What is Black gram
Black gram, scientifically known as Vigna mungo, is a type of legume that is native to South Asia. It is commonly cultivated and consumed in various countries in the Indian subcontinent, as well as in other parts of Asia. Black gram is also known by several other names, including urad bean, urd bean, black lentil, and matpe bean.
Here are some key characteristics and uses of black gram:
- Appearance: Black gram is a small, black or dark brown, oval-shaped bean with a white interior. The whole beans are small, about the size of a lentil, and they have a black skin.
- Culinary Uses: Black gram is a versatile legume used in a variety of culinary preparations. It is a staple ingredient in many traditional Indian dishes, such as dals (lentil soups), curries, and dosa (a type of savory pancake). It can be used whole or split, and its creamy texture and earthy flavor make it a popular choice for vegetarian and vegan dishes.
- Nutritional Value: Black gram is a good source of protein, dietary fiber, and essential nutrients like iron, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. It is also low in fat, which makes it a healthy choice for those looking to incorporate more plant-based protein into their diet.
- Health Benefits: Consuming black gram can have several health benefits. It is known to aid in digestion, promote cardiovascular health, and help regulate blood sugar levels due to its high fiber and protein content. It is also considered a good food source for vegetarians and vegans.
- Varieties: There are different varieties of black gram, and the most common ones include the whole black gram, split black gram with the black skin (urad dal), and split black gram with the skin removed (white urad dal).
- Culinary Preparations: Black gram is used in various Indian dishes, such as dal makhani, a creamy lentil curry, and idli, a popular South Indian steamed rice cake. It can also be ground into a batter to make dosa and vada, which are savory snacks.
In addition to its culinary uses, black gram is also grown for its straw, which can be used as fodder for livestock or as a source of organic matter for soil improvement. Overall, black gram is an essential ingredient in many traditional South Asian cuisines and plays a significant role in the region’s culinary heritage.
Other Names of Black gram
Black gram goes by various names in different regions and languages due to its widespread cultivation and use across Asia. Here are some of the common names for black gram:
- Urad Bean: This is a common name used for black gram in many English-speaking regions, especially in India.
- Urd Bean: Another variation of the name “urad bean,” which is commonly used to refer to black gram.
- Black Lentil: Black gram is sometimes called black lentil due to its small size and appearance, which resembles lentils.
- Mungo Bean: In some regions, black gram is referred to as mungo bean, which is related to its scientific name, Vigna mungo.
- Matpe Bean: This name is used for black gram in some parts of Southeast Asia and is derived from its scientific name.
- Minapa Pappu: In Telugu, a South Indian language, black gram is known as “minapa pappu.”
- Ulundu: In Tamil, another South Indian language, black gram is called “ulundu.”
- Uzhunnu: In Malayalam, a language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala, black gram is known as “uzhunnu.”
- Urad Dal: This term specifically refers to the split and husked black gram, which is commonly used in Indian cooking.
- Mashkalai: In Bengali, black gram is referred to as “mashkalai.”
- Kaali Daal: In Hindi, black gram is sometimes simply called “kaali daal,” which means black lentils.
- Maash: In Punjabi, black gram is known as “maash.”
These are just a few of the many regional and local names for black gram. The name can vary from one region to another, and it may also be known by different names in various dialects and languages within a single country like India, where it is widely cultivated and consumed.
Nutritional Value of Black gram
Here is the nutritional value of black gram (per 100 grams) presented in a tabular form:
|Nutrient||Amount per 100g|
|Dietary Fiber||18.3 grams|
|Saturated Fat||0.189 grams|
|Monounsaturated Fat||0.29 grams|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||0.519 grams|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids (ALA)||0.124 grams|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||0.394 grams|
|– Vitamin A (IU)||6 IU|
|– Vitamin C||5.4 mg|
|– Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol)||0.02 mg|
|– Vitamin K (Phylloquinone)||0.9 µg|
|– Thiamin (Vitamin B1)||0.273 mg|
|– Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||0.254 mg|
|– Niacin (Vitamin B3)||1.447 mg|
|– Vitamin B6||0.17 mg|
|– Folate (Vitamin B9)||54 µg|
|– Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)||0.19 mg|
|– Choline||48.2 mg|
|– Calcium||138 mg|
|– Iron||7.57 mg|
|– Magnesium||235 mg|
|– Phosphorus||351 mg|
|– Potassium||983 mg|
|– Sodium||38 mg|
|– Zinc||2.68 mg|
|– Copper||0.801 mg|
|– Manganese||1.932 mg|
|– Selenium||4.3 µg|
Please note that these values are approximate and can vary slightly based on factors like growing conditions and preparation methods. Black gram is a nutritious legume known for its protein, fiber, and various essential vitamins and minerals. It is a valuable ingredient in many diets, especially in regions where it is commonly consumed.
