.
- Panchratna dal ("five jewels") is a mixture of five varieties of dal, which produces a dish with unique flavour.
- Various pulses may be split but not hulled; they are distinguished from hulled dal by adding the word chilka (skin).
Split and whole pulses
Although dal generally refers to split pulses, whole pulses are known as sabit dal and split pulses as dhuli dal. The hulling of a pulse is intended to improve digestibility and palatability, but as with milling of whole grains into refined grains, affects the nutrition provided by the dish, reducing dietary fibre content. Pulses with their outer hulls intact are also quite popular in India and Pakistan as the main cuisine. Over 50 different varieties of pulses are known in India and Pakistan.
Most dal recipes are quite simple to prepare. The standard preparation begins with boiling a variety of dal (or a mix) in water with some turmeric, salt to taste, and then adding a fried garnish at the end of the cooking process. In some recipes, tomatoes, tamarind, unripe mango, or other ingredients are added while cooking the dal, often to impart a sour flavour.
The fried garnish for dal goes by many names, including chaunk and tadka. The ingredients in the chaunk for each variety of dal vary by region and individual tastes. The raw spices (more commonly cumin seeds, mustard seeds, asafoetida, and sometimes fenugreek seeds and dried red chili pepper) are first fried for a few seconds in the hot oil on medium/low heat. This is generally followed by ginger, garlic, and onion, which are generally fried for 10 minutes. After the onion turns golden brown, ground spices (turmeric, coriander, red chili powder, garam masala, etc.) are added. The chaunk is then poured over the cooked dal.
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- Chaunk/Tarka (in Punjabi and Urdu)
- Dal bati churma
- Dal biji
- Ezogelin soup
- Lentil soup
- Pea soup
- Pigeon pea
- The Guardian newspaper: Dried bean and pea recipes, 13 June 2014
- Sample recipe for Chilka Urad dal, split unhulled urad
- Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary accessed online 2007-09-02
- Mehta N. (2006), p 12
Media related to Dal at Wikimedia Commons