These beans are called harvested field beans. They are split and dried.
Once they are cooked they have a creamy, nutty and almost bitter yet not unpleasant taste. Besides a variety of spices it is best complemented when cooked with other ingredients like coconut, jaggery and raw mango. Vaal is restricted to mainly Parsi, Gujarati and some regional Indian cooking. It is more of a delicacy than a staple.
Yet, strangely enough it is available in most large cities across the globe.
2 tbsp oil
3/4th cup coconut shreds finely ground; desiccated coconut
2 cups Vaal dal, washed and soaked for an hour or two
3 fried crushed onion ( about 400gms/1 lb in weight as raw onion)
2 tsp crushed ginger
2 tsp crushed garlic
1/2 cup tomato, pureed
2 green chilli
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 raw peeled mangoes or 1 tsp tamarind paste
3 cups water
2 tbsp jaggery or brown sugar
In a pan heat the oil and add the coconut. Saute` until aromatic and it turns slightly pink.
Add the ginger and garlic all the dry spices and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, mangoes, fried onions and green chillies and then the Vaal dal. Top it up with the water and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until done. It will take an hour or more.
Once it is ready, add the jaggery or sugar to taste and mix it well.
Serve warm with crusty bread or warm chapatis, some side salad and a wedge of lemon.
The Vaal dal is a speciality and can be an acquired taste.
Soaking it helps cook it faster.
Try not to buy dal that is broken into bits or has black spots or holes in it. That is a sure sign of it being very old and bitter.
This recipe is from over 100 years ago, but now there is a Kashmiri chili paste available in jars that can be substituted for the cumin, red chilli and turmeric powders. Use only 1 1/2 tsp of this in total to replace all 3 of the spices. It can be quite delicious yet slightly different.
To make life simpler grind the coconut after freezing it.
For more Parsi old time recipes from my family archives and origins of Parsi Food read my cookbook The Art of Parsi Cooking;reviving an ancient cuisine.
and check out the e-book menu
Niloufer's Kitchen: Quick and Easy
Photo credit Sheriar Hirjikaka