British Dal Festival - 21-31 March 2020

Dictionary of Dal

What is Dal?

dal¹ /dɑːl/
(also dhaldaal)
1. A split pulse (ie lentil, bean, pea or other dried legume seed)
2. A stew, soup or similar dish made of pulses, split or whole

There are countless classic dals from across the Indian subcontinent, often named for their main pulse ingredient, such as chana dal, meaning split black chickpeas. Other names describe other ingredients or characteristics of the dish, for example dal makhani or “buttery dal”.

Cuisines around the world have similar traditional dishes, from the refried beans of Mexico and fava dips of Greece to Britain’s pease pudding and mushy peas. 

The Dictionary of Dal

The naming of dal and pulses can be confusing. English names are used very variously, with split yellow peas, split mung beans and split urad beans all different species of legume but all often described as lentils. Hindi names are generally much more precisely used.

chana dal Split black or desi variety chickpeas (Cicer aretinum). Other chickpea varieties are sometimes used and split yellow peas, which are very similar in appearance, are often substituted.
chickpea (also garbanzo bean) A pulse of the species Cicer aretinum with two principal varieties, the large and light kabuli and the small and dark desi or black chickpea.
masoor dalSplit brown / red lentils (Lens culinaris).
mung dal (also moong dal) Split mung beans (Vigna radiata).
rajma Whole red kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)
sabut masoor Whole brown lentils (Lens culinaris).
sabut moong
(also sabut mung, hare mung, hare moong)
Whole mung beans (Vigna radiata)
split fava beans Split fava or faba beans (Vicia faba), smaller seeded varieties of the broad bean species, grown in the UK
split green peasSplit green or blue varieties of common pea (Pisum sativum), grown in the UK
split yellow peasSplit yellow varieties of common pea (Pisum sativum), grown in the UK
toor dal (also toovar dal) Split pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan).
urad dal Split urad beans (Vigna mungo)
urad gram Whole urad beans (Vigna mungo)
vaal dal Split hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus). Fava beans or butter beans are often substituted.