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Dal (Lentil) Selection - How to Recognize & Cook Different Lentils?
Dal Pakane ka Tareeka

Reeta Kumar

There are many different lentils eaten in India. Each takes a different time to cook, from minutes to up to an hour. If you eat lentils regularly, I would recommend buying a pressure cooker. It makes cooking much quicker and easier.

Do remember that there are many variants in the cooking of a dal. For example, quality of the lentils, softness of water, whether the dal was soaked or not (soaked dals take a little less time), the intensity of heat and the efficiency of your pressure cooker, will all make a difference. It will get easier as you cook more dals. Remember that if undercooked, you can cook a dal some more but you can't do much with overcooked dal*.

The amount of dal required per person depends on whether you are serving the dal with roti or with rice. Roughly 1 cupped hand per person is usually enough. Rice requires more dal. If you cook dal regularly, I would recommend that you get a pressure cooker. It saves on time and fuel. Also, get a large one, because you can cook small amount in it, but not the other way around (large amount in a small cooker). Remember, cooker must not be filled more than about 1/3rd, it needs room for pressure to build. If you follow instructions, pressure cooker is quite safe to cook in. After all, every Indian uses it almost every day! Serves 4

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Ingredients

200 gm. dal of choice
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
Water to boil the dal. See each dal for amount
Other additions to dals can be
Finely chopped coriander leaves, added after cooking is finished
1/2 to 1 tsp. garam masala
2-3 khatai slices (dry, raw mango slices) or a chunky slice of lemon, added during cooking
Ingredients for basic tarka:
2-3 tbsp. ghee or oil. Ghee tastes better but oil is healthier.
1 tsp. cumin seeds
A large pinch of asafoetida powder
2-3 whole red chillies broken up
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
For other types of tarka, see notes below

Instructions

1.General Instructions for all dals:
2.Wash dal well before cooking.
3.If cooking whole dals, soak in water for a couple of hours or overnight.
4.The amounts of water to cook a dal is less for pressure cooker. Add extra water when cooking without a pressure cooker, as it has to boil longer. DALS SHOULD BE SOFT, BUT NOT MUSHY WHEN READY.
5.Add salt and turmeric during the boiling stage.
6.Cooking Different dals:
7.Arhar or Tuvar/Toor Dal/Pigeon Peas /Red Gram Dal
8.Butter Dal Makhani - 1 (Kidney Beans & Black Gram)
9.Butter Dal Makhani - 2 (Kidney Beans & Black Gram)
10.Chana Dal or Skinless Split Bengal Gram
11.Chana dal with Lauki/Bottle Gourd
12.Chana dal with Palak/Spinach
13.Chana Dal with Snake Gourd (Chachinda)
14.Chana Dal and Urid/Urad Dal Mixed 50/50
15.Dal Bati (Dumplings in Mixed Dal
16.Dhansak or Parsee Dal with Chicken
17.Dhansak or Parsee Dal with Chicken - A Quick Version
18.Dhansak or Parsee Dal with Lamb (A Quick Version)
19.Dhansak or Parsee Dal, with Vegetables 1
20.Dhansak or Parsee Dal with Vegetables 2
21.Khitcheri, A Rice and Lentil Mix
22.Masoor dal Dhuli or Common Red lentil
23.Masoor Whole or Brown/Green/Puy Lentil
24.Mung Dal Split, with Skin
25.Mung/Moong Dal Split, Skinless
26.Mung/Moong Dal Khitcheri, Bengali
27.Mung/Moong Dal Khitcheri, North Indian
28.Mung/Moong Dal Skinless Dry, as a Snack
29.Mung/Moong Dal with Spinach
30.Mung/Moong Dal Whole
31.Panch Ratan - Five Jewels Dal (Mixed Lentils)
32.Rasam South Indian Lentil Soup
33.Red lentil or Masoor dal Dhuli
34.Sambhar
35.Tarka dal 1
36.Tarka dal 2
37.Urad/Urid Dal Mixed with Chana Dal
38. Urad/Urid Dal with Methi (Fenugreek) Leaves
39.Urad/Urid Whole (Black Gram)
40.Urad/Urid Dal (Split Black Gram), with Skin
41.Urad Dal (Split Black Gram), Skinless
42.Urad Dal Skinless (Split Black Gram), Cooked with Whole Spices
43.Basic tarka or tempering:
44.Heat ghee or oil in a tarka ladle (from Indian store) or a small pan, until smoking hot. Cast iron Indian ladle gives a nicer flavour. Ghee tastes better but oil is fine too.
45.Add cumin and asafoetida powder and let the seeds start to splutter. If the oil/ghee is properly heated, this happens within seconds. Add whole chillies and chilli powder, stir with a small spoon, add to the cooked dal and cover with a lid immedialtely. This infuses the flours and gives a nice, 'smoky' aroma to the dal. Leave the lid one.
46.Other variations of tarkas or tempering:
47.1. Heat oil. Add 1 tsp. mustard. Add a 10-12 curry leaves, 1 broken up dry red chillie and 1/4 tsp. chilli powder. Pour over dal and close the lid. Or 2. Curry sauce type tempering/tarka; Heat oil, add 1 tsp. cumin seeds, add 1 chopped onion and fry until golden brown. Add 2-3 chopped tomatoes and 2 tsp. Curry Powder or Sambhar Powder. Fry until oil separates. Add to dal. Or 3. Heat oil. Add a little grated ginger and/or garlic, fry until beginning to turn golden brown and then add 1 tsp. cumin/mustard seeds. When seeds splutter/crackle, add 2-3 dry whole chillies and 1 tsp. chilli powder. Pour over the dal. Close the lid, to infuse flavors. Or 4. After spluttering the cumin/mustard seeds, add 1 tsp. each of grated ginger and garlic, fry until browned, add to dal. No chillies in this version.

Notes

*Overcooked or left over dal can be added to roti or chapatti flour when making a dough. They makes delicious roti and paratha. For parathas, you have to add a little more salt and spices, and perhaps a teasppon of carom or ajwain seeds.
You can add chopped coriander leaves to all dals as a garnish.

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