Though there are a number of non-vegetarian dishes, nevertheless majority of Indian cuisine is predominantly vegetarian in nature. As a result, foods like lentils are a major source of proteins in this cuisine. They belong to the legume family and are a rich source of fiber and protein. Lentils also helps in preventing spikes in the blood sugar and are well endowed with B group vitamins.
Here is a brief summary of different types of lentils used in Indian cooking:
1.Black-eyed pea: These lentils are known by a variety of other names like Crowder pea, Cowpea, Black-eyed pea. In India, they are called Lombia or Lobhia. They have a creamy texture that is a bit dry and possess a pleasant flavor. They form an integral part of various curry-based dishes in India. They are low on sodium and have high amounts of potassium and fiber. These lentils can also help in fighting blood pressure problems.
2.Chana Dal: Alternative names of this lentil include Bengal gram, Kadalai Paruppu and Kadale Bele. It looks like the yellow split pea but has a nutty flavor and is sweeter and smaller. Since it's quite a robust, versatile and tasty lentil, it is used in a variety of dishes, particularly in combination with Zucchini and Pumpkin.
3.Chick peas: These lentils are known by a variety of names like Egyptian pea, Cici bean, white chickpea, Garbanzo pea and Garbanzo bean. They are known as Chole and Kabuli Chana in India. Chick peas are a hot favorite in India since they are quite tasty and can be added to all kinds of curry, salad, soups and stew recipes. They are used to prepare Chana Masala, which is one of the most popular dishes in North India. Chickpeas are known for their high fiber content and are a storehouse of nutrients like iron, phosphorus, copper, manganese and protein.
4.Pigeon peas: No-eye pea, Angola pea, Congo pea are some of the well-known alternative names for pigeon peas. Also known as toor daal or arhar daal in India, these lentils are used across the length and breadth of India. Besides being an important part of the North Indian cuisine, they are particularly preferred in South Indian soups like Sambhar and Rasam. This has a nutty, sweet flavor and is ochre colored.
5.Moong beans: These small beans are greenish-yellowish in color. There is a significant amount of difference in the split beans and the whole beans. These are easy on the stomach and can be combined with a number of vegetables and spices for a variety of preparations. The split Moong daal is yellow in color and is known as dhuli Moong in India. They are hulled and used in a number of spicy curry preparations and dhals.
6.Red Kidney beans: Popularly known as rajma, these are a hot favorite in North India. The rajma curry is often combined with rice and is a complete source of protein.
7.Masoor daal or red lentils: Red lentils are known for their nutty taste and used in a variety of spicy dhals, soups and stew recipes.
8.Urad daal or black lentils: Apart from being used in curry preparations, these lentils are used to make poppadums and dosas, which are the well-known South Indian pancakes.
These lentils not only ensure a balanced meal but also add a lot of flavor to the Indian cuisine!