Is it daal, dal, dahl or Dhal? These are ways in which lentils or pulses are named. To be honest right way of writing or calling it would be either daal or dal, adding an extra ‘h’ makes the easy sounding word turn tough, but again call whatever you like it is the best known vegan protein naturally available today. There are more than 50 different lentil groups in India but we will focus on the most commonly used ones in the Indian kitchen.
But before we progress, you have a question in your mind about the term ‘daal’, don’t you? Well the terminology is used in 2 situations:
- Dried Lentil/Pulse/Bean is called daal. For e.g. – Mung Beans is called Hara Moong Daal, or Split Yellow Peas is called Toor Daal
- And any dish or lentil soup prepared using this food group is also called daal. For eg. Daal Makhani (a creamy lentil soup made with a mixture of black lentils and red kidney beans) or Daal Tadka (A lentil soup with a tempering of spices on top)
Thus the term ‘daal’ is used interchangeably. Now that we have established the basic understanding. Let’s move to understanding what is the difference between lentils & pulses:
Pulses are defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as annual leguminous crops yielding from one to twelve grains or seeds of variable size, shape and color within a pod. Pulses are used for food and animal feed. Pulses are important food crops due to their high protein and essential amino acid content. Like many leguminous crops, pulses play a key role in crop rotation due to their ability to fix nitrogen.
The lentil (Lens culinaris) is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens-shaped seeds. It is about 40cm tall and the seeds grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each. The plant originated in the Near East, and has been part of the human diet since the aceramic Neolithic, being one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. With 25% protein it is the vegetable with the highest level of protein other than soybeans, and because of this it is a very important part of the diet in many countries, and especially India which has a large vegetarian population. (Source – Wikipedia)
Let us look at some of the basic types of lentils used in any Indian kitchen and maybe you can comment below if these are available in your country and your cuisine as well.
Masoor Daal (Split Red Lentils)
And it also found in whole called Sabut Masoor is looks brown in color. The brown form of this lentil is used very commonly in Middle Eastern cuisine.
It is the easiest lentil to cook as it takes the least amount of time to cook. It can be cooked under 10 mins.
Moong Daal (Mung Beans)
This is the split mung beans which is commonly known green beans. The split ones are more commonly used in Indian cooking and has is another easy lentil to cook with. The whole green lentil or mung beans needs to be soaked for atleast 4 hours such that it fluffs up before it can be boiled and cooked.
Chana Daal (Split Chickpeas)
This is another common lentil used in Indian kitchen. It is split garbanzo or chickpea and is used across the country in different recipes right from North to South (using it for their chutneys) to East (adding coconut shavings to the boiled daal) to West (coarsely grounded daal spiced and eaten with chapati)
Toor Daal (Split Pigeon Peas)
Commonly also known as Arhar Daal and is very high in protein content. It is very commonly used in Indian kitchen. It takes a little longer to cook, but once washed and soaked for an hour before cooking it, it gets done in no time.
Urid Daal (Black Split Peas)
Again whole, split or even split with skin is used for cooking, It brings a slimy texture to the soup when used after boiling. It is the main component of the famous South Indian food called Dosa. (Dosa is made of rice and urid daal)
In Part 2 we will cover the other lentils used in Indian kitchen.
- All these lentils need to be washed well.
- If soaked for an hour before cooking there speed of cooking increases
- When boiling it always add a pinch of salt, this increases the speed of cooking and the taste is enhanced.
- If boiling in a pan, you will see a white scrum appearing on top of the boiling liquid – this is generally the starch or impurities from the polishing process. Always remove it when boiling it.
- Once cooled, you can store it in the fridge for 5 days and in freezer in air tight container upto 6 months.