Ayurveda, as much as I have read about it, rates Moong Dal the highest amongst all lentils. Perhaps because it is the easiest to digest, and Ayurveda insists that foods be easy to digest. I don't know about other foods, but I am sure Moong Dal should be rather easy on the stomach, because in Maharashtrian households, a Khichdi made of rice and Moong Dal (Mugachya Daalichi Khichadi) is served to people when they are ill and later when they are still recovering.
Apart from the digestibility, I feel, that Moong beans and the dal are also quite versatile. They can be used in all possible forms and in all possible dishes. Sample this. Moong beans can be used as is, or after sprouting; the Dal can be used with the skin still on it (Moong Dal Chhilka) and without. Moreoever, the skinless Dal can be used to cook Dal, in Khichdis, as a thickening agent in soups, as a fried snack and in desserts too. The rich Moong Dal Halwa of North India is quite famous. Equally rich with ghee and coveted amongst Maharashtrians is the Mugachya daalicha Shira. More on that sometime later perhaps.
What I am writing about today is a Konkani breakfast dish, the Muga Daali Usli. Having this kind of a dish for breakfast was totally new to me when I got married. I was curious but also slightly apprehensive of having a Bhaji-like thing with bread early in the morning. Of course, being born and having grown up in a Maharashtrian family, I was hesitant to do a lot many things once a part of a Mangalorean Konkani family. Like eating coconut oil. It gave me a feeling in the beginning as though I were eating hair. I know it sounds gross, but my only association of coconut oil was with hair. But I am totally comfortable eating it now. I mean coconut oil. Anyway, more on that sometime later.
Coming back to the Moong Dal Usli, I totally love it now and it's on my breakfast menu quite often. It was earlier eaten with roasted puffed rice (Churmure in Marathi/Murmura in Hindi). However, it has become a common practise to have the Usli with white sliced bread now, maybe for the sake of convenience? I am actually a wholemeal bread freak, but I have noticed that this particular dish pairs better with white bread. Ayurveda will never approve of it, but there you go. :)
So, here goes the recipe for Moong Daal Usli
Serves 2 (hungry persons after a whole night's fast!).
1 heaped cup Moong/Green gram Dal
2 ½ cups water
2 tsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
7-8 curry leaves (I used 12-15 because I used dried curry leaves)
3 green chillis (3 red chillis can also be used once in a while for a change)
salt to taste
½ inch piece ginger
a handful coriander leaves (or to taste)
1. Wash the Moong Dal and keep aside.
2. Make a slit in the green chillis, making sure not to cut them in two. In case using red chillis, break them in 2-3 pieces each.
3. Chop the ginger in tiny pieces. Chop the coriander leaves. Set aside.
4. Heat the oil in a pan. Once it is hot, add the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add the curry leaves and chillis.
5. After about two seconds, add the water. Stir in salt.
6. Bring it to a boil, then add the washed Moong dal. The water will 'jump' high at this point. Take care not to burn yourself.
7. Reduce the heat to 'medium' and let it continue boiling gently. Do not cover the pan yet, or else the water will boil over.
8. Once the water is the same level as the Dal, cover the pan, but leave a gap for the steam to escape.
9. Stir the mixture every now and then, especially if you are not using a non-stick pan. The Dal can easily stick to the bottom.
10. The Usli is cooked, when the Dal is soft to touch (can be pressed easily with two fingers), and all the water is absorbed. It is ok, if the Dal looks somewhat mushy, that is how it is supposed to look - with half the grains still retaining their form and half of them mushy.
11. Add the chopped ginger and coriander leaves now, stir the Usli and cover the pan tightly for about five minutes for the ginger to release its aroma into the Usli.
12. Serve hot with some bread and a fruit juice for a tasty and satisfying breakfast.
Moong Dal Usli served with white sliced bread
Have this breakfast, and you'll be ready to face the day with a smile!