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Chimayo Joe

Tempering questions about dal in Indian cooking

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I only see urad dal and chana dal used in tempering.  Is it only those two and if so, why?  Preference for the flavor of those specific dals?  Maybe it's easier to judge how much the lighter colored dals have roasted?  I've never tried using other dals and am wondering if other people have used them or possibly even other legumes (such as split peas.)

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What is 'tempering' in relation to dal?  A dish, a method?  I'm not familiar with the term. 

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Tempering is the frying or dry roasting of spices (and sometimes other ingredients) to be added at some point in the cooking of a dish.  Tadka is the term used when they're added at the finish in Indian cooking. (I'm not sure if the term"tadka" only refers to them being added at the finish though, but that's often when it's done.) South Indian cooking often uses fried dal as a spice. And it's not dal that's already been cooked; it's just raw dal that gets fried.


Edited by Chimayo Joe (log)
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@Chimayo Joe  Thanks for the explanation.  I love fried urad dal as a snack but I have no idea what the answer to your question is.  Good luck!

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I have no authoritative answer to offer, but I believe it's just that they're small enough, and have the right texture, to crunch up nicely in your mortar and pestle with the other spices once they're toasted. 


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Perhaps @Kerala, @Vijayor some other member from India would care to weigh in on this topic? I am trying to learn more about Indian cuisine as well.


Edited by Thanks for the Crepes just remembered Vijay is in Bangalore (log)
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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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I looked through some Indian cookbooks and while urad and chana were by far the most commonly used dals for tadka (the term for fried spices regardless of when they're added during the cooking of the dish) , I did find a few instances of toor dal being used that way.  

 

Also, some of the sambar powder recipes in the cookbooks I examined used toor dal as an ingredient, and the sambar powder recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian has moong dal as an ingredient, so it appears it's not just urad and chana dal that are used as spices in South Indian cooking.

 

edit: I bought World Vegetarian a few days ago and am still looking through it, but I ran across a recipe where Jaffrey offers the choice of urad dal, chana dal, or yellow split peas in the tadka.  


Edited by Chimayo Joe Additional information (log)
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I left India as a child, so I'm no expert. I haven't come across this technique exactly in my mother's South Indian kitchen. We do something similar to tadka with kaduku, usually translated as mustard seeds. I have asked family the OP question, but with no further answer.

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One of my new cookbooks is Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts by Ammini Ramachandran.  It's a Keralan cookbook. I started looking through it today and ran across this in the Cooking Methods section:

 

"Seasoning or tempering (kaduku varakkal): Seasoning food with spices pan-fried in oil is a technique fundamental to many dishes. Most curries are seasoned with spices and herbs fried in a few spoons of oil. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat, and add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add halved dry chili peppers and curry leaves and remove the skillet from the stove. Pour the contents into the cooked curry. For certain curries, asafetida and urad and chana dal or coconut flakes are also fried with the mustard seeds and chili peppers. In some curries, instead of the seasoned oil, fresh curry leaves and a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil are stirred in."

 

 

I've skimmed through the recipes and would estimate that most of the book's recipes using the technique don't include dal, but very many do, usually urad dal or a combination of urad and chana dal.  I consider the recipes that fry the spices first then add the other ingredients to the spices to be a variation of the technique.  That seems pretty common when dal are used(possibly to give them time to soften up a bit?) I found it interesting that the author called the technique "kaduku varakkal" which seems to indicate how important mustard seeds are to tadka in Keralan cooking.

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Folks, 

I grew up in India and have learned cooking in india and read and experimented voraciously from both north and south, east and west Indian influences. Here is my answer: 

1. Tadka/ Chaunka/ Vaghaar/ Phodni/ Tempering are all names of the same method. The method is the TOP LAYER OF SEASONING

 

In Gujarat, the top layer of seasoning may have green curry leaves, asafoetida, sesame seeds and mustard or cumin seeds heated in a spoonful of oil and then placed on top of the cooked dish as a top layer of seasoning. The garnish may be some chopped cilantro. 

