The recipe called for mung beans. Hmmmm. I had to google them. “Aren’t they just lentils?” “But they are yellow. Yellow lentils?! Orange ones, yes, but yellow….?” Mung beans are indeed lentils, and specific to the Indian subcontinent where they are quite popular. They are also grown in other regions. Unshelled they are tiny green perls, and bright yellow mini lentils when shelled. The good thing is that they cook very fast, no soaking necessary. Basically, the fast food version among legumes. Just 20-30 min and they puff up, absorb the liquid and are tender, mushy, just as a dal should be.
My first version of this recipe I made with yellow split peas. They look and taste quite similar, but they definitely take longer to cook and they are not as mushy in the end. But, alas, a hearty texture can be good, too. Then, I went on a quest for moong dal, and made the dish a second time. I also reduced the number of chilies I used this time around, because after the first round, I felt like a dragoon.
Authentically, the dish is cooked differently: the potatoes are cooked with the lentils, and there are black lentils and very few of them. So, this is defnitely an Americanized version, but still, extraordinarily tasty. The usual Indian cooking suspects: fresh curry leaves, mustard seeds, some fresh grated ginger, dried hot peppers, a pinch of the mysterious asafoetida, tomato paste, lentil, water and then it cooks for 30 min. It is served over some soft cooked, small, crushed potatoes (it would be great to additionally fry them before serving them with the lentil curry).
This is the version with yellow split peas.
Frozen ginger, ready to grate.
This pot is waiting for the tomato paste and water.
Crushed small potatoes.
Spicy Moong Dal with Potatoes (Bangaladumpa Upma Koora)
Makes 2-3 servings
- 1-2 TB of grapeseed oil (or high heat, neutral tasting oil)
- 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
- 2-3 small dried hot peppers, crushed (Pequin Red Chilis)
- 1/2 cup of moong dal (shelled split mung beans)
- 1 pinch of asafoetida
- 1 TB of grated fresh ginger (I keep my ginger frozen, it last longer)
- 1 larger white onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1 spring of fresh curry leaves
- 1/2 ts of ground tumeric
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup of tomato paste
- 12 small waxy yellow baby potatoes
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 lime
- Heat the oil in a skillet. Fry the mustard seed, dried red chile peppers in the oil until the seeds begin to splutter.
- Sprinkle the asafoetida powder over the mixture. Add in the chopped onion and the curry leaves to the mixture and cook until the onion is lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
- Add the turmeric, ginger and salt, and stir.
- Add the mung beans/moong dal, 3 cups of water and the tomato paste. Stir well, until the tomato paste is well distributed. Bring to boil, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook for 30min, until the lentils are tender.
- While the curry is cooking, heat a pot with salted water, add the potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-18min.
- Drain the potatoes, distributed in bowl, and smash with a fork.
- Add some of the lentil mixture over the potatoes.
- Squish some fresh lime juice over the lentils, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.