Now that I’ve got your attention…

Peter from Boston MA, USA asks:

“In what cases do dried lentils, beans and dhal need to be soaked before cooking them? Are there some that don’t need soaking?”

My reply:

A very good question, thank you. Also a complex subject.

There are two issues: digestibility and cooking time. All legumes seem to benefit from soaking in as much as their oligosaccharide content is reduced by discarding the soak water, leading to less potential for flatus. Some cooks are happy to not discard the soak water, arguing that some nutrients are lost. Fine, if you don’t mind farting.

From my experience, all ‘big’ beans like chickpeas, cannelini, kidney, lima, soya etc., should be soaked overnight in cold water and then drained before cooking.

Some dals and split lentils must be soaked lest they take forever to cook, like chickpeas and chana dal. However, toor dal, whole moong etc seems to go either way, in other words, they do fine to not soak them, but cook quicker when soaked.

Finally, legumes like red lentils and split moong dal seem to do fine without soaking.

Note that the mineral content of the soak/cooking water also affects cooking time. In hard water, soak all legumes regardless, and try to cook them in distilled water.

Also note that adding salt, anything sour(acidic) and anything sweet to cooking legumes drastically extends their cooking time.

In conclusion:

Cooking Time: It depends on the bean in question, and the discretion and experience of the cook. Some beans MUST be soaked to cook appropriately, some can go either way, and some need not be soaked.

Digestibility: Although it depends on the experience and discretion of the cook as to the need for soaking, all legumes (and thus the lower intestines of those consuming) seem to benefit from soaking then discarding the soak water before boiling.
Posted by Kurma on 13/12/06; 8:09:11 AM f

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