It is not that I’ve never cooked dal, the family of Indian legume dishes that is a staple for the hundreds of millions of vegetarians of India, as well as who knows how many millions of omnivores; it’s just that I’ve never cooked it especially well. I realized this when I first visited northern India about 10 years ago and — even in a Sikh langar, a canteen where food is free for all — ate dal that was infinitely tastier than my own.
Part of that, probably, was the thrill of eating food where it belongs, and part of it was that many dals contain unconscionable amounts of ghee, a form of clarified butter. (Western Europe is not the only part of the world where cooks have recognized that butter makes many things taste much better.)
But part of it was some lack of feel for making dal, a kind of ignorance that I couldn’t overcome simply by experimenting or following cookbooks. As legumes have become a more important part of my cooking, I decided that my dal problem needed to be remedied. I turned to Julie Sahni.
Read the rest of this column, and get the recipes and video here.