Versatile Mung Dal Stew with Healing Spices
Serves: 3-4
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ cup mung dal
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • 3 sprigs fresh curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 small yellow onion - chopped
  • ½ medium butternut squash - peeled and cubed
  • ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  • sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 whole dried red chili - torn in half
  • ⅛ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1½ cups cooked rice of your choice - for serving
  • cilantro - for garnish (optional)
  • coconut milk or yogurt - for garnish (optional)
  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Have a tea kettle or another pot with about 1 more cup of hot water ready, in case you need more water later in the process. Once 3 cups of water in the pot are boiling, add mung dal, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and curry leaves (if using). Lower heat to establish a steady simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Mix periodically to ensure the mung dahl doesn't stick to the pan. Discard curry sprigs, if using.
  2. Add onion, squash, desiccated coconut, and salt to the pot. If it seems like there isn't enough liquid in the pot, add a little more hot water from the tea kettle until the vegetables have room to simmer in the water, keeping the dal consistency like a soupy porridge. Continue simmering, covered, for another 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through. Stir in chili powder at half time. Mix periodically to prevent any sticking.
  3. Once the vegetables are around 5 minutes away from being done, warm ghee/oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and let toast for about 30 seconds, tossing all the while. Add the chili and fennel seeds and toast for another 30 seconds or until fennel is toasted in color and fragrant. Add the toasted spices along with the ghee/oil from the pan into the pot with the stew, mix it in and let simmer, covered, for another 5 minutes. Once stew is done cooking, discard the pepper and mix in the lemon/lime juice. Taste and adjust the salt.
  4. Serve stew over rice, garnished with cilantro and coconut milk/yogurt if desired.
1. You can add any vegetables/greens you have on hand in place of the butternut squash here and simmer until done, that's what makes this stew so versatile.
2. Curry leaves are completely optional here, but if you can get your hands on some, add them - their unique flavor works very well in this stew.
3. Traditional sambar calls for hing and tamarind. If you have one or both, add ⅛ teaspoon of hing to the pan with the toasting spices, towards the end and add to the stew with the rest of the toasted spices and ghee/oil. Add 2 teaspoons tamarind paste in place of the lemon/lime juice and simmer stew for another 5 minutes to let the flavor incorporate.
Recipe by Golubka Kitchen at