Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mung Bean Dal

I'm calling this Mung Bean Dal, but you could use any kind of split peas or lentils. If you use lentils or split peas you will need to reduce the cooking time to about 35-45 minutes. Once you begin the cooking process things go quickly at first, so have all of your vegetables prepped and spices measured and ready to go.

Often times when making Indian food it's OK to make substitutions when you don't have a certain spice. However, I think that the fenugreek seeds are what give this recipe the most delicious aspect of it's flavor. You can find fenugreek seeds at Indian or African grocery stores, specialty spice stores, some well stocked spice sections in the regular grocery store, or online. They look like a malformed tan grain (maybe kind of like buckwheat groats). Once you smell them you will recognize the scent if you eat a lot of Indian food.

Since fenugreek is a big, chunky, whole spice (as are some of the other spices you'll be using) you either need to toast it and then grid it, or cook it in a screaming hot pan until it explodes (I prefer the second method because it's easier).

2-3 Tbsp. unrefined coconut oil or canola oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. corriander seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 large white or yellow onion, minced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 large tomatoes, minced with their juice or 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 c. mung beans or split peas or lentils, sorted, rinsed and drained
Vegetable broth (8 c. or more)
Juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon, about 2 Tbsp.
Fresh cilantro (1/2 c. or more as you like)

1)  Heat the oil over high heat in a large soup pot. Once small wisps of smoke arise from the oil add the cumin seeds, corriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds. Quickly throw the seeds into the oil and place the lid on the pot. The seeds should immediately begin popping and then calm down after about 30 seconds.

2) After 30 seconds of popping seeds, turn the heat down to medium and put in the onion, garlic and ginger and stir to mix. You want to do this step quickly so that you don't burn the seeds. Continue to saute the onions, garlic and ginger until soft but no browned, about 5-7 minutes.

3) Once the onions are softened add the other spices (curry powder, salt, turmeric, paprika, and cumin powder. If you happen to have some amchur around you could toss in 1/2 tsp. of that as well).

4) Mix the spices with the onions to coat and then add the 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste and let it melt as you stir it around to mix it with the onions.

5) Add the diced or crushed tomatoes, the mung beans and about 4 c. of vegetable broth (or more if you need it to submerge the beans). Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a low boil/high simmer, and let it cook for at least1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are completely tender. Make sure to add more liquid as necessary if it starts to evaporate too much, I usually end up adding another 4 c. of broth as the beans cook.

6) Once the beans are completely tender, continue to let it cook until the liquid evaporates to your desired thickness, keeping in mind it will continue to thicken a bit after it cools. Add about 1/2 c. of fresh cilantro and the fresh lemon juice, and stir to incorporate. Serve garnished with additional cilantro over rice or with naan bread.

This makes about 8-10 servings.


  1. Thanks for this recipe and post - I have always been intimidated by fenugreek, but now I am going to try your exploding in a hot pan method! A spicy Dal seems like just the thing on these freezing cold days!

  2. Oh, good! I'm making this again on Monday for some friends coming to visit because I'm already craving more of it. Have you been able to make it to the Heartland yet?