Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cooking with Urad Dhal (Black Gram)

Legumes (lentils, peas, and beans) are an essential ingredient in the Kerala pantry. Referred to as "dhal" in India, they bring protein and fiber to the table and offer a low-cost alternative to meat. They are used to make hearty dishes that are poured over rice or sopped up with bread.


Of all the legumes used in Indian cooking, urad dhal is my favorite. In the South, the ancient bean is used to make crispy papadum. It is soaked, ground, and fermented with rice to produce dosa and idli – the most swoon-worthy of breads. 


Urad dhal is also used to season oil. Commonly fried with mustard seeds and dried chilies, it adds a toasty flavor and crunchy texture to potato masala and a wide array of other vegetarian dishes


Purchasing Urad Dhal

Native to India, urad dhal can be found stacked among other legumes in Indian groceries stores. It has charcoal-colored skin and cream-colored flesh. The dhal is typically sold in three forms:  whole, split, and skinned and split. If you’re making idli or dosa, be sure to purchase it skinned and split. 

Cooking with Urad Dhal

Like other imported legumes, urad dhal should be thoroughly washed before it’s cooked. I like to put it in a medium sized pot, cover it with water, and swish the beans around. I slowly drain out the water and repeat the fill-swish-drain process until the water becomes clear. 
Advance purchase required!
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