What happens when you soak and steam all the common Indian lentils a.k.a Dals (Toor, Chana, Moong and Urad)? Do they behave differently? Is there any difference in texture? Let us compare them side-by-side to see what happens:
The soaking and steaming process is used in regional Indian dishes like Parupu Usili, Nuchine Unde, etc. Usually, they only use toor and chana dal, sometime moong.
Of course, the curious nerd/scientist in me needs to know why Urad is not used; and hence this experiment.
First step – soaking. I soaked 1 cup of the 4 types of dals (toor, chana, moong and urad) overnight.
Here are the changes in volume after soaking overnight:
- 1 cup Toor Dal = 2.5 cups
- 1 cup Chana Dal = 2.25 cups
- 1 cup Urad Dal = 2.25 cups
- 1 cup Moong Dal = 2.125 cups
Look at the picture – The Toor Dal (Pigeon Peas) is such a fan of water, it has absorbed the most and almost ready to spill out of the cup.
One more thing – Notice the froth on top of the Urad Dal. While, in this experiment, I am not going to ferment any of the dals, the froth seems to be an indication of the fact that Urad dal is so “ferment-able”. It is like Urad is whispering “ferment me, ferment me.”
Normally South Indians use a stone grinder (also called wet grinder) that simultaneously grinds while whipping the batter. It is a neat piece of machinery, but also big and clunky. so instead, I dug out my old Omega Juicer.
I drained the water out of the soaked legumes completely. I then ground all the daals one by one. I thought the whole idea was neat!!
By the way, I started a youtube channel just so that I could show you all this cool technique. Both my daughters, on the other hand, were appalled that their mom has started a Youtube Channel just to show some device spitting out dal paste!!:)
The moong dal gave a very thick, dense, cohesive paste and I immediately thought – this would be make a great base for Halwa.
Chana and Toor dal paste looked a little similar to each other; but toor dal felt stickier and pastier in texture comparatively.
Here’s a closeup of each paste…
Let’s start with Chana..
I steamed all the ground dals for the same amount of time – 10 minutes.
Here’s how they looked after steaming.
Here’s a closeup of each of the dals post steaming.
Start with chana…
After steaming, here are my observations:
1. Steamed Urad dal paste is very hard, dry and dense (rock-like).
2. Steamed moong dal and toor dal had a tendency to stick to each other. Using a food processor or grater, they could be crumbled to smaller, bite-size particles. The crumbled moong dal was softer than the toor.
3. Steamed chana dal was crumbly and easy to work with.
Here are my final top 3 findings from this mini-experiment:
- Urad dal soaks water + grinds up beautifully expanding volume. But, I also realized the importance of fermentation to soften up this dal. Only if you ferment it before steaming; you will get soft, fluffy results (like idli). Without fermentation (like we did in this experiment), steamed urad dal batter turns into hard, very rock-like texture.
- Moong dal soaks and grinds into a thick, dense paste. This paste can be made into pakora, halwa, or can be grated to form my tasty Steamed lentil salad.
- Toor and Chana dal behave kind of similar, although Toor dal is slightly more pasty in texture than the nutty chana dal. Which then makes sense, that most paruppu usili recipes call for a mix of these 2 daals.
Now that you know what happens when you soak and steam the different lentils – Urad, Toor, Chana and Moong – I hope these results help you understand the properties of these dals better. Please post your thoughts and comments below. I look forward to reading them.
This is a question about dal I soaked black whole urad yesterday night and even after about 10 hours, most of the dal didn’t soak at all and is rock hard and didn’t expand in size. This happens sometimes with kidney beans too. Did you know why this happens?
My guess is the dal might be old but not sure. Also, how to salvage the dal that didn’t get soaked well at all?
If the Dals or beans don’t cook or absorb water, they are called as “hard to cook”. It is a term for those legumes that will not soften.
They reflect on poor quality control on the part of the selling company.
1) They have not been sorted out during the packaging 2) they were stored in high temperatures in warehouse 3) they are quite old
You can’t do much about them except discard and get a fresh batch unfortunately.
Thank you…I just soaked regular white urad for my idli batter. Looks like I have to discard my black one.
Sorry about that. I recommend you try a different brand at the store next time.
This is a great blog site- keep going! I’ve subscribed