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About Pulses

Cuisine: Indian
Courses: Dressings, Starters and appetizers
Serves: 1 people

Recipe Ingredients


Recipe Instructions

Ismael Merchant writes: "Food helps us establish or cement relationships with other people, and this is the aspect of cooking I find most enjoyable. You can do without many things in life, but not food and the enjoyment of eating - unless, of course, you become an ascetic or a fakir and become radically self-sufficient. I could never become a hermit because of missing the deep feeling of accomplishment and communion I have when preparing a meal for friends.

"The recipes in this section [Chapter 11, Pulses] are made with pulses (dried lentils, beans, and peas) which nearly every culture uses in it cooking and which appear at nearly every Indian meal. There are many different varieties, and it is fun discovering the different sorts available from Indian shops. They all have their own particular qualities, which you will learn about as you experiment with them. However, there are some general guidelines.

"All pulses should be picked over carefully to remove any small stones, papery husks, and stems, then washed and drained. Except for the familiar whole green European lentils, most of the whole pulses need overnight soaking covered by about three times their volume of cold water. Because whole Indian pulses are generally smaller than the ones used in the West, most of them need only two hours' soaking before they are ready to cook. If they have been hulled and/or split as with masoor dal, you can dispense with presoaking altogether. The exception, and naturally there is one, is with kabli and kala chana. Like their Western counterparts, these chick-peas need up to twelve hours' presoaking." "This being said, to avoid indigestion be sure to cook the prepared pulses in fresh water until they are tender. Undercooked pulses are bad news.

"Some of the most common kinds of pulses used in Indian cooking are as follows:

Chana dal (or gram dal) are hulled and split chick-peas. Deep yellow in color, these pulses do not need soaking before cooking." "Kabli chana are yellow chick-peas. Unhulled and beige in color, they need overnight soaking before cooking.

"Kala chana are small brown or black chick-peas. Like kabli chana, they require long presoaking and cooking to become tender.

"Continental masoor are whole greenish-brown lentils. Flat and oval-shaped, they originated in the West and were adopted by India, so they should already be fairly familiar to you. They do not need presoaking." "Masoor are brown Indian lentils. Whole but smaller than continental masoor, they do not require presoaking.

"Masoor dal are split masoor which are tiny and salmon- pink because they have also been hulled. They do not need presoaking and turn yellow when they cook.

"Moong beans (or hari dal) are dark green, small, and slightly cylindrical in shape. They need 2-4 hours' soaking before cooking, but if oversoaked they will sprout and become moong bean sprouts so familiar in the West." "Moong dal chilka are split moong beans, green on one side and pale on the other. They do not need presoaking.

"Moong dal are split, light yellow, and rectangular in shape because they are hulled. They do not need to be soaked before cooking.

"Toor dal (or arhar dal) are a hulled, split pulse, a little larger than chana dal. Dull and yellow-colored, they do need presoaking." "Urid (or black matpe) are small, dull, and black, similar in size and shape to moong beans. They must be presoaked.

"Urid dal are split urid that do not need to be soaked before cooking.

"Washed urid dal are off-white because they have been hulled and washed as well as split. They do not require presoaking." "This list may seem long and overwhelming, but I suggest that you begin your experience in dal cooking with only one or two types of pulses first. Stick to the same type until you are familiar and quite confident with it. Then add another to your repertoire and so on. I would suggest you start with continental masoor, which is the most common kind, or possibly chana dal or masoor dal."

From "Ismail Merchant's Indian Cuisine" by Ismail Merchant. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1986. ISBN 0- 671-68477-9. Pp. 195-197.


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