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The outer hull is usually stripped off; dal that has not been hulled (whole) is described as chilka (skin), e.g. chilka mung dal chilka in Hindi/Urdu. The term dal is often contrasted with the term gram, used in the Indian subcontinent for pulses that are whole rather than split.

Dals are frequently eaten with flatbreads such as rotis or chapatis, or with rice, a combination referred to as dal bhat. Dals are high in protein relative to other plants.