Benefits of Black Gram
Black gram (Vigna mungo) offers a range of health benefits due to its rich nutritional profile. Here are some of the potential benefits of including black gram in your diet:
- High Protein Content: Black gram is an excellent source of plant-based protein, making it an important staple for vegetarians and vegans. Protein is essential for muscle growth, repair, and overall body function.
- Rich in Dietary Fiber: Black gram is high in dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, helps prevent constipation, and promotes a feeling of fullness. It also contributes to better gut health.
- Low in Fat: Black gram is low in fat, making it a healthy choice for those looking to manage their fat intake while still getting essential nutrients.
- Source of Vitamins: It contains various vitamins, including B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. These vitamins play crucial roles in energy metabolism, cell health, and overall well-being.
- Mineral Content: Black gram is rich in essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. Iron is especially important for preventing anemia and maintaining healthy blood.
- Antioxidant Properties: Black gram contains antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. This may have potential health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
- Blood Sugar Regulation: The dietary fiber and protein in black gram can help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream. This can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes.
- Heart Health: Consuming black gram may contribute to heart health by helping to lower cholesterol levels due to its fiber content. Additionally, its potassium content can support healthy blood pressure.
- Weight Management: The combination of protein and fiber in black gram can help promote a feeling of fullness and reduce overall calorie intake, potentially aiding in weight management.
- Bone Health: Black gram is a source of several minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium, which are essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones.
- Digestive Health: The fiber in black gram can help prevent digestive issues like constipation and promote a healthy gut environment by supporting beneficial gut bacteria.
- Nutrient Absorption: Black gram contains phytic acid, which can inhibit the absorption of certain minerals. However, traditional cooking methods like soaking and fermenting can help reduce phytic acid levels and enhance nutrient absorption.
It’s worth noting that while black gram offers numerous health benefits, it should be consumed as part of a balanced diet. Additionally, individuals with specific dietary restrictions or medical conditions should consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian before making significant dietary changes.
What Does Black Gram Taste Like
Black gram, when cooked, has a distinct taste that is often described as earthy, nutty, and slightly sweet. The flavor profile can vary somewhat depending on how it’s prepared and the spices and seasonings used in a particular dish.
Here are some characteristics of the taste of black gram:
- Earthy: Black gram has a natural earthiness to its flavor, which is typical of many legumes. This earthiness is mild and not overpowering.
- Nutty: It has a subtle nutty undertone, which adds a pleasant dimension to its taste.
- Slightly Sweet: Some people may detect a mild sweetness in black gram, especially when it’s well-cooked.
- Mild Bitterness: In some preparations, particularly when used with the skin on, black gram can have a slight bitterness. This bitterness can be balanced or enhanced by the use of spices and seasonings in various recipes.
- Creamy Texture: Beyond its taste, black gram is also known for its creamy texture when cooked. This makes it an ideal ingredient for dishes like dal (lentil soup) and curries.
The taste of black gram can be influenced by the cooking method, spices, and other ingredients used in various recipes. In Indian cuisine, for example, black gram is often used in dishes like dal makhani, where it’s simmered with spices, cream, and butter, resulting in a rich and flavorful dish. In South Indian cuisine, it’s used to make dosa and idli, which have a slightly different taste profile due to the fermentation process involved.
Ultimately, the taste of black gram is appreciated for its versatility and ability to absorb the flavors of the ingredients it’s cooked with, making it a key component of many delicious and diverse dishes in various cuisines.
