The variety of legumes used in Indian cooking is truly amazing. So is the variety of ways Indian cooks use them, Tripeler notes on Chowhound, citing a range of dals that goes from luxurious to lean. At the rich end of the spectrum there’s dal makhani (butter dal). It’s made with kali dal (black lentils), also known as sabut urad, and large amounts of cream and butter—a whole stick per recipe (though it’s possible to cut that in half). “It is a party dish,” Rasam explains, “but no reason not to make it at home, especially during the cold winter months and have a party-of-one.”
The leaner side of legumes is exemplified by chana masala, a dish of chickpeas cooked in a richly spiced, low-fat sauce of onions, ginger, and garlic, plus a souring element (tomato or tamarind—check out this typical recipe from CHOW.com). Indian grocery stores sell boxes of premade chana masala spice, but you can make your own from scratch. Dried chickpeas work well. If you use canned, make sure they’re a brand that’s quite soft, Rasam says. Firm canned chickpeas won’t be as good.
Photo of sweet-and-sour chickpeas by blue room