As Raghavan Iyer explains in his new cookbook, Indian Cooking Unfolded, dals are a cornerstone of Indian cuisine, especially when you're talking about vegetarian cooking. They're relatively easy to make, full of protein and fiber, and offer countless variations in spice and color. You could probably live off of dals for weeks and rarely get bored.
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Yellow split peas get flavored with a blended paste of toasted spices, chiles, and tomato. Stirring in the paste towards the end of cooking allows the spices to retain their vibrancy.