Lentils have been a part of the human diet since pre-history. It was one of the first crops domesticated and contributes to the healthiness of vegetarian meals. Lentils are especially important in India where half the world’s production takes place and where many people follow vegetarian diets. Known as dal in India, lentils are eaten as often as twice a day.
Lentils have long been part of the Indian diet due to their high protein content. The protein content of lentil (26%) rivals that of soybeans (40%) for top honors regarding plant sources of protein.
Lentils (Lens culinaris) are shaped like disks and are named based on the Latin word for lens. Lentils are sold in many forms, colors and sizes. They are found with and without skins, whole or split.
The color of lentils range from yellow to red-orange and from green to black.
Red, white and yellow lentils have had their skins removed, while yellow lentils or Chana, is made from the kernels of chickpeas.
Lentils are boiled with vegetables, seasoned with spices and served over rice.
Common varieties from wiki
- Toor dal, i.e. yellow pigeon peas, is available either plain or oily. It is the main ingredient for the South Indian recipe called sambar. In Karnataka it is calledTogare bele.
- Chana dal is produced by removing the outer layer of kala chana (black chickpeas) and then splitting the kernel. Although machines can do this, it can also be done at home by soaking the whole chickpeas and removing the skins by rubbing.
- Yellow split peas, while not commonly used on the Indian sub-continent, are very prevalent in the Indian communities of Guyana and Trinidad, and were formerly popular amongst Indians in the United States. There, it is referred to generically as dal and is the most popular dal, although masoor dal and toor dal are also used. It is prepared similarly to dals found in India, but also may be used in a variety of other recipes.
- Kala chana are small chickpeas with brown skins. In the US and Canada, it is known as Desi chickpea and the variety most used is called 'Myles'. It is very disease resistant.
- Kabuli dal, known for its black coat, is an average-sized chickpea. It grows naturally with the black coat, and it is said to be nuttier in flavor.
- Mung dal is known as mung bean.
- Urad dal, sometimes referred to as "black gram", is the main ingredient of the South Indian dishes: idli and dosai. It is also one of the main ingredients of East Indian (oriya and Bengali or Assamese) pitha. The Punjabi version is dal makhani. In Karnataka it is called Uddina bele.
- Mussyang is from dals of various colors found in various hilly regions of Nepal.