Dal should not be dull – My vegetarian journey

One of the most common words in vegetarian recipes is dal. Many simply call them lentils, but this is not as simple as it may seem. 

In the Indian subcontinent, dal refers to many types of legumes (some of us know them as pulses). Which means that in Indian cuisine, when the term dal is used, it does not neccesarily mean “lentils”. And each has its own quirks when cooking them. 

different dal, lentils and legumes
In Indian cooking there are many types of lentils and legumes / pulses collectively called dal

I found this lovely picture on the wonderful website called myheartbeets. (Great name too). 

Just a little snippet of interesting facts about understanding dal: Not only are there so many types, the way that they are prepared for the market is important to know as well. Especially if, like me, you love Indian cooking. The problem is this: When you buy dal, the name on the package may not be what it is called in a recipe. And, the name in the recipe could be called something completely different depending on where you stay. So, here goes: 

There are three main forms that dal come in: unhulled (whole) called sabut; split with hull left on the split half called chilka and split and hulled (also called “washed” or dhuli) called urad dhuli (Hindi) or mung dhuli (Urdu). Then, English speakers use a term called gram, which refers to whole and not split (sabut). 

Putting this together sensibly does show the comedy of trying to understand this. A mung bean (type of legume) that is split and hulled is called yellow mung or – wait for it – mung dhuli mung (in Urdu). So, if the recipe says – add 100g of yellow mung – you can go and shop for any of the above. Good luck. Alas, with time you will be able to quickly discern them visually, which is better than trying to read the print…

But this is not an academic paper. This is about cooking!

This recipe is part of a process that I used to make a Keeri Kozhambu, or my version of it. The recipe for the dish will follow. In the preparation process, I found that the dal came out absolutely delish. Here is how I did it. 

Tender flavoured dal for a base recipe
Serves 6
This recipe prepares a flavourful and interesting dal that I use for the base of many other dishes. Even on its own I love it.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
  1. 200 grams of masoori dal (split red lentils)
  2. 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  3. 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or 2 teaspoons garlic paste
  4. 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
  5. 1 Tbsp olive oil
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Wash the dal in running water and drain. You don't need to soak them.
  2. Put a nice large pan (preferrably with a lid) on medium heat and add about 800ml of water.
  3. When the water boils, add the masoor dal, the turmeric, the salt, the garlic and the asafetida, as well as the olive oil.
  4. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until tender but not falling apart. (I like the dal to be a little firm and to keep their shape.
  1. Try other dals with this method. I tried black-eyed beans and they came out lovely. The taste and texture was different and I had to cook longer. You have to experiment.
  2. Also try other additives. The garlic is lovely, but you can try ginger as well. or both.
  3. For an easy dish, mix this with chopped peppers, a chopped chillli and chopped cilantro. Perhaps a little chopped red onion too.
  4. If you cool this down it's a lovely additive to a salad.
  5. Njam.
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