How to Cook Black Gram
How to Cook Black Gram
- 1 cup whole black gram sabut urad dal
- Water for soaking
- Water for cooking
- Salt to taste
Optional Seasonings and Spices:
- 1-2 cloves of garlic minced or crushed
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1- inch piece of ginger grated
- 1-2 green chilies slit or chopped for heat
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder adjust to taste
- 1 teaspoon garam masala optional for flavor
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil or ghee clarified butter
- Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Rinse and Soak:
- Begin by rinsing the whole black gram in cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Drain the water.
- Place the washed black gram in a large bowl and cover it with enough water to submerge the beans by about 2 inches. Allow the black gram to soak for at least 4-6 hours or overnight. Soaking softens the beans and reduces cooking time.
Cook the Black Gram:
- After soaking, drain the water from the black gram and rinse it once more.
- Transfer the soaked black gram to a large pot or pressure cooker. Add enough fresh water to cover the beans by about 2-3 inches.
- If using a pressure cooker, close the lid and cook the black gram for about 10-12 whistles or until they are soft and tender. If using a regular pot, cook for about 1-2 hours, checking periodically and adding more water if needed. The cooking time can vary depending on the freshness of the beans.
- Once cooked, the black gram should be soft and easily mashable between your fingers. Drain any excess water.
Prepare Seasonings (Optional):
- In a separate pan, heat cooking oil or ghee over medium heat.
- Add cumin seeds and allow them to splutter.
- Add minced garlic, chopped onion, grated ginger, and green chilies. Sauté until the onions turn translucent.
Season the Black Gram (Optional):
- If you prepared the seasonings in step 3, add them to the cooked black gram.
- Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, and salt to taste. Stir well to combine.
- Simmer the mixture for a few more minutes to let the flavors meld. If you prefer a creamier consistency, you can mash some of the black gram with a spoon or ladle.
Finish with Garam Masala and Garnish:
- If desired, sprinkle garam masala over the cooked black gram for added flavor.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
- Serve your cooked black gram hot with rice, roti (Indian flatbread), or naan. It also makes a delicious filling for dosa or can be enjoyed as a standalone soup or curry.
How To Use Black Gram
Black gram (urad dal) is a versatile ingredient used in a wide range of dishes in Indian and South Asian cuisines. Here are several ways to use black gram in your cooking:
- Dal (Lentil Soup): Black gram is commonly used to make dal, a type of lentil soup. You can cook it with various spices and seasonings to create flavorful and nutritious soups. One popular dish is “Dal Makhani,” which includes black gram, kidney beans, and rich, creamy tomato-based sauce.
- Idli: Black gram is a key ingredient in making idli, a popular South Indian breakfast dish. The black gram is soaked, ground into a batter, and fermented before being steamed to make soft, fluffy idli cakes. They are typically served with coconut chutney and sambar.
- Dosa: Dosa is another South Indian favorite that uses black gram. The same batter used for idli can be used to make dosa, which are thin, crispy pancakes. They can be served with a variety of fillings or as a plain side dish with chutney and sambar.
- Vada: Black gram is used to make vada, deep-fried fritters. Medu vada, in particular, is a popular snack or breakfast item made from black gram batter. It has a crispy exterior and a soft interior and is often served with coconut chutney or sambar.
- Curries: Black gram can be used in various curry preparations. You can make a simple black gram curry with spices and tomatoes, or you can combine it with vegetables like spinach or fenugreek leaves to create nutritious and flavorful dishes.
- Fritters and Snacks: Black gram can be used to make snacks like pakoras (deep-fried fritters) or bondas (spiced dumplings). The soaked and ground black gram batter serves as the base for these snacks, and various ingredients like vegetables and spices can be added for flavor.
- Pancakes and Crepes: Black gram batter can also be used to make savory pancakes and crepes. These can be enjoyed for breakfast or as a light meal and are often filled with a variety of ingredients like onions, green chilies, and herbs.
- Spreads and Dips: You can create spreads and dips using black gram. For example, you can blend cooked black gram with spices, garlic, and yogurt to make a tasty dip or spread for bread or crackers.
- Rice Accompaniment: In some regions, cooked black gram is served as an accompaniment to rice and is known as “urad dal rice.” It’s often seasoned with simple spices and ghee (clarified butter).
