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Dals and Soups


LENTILS or peas that have been husked and split are called dal, and that’s also the name for the soup-like dish they make. In India, dal is served with the main meal and is often spooned over plain rice or eaten with bread.
Besides being rich in iron and the B vitamins, dal is a main source of protein in the Vedic diet. The amount of protein in some dals is equal to or greater than that in meat, and dal reacts synergistically with other protein-rich foods, such as grains, nuts, and milk products, to increase the usable protein in the meal by as much as forty percent. For example, the usable protein of rice (60%) and that of dal (65%) increase to 85 percent when the two are eaten together.
More than sixty varieties of dal grow in India. The four types used in this book are common varieties available at Asian grocers and most health food shops. Their characteristics are listed below.
• Mung dal: Small, pale yellow, and rectangular. This dal comes from mung beans, which are often used for making bean sprouts. Mung dal is easy to cook and has a mild taste. It is so digestible that it’s recommended for children, elderly people, and convalescents.
• Urad dal: Small, grayish-white, and rectangular. This dal has twice as much protein as meat. It’s often used in savories or ground into a powder and allowed to ferment to make foods light and spongy.
• Channa dal: Larger than mung dal, yellowish, and round. Channa is one of the smaller members of the chick-pea family and has a rich sweet taste. If it’s unavailable, you can substitute yellow split peas and get a good-tasting if not quite authentic dal.
• Toor dal: Larger than channa dal, pale yellow, and round. This dal comes from what is known in the West as pigeon peas. The split grains are sometimes coated with a film of oil that should be washed off before cooking.
Chick-peas (or garbanzo beans), called kabuli channa in India, are a wonderful source of protein. They are extremely hard and require soaking before being used. Cooked chick-peas are usually eaten by themselves in the morning with a little grated ginger, or accompanied by other dishes such as upma or khitchri.
In Vedic cooking, a meal without dal in one form or another is rare. There are dal dishes to suit any meal, from breakfast to late dinner. You can make dal into soups, thick sauces, stews, fried savories, moist chutneys, crisp pancakes, sprouted salads, and sweets.
You should wash your dal before using it. And with all dals, except those packaged especially for supermarkets, you have to pick out the tiny stones. The best way to do this is to put the dal at the end of a large cookie sheet or round plate and slowly move all the grains from one side to the other, a few at a time, carefully picking out any stones or other foreign matter. To wash the dal, take only as much as you will use right away, put it into a metal strainer, and lower the strainer into a large bowl two-thirds full of water. Rub the beans between your hands for about 30 seconds. Then lift the strainer, pour off the water, and fill the bowl again. Repeat this rubbing and rinsing several times, or until the rinse water is reasonably clear. Then drain or soak the dal, as the recipe requires.
Dal soup, made thick or thin, depending on the recipe, usually requires long cooking so that the split grains break up and merge, giving the dal a smooth texture. Some cooks blend the dal in an electric blender for a few minutes when it is finished to make it even smoother.
When dal cooks, it forms a thick froth that blocks the passage of steam. Leave the cover slightly ajar and spoon off most of the froth as it forms, so that the soup doesn’t rise and spill over. Adding a tablespoon of butter to the dal will help keep down the froth.
The chaunce (fried seasonings and spices) added to the dal in the last few minutes of the cooking is what gives dal its punch. Heat a small amount of ghee or vegetable oil in a ladle or small pan. Then add the spices. When the spices are browned, pour them into the cooked dal. Watch out! Be ready to slap the cover on the pot immediately, because the contact of the hot ghee with the dal creates a mild explosion—one of the delights of Vedic cooking.

Dal tarkari

Tamatar mung dal

Gujarati urad dal

Tamatar toor dal

Jagannatha Puri channe ki dal

Swadisht dal

Sambar

Mithi ghani dal

Khitchri

Geeli khitchri

Channa masala

Channa raita

Channa aur simla mirch

Mili-juli sabji ka soup

Tamatar ka soup