Know Your Food: Indian Dals

Team Foodhall

Dal main kuch kala hai?

Thick makhan (cream) is delicately swirled with a spoon into the aromatic dal for a creamy consistency. Served in a bowl with rice or roti, it can be one of the most comforting meals. The Dal Makhani, (you guessed it right) made with three different kinds of dal, has years of history before it made it to your home and into your meal. A delicious and not so easy dish to make, just like the Dal Makhani, each Indian dal has an interesting tale to tell. Soon our shelves will be stocked with homegrown products in our exclusive brand – Traditions by Foodhall.  

Dal in Sanskrit means split. In India, it is a staple that is served with rice or flatbread called roti. It refers to dried split peas, beans and lentils. A wide variety of dals are grown in different parts of the country. From a kaali dal to a khatti meethi dal, each person will have their favourite pick and the ingredient that you eat is probably sourced from the interiors of Maharashtra or a field from Rajasthan.We take a look at some of the dals that not only are our favourites but how they’ve come into being a part of our everyday meal.

Moong Dal  
Source: Sourced from the desert state of Rajasthan.       

Walk into an Indian home and each one will have a special memory or taste attached to their favourite kind of moong dal preparation. One recipe that stands out is the Muradabadi dal. A certain preparation made with moong dal, the curry is tempered with cumin seeds, dry roasted and red chillies. Made especially in the kitchen of Mughal Empress, Jodha, it was also a favourite of the Mughal princes Aurangzeb and Murad. Enjoy this dal with a generous garnish of brown butter, crumbled paneer, coriander, cumin, and browned whole chillies.

Moong Dal Chilka 
Source: Grown and sourced from Maharashtra.   

Moong dal are processed and split to reveal its soft textured, sweet flavoured and off-white interiors. An extremely healthy treat, Sindhi’s make a very popular curry using these lentils. Saayi dal is a simple dal made with moong dal chilka, tomatoes, green chillies, minced garlic and then tempered with ghee, cumin seeds, more garlic and curry leaves. Not far behind the Sindhis, you will find another popular version made by Gujaratis called fotrawali mag ni dal.

Masoor Dal 
Source: Handpicked from the fields of Madhya Pradesh.

A good bowl of masoor dal can be an easy substitute to your soups and stews. Not alone that, its history traces back to 1600 BCE in Egypt. It is also an imperative offering made to Goddess Kali. If folklore is believed, the masoor dal is avoided by the Hindus because Arjuna was unable to steal holy cow, Kamdhenu and instead attacked the cow with arrows. It is said that a massor dal plant appeared wherever Kamadhenu’s blood fell on earth.

However, in Karnataka, a popular chutney is made using these green lentils. Known as Togari Bele Chutney, the lentils are dry roasted, with red chillies and cumin seeds. It is then tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida powder.

Rajma           
Source: Carefully selected and sourced from Burma.      

Believed to have Peruvian roots as old as 8,000 years, kidney beans, colloquially known as rajma are a huge part of regular diet in North of India. Shaped like a kidney, its dark red colour and ample health benefits made the Spaniards and the Portuguese to introduce this bean to Europe and then the world.

The North Indian comfort version called rajma chawal is simply made by simmering rajma Kashmiri in a richly spiced tomato and onion based gravy. It can be eaten either with rice or phulkas.

Green Peas 
Source: Imported from sunny California in the United States.   

Known as one of the healthiest foods in the world, green peas are extremely popular in Indian cuisine. It was one of the first crops cultivated by man and back then known as ‘pease’. Later the Oxford dictionary dropped the last two words to know identify it as ‘pea’.

An easy way to use green peas is to soak it overnight and cook in a pressure cooker. Drain out all the water and toss with chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro. Use as a side salad or taco filling.

Chana Dal        
Source: Handpicked and grown in Latur, Maharashtra.  

Dating back to 3500 BC, chana dal has late Neolithic roots. In 1793, a German writer used ground-roast chickpea as a substitute for coffee in Europe.

Use chana dal to make cholar dal popularly made during Durga Pujo in Kolkata. Cook the dal and temper with mustard oil, dried chillies and flaked coconut.  This deliciously thick dal preparation can be enjoyed best with Bengali luchi or paratha.