An ode to the moong bean…

In my last post, I suddenly realised that the moong bean cannot have a passing reference, like say toor dal. This was the inspiration behind today’s post, and I grew to appreciate the versatility of the humble moong (much like the humbler potato), after eating it in all forms, textures, dishes (this is the first lentil you are introduced to, as a kid). So this post also calls for sharing some of my favourite recipes (which will appear at the end).

That the moong dal is an indisputable part of kitchari/kedgeree (the horror) is a no-brainer. What needs telling though that the said khichadi (ah, now that’s better) tastes different if made with different moong beans, the yellow, the split and the whole. For in these three forms the moong appears. A tiny subset is the smaller yellow moong dal, which is native to Orissa and West Bengal, and I saw it the first time in my life, when a Oriya friend handed over her remaining provision to me before leaving Taiwan for good. While perhaps a Gujarati or a Rajasthani dish hitherto, nowadays khichadi is something which almost all of India has embraced and adapted to, in their own unique way. The South Indians have made pongal out of it (which of course is a breakfast dish, simply made sans turmeric (and hence non-yellow) with a smattering of whole pepper and cumin). Of course the best Pongal to be had is at Tirupati, when they dole it out as prasadam, for a short while in the afternoons.

The Punjabis have immortalised moong in their unique way, by making a moong dal paratha or dal tadka out of it. For the paratha, the moong dal is cooked (without a pressure cooker), and seasoned with green chillies, cumin-coriander-garam masala powders. This cooked moong  (much like the puran in Maharashtrians) makes its way to the centre as a filling, between the folds of the roti, which is then roasted on the tawa  (griddle) with ghee and served with dahi (yogurt) and achaar (pickle) of choice, making an oh-so-satisfying meal in itself.

The Marathi manoos, while embracing the khichadi, has decided to keep things simple with the moong. So sprouted moong is made into an usal – usually a curry flavoured with tamarind and jaggery, at times made more exotic with a coconut-garlic and kala masala base. It can also be a substitute for the matkichi-usal which makes its way into a misal.

But the South Indians (and I know I do a great disservice, clubbing all the states together) are the ones who have given me my favourite moong recipes thus far. It was only after I moved to Hyderabad that I ate my first pesarettu. This is an unfermented moong dosa, which is a popular breakfast item. Easy to make, it only requires soaking and grinding and can be made with both the split and whole moong.

Another favourite is the moong dal koshimbri. This is a Kannada dish, mostly served in temples (on banana leaves) right after salt and pickle have been served. It is a sort of substitute for raitha, and goes well with sambhar-rice or rasam-rice, or a go-between, as you wait for next round of rice to be served. (For the uninitiated, eating in temples on special occasions entails sitting down, being served prasadam on banana leaves, and polishing off many rounds of steaming rice. The mighty are known to be served rice five times which are paired off twice with rasam, sambhar, and once with yogurt or buttermilk. The timid make do with the first rice serving and make it last till the buttermilk is served. And I must admit I fall somewhere in between).

Another temple food, first for the gods and then for us lesser mortals, is the moong dal payasam. Which now I am proud to have mastered, and fed many of my unsuspecting guests here in Taipei. A heavenly coming together of coconut, jaggery, yellow moong and cardamom, this is again simple kheer, requires half the effort of moong dal halwa and tastes equally good warm or chilled.

Now, the Taipei twist. Mung bean tea (what??!!…yes!). Green tea combined with green moong makes a flavourful drink. I got this served when I mistakenly pointed to the English version of the ginger milk tea, and the server saw the Chinese version below the one I pointed. For a few sips I wondered where was the ginger in this drink, and then suddenly  realised what I was drinking…Ah moong bean tea!!

Now are you ready for the recipes? Here they are….

1. Pesarettu – (a dosa-like pancake). Soak required moong dal (1 cup makes 4-5 pesarettus depending on the size of your tawa/griddle, can be whole moong or yellow split one) for 4-5 hours (or overnight if making for breakfast). Combine the moong, 1 small onion, a piece of ginger, a couple of chillies, cumin, salt and coriander (optional) in a blender using sufficient amount of water. The batter should not be too thick or think. Make dosas as you would normally do with regular dosa batter. This one needs no fermenting. It pairs well with the coconut chutney. (To increase the nutritional content, allow whole moong to sprout and use the sprouted bean to make the batter)

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    2. Koshimbri* – (a salad like replacement to raita) – Soak required moong dal (is usually the yellow dal) for minimum 2 hours, drain the water. Combined finely chopped cucumber, grated raw mango (if in season) or juice of half a lemon, salt, fresh coconut, finely chopped green chillies, chopped coriander with the soaked and drained moong. Make a tadka of mustard, cumin, hing, curry leaves (optional) and dried red chillies (optional) in oil and pour it over the above moong dal combine. This goes well with dal-rice and roti-subji as a side dish. Leave out the chillies if making a snack for children.

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3. Payasam (dessert) – Wash and drain yellow moong. Heat a spoon of ghee, and roast almonds, cashews and raisins (till the raisins are plump) in a pressure cooker. Add dessicated (or fresh) coconut and fry for a minute. Add the washed moong dal. For 1 cup of moong dal, add 1 cup of water and 1 cup milk and pressure cook for 2-3 whistles. After the pressure has settled, take off the lid, add in jaggery (or coconut sugar) as per taste ( I add about 3/4 cup for 1 cup moong). Allow the jaggery to melt and cook this payasam for a couple of more minutes. Lastly add cardamom-nutmeg powder, and a cup of coconut milk/cream before serving

Kheer

*Just realised that the Marathi version of the koshimbri, is the vatli dal, made from chana dal (usually made in summers when raw mango is available)

What’s  your favourite moong recipe?

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