While I was planning my Mung Beans and Red Potatoes recipe last week, I knew I needed to share my recipe for Mung Dal. This simple, vegetarian recipe is very easy to make. My husband calls it comfort food because dal was served every day while he was growing up in India.

Dal is a thick savory dish that is made from, you guessed it, dal which is any bean or lentil that has had its skin removed and is split in half. The word is attached to the specific name of the bean or lentil it describes. The advantage of dal recipes is that the cooking time is reduced. For example, whole mung beans boil in approximately 30 minutes while mung dal boils in about 20 minutes. Since the skins are removed the color of the resulting dish matches the color of the bean inside.

Mung Dal

Mung Dal

My Mung Dal recipe is very easy to make. After the dal is boiled, it is added to a masala paste that is made from cooked onion, tomatoes, garlic and ginger and a special blend of spices. Once the tomatoes break down and lose their shape, the dal is added and flavors blend together. Mung dal does not lose its shape like other varieties of beans do. So, make this dish a bit creamier, I smash some of the dal with the side of a knife before mixing it into the masala paste.

Mung Dal can be served with plain rice and chapati in the true South Indian vegetarian tradition or it can be served as a side dish with other favorite recipes.

I have decided to share my Mung Beans and Red Potatoes recipe to continue my series on cholesterol lowering recipes. Mung beans are excellent choice for creating nutritionally healthy dishes as they are:

  • high in fiber, protein and vitamins
  • low in fat and calories
  • quick to cook
  • taste delicious
  • very inexpensive

I could provide more details on these tasty gems but I will direct you to another page for more information on this superfood to save time.

Mung beans bring a mild flavor to any recipe; they taste a bit like potatoes. Unlike some lentils, they retain their shape with a delicate bite when cooked and do not turn mushy. Mushy lentils are fine in dal recipes but when they are used in a recipe where they need to retain their shape, mung beans are a great pick. In addition, mung beans do not need to be soaked overnight or cooked for an extensive amount of time. After they begin to boil, a mere half hour is all that is required to bring them to tasty tenderness.

These beans compliment other ingredients in recipes. They can be added to potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, etc. and produce a beautiful colorful dish. They can be used in hot dishes as well as cold ones.

Mung beans can be used in several different ways. They can be used whole as I have done in my Mung Beans and Red Potatoes recipe. They can also have their skins removed and the inner bean split. This is called mung dal. I will share this delicious recipe next week. The third use is sprouting them. Check out this tasty Spicy Sprout Salad recipe.

Mung Beans and Red Potatoes

Mung Beans and Red Potatoes

In my Mung Beans and Red Potatoes recipe, I start by boiling the beans and red potatoes. Next I create the masala that brings the dish together. Like many Indian recipes, I fry the onions, garlic and ginger in a tasty spice blend. As the onions become tender, they absorb the flavors of the spices so they can envelop the cooked beans and potatoes. With three simple steps, the dish is ready to serve. One thing you will like about this recipe is that it only requires one pan. No need to use several pans and wash extra pots when this is finished!

Mung Beans and Red Potatoes can be served as a main dish in a vegetarian meal along with other vegetables, rice and chapatis. It can be a side dish for lunch or dinner. My husband likes to roll a generous scoop of Mung Beans and Red Potatoes and roll it in a chapati to take to work for lunch. This can be served hot or cold.

When cooking chickpeas I always use dried rather than the ones in cans because I think the canning process alters the flavor. Since soaking and boiling are so easy and can be done at the same time as many other tasks around the house I don’t mind the few extra hours that it takes to get them ready for use. However, there is a way to get even more flavor from chickpeas when buying fresh ones.

Last week I found a huge box of fresh chickpeas at my local Indian grocery store that I couldn’t resist so I bought a huge bag of them to bring home. There are so many uses for them that I knew they wouldn’t go to waste. Fresh ones are popular in north India as a snack when they are in season.

Green Chickpeas

Fresh green chickpeas that have been shelled and are ready to roast.

