I did not have much exposure to Indian food until I moved to Singapore and lived there for a short while. Strangely, the place where I got to taste some Indian food was where I worked, at the hospital. When the meal rounds were over and there were leftovers at the kitchen (which most of the time there were), we could eat the leftovers and dal was one of the dishes I always went for. That’s when my love affair with Dal began. Dal is often prepared with split mung (yellow) dal, but you will also see lots of dal recipes use masur (red) dal. This recipe uses mung dal.
As shared in the Mangoes and Curry Leaves cookbook, in Nepal, even more than in South India, rice and lentils rule. Dal bhat (lentils and rice) is eaten every day, several times a day, over and over again. There are hundreds of different versions of dal. Most of them are relatively simple and flavored with some spice. The first time I ate dal, I didn’t like it as much. However, this thing got addicting. The more I ate them, the more I grew to like them, until today in fact, I still like them!
This Nepali moong dal has a good deep taste. The smell of cloves stand out while you cook but don’t worry, it won’t take over the whole dish because other spices like cinnamon, coriander, cumin and cardamom will blend in well. Using split mung dal resulted in very creamy texture. I ate this with some chapatis and Sri Lankan grilled marinated meat and oh…perfect and hearty!
- 1 cup mung dal, washed and drained
- 5 to 6 cups water
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 to 3 dried red chilis, stemmed
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 3 cloves
- One 1-inch piece cinnamon or cassia stick
- Seeds from 2 green cardamom pods
- 5 or 6 black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp mustard oil or vegetable oil
- 1 Cup finely chopped onion
- Put the dal into a large pot with 5 cups water and the turmeric and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a strong simmer, partially cover, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the dal is almost mushy. For a more liquid texture, add another ½ to 1 cup water
- Meanwhile, using a mortar and a pestle or a spice/coffee grinder, grind together he chiles, coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper. Set aside
- When the dal has finished cooking, add the salt and stir, then lower the heat to very low to keep it warm
- Heat a work or a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the finely chopped onion, and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the ground spice blend and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to the pot of dal
- Stir the dal well and cook for about 10 minutes, then serve hot