- Baked Goods: Ground black gram flour can be used in baking to make items like gluten-free pancakes, bread, or snacks.
Remember that the preparation of black gram can vary from region to region and even from one dish to another, so it’s worth exploring different recipes to experience the diverse flavors and textures this versatile legume can offer.
Substitute for Black Gram
If you’re looking for a substitute for black gram (urad dal) in a recipe, it’s essential to consider the specific role black gram plays in the dish. Black gram is known for its unique flavor, texture, and ability to thicken dishes due to its high starch content. Here are some potential substitutes depending on the recipe:
- Mung Beans (Green Gram): Mung beans are a close relative of black gram and can often be used as a substitute. They have a milder flavor and a slightly different texture but work well in many similar dishes, such as dals, soups, and curries.
- Red Lentils: Red lentils (masoor dal) are another good option, especially for making dal or soups. They cook relatively quickly and have a mild, earthy flavor. Keep in mind that red lentils will not provide the same dark color as black gram.
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans): Chickpeas can be used as a substitute in some dishes, particularly if you are making a hummus-like spread or dip. However, their flavor is distinct from black gram, so the resulting dish may taste different.
- Yellow Split Peas: Yellow split peas are an option in certain recipes, especially if you’re making a thick soup or curry. They have a slightly nutty flavor and will add a different color to the dish.
- Split Pigeon Peas (Toor Dal): Toor dal is commonly used in Indian cooking and can replace black gram in many recipes. It has a similar cooking time and texture, although it has a slightly different flavor profile.
- White Lentils (Urad Dal without Skin): If your recipe calls for skinless black gram (white urad dal), you can use regular urad dal without the skin as a substitute. The flavor and texture will be similar.
- Bengal Gram (Chana Dal): In some recipes, such as certain curries, you can use chana dal (split chickpeas) as a substitute. It has a nutty flavor and can add a unique taste to the dish.
- Soybeans: In some applications, soybeans can be used as a substitute for black gram, especially when making a textured protein or tofu. However, soybeans have a strong flavor, so they may not be suitable for all recipes.
- Adzuki Beans: Adzuki beans can be used in certain dishes, particularly sweet recipes. They have a slightly sweet flavor and can work as a substitute in some dessert recipes that call for black gram.
- Other Legumes: Depending on the recipe, you can consider other legumes such as black-eyed peas, kidney beans, or even brown lentils as substitutes. However, keep in mind that the flavor and texture may differ significantly.
When substituting black gram, it’s essential to consider the specific flavor and texture you want to achieve in your dish. Experimenting with different legumes can lead to new and exciting culinary creations, but be aware that the final result may not be identical to the original recipe using black gram.
Where to Buy
You can purchase black gram (urad dal) from various sources, depending on your location and preferences. Here are some common places where you can buy black gram:
- Grocery Stores: Most well-stocked grocery stores, especially those that cater to Indian, South Asian, or international cuisines, will carry black gram. Look in the dried beans and lentils section.
- Specialty Asian or Indian Grocery Stores: These stores often have a wide selection of lentils, including black gram, and may offer various varieties like whole, split with skin, or split and skinned.
- Online Retailers: You can purchase black gram from online retailers such as Amazon, eBay, and specialty food stores. This option provides convenience and access to various brands and packaging sizes.
- Local Farmers’ Markets: In some areas, local farmers’ markets may have vendors selling dried legumes like black gram. It’s a great way to support local producers and find high-quality ingredients.
- Cooperative Markets or Bulk Stores: Some cooperative markets or bulk food stores allow you to purchase legumes, including black gram, in bulk. This can be cost-effective if you use them frequently.
- Ethnic Food Markets: Stores that specialize in ethnic foods from South Asia, the Middle East, or Africa often carry a wide range of lentils and legumes, including black gram.
- Online Specialty Retailers: Some online specialty retailers focus on selling Indian or South Asian ingredients. They may offer a variety of lentils, including black gram, and deliver them to your doorstep.
- Local Farms and Farmers: If you have access to local farmers or farms that grow legumes, you may be able to purchase black gram directly from them, especially if they offer bulk sales or sell at farmers’ markets.