Green chickpeas are the same thing as the dried, brown ones but have been harvested while the pea and the pod are green, before they have matured on the vine and turned brown. They are more delicate in texture and sweeter than their dried counterparts. To use them, I simply pop the pods, yes they do make a popping sound, and remove the peas. Most of the peas are healthy and fully formed but a few are withered; those I discard. Shelling these chickpeas is best done with other people as it takes a while to work through an entire bag of chickpeas with one, and occasionally two, peas in each pod. At the end of the shelling process my fingers had turned black from the sap that stuck to me while crushing the pods. Don’t worry, it washes off very easily.

They are usually blanched in boiling water for about 3 or 4 minutes, dunked in ice water to stop the cooking process and are then ready to eat either by themselves or popping them into soups or salads. They can be used as substitutes for edamame. Add them to any rice recipe like Vegetable Pulau or any other vegetable dish.

Here is my recipe for a healthy snack of roasted chickpeas:

 

Simple Roasted Chickpea Recipe

Roasted Green Chickpeas

Hot roasted green chickpeas ready for tasting.

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp oil

1/8 tsp garam masala

1/8 tsp red chile powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 cup fresh green chickpeas

Steps:

  1. Mix the garam masala, cumin and salt together in a small bowl.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat then add the oil to the pan.
  3. Add the chickpeas to the skillet and dry roast them until they turn brown in spots. Take care to shake the skillet often so the chickpeas roast evenly and don’t burn.

    Roasted Green Chickpeas

    Fresh green chickpeas roasting in a pan.

  4. As soon as the chickpeas are done, remove from the skillet and toss in the spice mix to coat. Add more salt if needed. Serve while hot.

Tips:

– Shelling your chickpeas in advance is optional and based on your preferences.

– These Roasted Chickpeas are a perfect accompaniment to beer.

 

Dried lentils and beans provide the protein core to Indian cooking. Due to their low price, ready availability and convenience, Indian cooks have created thousands of recipes over the years that use lentils and beans in some form. Sometimes they are the main ingredients, other times they are simply added for contrast or to enhance the gravy.

 

Assorted dry lentils

Assorted dry lentils

 

My family didn’t use dried lentils when I grew up so I had to learn, through trial and error, to cook and love them as an adult. To save you the time of doing your own research, I have prepared this guide to cooking dried lentils and beans.


General Lentil Cooking Guide

1. Pick out any debris or stones from the dry lentils. Measure the amount of lentils you need. Place them in a colander and rinse them in cool water for a few minutes.

 

2. Pour two or three times as much water as lentils into a saucepan and add the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer until done. Add more water if needed. The lentils are done when they are tender but not mushy. Drain remaining water.

 

Cooking Tips

  • As a general rule, lentils don’t need to be soaked before cooking but beans do.
  • Do not add any salt when you start cooking the lentils, as it will make them tough. Add it during the last minutes of cooking to add flavor.
  • Skim any scum that appears during cooking.
  • Simmer lentils; do not boil them as they can fall apart and the water may evaporate too quickly.
  • Ensure the lentils are always covered with water during the cooking process.
  • Pre-soaking is not required to cook lentils. It is just an easy way to reduce cooking time.
  • To determine if lentils are fully cooked, squeeze it between your fingers. If it mashes easily, it is done.
  • 1 pound dry lentils = 2½ – 3 cups dry lentils
  • 1 cup dry lentils = 3 cups cooked lentils
  • To make an easy lentil dish, cook some chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a little oil with your favorite spices. Add your cooked lentils and then cook everything together for a few minutes so the flavors blend.
  • Cooked lentils freeze well, so cook an extra batch to save time later.
  • Dry lentils can be stored for many months in an airtight container in your pantry. Six months seems to be the guideline but I do have some that are over a year old that I will continue to use until they are gone. It takes longer to cook older beans.


Characteristics of Lentils and Beans

To help you determine which lentils or beans to use as you create new recipes, I have prepared the following table so you can see some of the characteristics and cooking times each lentil and bean commonly used in Indian cooking.

