Mung Dal Tadka

First a little produce information: Lentils and beans are plant seeds that grow in a pod. They thus belong to the family of legumes, which also include peas, chickpeas, lupins and in fact peanuts.

There is a bit of language confusion when it comes to distinguishing between lentils and beans. Often smaller specimen are called lentils and we have done that here too.

But that is not quite right. Mung dal is a name for the mung bean – strictly speaking, not a lentil. The fruit usually has a green skin, its interior is yellow.

For today’s dish, it is best to buy peeled and halved mung dal, as it cooks much faster in this form.

You will also need onions, ginger and garlic (grated), ghee or some neutral vegetable oil, tomatoes and fresh coriander. Spices are dried chillies (or Kashmiri chilli powder), cumin seeds, ground coriander and turmeric, garam masala and – not mandatory but recommended for digestibility – asafoetida. A squeeze of lemon would round off the flavour.

The mung dal is washed thoroughly in a sieve under running water to remove the dust that always clings to it

Now cook the mung dal in twice the amount of water for 25 – 35 minutes until soft, depending on the produce. You should not add salt at this point, with pulses this prolongs the cooking time immensely and only ensures unnecessary energy consumption.

It is an Indian dish and India is not called the subcontinent for nothing. There are probably about as many ways of preparing it as there are people in this country. Sometimes spices are added at this stage, but we don’t experience any taste advantage in that.

Even with washed mung dal, some foam will rise – so don’t put a lid on at first and skim off this foam

The dal is ready when you can easily crush it between two fingers. There should still be enough water in the pot to give the dish a creamy but not runny texture. If necessary, add a little water.

Soft but not disintegrated

In the meantime, prepare the tadka, the essential seasoning mix. Heat a little ghee (or neutral vegetable oil for the vegan version) in a pan over medium-high heat. Then add the cumin seeds and stir until they begin to smell fragrant.

This only takes a minute

Next, add the diced onions and sweat them. If you want to develop roast aromas, you can also brown them gently.

If you want to brown the onions, add salt gently, they will lose more liquid and the process will be faster

Now add ginger and garlic….

…and the dry spices, with the exception of garam masala.

Garam masala usually consists of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf – if it is used in ground form, it is always added at the end (otherwise right at the beginning, with the cumin seeds)

Cook again very briefly, stirring, until the flavours develop – no more than a minute.

A typical Indian cooking technique

Immediately add the diced tomatoes or tomato puree so that the roasted spices do not turn bitter.

The tadka is cooked, stirring gently, until most of the liquid has evaporated

Now we add the tadka to the pre-cooked mung dal….

…and mix it well.

Almost done

Now let the dal simmer gently for about 10 minutes so that the flavours combine nicely.

Then season with salt to taste.

If you want more flavour complexity, now is the time to add the garam masala.

That smells like it looks

After a few minutes, the aromas of the garam masala have also developed and the washed and coarsely chopped coriander is added as the last ingredient.

Not too finely chopped, please, so that the flavour of the fresh herbs remains distinguishable

Turn off the cooker and grab a spoon:

The advantage of dried, whole chillies is that you can always check and control the spiciness – if it is enough, simply remove the chillies during the cooking process – they are not eaten, of course

One final note: This type of mung dal is a very classic recipe, but has not been a very popular version in India for some time. However, it is an excellent introduction to the art of cooking a dal. We will provide many other versions over time. Promise.

Ingredients (for 4 people):

The quantities refer to a meal with rice.

If you want to eat the dal without rice – as we do – then double the quantities.

200 g mung dal, peeled and halved

1 large or 2 small onions

1 tsp each grated ginger and garlic

A little ghee or neutral vegetable oil

2 medium tomatoes or 5 tbsp tomato purée

If desired: 2 – 3 dried chillies (alternative: 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder)

1 bunch fresh coriander

1 lemon

1 – 2 tsp cumin seeds

1 – 2 tsp ground coriander

1 – 2 tsp turmeric powder

A pinch of asafoetida

Optional: 1 – 2 tsp garam masala

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