In most Indian cooking, spices are used in cooking with a method called Vaghar (taraka or chownk, spice flavored oil) to bring out the flavor of spices.
For Vaghar, oil is heated and then mustard seeds (rai) or cumin seeds (jeeru) or fenugreek seeds (methi) or ajawain (ajamo) are added. The seeds are heated through until they are golden brown or they starts to pop and then more spices are added into oil.
When cooking vegetables, Vaghar is prepared first and then vegetables are added in the spice flavored oil (Vaghar) to cook. To make dal (split beans), it is precooked in the pressure cooker and then water is added to make it into soup like consistency. The dal is simmered with dry spices for a few minutes and then Vaghar is added on top of dal. With kathol (whole beans), it is precooked in pressure cooker and then it is either cooked as a vegetable or as a dal like soup.
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