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A Guide to Indian Authentic Dal Dishes - Part 1

Mallika is a content writer and a foodie who loves her native Indian cuisine. She enjoys exploring the cuisine and sharing it with others.

Dal with rice and roti

Dal with rice and roti

Dals/lentils are the second staple foods in India after rice and roti. Every Indian household has a dal dish in its daily menu. Lentils are the oldest pulse crops and the earliest crops domesticated in the Old World, indigenous to southern, western and central India.

Common lentils used in Indian cuisine

  • Pigeon pea/Toor dal
  • Green gram/Moong dal
  • Bengal gram/Channa dal
  • Black gram/Urad dal
  • Red gram/Masoor dal
  • Cowpeas/lobia, lobiya
  • Kidney beans/Rajma
  • Turkish gram, dew bean/matki
  • Horse gram/Kulthi dal
  • Green peas/Matar

Lentils are rich in proteins and used in two forms which are whole lentils and split lentils. There are two types of split lentils, skinned and skinless or skin removed. Different recipes use dals in these two forms, some whole lentils and some split lentils.

In this article, let's explore the authentic dals of some Indian regional cuisines.

The regional cuisines covered in this article

  • Kashmir
  • Himachal Pradesh
  • Punjab
  • Uttarakhand
  • Rajasthan
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Mughalai
  • Bihar
  • Sikkim
  • Assam
  • Meghalaya
  • West Bengal

Note: This article informs about the ingredients used in the authentic dal dishes and the cooking instructions but not detailed recipes. The Hindi names of the lentils are used for reference.

How to cook a dal: General procedure

Usually, dal cooking is of two or three steps with a cooking technique called tempering or tadka. A dal without tadka is rare.

Step 1: Clean and wash the required lentil/dal with water and drain the water. Add fresh water to the dal as per the dal to water ratio, 1:2 or 3 cups, respectively. Cook the dal by boiling with water and salt(as per taste) in a cooking vessel or the pressure cooker until the dal is soft and mushy. Then mash it with a dal masher or a hand blender.

Step 2 (optional): Add the required ingredients or a spice paste/masala paste to the cooked dal and simmer for a few minutes.

Step 3: Prepare the tempering or tadka in a frying pan. Add it as per the recipe instructions (add dal to tempering or the tempering to dal)

What is Indian style tempering?

It is the process of lightly roasting some spices and herbs in oil or ghee without burning the ingredients. It gives aroma and taste to the dal.

Common tempering ingredients

Oil, ghee, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, split black gram, asafoetida, dry red chillies, onion, green chillies, tomato and curry leaves.

Cooking utensils

  • Deep bottomed cooking vessel or pressure cooker
  • Frying pan
  • Cooking ladle

1. Wazwan style Kashmiri Dal

Wazwan is a traditional multi-course meal of Kashmiri cuisine and this traditional dal is part of the meal. It is one of the dal dishes in which milk is used in the cooking.

State: Jammu&Kashmir

Cuisine: Kashmiri

Lentil/dal: Split yellow moong dal and masoor dal in equal quantities

For dal cooking: Spilt yellow moong dal, masoor dal, water, chopped garlic, salt and milk.

For masala: Garam masala and fennel seed powder. Garam masala consists of cloves, green cardamom and black cardamom.

For tempering: Ghee, dry red chillies, onions(to be fried), dry garlic powder and garam masala.

Instructions:

  • The dal is cooked with water and salt and then milk, chopped garlic and fennel powder are added and simmered for a few minutes until the required consistency. Tempering is added to the dal.


2. Gahat ki dal/Pahadi dal

State: Himachal Pradesh

Cuisine: Pahadi(mountain)

Lentil/dal: Horse gram or kulthi dal or gahat

For dal cooking: Horse gram, green chilli, grated ginger, garlic pods, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, water and salt

For tempering: Ghee, cumin seeds, wild mustard, asafoetida or hing, raw rice powder or paste, jimbu, gandharein

Instructions:

  • After the dal is cooked, it is added to the tempering and simmered for a few minutes until the required consistency is achieved.
  • In this dish, two native mountain herbs, gandharein and Jimbu are added in the tempering.
  • Gandharein/angelica glabris is a fresh mountain herb and jimbu or jamboo or faran is used in dried form. Jimbu has a taste between onions and chives.


3. Dal Tadka

Dal tadka is Punjabi popular comfort food in households, restaurants and roadside dhabas. It is one of the best side dishes for roti, naan and jeera rice.

State: Punjab

Cuisine: Punjabi

Lentil/dal: Toor or tuvar dal, split yellow moong dal in 1:1/2 ratio respectively

For dal cooking: Toor dal, moong dal, turmeric powder, salt and water

For tempering: Ghee, cumin, black mustard seeds, dry red chillies, onion, grated garlic, ginger, green chillies, tomato, crushed coriander seeds or garam masala powder, lemon juice and asafoetida

For garnishing: Fresh coriander leaves

Instructions:

  • The cooked dal is added to the tempering and simmered for a few minutes. Fresh coriander leaves are added in the last.
  • To impart smoky or tandoori flavour, a technique called Dhungar is used.

Dhungar technique

In this technique, a piece of activated or red hot charcoal is placed in a small container and this container is placed in the cooking vessel. The oil or ghee is poured on the hot coals which results in smoke and immediately the cooking vessel is closed with a lid. It gives a smoky aroma and flavour to the dish.


4. Garhwali Chaunsa dal

State and cuisine: Uttarakhand

Lentil/dal: Whole black gram or split skinned black gram or urad dal

For dal cooking: Ghee, coarsely powdered urad dal, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, salt and water

For tempering: Mustard oil, asafoetida, cumin, black mustard, garlic, ginger, onion, green chillies, tomato(optional)

For garnishing: Fresh coriander leaves

Instructions:

  • The urad dal is cleaned and made into a coarse powder. It is roasted in ghee until a light golden colour is obtained. The spices turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt are added and boiled with water until the required consistency is obtained.
  • The tempering is added to the cooked dal and garnished with fresh coriander leaves.


