Now that winter is starting to set in and it's getting colder out, it seems like the perfect time to share one of my favorite warm-you-up recipes, yellow gram daal.
One of my college roommates introduced me to the deliciousness of Nepalese-style daal, and would often make a big pot of it to share when she found out how much I enjoyed it. When I moved away I got her recipe for yellow gram daal, which is what she made most often and is adapted from The Joys of Nepalese Cooking by Indra Majupuria. After making it a few times I bought a used and (strangely bound) copy on Amazon so I could try other Nepalese recipes - but the yellow gram daal is still my favorite.
I should make it clear that my recipe is adapted from what is found in this book and probably shouldn't be viewed as traditional Nepalese food, though I did try to stay true to the overall flavor palette (maybe we can call it Nepalese-inspired?) Some ingredients are easier for me to get than others, so I've substituted a few items (olive oil for ghiu, for example). I also made a few additions like carrots, spinach, and cayenne for my own tastes.
The original recipe calls for mung daal, also called mungiko or moong daal. (Daal, or dal, can be translated as "lentils" or "split beans.") Mung daal is a yellowish daal that looks like tiny yellow split peas when removed from the green husks. You can find it in Indian or Asian markets. I rarely find myself in one of these stores, so I usually substitute masoor daal, which are shelled red lentils that I can easily get at Whole Foods.
Check out this article on Indiaphile if you want to learn more about the different types of daal and see what they look like.
Yellow Gram Daal
1 cup mung daal or masoor daal
4-5 cups of water (add more or less depending on desired thickness)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped - or more to taste
2.5 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped - or more to taste
1/2 tsp cumin seeds or cumin powder
~t tsp coriander powder
Optional: dash or two of cayenne powder for more heat,
Optional: handful of frozen chopped spinach and/or finely chopped carrots
Rinse the daal to get off all the saponins (soap-like compounds) and soak for at least an 1 hour. Drain. Hint: Mung and masoor lentils are tiny! Use a colander with a fine mesh when you're rinsing and draining them.
Then, boil the daal in the water with salt and turmeric until it becomes tender and falls apart, becoming thoroughly mixed with the water.
Meanwhile heat the oil and fry the onions until they turn clear. Add the garlic and ginger when the onions are about halfway done, and fry until the onions turn clear and the ginger and garlic become golden. Add the cumin and coriander and fry for a few seconds.
Then add all of this to the pot of daal, stir, cover, and let it simmer for awhile (at least 10-15 minutes). If you are adding cayenne, carrot, and/or spinach, add this to the pot now and cook for at least 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
Serve hot. I usually serve over basmati rice or with toasted pita bread, but you can also eat it plain like a soup.
Makes about 4-5 servings. Enjoy, and stay warm this winter!