There are 2 lentils, less well known outside of India, that look similar at first glance but are quite different. Even in India these two lentils are confused, with many writers and bloggers thinking they are the same. Similar in colour, both are grown in dry almost inhospitable land on vines. Both have an earthy taste and require good soaking before cooking. They are even used to make similar dishes. However, they are different, with different shapes, colours, textures and tastes.
Horsegram is called Kulthikalai (Bengali), Kulthi (Hindi), Ulavalu (Telegu), Kollu (Tamil), Hurali (Kannad), Kadthi dal (Gujarati), Kolatha( Oriya), Kulith (Marathi), Gahat (Kumaoni) and Muthira (Malayalam). It is a less known, humble lentil that gets its English name from the fact that it was fed to horses and cattle. Horse gram is a small flattened bean, multicolored with beige to dark coffee brown colourings, and has been widely grown and consumed in India since 2,000 BCE. It truly is an ancient grain, and a super food.
Horse gram is the most protein-rich lentil found on the planet. It is surely a superfood and plays an important part in Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India. However, it has never made it into chic Indian restaurants or the urban homes of the Indian middle and upper classes. But out in the villages where this tough little legume grows in dry conditions without fertilisation, it features in the home kitchens.
Horsegram heats the body, so is a good Winter food. It is often sprouted for delicious and healthy sprouts. It is also commonly used in soups, dals, rasams, sundals, masiyal, vada and kitchari. It is also used in thorans, dosa and chutneys. Horse gram does not disintegrate or have a mushy texture when cooked – it retains a nice bite and a little chew. A tspn or two of cooked horse gram sprinkled over other dishes is really good – salads, appetisers, Indian and non Indian dishes. Why not try it?
Moth Beans | Matki
Matki is a small, drought-resistant, bullet-shaped bean which ranges in colour from light brown through to tan. The inner part of the bean is yellow. It is native to India and Pakistan and very common in Indian cuisine where the high protein content makes it a staple in many vegetarian diets. The flavour is earthy and somewhat nutty.
Matki can be eaten as sprouts and as split or whole beans. It is commonly used in Maharashtra to make Usal, a stirfried dish of sprouts. It is also used in dals, uttapam, cheela, subzi, pulao, kitchari, sundals and chaat.
Similar, but Different
You can see that both Horse Gram and Matki have many similarities – they both grow in very dry areas, and are small and beige-brown in colour. They both require soaking before cooking, and have an earthy taste. It is easy to get confused, and many have. But the key is in the shape – Horse Gram are little flattened discs and Matki are tiny bullet shaped lentils. Horse Gram has more colour variation. Those are the best ways to tell them apart.