Happy New Year, and Happy Memories

We fell asleep at around 4 am this morning, exhausted but happy to have had a lovely bunch of pals take over at our place for the evening. I hope the new year brings great cheer and good health to all....

Like most people, I tend to get pretty nostalgic at the turn of the year, a condition exacerbated by it being so close to my birthday as well. Something about Indian food makes it central or at least a significant player in most memories - the flavor of a dish, the whiff of a spice on mamma's saree, the slight smell of garam masala as she walked past, dad's perfect tea-making, grandma's stories from the Ramayana told to you at dusk over ghee rice balls.... As I ducked into my kitchen yesterday morning, I glimpsed a bag of Mung Dal (or Moong Dal.) It reminded me at once about evenings in Madras, where mom would whip up the best "Puzhukoo" or moong dal curry with chappati (India think bread). I'd ladle a bowl-full of it that I took in to keep me company as I finished my home-work, then a small bowl to accompany a TV show, and then had just enough space for a small bowl of it with half a chappati for dinner. Of course, her preparation was a little more elaborate than mine, but I've tried to recreate the taste and get pretty close. Try it, you'll get addicted, as will the kids in your life. Introduce them to strong flavors, in this case garlic in all its glory.
Ingredients: 1 cup of moong Dal (should be available in most health food stores, though I picked mine up at one of grocery stores in Oak Tree Road, Edison), coconut powder (I use Krafts), 3 large garlic cloves, coconut oil, turmeric powder and salt. Cumin powder and ghee add to the taste, but are not essential.

  • Start by boiling one cup of moong dal in 3 cups of water, with a tea spoon of salt, and a pinch of turmeric
  • Once it comes to a boil, reduce the flame so medium and cook for around 20 minutes, till the dal becomes soft to the touch
  • Stir in 2 table spoons of coconut powder and a pinch of cumin powder
  • Thinly slice the garlic and fry it till brown in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Toss this into the dal
  • The dish is done when some of the dal dissolves, giving the whole dish a thick consistency

While the truly careful cooks could get the same effect by halving the coconut powder and coconut oil used, I was definitely focused on matching the taste of my mothers cooking! Given that I don't do this often, I serve the dal mixed in well into steaming rice with a teaspoon of ghee. Disappearing food! On the side was the irreplaceable Ambika Papdum... (more on Papads later!)