All about Daals and Beans

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The word daal comes from the Sanskrit word ‘dal’ which means to split; daal is literally a whole bean or legume that has been split in half. When cooked, the soup-like dish (also called Daal) is a great source of protein, complex carbohydrate, essential amino acids and dietary fiber. Also known as a lentil or pulse, daal can be cooked with or without the skin. Daal is an important part of an Indian meal as the main dish, as a side dish or simply served with rice or roti. It is very versatile; soaked, ground daal and daal flours are used for making dishes such as koftas, pakoras, dosas, and a variety of desserts. Even though cooking daal and dried beans at home takes more time than using canned ones, the flavor and texture of home cooked beans is so much better. Compare the texture of garbanzo beans cooked at home with the canned ones and you will be hooked, and it costs less too! Soaking daals and beans overnight cuts down on the cooking time and makes them easier to digest by throwing away the soaking water. Using a pressure cooker for cooking beans can save you a lot of time and energy. Cooking in a slow cooker or an oven are other good ways to prepare beans. I usually cook more than the recipe calls for and use the extra beans in a different dish or freeze them for later. Dried beans can be stored in an airtight jar on the shelf for more than a year. Whole beans can be sprouted to increase their nutritional value and make them easier to digest. After soaking the beans, I use a sprouter, available at Indian stores. 

                                                      Sprouted Lentil, Black Chana and Moong

There are more than 50 kinds of beans and daals but I have picked 20 of the most popular ones to show you here. I have divided them into 3 groups, based on the cooking time and seasonings commonly used. Most daal recipes are quite simple to prepare, seasoned with just salt, turmeric and maybe asafoetida (hing). Sometimes “chhaunk,” “tadka,” or “tempering” is added just before serving, which requires whole spices, onion, garlic, tomato and/or ginger fried in ghee (clarified butter) or oil. Simply adding a little bit of ghee before serving enhances the flavor.
Please watch the video of Daals and Beans at the top of this post.
The first group includes:
Most varieties of whole beans such as Chick peas, Kidney beans, Adzuki beans, Soy beans and Black Eyed peas.

Cooking dried beans requires a little bit of planning. Soaking the beans overnight enables them to cook faster, absorb water evenly and cook up creamier. A quick soak in boiling water for one to two hours works too. The boiling water soak tends to make the beans easier to digest by getting rid of more gas producing sugar than the cold water soak.
Adding salt to the water during soaking tenderizes the skin and prevents the beans from exploding during cooking. Cooking beans in filtered water instead of tap water, specially if the water is hard also keeps them soft and creamy. Make sure to add some salt during cooking specially when using hard water.
It also helps to add a pinch of baking soda during the cooking to soften the beans by maintaining the right pH. Baking soda also helps maintain the color of the beans.
Adding acidic flavors such as tomato, tamarind, vinegar, lemon juice etc. also prolongs the cooking time so add them toward the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Adding a little bit of oil or ghee to the pot keeps the bubbles from forming on the surface.
The following recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on the size of your pot. The cooking time will be the same once the boiling point is reached. Beans double up in volume when cooked so choose the pot accordingly. I usually cook 3 cups at one time, the amount is right for a 6 quart pressure cooker or dutch oven and I have enough for a couple of recipes.
Leftovers freeze well too.
for soaking
1 cup dried whole beans
4 cups water, preferably filtered
2 tsps. salt
for cooking
soaked beans
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. vegetable or olive oil or ghee
Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a bay leaf during cooking to enhance the flavor.

Approximately 2 cups

Rinse and soak beans at room temperature, overnight or at least for 8 hours in water and salt. If short on time, add boiling water, salt and cover and soak for one to two hours.
Drain the beans, rinse and put in a cooking pot with water, salt, baking soda and oil. At this point you have the option of cooking them in the oven, on the stove top in a covered pot, a pressure cooker or in a slow cooker. I find it easy to cook them in a pressure cooker.
Here are the temperatures and timings for soaked beans:
Pressure cooker: 6-7 minutes after the pressure builds up. Turn the stove down to low after pressure is reached.
Oven: 35-40 minutes at 325 degrees F (depending on the hardness of water). Adding boiling water to the pot instead of cold water before placing in the oven saves another 5 minutes.
Stove top: 30-40 minutes (depending on the hardness of water) after the water comes to a boil. Turn the stove down to simmer and cover the pot.
Slow cooker: Follow manufacturer’s directions but usually 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

All the beans in this group can be cooked using my Chana Masala  or Rajma Masala recipes. Because these are whole beans, they take longer to cook. However, if soaked in water overnight or 4-5 hours at room temperature, they will cook in about 30-40 minutes after coming to a boil. In a pressure cooker, it will take less than 7-8 minutes to cook soaked beans or 25-30 minutes for dried beans. These beans are seasoned more heavily than other daals since they are served as the main dish and on special occasions.

The next group includes: Whole Moong, Urad, Yellow and Green Peas, Lentils and both split Peas and split Chana.


All the daals in this group can be cooked using my  Lentil or Masoor Daal recipe. Since these daals have a strong flavor, I use less seasoning and whole spices that can be taken out before serving.
The third group, also the most commonly cooked, includes the following daals: Split Moong and Urad with and without skin, Lentil without skin and Arhar or Toor daal.

All daals in this group can be cooked using my Arhar or Toor Daal  recipe. These are daals that are cooked everyday, sometimes for lunch and dinner. They are usually accompanied by a few vegetables and/or meat and so are seasoned lightly. Adding a vegetable to the daal is also common such as Chana Daal with Squash recipe.

Copyright © Rashmi Rustagi 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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