When dining in an Indian restaurant, most people have seen dhal on the menu. It is a dish made of long-cooked “pulses,” or lentils. These pulses are usually split and hulled and cooked with clarified butter, or ghee, and spices until they make a thick stew.
Dhal is a main dish in India and Pakistan, and certainly one of the most popular. Pulses are inexpensive, which makes the stew common among all classes of people.
The dish is made with the aforementioned pulses, or lentils, and spices such as cumin, cayenne, garlic, and garam masala, and is made with a thick soupy consistency. It is then served with naan (flatbread) or over rice. It can be a side dish or a main dish and is an ethnic food that can be adjusted to the cook’s tastes.
Dhal is often a mainstay in vegetarian diets because it is so versatile and such a good source of protein. It can be cooked with spinach or coconut, with green peppers or cheese. In Indian restaurants that feature a buffet, the dish may be offered with any of these ingredients.
The secret to good dhal is the same as with cooking any bean: long, slow cooking times. It could be made in a slow-cooker or on top of the stove. The dish should be cooked a minimum of three hours, and perhaps six or seven in a slow-cooker. Cooked portions may be frozen and reheated, if the cook wants to make the most of the long cooking time and make batches in bulk. It is cooked like most beans: cooks should add enough water to cover the pulses, turn the heat on low, and start the cooking process. The pulses should be rinsed and sorted, as with other beans, beforehand they are added.
As with other beans, dhal makes its own “gravy,” and this should not be discarded. It is nutritious and is eaten right along with the pulses. Indian lentils may be black, brown, red, yellow, or pink, creating a dish that can be as colorful as it is delicious. The lentils are available at some supermarkets, and often in Asian markets that sell Indian ingredients.