Sunday, March 30, 2008

1001 Dals

Dal refers to skinned and split pulses (lentils, peas or beans). It also refers to the curries made from cooked pulses. Here, the term is used loosely, to cover all pulses, split or whole. Over 50 types of pulses are cooked in India. These are the main sources of protein for a mostly vegetarian population.

The basic preparation of dal is the same across India. Soak the dal and boil it with a pinch of turmeric. Add flavouring and salt and your dal is ready. Dals like tuvar dal , mung dal and masoor dal are thin and so require no soaking. It is primarily for this reason they are among the most cooked dals. The larger the dal is, the more it needs to soak. Chick peas and Rajma (Kidney beans) need the longest soaking time among dals.

Each region has its own favourite dal. The quick cooking tuvar dal and mung dal are very popular in the south. In Tamilnadu, just plain, unflavoured, boiled tuvar dal is eaten mixed with cooked rice and ghee. Tuvar dal is also cooked into stews like sambar and paruppu kootu.

Tuvar dal is boiled with a variety of vegetables and eaten as the Pappu in Andhra. Change vegetables and you have a whole variety of typical Andhra dals like Nimmakkaya pappu, Dosakkaya pappu, Mamdikkaya pappu etc.,

In Maharashtra, the dal is cooked with kokum / tamarind and is served as the Amti ( Nupur’s version uses buttermilk instead of Kokkum).

Tuvar - ni -dal, made from boiled and spiced Tuvar dal is the most popular dal dish in Gujarat.

Urad dal and chick peas dominate Punjabi cuisine where they are cooked into Maa ki daal or Chole.

Uttaranchal has several innovative ways to cook dals. It is here you'll find dals being roast and ground before being cooked into Chainsooo or bhatwani. It is here you'll see dals soaked and ground up to a coarse paste and then cooked into phanoo.

In the kitchens of the Nawabs in Lucknow, the humble dal was cooked with expensive spices and nuts into Shahi dal and Sultani dal.

The pairing of pulses and grains is India's gift to the culinary world. Something magical happens when dals are paired with rice or rotis - simple dishes turn into comfort foods and leave a warm glow in your heart.

If you have an interesting dal recipe, or notice a bloomer, please leave a comment.

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