I find Dal the most comforting of dishes, and it is no wonder that it is eaten on most days throughout India. Spices are used to vary the flavours, – some for the heat of pre-Monsoon Summer, others for the cool of the Monsoon rains.
Dals always begin the same – boiling one or more lentils until soft, with the thickness of the dal being a personal preference. Some areas of India make them thick, others prefer them thin and soupy. In this household, we have the choice, so it depends on the cook, and the day, and the weather.
Inclusions also vary. Some dals contain onions – in some parts of India, the onions are cut long and thin – the chillies too. In other parts, the onions and chillies are cut minutely, almost a paste – garlic too – and this is all fried in ghee or oil.
Mung dal (split, hulled Mung Beans) is good for any time of year – and particularly good in summer. So is Toor dal. In Winter it is good to roast the mung dal before cooking as it helps to heat the bodily system. Toss it in a frying pan until a gorgeous aroma arises, then add to water to cook. In Summer, it is preferred kancha or unroasted, as it is lighter and easer to digest. Thanks to the excellent book Bengali Cooking for the lovely chapter and information on Dals.
Kancha Mung Dal | Bengali Mung Dal
250 g mung dal
750 ml water
1 tspn turmeric powder
salt to taste
a pinch sugar
1.5 tspn ghee
2 Indian dried red chillies
1 tspn brown mustard seeds
2 tspns finely chopped ginger
2 teja pata (Indian Bay Leaves) (omit if not available)
Rinse the mung dal well under running water for 2 or 3 minutes. Aficionados will say that this makes a difference, so don’t skip the step.
Add the dal to the boiling water, let it cook for 10 mins and add 1 tspn salt and the turmeric powder. Continue cooking until the dal is mushy and tender. Turn to the lowest heat.
Make the tadka by heating ghee or oil in a small frying pan and add the dried chillies. As they deepen in colour, add the mustard seeds and allow to splutter. Then add the ginger and the teja pata (if using).
After a few moments, pour onto the dal and mix. Adjust the salt, and add the pinch of sugar. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, then remove from the heat. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes for the flavours to meld.
Serve with rice.
recipe notes and alternatives
For a different taste, cook the dal and then add 1 Tblspn juice from grated ginger (squeeze the grated ginger to get the juice), and 2 – 3 whole green chillies. Make a tadka from the ginger pulp, 2 teja pata if you have them, and 1 tspn panch phoron. Pour onto the dal, mix, simmer for 3 or 4 mins, then cover. Take off the heat, check the salt seasoning, and allow to sit for 5 mins for flavours to meld.