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The Mughal Dynasty writes on Lentils and Pulses in Indian Cooking
According to an estimate by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, the average citizen of India takes 4 times as much nutrition through eating lentils and pulses than their Chinese or American equivalent. We want to stress this point at the beginning because it shows the importance of these foodstuffs within Indian cuisine.
Lentils and pulses (or Dal in Hindi, a word that can mean either raw or prepared lentils) can take many different forms. In early Indian literature it is common to see references to the urad bean, mung bean and masur lentil which are believed to have originated in the Indian continent and Southwest Asia while other varieties (say, peas or cow peas) were yet to be introduced from more remote regions of Asia and Africa. Other distant varieties such as the kidney bean would have been introduced during colonial times, arriving with other goods from South and Central America.
Historically there have been two ways of preparing lentils: some can be cooked into a paste which is then used as a base for other dishes while some do not break down and can be eaten with rotis and rice. An old-school treatment is to dress the more robust varieties with oil and cane sugar or jaggery. Today you will see a lentil batter used in the preparation of dose pancakes or in idli rice cakes: a steamed solution of rice and lentil paste. Sambar and rasam soups are also made from a base of lentils and vadi dumplings are made from frying the batter in oil. A good alternative to meat.
Finally a word on soy beans, a Chinese product which saw a surge in interest during the 1930s. Soy beans do not break down easily and are not suited to the meals mentioned in the above paragraph, meaning that they never really became popular. This changed during the 1970s where the bean found its niche as a cooking oil, establishing its place in pantries across the country.
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