Dals/legumes are a key ingredient in Indian cuisine and an important source of nutrition. They are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, making them an essential part of a balanced diet. They can be cooked in various ways, such as boiling, pressure-cooking, or slow-cooking, and are used in a variety of dishes like curries, dosas, soups, stews, and rice dishes. There are many varieties of legumes available in India, each with its unique flavour, texture, and nutritional benefits.
Difference between legumes, pulses, and lentils
Legumes are a family of plants that produce pods containing seeds, such as beans, peas, and lentils.
Pulses are a specific type of legume that refers to the dried seeds of plants in the legume family. Pulses include beans, lentils, and chickpeas, as well as dry peas and beans like kidney beans, black beans, and navy beans.
Lentils, on the other hand, are a specific type of pulse that refers to the dried seeds of the lentil plant. They come in a variety of colours, including green, brown, red, and yellow, and are used in many different cuisines around the world.
Different types of Dals
Toor Dal/Pigeon Peas
A mainstay of Indian cooking, it falls in the essential dal category as it is an important source of protein. It is a popular pulse not only in India, but in other parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It has a mild, nutty flavour and a creamy texture. In India, toor dal takes a centre stage in many dishes. It is rich in folic acid, iron, and magnesium. Some delightful dishes made from toor dal are South Indian sambhar, bisi bele bhaat, and puran poli in Maharashtra where this dal boiled and cooked is the main filling. While dal tadka is a North Indian dish made with tempered spices.
Packed with fibre, the whole masoor dal appears brown on the outside and orange on the inside. It has an impressive nutritive profile. It is a quick-cooking protein-rich dal containing essential amino acids, potassium, iron and fibre. However, it requires to be soaked for a few hours or overnight before use. There is also orange (split) masoor dal. The orange masoor dal is the whole masoor dal that has been de-husked. It has an earthy flavour and hence lends itself to different styles of cooking.
Yellow Moong Dal (de-husked)
It is one of the most commonly used dals in almost every Indian kitchen. It is a non-fussy dal variety and does not require to be soaked for too long. It cooks easily and quickly therefore easy to digest. Sure enough, this versatile dal is packed with nutrients. Therefore it is a go-to dal for all those who are recuperating and need to recover their strength. Used for both sweet and savoury cooking it is even used to prepare a robust, tasty salad besides being used dals and halwas. It is also popularly made for parantha stuffing and khichdi. Make Punjabi halwa, or delicious dal khichdi or soak some and add to dosa batter.
Black Eyed Peas/Lobia
It is also known as chawli, cowpea or white lobia and is very popular in Indian kitchens. It is flavoursome and is made into a tasty dish of curry and is prepared in a variety of dishes all over India. In Maharashtra, it is made into a spicy gravy dish and in Andhra Pradesh it is used to make vadas. While in Karnataka, just like in Maharashtra, it is cooked in a spicy, coconut paste in Kerala, lobia is found in a stew. In Tamil Nadu, it is made into sundal during the festival seasons.
White Urad Dal
The whole white urad dal is essentially used when it has to be used in dosa or wada. It is used to make papads too. This dal improves digestion and also controls cholesterol. The split white urad dal is used differently in various regions. In South India, urad dal is an important ingredient in seasoning along with chana dal. It gives an awesome aroma and also adds some bite to the dish. In UP, this dal is used in making an epic-classic preparation called tadkewali urad dal. Simple to make it is a humble dish but super delicious.
Black Urad Dal
Black-skinned urad dal with a white interior, this black dal is packed with nutrients and super high in fibre. Black gram is also loaded with calcium, magnesium, and lots of other nutrients. It cooks best when soaked overnight. This black dal is used to make dals and in some preps even to make mithais. The classic dal makhani is made using this whole black urad dal.
Green Moong Dal
Sprouts anyone? This dal is packed with nutrients and can be used for any preparations. While the whole version is used in salads, the split type is used in dal, pulao, cheelas, Khichdi, and even soups and parathas.
Rajma/Red kidney beans
Rajma, or red kidney beans, are very common in the North for their popular comfort food, creamy and delicious rajma-chawal. Rich in proteins, rajma is a staple dish in many households. It is a hearty, rich curry made with onions, tomatoes, and a whole host of whole and ground spices.
Brown Chickpeas/Kala Chana
Kala chana usually is soaked overnight, pressure cooked and then made ready to use. Healthy, this legume is popularly served as part of the Prasad during Ashtami it is served with puri and halwa. Kala chana is also used to make gravies and curries. In Kerala, the kala chana is used in a classic recipe where black chana is soaked in a coconut milk-based curry.
Rich in proteins, Matki is considered great for providing energy and building muscles. It is considered a drought-resistant legume. It is rich in B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, copper, sodium and zinc essentially all of which are required nutrients the body needs for growth and development. Good for those having type 2 diabetes, eating cooked matki can help control blood sugar levels.
White Chickpeas/Kabuli Chana
Yes, it is this kabuli chana that is extremely popular in Punjab. Their pindi chole served best with kulchas and bhaturas is thoroughly delicious. Kabuli chana is used in Mediterranean cuisine too and is the main ingredient for hummus.
Did you know how Horse Gram got its name?
This dal has the highest protein content compared to any lentil. It is fed to horses to keep help them maintain their weight and keep them energetic, hence the namesake.
Kulith is also rich in iron and calcium among other nutrients. Though it is considered a poor man’s food it provides a lot of energy for a small portion consumed. It is a drought-tolerant crop that can be grown in low rainfall or even in regions which gets proper rainfall but dry agricultural lands.