Also Known as
Split Bengal gram
Chana dal is baby chickpeas that has been split and polished. It looks and tastes like small kernels of sweet corn, and is one of the most popular ingredients in Indian cuisine.
Chana dal is delicious, nutritious and easily digested. Apart from being used in soups, salads, curries, dal preparations, savouries, sweets and rice dishes, the legumes are also roasted and powdered into chickpea flour (besan), another ingredient that is widely used in almost every province of India.
Roasted and powdered chana dal
Take ½ cup of roasted chana dal and put in a mixer and blend to a fine powder. Use as required. For coarsely powdered chana dal put the roasted chana dal in a mixer and pulse it one or two times to get a rough texture which is not too fine or smooth. Use as required.
Soaked and cooked chana dal
Clean the chana dal and remove any kind of stones or dirt. To soak chana dal, first wash it twice with water and then soak it in warm water. Drain it and boil it in a vessel full of water or pressure cook till done.
Soaked and parboiled chana dal
To soak chana dal, clean and wash the chana dal and soak in enough water for 4 to 5 hours. For parboiling, drain the soaked chana dal, again add clean water and boil till the dal is almost cooked, but not completely cooked. Many recipes call for parboiled chana dal as it gets cooked completely along with the final dish.
How to Select
Soaked chana dal
Clean the chana dal and remove any kind of stones or dirt. To soak chana dal, first wash it twice with water and then soak it in warm water. Soaking in water enables the dal to cook faster - thereby saving on time as well as energy. You can simply use the soaked dal in salads, curries and other dishes.
• Dried chana dal is available all year round, and is easy to store.
• If buying in a pack, check the seal and date of packing. Buy from a trusted store because you cannot check inside the pack.
• If buying from bins, make sure the bins are not left in the open exposed to dust and grime.
• Check the dal to see if it is unblemished, free from moisture damage, insects and stones.
• This is actually a type of split lentil, and is frequently used in Indian cooking as a thickener.
• It has a rich flavour and aroma.
• Combined with rice and roti, it provides the essential amino acids for complete protein.
• It is best to soak these beans overnight or at least for a few hours, so it will cook faster.
• If you do not like eating raw vegetables, then cook them with chana dal.
• Coarsely crush the chana dal and use in dhokla or handwa, for a crunchy texture and to increase the nutritional value.
• Bengal gram is often stewed with vegetables, especially bitter gourds and squashes.
• Chana Dal with spinach and bottle gourd are popular combinations.
How to Store
• Dried dal can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place of your kitchen for up to 12 months.
• Once cooked, they can be stored in the refrigerator for a day. It is better to use it up soon.
• Chana dal is high in fibre and helps to lower cholesterol.
• Apart from having a great taste, it also has a very low glycemic index, which is important for those with diabetes.
• Chana dal is a helpful source of zinc, folate, calcium and protein.
• It is low in fat and most of it is polyunsaturated.