Dal is to India what pasta is to Italy. Cheap to produce, highly nutritional, suitable for long storage and capable of being cooked in a basic pot on an open fire, dal has been providing nourishment to millions of Indians for millennia. It truly is a pan-Indian dish consumed by rich and poor alike. It is high protein and has practically no sugar – in fact it is known as ‘poor man’s meat’ in India – hence doctors now include this as an essential item in a diet for diabetics. Dal is a genuinely impressive dish of infinite variety – there are at least 50 recipes for this humble food. There are multiple ways of cooking it, wide-ranging seasonings are used and there are diverse supplements to serve with it. Over the centuries Indian cooks became innovative and with locally available ingredients they dished out dal to satisfy a regional palate. In the process they also invented new dishes using dal lentils such as kedgeree (khichari – a risotto made with lentil), dosas (pancakes mixed with lentil flower), vadas (lentil cakes), dhokla (baked lentil cakes), papadam (dried lentil snack) and pakoras (fritters dipped in lentil batter).
The Dal Cookbook