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Aug 1, 2012 12:39 PM

chana dal dishes in restaurants?

Do any restaurants around here make dishes with chana dal? (Look like yellow split peas, made by removing the husk from kala chana, the smaller, black variety of chickpeas.)

It's easy to find in Indian stores but I haven't been very happy with my attempts at cooking it, so I'd like to try some made by someone who knows what they're doing. Invariably when I see the word on restaurant menus it turns out they're actually using chickpeas.

I had a kala chana side dish at Ajanta the other day that was really good.

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  1. The times I've had true chana dal in restaurants, it's been part of a thali at a South Indian restaurant and not something that you can order off the menu.

    If it makes you feel any better, I've had Indian friends tell me they have trouble cooking it at home too. It's been a couple years since I have, but I get better results when I soak it for a couple hours before cooking.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Interesting. Maybe it just sucks and I should put the remaining pound or so in the compost.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        A pressure cooker might help. I don't own one. Chana dal (aka Bengal gram dal) has a low GI, one of the motivations for working with it.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I typically just use a heavy dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan on medium - medium low to cook the dal. Also cook it covered on low for a while.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            That's usually the way it's prepared in many Pakistani/Indian kitchens. Cooking channa dal on a stovetop can take hours.

            Also, for a variation on the usual channa dal, look for channe ki daal gosht in restaurants. It's channa dal mixed with meat, usually goat or lamb.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            Please don't do that! Chana dal is one of my favorites.
            In Bengali cooking you'd boil chana dal with a touch of asafoetida, and turmeric until its cooked.
            Add some torn up or chopped green chillis towards the end.
            Separately, in a frying pan, heat a little ghee or ghee oil mixture and temper some cumin seeds,and chopped up fresh coconut flesh (I use the frozen grated coconut if I am lazy) and garam masala (I use toasted and ground cardamom, clove and cinnamon). Once it smells delicious (less than a minute) add the whole thing to the boiling dal.
            Use salt (and sugar) to taste and boil / simmer for a bit until the whole thing looks a harmonious whole! Serve with rice or chapati with simple fried eggplants.

            1. re: jhinky

              Thank you. I'm wondering if there's a problem with old stock or some inconsistency in the raw ingredient even though I'm buying it from Indian grocers. Sometimes the center core still stays hard. Is there a particular brand that you like or source? How long do you typically cook it?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I use the Vik's house brand but thats just convenience. It should not stay hard at the center. I always forget to soak it but typically cook it simmering for 45-60 minutes - honestly never look at the time, just see if its cooked. I don't add salt and sugar until after its cooked.

                1. re: jhinky

                  I'll try again soon and just keep cooking no matter how long until I get some softness in the middle.

                  Any typical dishes we could ask for at our local Indian restaurants that would include channa dal?

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Can't think of anything offhand, except the South Indian thalis that you mentioned. Oh and shammi kababs traditionally have ground meat and soaked chana dal processed together.

        2. I use a mixture of chana dal and hulled urad dal as part of my spice mix for South Indian tarkas - vegetable dishes, rice "salads," sambar, rasam, etc. I also use chana dal to make South Indian "dry chutney," which essentially involves roasting chana dal and maybe a couple of other dals until golden and then buzzing them with chilies and curry leaves in a spice grinder. Typically these are eaten with dosas and such, with a little ghee drizzed on them. Super yummy. Don't throw away your chana dal!

          1. One of my favorite home preparations is a dry style. You can use the recipe below as guidance. I don't use coriander powder but do add fresh/frozen shredded coconut. Also, I use finely chopped ginger instead of paste. I keep meaning to add small, diced cooked vegetable such as chayote or daikon of these days. Onions optional.


            As for restaurants, I like Chaat Paradise's "dal panchvati" which I believe uses chana dal as well as others. It's been a long time but I used to often order "yellow dal curry" from Suraj in Redwood City which tasted really good.

            1. Shalimar's yellow daal is made with chana daal.