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Indian Cooking Question -

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I've frequently seen recipes calling for urad dal, moong dal, and chana dal as spice - 1 tsp or so - there are no instructions for soaking or grinding - are these just added as is or what?

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  1. If you mean they are added straight to the oil used for seasoning, then yes they are added whole with no soaking or grinding. This is a technique used widely in South India. They give a nutty taste to the dish and a great texture.

    Dals are also used in several masalas where they are ground e.g sambar podi. The recipe instructions should make it clear though, I am assuming you are just asking because you are surprised?

    1. Muchlove is right. They are used for seasoning an oil, generally along with some combination of mustard seeds, dried red chile, curry leaves and asafoetida, which then imparts the flavor to the whole dish at the end of cooking. It's often called tempering or Kadai-frying. Mung dal is not used very often for that purpose, but urad, toor (tuvar) and channa dal are.

      1. In my cooking, adding them at the end needs to be time enough for them to absorb some of the liquid in order to properly soften. They add a nice textural difference to the rest of the dish.

        6 Replies
        1. re: pine time

          Each to their own but I respectfully disagree.

          There are some dishes where the seasoning is done at the start and then other stuff is added so the dals do soften a little. But then there are also dozens of dishes including chutnies and salads where the seasoning is poured on to the dish right at the end. Here the crunch is desirable. It's only a small quantity if dal anyway but the texture it adds is key.

          1. re: Muchlove

            Yes, ideally if fried at a good temperature the daal in the tempering get the same texture as a fried nut, sort of crunchy on the outside but the inside seems almost hollow. Then they add good crunch but aren't too hard on the teeth, and there is no need for softening.

            1. re: luckyfatima

              Guess I wasn't clear about needing the textural difference, i.e., still what I'd call al dente, but not tooth-breaking. Roasted spices, add'l fried onions, etc, I always add at the end (in addition to whatever was used in the iniital prep).

            2. re: Muchlove

              Muchlove, I don't know much about South Indian cooking, which types of recipes contain fried daal tempered at the beginning of the recipe? I only know of this type of tempering added at the end as you have described.

              1. re: luckyfatima

                For instance in vegetable dishes such as poriyal the tempering at the start contains the dal and then the vegetable is added to the pan. It is cooked until tender and then served. There are various dishes like this where the dal in the tempering has a longer cooking time than just being fried and added to a dish that is served straight away.

                1. re: Muchlove

                  That's exactly the type of dish I was making - I skipped the dal because I wasn't sure about it, but will use it next time. Made a cauliflower poriyal - very good even without the dal - I ran short on curry leaves too - but still really liked it.

                  Thanks for the input!