 

In Maharashtra the top layer may be red chili powder, asafoetida, turmeric, mustard seeds and peppercorns heated in oil. The garnish may be fresh grated coconut and green chilies

 

In south India the top layer seasoning may be ‘urad daal and channa dal’, green chilies and red chilies whole, green curry leaves, mustard seeds and coriander seeds whole all heated in oil. There may quite well be some roasted urad and channa dals that start off the cooking of the dish as well. 

 

In Bengal there may be a top layer of seasoning of ‘garlic / mustard’ heated in oil. The garnish may be cilantro. But the dish may start off with onions garlic ginger poppy seeds and coconut. The oil will be mustard oil. In Bengal Kolkatta a top layer of ‘panch phoran’ is also common: panch Phoron/Phoran is 5 seeds: Cumin, Mustard, Fenugreek, Fennel and Dry coriander. Fried in a littler mustard oil. 

 

In Punjab the top layer of seasoning would likely be ‘cumin, fenugreek seeds or leaves, asafoetida heated in mustard oil. Or it could be onions garlic and tomato pieces heated in mustard oil. Or it could be deep fried onion slices. 

 

In Kashmir the top layer may be fennel seeds, raisins, cashew nuts, pine nuts all fried in a little mustard oil. The cooking may also involve poppy seed paste. 

 

Bhukhhad

 

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Thank you for sharing your breadth of knowledge!  Very interesting.  I love cooking your county’s cuisine.  It is never tiring.  

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18 hours ago, Bhukhhad said:

Folks, 

I grew up in India and have learned cooking in india and read and experimented voraciously from both north and south, east and west Indian influences. Here is my answer: 

1. Tadka/ Chaunka/ Vaghaar/ Phodni/ Tempering are all names of the same method. The method is the TOP LAYER OF SEASONING

 

Very informative. Thanks.  Is there a different name (or names) for an assortment of spices, curry leaves, asafoetida, etc. that's fried in oil at the beginning to which other components of the recipe are added?  An example would be this recipe for Batata Nu Shaak: https://www.tarladalal.com/Bateta-Nu-Shaak-Batata-Nu-Shaak-601r

 

Would the initial fried spices not be called tadka or the other names you mentioned? 

 


Edited by Chimayo Joe (log)

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2 hours ago, Chimayo Joe said:

Very informative. Thanks.  Is there a different name (or names) for an assortment of spices, curry leaves, asafoetida, etc. that's fried in oil at the beginning to which other components of the recipe are added?  An example would be this recipe for Batata Nu Shaak: https://www.tarladalal.com/Bateta-Nu-Shaak-Batata-Nu-Shaak-601r

 

Would the initial fried spices not be called tadka or the other names you mentioned? 

 

 

 

2 hours ago, Chimayo Joe said:

Very informative. Thanks.  Is there a different name (or names) for an assortment of spices, curry leaves, asafoetida, etc. that's fried in oil at the beginning to which other components of the recipe are added?  An example would be this recipe for Batata Nu Shaak: https://www.tarladalal.com/Bateta-Nu-Shaak-Batata-Nu-Shaak-601r

 

Would the initial fried spices not be called tadka or the other names you mentioned? 

 

 

Tarla Dalal is among our original well knows chefs Chimayo Joe. The dish made here is very much a dish from gujarat. And yes that is a vaghaar or tempering. But it is done as the first step here. Your answer is probably that both are called ‘vaghaar or phodni or tadka’. And it is specified if this vaghaar is at the start or end. Sometimes the dish benefits from a top spice layer, like in ‘khaman dhokla’ or ‘patra’ where the tempering spices are similar to the starting vaghaar. (Though khaman dhokla has only top spice vaghaar). 

Sometimes there are two: a tadka of cumin, chilies, onion and tomato to start the dish and a tadka of freshly fried onions on top of a daal. The difference could be that the start may be in oil and the top in ghee. 

As many versions as there are cooks! Excellent question. 

I am so happy that I can write about food and real cooks read it. There is no other place like this forum. 

Bhukhhad


Edited by Bhukhhad (log)
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