When buying black gram, consider factors such as the type (whole, split, skinned), quality, and brand if you have a preference. Be sure to check the expiration date or freshness of the product if possible. The packaging may vary from store to store, with options ranging from small bags to larger bulk quantities, so choose the one that best suits your needs.
How To Store Black Gram
Properly storing black gram (urad dal) is essential to maintain its freshness and prevent it from spoiling. Here are some guidelines on how to store black gram effectively:
1. Use Airtight Containers: Transfer the black gram from its original packaging to a clean, airtight container with a secure lid. This helps prevent moisture, pests, and air from getting inside, which can lead to spoilage.
2. Store in a Cool, Dry Place: Keep the airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Excessive heat and moisture can lead to the growth of molds and the development of unpleasant odors.
3. Keep Away from Moisture: Moisture is the enemy of dried legumes like black gram. Ensure that the storage area is dry, and avoid storing the container near sources of moisture, such as sinks, dishwashers, or open windows. If you live in a particularly humid climate, consider using moisture-absorbing packets or silica gel packs in the container to help keep the beans dry.
4. Check for Pests: Before storing, inspect the black gram for any signs of pests or insect infestations. If you notice any, discard the affected beans and consider freezing the remaining batch to kill any hidden pests.
5. Label and Date: Label the container with the date of purchase or storage to keep track of its freshness. Dried legumes, including black gram, have a long shelf life, but it’s good practice to use them within a reasonable timeframe to ensure quality.
6. Vacuum Sealing (Optional): For long-term storage, consider using a vacuum-sealing machine to remove air from the container entirely. Vacuum-sealing can help extend the shelf life of black gram.
7. Store Whole and Split Varieties Separately (Optional): If you have both whole and split black gram, it’s a good idea to store them in separate containers, as they may have different cooking times and requirements.
8. Keep in Mind Expiration Dates: While dried legumes like black gram have a long shelf life, it’s still a good idea to check for expiration or “use by” dates on the original packaging. Use older stock before newer stock to maintain freshness.
9. Freeze for Long-Term Storage (Optional): If you want to store black gram for an extended period, you can freeze it. Divide the black gram into portion-sized packets, place them in airtight freezer bags, and store them in the freezer. Freezing can extend the shelf life for up to a year or more.
By following these storage guidelines, you can ensure that your black gram remains fresh and maintains its quality over an extended period. Properly stored black gram can last for several months to a year, depending on storage conditions and whether you opt for freezing for long-term storage.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is black gram?
Black gram (Vigna mungo), also known as urad dal or urd bean, is a type of legume native to South Asia. It is commonly used in Indian cuisine and is known for its high protein and fiber content.
What are the different types of black gram?
Black gram is available in various forms, including whole black gram, split black gram with the skin (urad dal), and split black gram with the skin removed (white urad dal).
What dishes can I make with black gram?
Black gram is used to make a wide range of dishes, including dals (lentil soups), curries, dosa (savory pancakes), idli (steamed rice cakes), vada (fritters), and more.
What does black gram taste like?
Black gram has an earthy, nutty, and slightly sweet flavor. The taste can vary slightly depending on how it’s prepared and the spices used in the dish.
Is black gram healthy?
Yes, black gram is considered a healthy food. It is a good source of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is also low in fat and can be a part of a balanced diet.
How do I cook black gram?
Black gram can be cooked by soaking it in water for several hours and then boiling it until it becomes tender. It can be used in a variety of recipes, including soups, curries, and snacks.
Where can I buy black gram?
You can purchase black gram at grocery stores, specialty Asian or Indian markets, online retailers, local farmers’ markets, and bulk food stores.
How should I store black gram?
Store black gram in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and moisture. Label and date the container for easy tracking of freshness.
Can I freeze black gram?
Yes, you can freeze black gram for long-term storage. Divide it into portion-sized packets, place them in airtight freezer bags, and store them in the freezer for up to a year or more.
What are some common substitutes for black gram?
Common substitutes for black gram include mung beans, red lentils, split pigeon peas (toor dal), and yellow split peas. The choice of substitute depends on the recipe and desired flavor and texture.