Pigeon peas, also known as “toor/toovar dal” in India, are red gram belonging to the pulse category. This high-in-protein legume is known by many other names in India and across the world such as arhar dal in Hindi, Caja Pea, Congo Pea, Gungo Pea in the African and Mexican countries and as No-eye Pea in English speaking countries. Native to Africa, pigeon peas are actually beans that have a beige skin with brown speckles all over. Pigeon pea recipes tend to have a pungent and mealy flavor to them. They lighten in color when cooked. In the cuisines where this bean is used rice is generally served with the cooked pigeon peas.
History of Pigeon Pea Recipes
Pigeon peas have a history as old as 3000 years, when it is believed to have been cultivated in Asia and then carried to East Africa. It was much later, when the African slaves were taken to America, did pigeon pea recipes gain prominence in that country. However, there are some mixed reports that say that pigeon peas were first cultivated in Africa, Egypt to be specific around 2400 – 2200 BC, from where it was carried to India and other Southeast Asian countries by the traders. Today, there are many delicious recipes that are made with the highly flavored toor dal or pigeon peas.
Culinary Uses of Pigeon Peas
Pigeon peas are generally cooked with rice, wherein, these slow cooking beans result in a thick and rich broth that is delectable when eaten along with rice. This kind of a well balanced meal is not only rich in proteins and important amino acids, but also in carbohydrates. Pigeon peas can be cooked in any form, when they are fresh out of the pods, dried or even powdered. Based on its form, the pigeon pea recipes might vary. When one is cooking with dried pigeon peas, it is best to soak them overnight and then let them sprout, which not only makes them more delicious, but richer in nutrients. In fact, Ethiopians also cook and eat the young shoots and leaves of pigeon peas.
Popular Pigeon Pea Recipes
Pigeon peas are popular in Indian, African and Mexican cuisines and in American cuisine as well. Some popular pigeon pea recipes are –
- Indian – Sambhar is a popular pigeon pea recipe of Indian cuisine. This gravy dish is made by boiling the lentils along with certain vegetables as desired and it is then simmered along with certain spices to give it the very distinctive sambhar flavor. This side dish is generally served with boiled rice, idlis and even Indian roti. Other popular pigeon pea recipes of this cuisine include a combination of the lentil and vegetables, toor dal with dumplings and a popular Parsi dish made with pigeon peas is Dhansaag, which is a combination of the lentil and meat.
- Jamaican - Chileheads Jamaican Rice and Peas is a popular recipe of this cuisine. This delicious rice dish gets its flavor from pigeon peas and roasted habanero chilies. Chicken jerky is the ideal side dish to be served with this rice dish.
Other popular pigeon pea recipes of various cuisines mostly include a combination of this bean with rice, such as Mexican Rice with Pigeon Peas, Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas, etc.
Non-culinary Uses of Pigeon Peas
Pigeon peas indirectly contribute towards making of green manure, by supplementing the depleted nitrogen levels in the soil.
The woody stems of pigeon pea are also used for thatching, fencing and as firewood.
Pigeon Peas: Trivia
Pigeon peas are grown as a host plant for scale insects that produce ‘lac’, in Thailand.