Are you still buying your lentils and pulses in a normal grocery store?

STOP! Step away from that box of overpriced lentils and come with me. To where lentils are sold in kilogram bags, where you are not limited to two varieties, or to sad colourless beans floating in slime. Come to the Promised Land, where you buy your lentils in kilograms and pay the same price as you do in the normal store.

Red lentils

Did you know that red lentils are just the skinned variety of the brown lentil? Neither did I! By far the most familiar and easy to prepare lentil, these guys don’t need soaking. Just rinse well in lots of water (this helps rid them of extra starch) and don’t forget to give them a quick once over to remove tiny stones if necessary. The trick to making lentils delicious is to cook with enough oil. Clarified butter is traditional but why not coconut oil?

Split peas / Chana dal

These are a chunkier but still mild and delicious lentil that would benefit from soaking overnight to speed up cooking. Some believe that soaking lentils gets rid of their more gaseous properties so soak away. Chana dal do hold their shape so they work well also in lentil curries if you want a little more bite to it, and patties. If cooked long enough, they will become a velvety smooth soup of the Gods.

Mung dal

Tiny and yellow, these are really quick cooking and super mild in flavour. In twenty minutes you’ll have a meal on the table. Add coconut milk, any spices you fancy or blend in cooked sweet potato for a fabulous soup. This lentil is a really easy one. It’s also used in some sweet preparations when the skin has been removed.

Urad dal

An ancient lentil, it cooks up a touch on the slimy side but has a lovely grassy and creamy flavour. South Indians also use it in dosai batter, where the white urad dal (split with skin removed) is mixed with rice flour and fermented in a warm place before cooking on a hot skillet. The legendary dal makhani is always made with urad dal.

Tania Nathan is a Chinese-Sri Lankan Malaysian who loves her food and is often to be found rummaging through a freezer somewhere in Hakaniemi. Come say hi!


The uses for chickpeas are so varied that I’d run out of space if I tried to list them all. But are they worth to buy dry? Definitely! Dried chickpeas are not only cheaper, but also tastier. Soak overnight, and boil for 20 minutes with a little salt and they’re ready to go. They also sprout very well and can be eaten raw in a salad. I’ve heard that if you add a little baking soda to the boiling water the skins of the chickpeas will be softer. Try it!

Black eyed peas

A must in Caribbean cooking too, black eyed peas need a pre-soak and then a quick boil before you use them. They have a nice beany flavour, are not as floury as kidney beans on the tongue and hold their shape well in stews. Substitute in peas and rice if you can’t find their distant relative, pigeon peas which are traditionally used.

Adzuki beans

Like little red versions of the black eyed peas, you can use adzuki beans or red beans in desserts. Soak and cook with lots of sugar, add coconut milk, rinsed tapioca pearls cook through and enjoy warm. It’s a treat for Chinese and Japanese cuisine.