Masoor-Moong Dal With Mushrooms and Greens

In the name of giving a recipe that features some of the spices mentioned in my post about eating curry for your health, I now present a low fat, high protein, vegan recipe which has been well received both by my family and the guests at Restaurant Salaam. This dal features healthy and delicious turmeric and ginger, and if you want, you could add chilies as well.

Ever since I found out that mushrooms grew in the mountains of Kashmir, India, and were cooked and eaten when they were in season, I have felt the need to experiment with mushrooms in Indian dishes. The Dhingri Chole recipe I posted a week or so ago emboldened me to try making a dal with mushrooms and winter greens, just to see how it would taste. (Besides, I have been making different dals each week for Salaam, because it turns out that they are very popular lunch specials. Just today, we sold out of a very simple masoor dal with tomatoes and spinach.)

I used my all-purpose dal, red lentils, also known as masoor dal, mixed with split, but unskinned moong dal. I like to mix moong, whether whole, split or skinned, with masoor dal, because the masoor breaks down natural into a puree, while moong softens, but retains its shape. Moong are what we call mung beans, and whether you cook them whole, with their green skins intact, or split with the green hull, or split and skinned, they have a very earthy flavor and if they have their skins, a strong, distinctly herbal fragrance.

Combined with masoor dal, moong dal is delicious, and quite nutritious.

For this dish, I used the split, but unskinned moong, which gives the finished dish a little bit of color contrast between the yellow masoor and the greenish-brown flecks of the moong skin.

I cooked the two dals together, with just water, a pinch of asafoetida and grated fresh ginger.

To give the dal flavor, I made a tarka, which is a mixture of aromatics and spices cooked in oil or ghee until they are toasty brown, that is then added to the cooked dal. To impregnate the flavors of the spices and aromatics into the mushrooms, I cooked them, along with the greens, in the tarka, near the end of the cooking process.

The results were delicious, and cooking the greens lightly kept them bright in color and flavor. Allowing the mushrooms to soak up the savor of the spices by sauteeing them in the tarka oil deepened their earthy scent. I used half fresh shiitakes and half dried, and I poured the soaking water I used to rehydrate the dried ones into the dal, where the mushroom flavor married perfectly with the dark fragrance of the moong dal.

This vegan dish went perfectly with very hot lime pickles, chapatti, and potato-carrot raita for a flavorful, vegetarian meal. (To keep the whole meal vegan, you’d have to leave out the yogurt-based raita and replace it with a salad, chutney or relish. The spicing in the dal are gentle, but you could add chilies to the tarka if you wanted more heat.

Masoor-Moong Dal With Mushrooms and Greens

Ingredients:

2 cups masoor dal, picked over for stones, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup-1 cup split moong dal, picked over for stones, rinsed and drained
pinch asafoetida
1″ cube fresh ginger, peeled and grated finely
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 cups onions, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon salt
7 cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
curry powder to taste–or use your own blend of ground black pepper, coriander, fenugreek, dried ginger and cloves
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thinly
1-2 cups thinly sliced fresh greens, like mustard greens, kale, or collards
salt to taste
roughly chopped cilantro for garnish

Put the two dals into a medium large pot, with just enough cold water to cover them by one inch. Add the asafoetida and ginger, and bring to a boil on medium heat, then turn the heat down to low, and cook, stirring now and then, and adding water as necessary, until the lentils and beans are tender. The masoor dal will break down into a pale yellow puree, and the moong will retain its shape, but will be completely tender.

While the dal is cooking, soak the dried shiitake until they are softened and the water is cool enough to handle. Remove them from the soaking liquid–which you will now add to the dal, Squeeze the excess water from the mushrooms, cut off the stems, and slice the caps thinly.

When the dal is finished, heat the oil up in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add the onions. Sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring, until they are a deep golden color. Add the garlic, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and cook, stirring, until the onions are medium brown, and the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the rest of the spices, along with the mushrooms, both fresh and rehydrated, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms brown slightly andn the onions are completely browned to a deep reddish brown color. Add the greens, and cook for a minute, or until they brighten in color and wilt.

Stir the contents of the pan into the dal and add salt to taste, then serve immediately, garnished with cilantro leaves.

14 Comments

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  1. oo this looks like just what I need to try! :) I have to leave out the asafoetida, as I’m wheat/gluten intolerant, but hopefully that won’t take too much away from this lovely dish. thank you!

    Comment by gaile — March 20, 2008 #

  2. That looks absolutely delicious, thanks for sharing another gem.

    I’m excited for a treat I’m planning for myself. I’m traveling from Akron down to Virginia and my intent is to stop and have lunch or dinner at Salaam on my way back on Tuesday. It’s something I’ve been hoping I could do for awhile now.

    Have a great weekend.