5. Panchamel dal

It is also known as Pancha Ratna dal as five types of dals are used in the recipe. It is one of the royal dishes of Rajput kings. Traditionally moath dal is used among the five lentils but it can be replaced with masoor dal or red lentils as well.

State: Rajasthan

Cuisine: Rajasthani

Lentil/dal: Toor dal, urad dal, moong dal, channa dal, masoor dal/moath dal in equal quantities.

For dal cooking: 5 dals, turmeric powder, salt and water

For tempering: Ghee, asafoetida, cumin, cloves, dry red chillies, onion, garlic, ginger, green chilli, tomato, red chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala powder and lemon juice

For garnishing: fresh coriander leaves.

Instructions:

  • The cooked dal is added to the tempering and garnished with coriander leaves.


6. Khatti Meeti Tuvar dal or Uttar Pradesh(U.P) style dal

It is a sweet and sour dal made in U.P style.

State and cuisine: Uttar Pradesh

Lentil/dal: Toor dal

For dal cooking: Toor dal, turmeric powder, salt and water

For tempering: Ghee, black mustard, dry red chillies, fennel seeds, asafoetida, ginger paste, onion, tomato, red chilli powder, coriander powder, sugar and lemon juice.

Instructions:

  • The cooked dal is added to the tempering and simmered until the required consistency.
  • The sugar and lemon juice gives the sweet and sour taste.


7. Sultani dal

It is one of the royal recipes of Lucknowi nawabs. It has the usage of milk, cream, curd and saffron. Saffron is the royal spice of Awadhi cuisine.

State: Uttar Pradesh

Cuisine: Mughalai, Awadhi

Lentil/dal: Toor dal

For dal cooking: Toor dal, turmeric powder, salt, water, garlic, milk, cream, curd and saffron

For tempering: Ghee, cumin, dry red chillies, fried onions, ginger, green chillies and red chilli powder

Instructions:

  • The toor dal is cooked with water, salt and turmeric powder and mashed. Chopped garlic, milk, cream, curd and saffron are added to the mashed dal and simmered until required consistency.
  • The tempering is added to the cooked dal and served.

Dal Mughalai:

In this recipe, two to three lentils are used along with toor dal. They can be masoor dal, channa dal and moong dal. The remaining ingredients and procedure are the same.


8. Bihari dal

State: Bihar

Cuisine: Bihari

Lentil/dal: Channa dal or split Bengal gram

For dal cooking: Channa dal, turmeric powder, salt and water

Masala paste: Ginger, garlic, cloves, black cardamom, cumin and black pepper

For tempering: Mustard oil, bay leaf, cumin, fenugreek seeds, onions, masala paste, green chilli, tomato, red chilli powder and coriander powder

Instructions:

  • The dal is cooked and mashed. The ingredients for the masala is ground into a paste and added in the tempering. The cooked dal is added to the tempering and is simmered for a few minutes.


9. Khalo dal or Sikkimese dal

State and cuisine: Sikkim

Lentil/dal: Whole or split urad dal

For dal cooking: Urad dal, turmeric powder, ginger paste, a teaspoon of mustard oil, salt and water

For tempering: Ghee, onion, garlic green chilli

For garnishing: Fresh coriander leaves

Instructions:

  • In dal cooking, a teaspoon of mustard oil is used and the dal is mashed and simmered. The tempering is added to the dal and garnished with fresh coriander leaves.


10. Mati Mahor dali

State and cuisine: Assam

Lentil/dal: Black gram or urad dal

For dal cooking: Urad dal, turmeric powder, salt and water

For tempering: Mustard oil, panch phoron, dry red chillies, onion, bay leaf, green chilli and garlic

Instructions:

  • Urad dal is the preferred dal in Assamese cuisine. It is cooked until soft but not mashed. The cooked dal is added to the tempering and simmered until the required consistency.
  • Panch phoron is a whole spice mix consisting of fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin, black mustard and fennel seeds.


11. Dai Nei long or Meghalaya dal

State and cuisine: Meghalaya

Lentil/dal: Urad dal or masoor dal

For dal cooking: Urad dal, ginger-garlic paste, salt and water

For tempering: Mustard oil, onion, green chilli, turmeric powder and black sesame paste

Instructions:

  • Black sesame seeds are dry roasted and made into a paste by adding little water.
  • The cooked dal is added to the tempering and simmered.


12. Chholar dal

State: West Bengal

Cuisine: Bengali

Lentil/dal: Split Bengal gram or Channa dal

For dal cooking: Channa dal, bay leaf, salt and water

For masala paste: Grated ginger, cumin, coriander seeds and turmeric powder.

For tempering: Ghee, thin slices of fresh coconut, raisins, mustard oil, dry red chillies, cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, asafoetida, green chillies, the masala paste, turmeric powder, Bengali garam masala and sugar

Instructions:

  • Fresh coconut is cut into thin slices and roasted in ghee along with raisins until a golden brown colour is obtained. This mix is added to the tempering.
  • The cooked dal is added to the tempering and simmered.

In the next article, we'll explore some more authentic dals of remaining regional cuisines of India.

Happy cooking!














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© 2021 Mallika Lotus

Comments

Mallika Lotus (author) from Hyderabad, India on January 27, 2021:

Thank you @Jennifer C

Jennifer C on January 27, 2021:

This is very informative thank you! I love Indian food. It's comfort food to me! If only I was better at cooking it.

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