Trouble is, there aren’t many places that sell small quantities of those dried split chickpeas or split lentils. Curry leaves typically are in short supply even at Indian markets. So just how important are they to this dish?
“The dal are used for texture and color,” Agrawal says, and they impart a slight nuttiness. The choice of either chana or urad has more to do with her family’s preferences; chana dal are a bit more substantial, and both bring a tiny amount of protein to the party. You don’t have to use them or the curry leaves here, she says. But if you do, the author calls for them in some spice blends in the book. And here are a few other ways to use the dal:
● Soak the chana dal for two hours in room-temperature water; they will become quite soft. Drain well and sprinkle them into salads.
● Use the urad dal to make dosas.
● Both dals can be used in your favorite lentil soup recipes; soak them overnight before using. They may take longer to cook than green, brown or red lentils, Agrawal says.
● To make falafel, soak chana dal in water for about two hours, then coarsely grind it with spices and herbs. Shape into patties or balls and fry it; this is called ambode.
Agrawal likes to serve the vegetable polenta dish with a dollop of yogurt or pat of butter on top, or one of the small-batch pickles her company makes.