General directions for cooking chana dal
– just plain chana dal to use in recipes that call for cooked chana dal
This recipe is for 3 cups of uncooked (about 8 cups of cooked) chana dal. I like to make a lot of chana dal at one time and freeze what I don’t use right away.
3 cups uncooked chana dal
cold tap water (for rinsing)
6 cups cold tap water (for cooking)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bircarbonate)
Step I: Inspect and pick over chana dal
Inspect the chana dal for foreign matter. Discard foreign matter and grey shriveled-looking chana dal, if any.
Step II: Rinse chana dal
Place the chana dal into a strainer (or small collander) and place the strainer into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold tap water and, using your hands, mix the dal around; discard the rinse water. Repeat this rinsing process 3 or 4 times until the water runs almost clear. Discard the final rinse water out of the bowl.
Step III: Soak chana dal
Place the strainer with the rinsed chana dal back into the empty bowl and add cold tap water to cover the chana dal with 2 – 3 inches of water. Let the chana dal soak at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Then remove the strainer with the dal from the water in which it was soaking. Discard the water.
Step IV: Add water, baking soda and cook
Place the chana dal that has been soaked and drained into a large pot, and add 6 cups of cold tap water to the pot. Add the baking soda and mix it around with a large spoon.
Bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat down to gentle boil (almost a simmer). Gently boil for 10-12 minutes, uncovered, or until the chana dal is cooked through but not mushy. Note: While cooking the chana dal and water mixture will froth quite a bit, but that’s OK.
Yeild: About 8 cups cooked chana dal and some liquid you can use in cooking or making soups.
Storage: Store your cooked chana dal in your refrigerator or in freezer.
Why baking soda?
Adding some baking soda when cooking beans or dal (split beans) is traditional in many South Asian recipes. It helps soften the bean/dal in less time than it would take without the baking soda. In my experience, the baking soda cuts the cooking time in half. Also adding baking soda, makes the resulting food more alkaline-producing and there is scientific evidence that this is good for bones. I am NOT saying that you should start ingesting baking soda to help prevent osteoporosis! But it you are interested to learn more about an alkaline- vs. acid- producing diet and its effect on bones, see: Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Starting on page 349 of this American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article, you will find a short discussion of the health implications of an acid- vs. alkaline-producing diet.
Recipes for chana dal:
Mark Bittman of the New York Times offers this recipe for chana dal. I would make this recipe by first soaking the chana as mentioned above. Soaked chana will take less time to cook than chana that’s not soaked, so you will want to adjust the cooking time. Also, you can always add a little baking soda to Bittman’s recipe if you like. And I would use olive oil instead of the oils he has suggested.
Enjoy and be healthy!