Dal is any type of split or hulled lentil, pea, or beanThe word "dal" derives from the Sanskrit root "dhal" meaning "to split." It is a staple food across South Asia and most often cooked into a variety of regional soups and stews. Dal is usually served with rice and wheat flatbreads such as roti or chapatti. In combination with rice and or wheat, dal provides the essential amino acids to form a complete protein. "Dal Bhat" (literally translated from Hindi, Urdu and Nepali means "dal and rice") is a daily meal for most people in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. Dal is a healthy and affordable source of vegetarian protein as well as a good source of B vitamins, iron and zinc.
The famous dishes of the Subcontinent made with dal are many and varied- There's sambar, vada, ven pongal, and pappu in South India. Oriya and bori dried dumplings in East India. Dhansak, dal makhani, and dal paratha in North India. Mussyang is a popular Nepali dish made from several dals of different colors. Even sweets such as burfi and laddoos are made of certain dals.
The most common way to prepare dal- Simply boil it with a pinch of turmeric and perhaps some onion, garlic, asafoetida/hing, tomatoes, tamarind, or even green mango depending on regional and individual tastes. After the dal is cooked a fried garnish called a "tadka/tarka" or "chaunk" is often added. The chaunk or tadka/tarka is usually raw spices along with garlic, ginger and or onion which are tempered by frying and then poured over the dal. (In case you are interested "chaunk" is pronounced "tsonk" with heavy aspiration on the "ts.")
Common varieties of dal-
Masoor dal - hulled red lentils
|Mmm...these are my favorite!|
They cook down to a velvety soup.
Mattar dal - split yellow peas
|Yep, they're split peas!|
Urad dal- black or green mung beans, hulled or split
|Split unhulled "urad dal" or mung beans|
|Hulled "urad dal"|
Toor, toovar, or arhar dal- split pigeon peas
|Sort of like split peas but with more of a nutty flavor.|
Rajma- any sort of red bean from kidney beans to pinto beans
|Kidney beans are "rajma"|
|Pinto beans are "rajma" too|
Chana or Chole- Varieties of chickpeas from "kala chana" or "chhola boot" to "Kabuli chana." Chana dal can also be ground to a fine flour called "besan." Besan or gram flour is used in many things from sweets like laddoos and barfi to pakora batters. These South Asian varieties of chickpeas or gabanzo beans are a bit smaller than those seen most often in western countries. Very similar in flavor and texture though.
|Dark colored "kala chana" or "chhola boot"|
|Light colored "Kabuli chana"or chole|
And that concludes my dissertation on dal for today!
Keep calm and curry on.