Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper
Bean Family leguminosae (Fabaceae)
Common Names: Black gram, Urad dal, urd bean, urad bean, minapa pappu, black matpe bean, mungo bean or Haricot urd, urd (French). Feijão urida (Portuguese). Mchooko mweusi (Swahili).
Whole Black Gram (Sabut Urad Dal)
Black Gram (Urad Dal) Whole with Skin, Whole Skinless, and Split with Skin
Black gram is usually sold whole, whole skinless, split with skin or split skinless as seen above in this photo.
Production of Black Gram
Black gram is mainly grown in India, and to some extent throughout tropical Asia. It’s also grown in some countries in Africa. In the US and Australia it’s mainly grown as a fodder crop. India is the major producer and consumer of black gram. (PROTA)
Important Points to Note
Whole Black gram (Vigna mungo) is sometimes marketed as black lentil but it’s not a lentil. Please do not confuse black gram with Black beluga lentils (Lens culinaris) see the picture.
Also the hulled split grams may sometimes be marketed as white lentils but again, it’s not a lentil (Lens culinaris).
In general black gram may be called black lentils but it’s not a lentil. It’s a gram.
Whole Black Gram (Sabut Urad Dal)
Black gram is popular in Northern India where the bean is boiled and eaten whole, or after splitting, made into Dal (black gram soup).
The whole gram is best soaked overnight and cooked slowly over low fire until it’s falling apart. With modern advancements it’s now mostly cooked using a pressure cooker.
The whole gram is very popular in the Punjabi cuisine where it’s used to make Dal Makhani (Dal Makhni). The primary ingredients are whole black gram (Urad Dal), red kidney beans (rajma), butter and cream. It can also be prepared with yoghurt or dairy.
The whole gram has an unusual mucilaginous texture and is also used as a seasoning. A teaspoon or two is sautéed in hot ghee at the beginning of cooking to give a nutty flavour, add texture and thicken the dish.
Split Black Gram
The split black gram are also known as Chilka Urad dal. It does not requite soaking but can be soaked for 30 minutes only otherwise the skin might come off.
It’s used to make Dal (black gram soup). The split gram is first boiled with turmeric and salt and then different seasonings (tadka) are made using different ingredients and added before serving to flavour it. This process of making seasoning is called tempering.
Whole Skinless Black Gram
Whole skinless black gram is a key ingredient in making the idli-dosa batter, where one part of black gram is mixed with three or four parts of idli rice and ground with a little water to make a thick batter that is fermented before use. (see how to make dosa batter at home-Ruchi’s Vegetarian Kitchen)
Also the batter for vada or udid vada is made from soaked urad, by grinding with a little water and then mixing it with other spices and deep frying the batter in cooking oil. (See Malinis Space-Vada Recipe)
The skinless gram is a key ingredient in making batter for several recipes by soaking rice and skinless gram and grinding them into a batter, then fermenting. (see three different breakfast recipes)
Black gram flour (Urad Atta): is made into ‘papadum’ (a crispy indian cracker usually served as an appetizer or with drinks in Indian restaurants). I have always wondered how they are made and today I found a very good you-tube video on how to make papadum (Papa). I think I’m going to try it some time next week. How exciting!
The skinless whole Urad dal can also be made into dal (back gram soup).
How to Make Urad Papadum
Black gram is exported to Japan to make black gram seed sprouts. (PROTA)
Green immature pods are eaten as a vegetable.
Pods and foliage can be used to supplement cattle feed or as forage-pods feed to cattle after grain is removed.
Black Gram Flour is used as a substitute for soap. It makes the skin soft and smooth (PROTA)
Seeds sometimes sown as a cover crop or for green manure.
Black gram is very rich in protein and carbohydrate. It also has a good amount of folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Its very nutritious.
100g 3.5oz black gram has about 8.6g water, 351 calories, 25.1g protein, 1.8g fat, 61g carbohydrate and a fair amount of B-vitamins.
100g 3.5oz provides the following Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA): Folate (B9) 54%, Iron (58%), Magnesium (75%), Phosphorus (54%) Zinc (35%)
Black gram is closely related to Green Gram (Mung Dal)
Black gram is closely related to green gram but they are different in colour and taste as well as nutrition and use. Both are used to make Dal (soup).
Three taxa are distinguished within Vigna mungo: (PROTA)
- var. mungo, with large, black-seeded and early-maturing cultivars
- var. viridis Bose, with greenish dull or glossy seeds and late-maturing cultivars
- var. silvestris Lukoki, Maréchal & Otoul, the wild type. Compared to cultivated types it is smaller, more climbing, more hairy, with denser inflorescences and small seeds with prominent raised aril; it is considered the ancestor of the cultivated black gram.
- For cultivated types a classification into cultivars and cultivar groups would be more appropriate.
A summary of the edible Vigna species
- Vigna radiata (L.) R. Wilczek. also known as Mung Bean, Moong Bean, Green Gram, Golden Gram, Haricot mungo, Mungo, haricot doré
- Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper also known as black gram, urad bean, minapa pappu, mungo bean or black matpe bean. V.mungo and V. radiata are very closely related.
- Vigna umbellata (Thunb.) Ohwi & H.Ohashi also known as rice bean.
- Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Maréchal. It is commonly called mat bean, moth bean, matki, Turkish gram or dew bean.
- Vigna angularis (Willd.) Ohwi & H. Ohashi : Adzuki bean, Aduki Bean or Azuki Bean
- Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. Also known as: Black Eyed Pea, Cowpea, Pea Bean, Black Eyed-Bean, China Pea, Bombay Cowpea. Southern Peas, Black eye Peas, Crowder Peas, California blackeyed pea. Also includes the yardlong beans.