Dal (also known as daal, dhal and dahl) is either a spicy dish made from pulses (lentils, beans or peas) or the name of a pulse itself.
Dal is a great source of protein and is very popular with vegetarians, with a huge range of dal dishes regularly eaten in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Gram for gram, or ounce for ounce, dal provides about the same amount of protein as meat.
Peas and beans need to be soaked before being cooked to make a dal, but lentils can be used without soaking.
Typically, dal is made from boiling pulses in water and adding spices and/or a tarka. A tarka (also commonly known as a tadka) is usually a garnish, made from fried onions and spices, that is added to a dal at the end of the cooking in order to give the dal an enhanced, or changed, taste.
Toor (or tuvar) dal is yellow and is made from split peas. Toor dal can be bought either in a plain or oily version. Use the plain version unless the recipe that you are using calls for the oily version.
Chana dal is yellow (almost the same yellow as toor dal) and is made from the kernel of black chickpeas (kala chana).
Urad (or urid) dal is black. As well as being used to make dal, urad dal is also used to make dal makhani (a creamy dal).
Mung (or moong) dal is yellow and is made from the mung bean by removing the outer bean husk. Mung is sweet and creamy.
Masoor dal is salmon pink and cooks quickly and turns mushy when cooked.
Chickpeas have a strong nutty taste and is used in a wide range of curry cooking, not just dals (chickpeas are ground into flour as well as being cooked whole).
Kidney beans (rajma dal) can be used to make dal, including dal makhani.
Dals can be eaten with rice or just scooped up with roti.
As well as being a good source of protein, especially for vegetarians, dal is usually a tasty, easy to make cheap meal.
There is a great range of dal recipes on the Curry Focus website.