In the first dal recipe I posted I listed mushoor dal, chholar dal and moog dal as the Bengali dal trinity (kali dal is a Punjabi thing). Here now is a recipe for moog dal (or mung dal in most other places). I have to admit that as a child this was my least favourite dal but I’ve grown to like it a lot as an adult.
This is the way my mother makes it most of the time, with peas and carrots Her use of tomatoes may seem to be a non-Bengali addition (my mother’s cooking, as I’ve mentioned before, is inflected heavily by the fact that after their marriage my parents have lived almost entirely outside Bengal); but my mother, who is currently visiting, tells me that the use of tomatoes in this dal was common in her mother and aunts’ Calcutta kitchens.
This recipe does use a specifically Bengali technique: the Bengali term is “bhaja dal” but that translates as “fried dal” and there’s no actual oil used; the dal is dry-roasted before being washed and cooked. This increases the intensity of its nutty flavour. The other major flavour comes from fresh, grated ginger and the peas and carrots add nice colour as well as sweetness. It’s a very easy dal to make.
- 2 cups, peeled and split moog/mung dal
- 1 tspn turmeric powder
- 2 cassia leaves/tej patta
- Salt to taste
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 tblspn grated ginger
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/2 cup diced carrots (diced to the same size as the peas)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped tomato
- 8 cups of water
- 1 tspn ghee
- Put the dal in a thick-bottomed pan and dry-roast over medium heat, stirring often, for a few minutes till the dal begins to darken and the aroma changes.
- Wash the roasted dal, drain and bring it to a boil with 6 cups of water, the cassia leaves, the turmeric, salt and sugar. Then reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, till it begins to thicken.
- Now add the ginger, peas, carrots and tomatoes and the remaining two cups of water and return to a boil and then cook at a near boil for another 10 minutes or so.
- Then reduce the heat to a simmer for another 10 minutes or so till the dal is completely soft.
- Swirl in the ghee and serve with rice.
- I prefer not to add a “phoron”/tadka but if so moved you can heat up the ghee and split a 1/2 tspn or so of cumin seeds in it and add it to the cooked dal. If you’re doing so, don’t also stir in the ghee separately.
- You could also add a dry red chilli or two to the ghee along with the cumin.
- And, of course, you can leave out the tomatoes if you like.
We made this the other night. I thought the light toasting of the beans would make this interesting, but alas, this was not really to our liking. Maybe it is the Bengali style of cooking we are not used to? Also, the odor was not keen on us (I don’t think I overdid it on the toasting, but maybe that is part of the smell).
Or maybe we need to age a little to appreciate this style?