I find Dal the most comforting of dishes, and it is no wonder that it is eaten on most days throughout India. Spices are used to vary the flavours, – some for the heat of pre-Monsoon Summer, others for the cool of the Monsoon rains.
Dals always begin the same – boiling one or more lentils until soft, with the thickness of the dal being a personal preference. Some areas of India make them thick, others prefer them thin and soupy. In this household, we have the choice, so it depends on the cook, and the day, and the weather.
Inclusions also vary. Some dals contain onions – in some parts of India, the onions are cut long and thin – the chillies too. In other parts, the onions and chillies are cut minutely, almost a paste – garlic too – and this is all fried in ghee or oil.
Mung dal (split, hulled Mung Beans) is good for any time of year – and particularly good in summer. So is Toor dal. In Winter it is good to roast the mung dal before cooking as it helps to heat the bodily system. Toss it in a frying pan until a gorgeous aroma arises, then add to water to cook. In Summer, it is preferred kancha or unroasted, as it is lighter and easer to digest. Thanks to the excellent book Bengali Cooking for the lovely chapter and information on Dals.