Spinach Moong Dal Recipe
Moong dal, also known as split mung beans, is a very common ingredient in both Indian and Vietnamese cuisines. In this particular savory dish, the lentils serve as a complementary protein to the spinach. When paired with rice, it's a complete meal in and of itself.
There is a wide range of dals used in Indian cuisine, far more than you may find at an Indian restaurant buffet. Check out my other Indian dal recipes such as toor dal, kali dal, urad dal or masoor dal if you're feeling adventurous.
Yields: 6 servings1 cup moong dal
3 red Thai bird chiles
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (see tips)
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, for color
½ teaspoon red chili powder
1 quart water, as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup spinach
1 tablespoon ghee (optional)
3 tablespoons yellow onion, finely chopped
Wash the lentils. Discard any floating or odd-shaped lentils. Wash and rinse thoroughly in several water baths (about three times). Drain the lentils, removing as much of the soaking water as possible. No soaking required.
Using a paring knife, create a 2-inch incision in the red Thai bird chiles. Note: remember not to rub your eyes after touching the chile pepper seeds.
In a small pot, combine the lentils, ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chili powder, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro and whole red Thai chile peppers. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Add water; the water should barely cover the lentils. Bring to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer for about 1 hour. Add 1-½ teaspoons of salt half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the lentils and they'll be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so the lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pot.
Transfer one third of the amount of cooked lentils into the bowl of an immersion blender. Coarsely blend the mixture and pour it back into the pot. Depending on how thick you like moong dal, you can add up to another cup of boiling water. Adjust seasoning and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes over low-heat. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Separate the spinach leaves from the stems.
Bring the lentils to a boil. Add the spinach stems and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and the remaining cilantro; bring to a boil one more time. Turn off the heat off and cover with a lid to let the spinach to finish cooking. When you're ready to "baghar", transfer to a serving bowl.
This step is called Baghar: When you're ready to serve, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a small saucepan and add the finely chopped onions. Cook until nicely golden. Add little mounds of ghee (if used). Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to the moong dal. Cover the dal with a lid (I used a plate to preserve the nice fragrance).
Serve with basmati rice.
Moong dal (also known as "split mung beans") can be found in any Asian or Indian stores.
For a faster coking time, you could also cook the lentils in a pressure cooker. It would take only 20 minutes (instead of a whole hour).
Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. You can find it in jars at Indian stores. But if you don't have ghee, you can use butter instead. For a vegan version, just skip the clarified butter or replace it with more oil.
Baghar is a very common step toward the end of cooking in many Indian dishes. I use a small 0.3-quart saucepan that I use exclusively for baghar.
Ginger garlic paste is a very common component in Indian cuisine. Just clean the ginger, carefully removing any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife or the edge of a spoon, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender and, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.Published By: on April 8, 2010.