Beyond Lentils

The many meanings of Dal.

By Cathy Young

Published on March 19, 2002

The Hindi word _dal _means legumes (peas and beans as well as lentils), both raw and cooked. But in India and Pakistan, you might be invited to come over for "dal chawal" (dal and rice) or "dal roti" (dal and bread), whether or not legumes are on the menu: The word has come to be synonymous with dinner. Dal usually _is _served, though, since, when combined with rice or bread, it is the perfect protein. Dal is eaten by those of all castes, classes, and religions, and in every region. Northerners like to cook chana dal (split lentils) or urad dal (split gram beans) into thick stews, while southerners make toovar dal (pigeon peas) and masoor dal (split red lentils) into soupy purees. The tarka (cooked spice mixture), with which most dals are finished (see Urad Dal recipe), not only adds flavor, but helps digestion.

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