    Comment by Adrianne — March 20, 2008 #

  3. Barbara,

    What an exciting curry. My Tompa loves dal, so I am always on another dal recipe hunt :-)

    Comment by Zlamushka — March 20, 2008 #

  4. I’ve been reading your blog for… maybe over two years now since I was reading before you were pregnant with Kat. One of my recent resolutions is to stop lurking on my favorite blogs.

    This looks really good, I’m planning to try it tonight since I’ve finally found a local source for asafoetida. One question I’ve been wondering about for a while now as I try your Indian recipes; do you have any tricks for slicing the onions so thin? I do really well for the first half of the onion, and then my slices thicken and I’m afraid of cutting myself as the rest tries to squirt away.

    Comment by Molly — March 20, 2008 #

  5. Molly – I’m not Barbara but I’m interested to see if my trick works for anyone else.

    The first bit of the trick is to have a very sharp knife. I cut the onion in half, through the root, and remove the outer layers. Then I slice thinly as far as is convenient. (Usually the outside edge bits get raggedly at some point – my cooking school teacher didn’t like it but this is just for home cooking.) So far, so normal.

    When it gets hard to slice, I try my two tricks. First I remove another outside layer and slice some more. Second, when it gets hard again, I rotate the onion so the root bit is up in the air and slice along a different axis.

    HTH.

    Comment by Harry — March 21, 2008 #

  6. Molly–I think I should probably do a post with photographs on slicing onions thinly and then browning them.

    I cut the root end off flat, then the top off flat, then cut the onion in half through top and root. I remove the outer layer, and then lay the onion halves on the cutting board, and I use a very sharp chef’s knife, and cut into thin slices as far as I can comfortably. Then, I lay what is left on its end, and slice along the rest.

    See, I need to take pictures of this process, because I can’t explain it at all. Look for a post next week.

    Comment by Barbara — March 21, 2008 #

  7. Barbara, that is how I cut an onion. :) Love the recipe and will be making some this weekend as well as some other Indian dishes. I have a small Indian grocery near me and will be picking up some Panch Phoran spices (based on your other post on it. Also, adore your poem.)

    Comment by Pat K. — March 21, 2008 #

  8. I made this and learned that I don’t know about the simple process of cooking the dahl properly. I ended up with a gloppy green mess that just didn’t look right. I drained off the green goo and made the dish. The consistency was more like mashed potato’s. But it tasted great!

    The next morning I decided to take a goose egg (I have 3 geese) and I mixed it with the leftover Dahl mixure and made Masoor-Dahl Patties. I drizzled them with fresh lemon juice and had it over white rice. Heaven on earth!

    I’ll try cooking dahl and be conscious of what I’m doing. I think I was so concentrating on making and following the recipe that I let the dahl cook on it’s own. I’ll make this recipe again.

    Comment by Pat K. — March 23, 2008 #

  9. I love how often it happens that I have a bunch of veggies from my CSA bag, and I’m thinking “What am I going to do with all these [insert veggie here] before they go bad?” and all I have to do is look at your blog and there’s something right there for it.

    This time it was mustard greens, so tonight I cooked myself up some of this vegan yumminess! I also finally understand how to properly brown onions! I never cooked them long enough before. It does make a huge difference.

    And it’s fun how the mustard seeds pop between my teeth. :-)

    Comment by Neohippie — March 25, 2008 #

  10. RSS Reader: Masoor-Moong Dal with Greens
    Pantry Check: Masoor dal, Moong dal
    Fridge Check: Baby Collard Greens
    Looks like I’m all set! :D

    Thanks for the basic dal & tarka post; I’ve been making my dals with tomatoes for a while, and this approach gave me a much lighter final product (even if I could have sliced my greens thinner).

    Now usually I don’t follow recipes too closely, but I’m just coming back from being sick so my freeform skills are rusty. This leads me to notice that you add the garlic twice. Do you mean you boil the garlic and add the ginger to the tarka, or the other way around?

    Comment by Keeley — March 31, 2008 #

  11. Hello, Keeley–thanks for catching the typo–it was supposed to be the ginger boiling in the dal and then the garlic in the tarka.

    I edited the mistake out of the post.

    This is a very tasty dal–I hope that you like it!

    Comment by Barbara — March 31, 2008 #

  12. Mmmmm…. we had this last night and it was fantastic. I didn’t use as many spices as you did (computer + recipe upstairs and I couldn’t remember and I was too lazy to traipse up) and I didn’t have any dried mushrooms around but it still turned out really yummy.

    Comment by Scheherazade — May 11, 2008 #

  13. Very interesting Barbara! Even though I believe that I know all about daals, since I eat a variety, this is different yet sounds great. I am going to try it right now:)

    Comment by Nidhi — August 11, 2008 #

  14. I love vegetables in dal, but I’ve never tried mushrooms! Sounds good, and my brother would love this. I have some pictures of making moong dal on my blog, if you are interested: http://mangosoup.blogspot.com/2009/08/courgette-and-tomato-moong-dal.html

    Comment by Jenni — August 5, 2009 #

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