Type Characteristics Uses Presoak Cook Time
Brown Lentils

-mild earthy flavor

-inexpensive

-available everywhere

-retain shape well

Soups, salads, side and main dishes No 30-45 minutes
Green Lentils / du Puy Lentils / French Lentils

-firm texture, peppery flavor

-retain shape well

-more expensive than others

-less availability in stores

Soups, salads, side and main dishes, pair well with fish, game & meat No 30-45 mintes
Red Lentils (Masoor)

-sweet and nutty flavor

-break up while cooking

Soups, purees and recipes where soft texture is desired No 15-25 minutes
Yellow Lentils

-mild flavor

-become mushy when cooked

Soups, purees, sauces No 15-20 minutes
Orange Lentils -become mushy when cooked Soups, purees, sauces No 15-20 minutes
Black Lentils -mild flavor Side and main dishes No 20-30 minutes
Black Beans

-sweet with a slight mushroom flavor

-soft, delicate texture

Side and main dishes, used as a meat substitute Yes 45-60 minutes
Garbanzo Beans / Chickpeas

-mild, hearty, nut flavor

-good for strong spices

Soups, salads, pasta, main dishes Yes

45-60 minutes

2 hours, if not soaked

Mung Beans / Green Gram -mild, delicate, slightly sweet Soups, salads, side and main dishes No 45-60 minutes
Red Beans

-subtly sweet

-hold shape when cooked

Soups, salads, side and main dishes Yes 60-90 minutes

I hope this information helps you include more healthy lentils and beans in your diet as well as save some money.

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

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Lentils are one of the most important ingredients in Indian cooking for their health benefits and low cost. In fact, India is the world’s largest consumer of lentils in the world. This may be due to the fact that at least one dish containing lentil is served at every meal and the high percentage of vegetarians who live there. It is a good thing that India is also the world’s largest producer of these tiny gems.

 

Lentils in India

Lentil dishes are eaten all across India daily and appear on the menu as either a side dish or a main course. Having loved lentils for many years, I was stunned to learn that they are even served with breakfast! In South India, lentils are can simply be eaten with rice, and often eaten with chapati (a round wheat bread like a tortilla). After long days at work when my husband is too tired to cook anything that requires more than two steps, I have noticed that he seems to enjoy a simple dal and chapatti meal. Afterward, he seems calmer than when he arrived at home. I suspect that Indians consider lentils, in any form, to be comfort food.

 

Assorted dry lentils

Assorted dry lentils

 

Lentils are incorporated into every menu group in Indian cuisine. Some of the most popular recipes with lentils are:
 


Since the variety of options for this important source of protein in a highly vegetarians nation, it should not be a surprise to learn that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of recipe options available for lentils.

 

Characteristics of Lentils

Many varieties of lentils are available to keep the menu varied; each one is as different in its characteristics: color, size, texture and cooking speed. Lentils come in different colors from green, to red, to black and even orange. They vary in size as well. For example, French green lentils are tiny while chickpeas are rather large. Different varieties of red lentils vary in size. The small red beans are used in many Indian recipes including Chokapu Payar while the large ones are found in dishes such as in American chili. The small red beans take a long time to cook while the orange lentils are speedy. From firm and meaty chickpeas to smooth and creamy orange lentils, each has its own unique texture and purpose in Indian cuisine.

 

Forms of Lentils

Lentils are available whole (with the skin), whole without the skin, or split.  The term dal is used as the name of many lentil dishes as well as the term for lentils that have been skinned and split. Lentils ground to a powder are used instead of flour instead of wheat. Besan (North India) or kadala podi (Kerala) is ground Bengal gram dal and is used in the batter coating for Bondas and Bjajia as well as a binding ingredient to hold various cutlets together. Many sprouted lentils are available in stores for the health conscious individual.

 

Storage

The best way to store lentils is to keep them in airtight containers. They will keep for many, many months until they are used.

 

Check out my Lentils page for more information on the different varieties of lentils in Indian cuisine.

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.