Living the Good Life…

My food blog & cookbook in progress

Daal tutorial

The array of daals that are available can be bewildering indeed especially since so many look alike. Here is a list of the daals that I usually have in the pantry cupboard. I never had all of them at any given time, but an average of 5 varieties was typical. In Egypt however, I’ve made do with just two


Chick peas or garbanzo beans.

They are also called Kabuli chana (i.e. from Kabul). They are most commonly prepared and eaten in Northern India. The recipe for this dish was in the previous chapter.

Chana daal

This daal closely resembles yellow split peas in appearance and taste, and may be substituted quite easily.


Besides being the main ingredient of daal preparations, chana daal is used as a seasoning ingredient in parts of Southern India.

Kala chana (pl: kale chane)

images-5.jpgThis bean looks very much like a small dark—almost black chick pea, and does not have an English name that I know of, save “black chick peas.” Kala chana is distinctive in that it does not soften upon cooking and retains a nutty (al dente) texture even on prolonged cooking.

Black eyed beans
Masoor daal
Red lentils

This lentil is sold in two common forms. masoor-dal.jpgThere is the whole (sabut) grain, which is a reddish-brown colored disc. The hulled and washed grain (colloquially refered to as “dhula” to indicate the nature of its processing) is the salmon-pink in color. red-lentils.jpg As it cooks, masoor daal loses this pink color and becomes a pale yellowish brown. Dhula masoor cooks up very quickly, and is hence is a good eleventh-hour or emergency ingredient to have at hand. Masoor daal is my univeral substitute for all daals here in Cairo.

Moong daal

Mung beans.

Moong is one of the most ubiquitous daals in Indian cuisine.Like masoor daal, it too is sold in it whole (sabut) and split forms. The whole bean is green in colour. yellowmoong.jpgimages-6.jpgSplit beans may be sold as is, with husks and all, or are subjected to further processing (washing), which renders them golden yellow in color. Hulled moong, like the masoor, is another very quick cooking daal.

Toor (harhar) daal

Pigeon peas?

I’m not sure, but I think that toor (also pronounced as toovar in some regions) daal is the same bean that we refer to as pigeon peas in North America. dal-splittoor.jpgBut whereas I’ve seen pigeon peas sold as the whole article, usually in the frozen food section of grocery stores, the Indians by and large consume this daal in its washed and hulled form. The one exception I can think of is a dish in Gujarat with features whole pigeon peas and eggplant in a spicy base. The flat processed toor daal is a staple in South Indian Brahmin kitchens, being the base ingredient of such classic dishes as sambaar and rasam. It, along with moong, is always one of the 3-5 daals I stock up on in my kitchen.


Red kidney beans

Urad daal

uradwhole.jpgI have to confess that I have not the faintest idea about what this black-skinned white-grained lentil is called in English. I only place I’ve ever bought it is in an Indian grocery store, where the English label says Bengal gram. Like the masoor and mung daals, urad daal is available in both the whole and split forms, both with and without the husk. The husked variety is the main ingredient of the famed daal-makani of Indian restaurants. whiteurad.jpgA simpler preparation called “maa ki daal” is a homey dish in many Northern Indian households. South Indians tend to prefer the dehusked version of this grain, using it as an ingredient for various preparations (notably in idlis and dosais) and as a seasoning, rather than as a daal in its own right.

P.S. None of the photographs in this page are my own. I found them via Google, on the websites of various Indian grocery stores. Thought I should give credit where it is due.

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