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.
Also note: Toor, Urad, Moong and Chana are botanically classified as legumes and not lentils; but I am just sticking to the common-lingo here:).
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.”
Check out this link where the author places the soaked Urad Dal water under a foldscope. She says: “A nice biofilm of bacteria has already started to form after overnight soaking and I took a small spoonful. I hope you can see the bubbles suggesting the beginning of the fermentation process perhaps from the dissolved starch.”
I could have used a blender to grind the lentils. But, then the amount of water I use to grind will vary based on the texture of the legume, I would have to account for that. Hmmm….Gotto think of other ideas…
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….(Playing scratch the record sound here….) Yes, I said juicer!!
Back story: Once upon a time, my husband entered a “juicing phase” in his life. That lasted a glorious 6 months!! After which, it was relegated to the garage. But, as engineers, we both admired the solid machinery of this device. I have used it so far to crush nuts, even dried fruits. When one day, it occurred to me, I could make falafels with this appliance. Which I did and I will share the recipe someday….But, we digress…
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.
I steamed all the ground dals for the same amount of time – 10 minutes.
Here’s how they looked after steaming.
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 (ahem: legumes) – 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.