Sometimes we do vegan. Sometimes…
It seems to be a fast growing trend, and sometimes I’m not sure what the reasons behind people’s decisions might be, since they range from the serious health or dietary concerns to the more hippie or fad-of-the-moment whim. Veganism in general is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, based on a philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals…so basically, it’s not only dietary, and when it is, it’s basically what we know to be vegetarianism. Ethical vegans extend this philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals for any purpose. There is no way I could consider myself a vegan/vegetarian, but occasionally we like to embrace a meal or two worthy of the trend.
To be honest, a well-planned vegan diet can be great for the mind, body, & soul. Obviously an unbalanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies, but with the appropriate intake of the basic vitamins & minerals, plus the added kick of dietary supplements, vegan diets can turn out to be higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, & vitamins C & E than a regular diet. Ever since the 1950s, veganism has been defined as “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”…but it spiked in the present decade, which has seen a rise in vegan stores and vegan options in restaurants & supermarkets in many countries.
To best obtain protein, dietary fiber, carbs & dietary minerals, vegans resort to legumes of all kinds: beans, lentils, peas, peanuts…and dal has become a fad favorite among the vegan community, as it can be prepared in a variety of ways and gives you a satisfying & filling meal packed with protein & rich in vitamins. Dal is both the ingredient of the dish & the preparation of such dish: literally it can be the term in the Indian subcontinent for dried, split legume seeds (lentils, peas, beans…), but it’s also used for the soups prepared from these products, which as you can imagine are practically infinite in the billions of kitchens around India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, & Bangladesh.
Dals are frequently eaten with flatbreads or with rice, a popular combination known as dal bhat. Most dal recipes are pretty simple (despite the many colors & varieties): boil a variety of lentils, beans, or peas in water with turmeric, salt, and any other addition and cook until done. Dals should be cooked long & slow for maximum creaminess, and left relatively plain according to sources all over the internet. Endlessly versatile, they can be as thin as soup, as thick as porridge, or (like my version) borderline hummus! Although I’m a curious cat when it comes to Indian cuisine – and by now most of you know I like to experiment with it – I’m still wondering what the difference between dal & split pea soup might be…anyone out there willing to provide more insight? Comments are welcomed!
For the Dal
- 1 cup of yellow split peas or red lentils
- 2 cups of water
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 3/4 teaspoon of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon of minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 cup of water
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 plum tomato, diced
- 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
- Cooked rice
As far as preparation goes, it’s all up to you – if the dal is pureed, it’s ‘wet’ and eaten with rice; if not pureed, it’s ‘dry’ and eaten with bread. A pureed dal may be as thick or thin as the cook chooses.
Rinse, pick over, and place the split peas or red lentils in a large saucepan. Add the water, onion, garlic, ginger, & turmeric and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat & simmer, covered, until the legumes are tender, about 25 minutes.
Stir in the additional water & salt and continue to simmer, partially covered, until the dal is thickened to the consistency of split pea soup, for about 20 minutes. Continue to cook until desired consistency is achieved. Finally, stir in the jalapeños, tomato, & chopped cilantro. Serve with cooked rice.