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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mung Dal with Garlic

Sometimes one comes across a dish in their life that stays with them forever. The taste and fragrance of the food gets so deeply embedded in your mind that just a whiff of a similar smell and it can take you back to the first time you tasted it. This dish for me is this particular prepartion of mung dal (split yellow mung). I still remember the first time I tasted it. I was a kid in school and had accompanied my parents to a place near Nashik (a city in Maharashtra). For the week that we were there, we lived in the guest house which had a large dining hall. We had to go to the dining hall for every meal and I was absolutely fascinated by the place. It was large, had lots of tables and the plates and bowls used to always be arranged on the tables, but were always kept inverted. We needed to place them back in the upright, correct position and then the servers would come out and serve us the food. I can't remember a lot about the trip, but the memory of this dal is deeply entrenched in memory and my senses. Ever since I started experimenting with recipes, I have been trying to determine the right ingredients and proportions, so that I could taste it again. And I finally got the exact taste last week!!  I am delirious with joy that I was able to recreate the recipe. While it is extremely simple, it is delicious and the perfect comfort food to take me back into the cosy comfort of childhood.

1 cup mung dal - split, peeled yellow mung dal
a pinch of asafoetida/hing
1/2 tsp turmeric
2-3 tsp oil
1/4 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
3 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 green chilli, slit lenghtwise into two
10 curry leaves
1/4 cup cilantro/corriander leaves, chopped
3-4 cups  water
salt to taste

Wash the mung dal three times and then add two cups of water, asafoetida and turmeric to it. Pressure cook it if possible as it will be the fastest method to cook ot. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can boil it on the stove top till it is cooked through and is soft and mushy. You may need to add more water if needed.

In a deep pan, heat the oil, add the jeera seeds. Once they start to crackle, add the curry leaves. Then add the garlic and green chilli and let that fry for a minute. We don't want the garlic to start turning brown. As soon as the garlic looks cooked, add the cooked mung dal. Then add water. Add at least 1 cup of water. You may want to add more water if you want a thinner consistency. Add salt. Bring the dal to a boil. Turn off the heat and immediately add the cilantro leaves. Serve hot with rice or roti/chapati. You can also serve it as a lentil soup. It is just delicious on its own.

If you are not pressure cooking the dal, you can soak it for an hour before you cook it. That will reduce the cooking time. You can also use dry red chilli instead of green chilli, but that will change the taste of the dal slightly. Mung dal thickens up as it cools down and you may want to add additional water to thin it out while reheating.


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