Dal is one of the staples of Indian cuisine, and comes in many forms. The term "dal" refers to a paste-like dish made from various types of beans. Dal is also sometimes used to refer to the beans themselves, although "gram" is the appropriate term for beans when used in Indian cuisine.
Urad gram is black lentil beans, which are also sometimes sold as "white lentils" when the black husks have been removed. Urad dal is made from the white lentil variety - these can occasionally be found in American supermarkets, but are more commonly found at Indian specialty grocers.
Here is an easy recipe for urad dal. Most of the spices used in this dish are readily available in supermarkets, except for garam masala, which can be ordered online or purchased from an Indian grocer.
1cup basmati rice
1 cup dried white lentils
1 tsp grated ginger
1 medium white onion, finely diced
2 fresh jalapeno or green chili peppers, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp ground hot red chilis (I have used ground cayenne pepper, with good success)
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Cook basmati rice in a rice cooker or large saucepan according to directions.
Rinse the white lentils and soak in water for 15 minutes. Boil in 5 cups of water until lentils are soft (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.
Add oil to a large pan and heat for a few minutes. Add ground cloves and coriander seeds, heat for 30 seconds or until coriander seeds begin to pop. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapenos, heat for another 30 seconds. add ground red chili, turmeric, cloves and stir for 15 seconds.
Add cooked white lentils, lemon juice, and garam masala, heat for 2-3 minutes while stirring frequently.
Serve with basmati rice.