South indian recipes often seem to call for adding dry/rinsed raw urad dal (or even bigger pulses) straight into the oil with the spices at the beginning, or adding them into a tadka that is added later .. as expected, naively following that advice often leaves some or all of them very hard/crunchy/sometimes inedible in the finished dish. Is there a soaking/parboiling method that should be used and that recipe writers tend to assume you know to employ, and/or are there rules of thumb how the dish being cooked must/must not be treated after adding the raw dal or tadka to avoid such errors?

  • Have you noticed this problem in multiple bags of dry dal? I've done a lot of sauteing with various types of lentils and grains over the years, and the only time I've had the problem you mention is when I've had a bad batch of lentils or very old ones that wouldn't cook properly. – Athanasius May 7 '15 at 18:14
  • So the way you used them, they were not presoaked nor extensively braised? – rackandboneman May 7 '15 at 19:28
  • Nope - only rinsing a few times. Admittedly, I've never done it with whole urad dal, though I've done it with split urad dal, as well as maybe 10 or so other kinds of lentils, and various whole grains too. Many recipes call for a step where you put the dry lentils or grains in the saute for a while and/or "sweat" them (e.g., with vegetables) before adding significant amounts of liquid. I've rarely had "crunchy" results, when it seemed due to a bad batch of lentils. Are you sure you're cooking them long enough? Sometimes recipe times are too short or batches of lentils take longer to cook. – Athanasius May 8 '15 at 13:06
  • I meant whole as in not ground :) And I have no idea how long these are supposed to be cooked when used like that, that is exactly part of my question. – rackandboneman May 8 '15 at 13:21
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    Well, if you haven't tried just cooking them longer, that's what I'd try first. When you saute the lentils dry, they may take a longer time to cook, but they should eventually soften (at least in my experience). I usually don't just go by time when cooking beans and lentils: I wait until they've achieved the texture I like. Now, if you cook them for a very long time (say, 2-3 times longer than usual) and they never soften or still have a "gritty" texture, that could be a different problem, which in my experience is usually fixed by buying a new bag of lentils/beans. – Athanasius May 8 '15 at 13:41

I believe raw urad dal is meant to be split urad dal as mentioned by @Athanasius .
Any dal you use make sure it is split and not whole otherwise i will not temper properly.
Whole dal becomes too hard or burnt in oil.
For me the dal becomes crunchy and it is supposed to be a bit hard(not teeth breaking hard but like bits of corn seeds in pop corn).
It would never become completely soft as you are tempering it. Rather than soaking in water i would suggest roasting them in oven or low gas heat before you use it to temper if your dal stays to hard for you.
Like Daliya (Roasted chana dal) that we use in Idli chatney, gives nice crunch to your chutney. I hope this helps.

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