Other people’s recipes: Mung ki dal

Some years ago, we did a pot-luck lunch at work, and my then-coworker Arthur (@hungryplanner) brought in a vegetarian lentil dish he called “mung ki dal”. I have no idea if it’s a real authentic Indian recipe, but it was the first time I had a savory vegetarian dish that was oh-my-god-I-could-eat-the-whole-thing delicious that wasn’t pizza or pasta. I asked Arthur for the recipe, and make it somewhat regularly now. It’s one of only two vegetarian mains that I make from scratch on a regular basis (ravioli in marinara sauce doesn’t count) — although I more often have it as a starch complement to a chicken curry (instead of rice or naan) rather than as a main dish. I asked him if I could publish it on the Web, so here goes (sorry, no pictures!). Arthur prefers yellow lentils in this dish, but I’ve never seen such a thing in the supermarkets where I live (green and black, yes, but never yellow) so I use red lentils.


1 cup yellow or red lentils
2 cups cold water (slightly less for red lentils)
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground red pepper (I use cayenne)
1 tsp salt
4 tbl (2 oz) butter (or ghee if you have it)
1 large onion
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tbl chopped parsley (optional)


  1. Pick over lentils to remove non-lentil matter, then rinse in a mesh strainer until water runs clear.
  2. Place lentils, water, turmeric, salt, and red pepper in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover partially; simmer until lentils are tender (about 25 minutes for red lentils, longer for yellow).
  3. Slice onion thinly from pole to pole. (I cut the onion in half, remove the core, then use my V-slicer, and it works well enough. Slicing radially would probably give better results but I’m lazy.)
  4. Melt 3 tbl (1½ oz) butter in a skillet until water has boiled off. Bloom the cumin in the hot fat for 15–30 seconds, then add sliced onions and sauté until slightly browned, about 8 minutes.
  5. Add cooked onion to cooked lentil mixture and simmer for another 2 minutes. If you overmix, the lentils will break down completely.
  6. Top with remaining 1 tbl butter and parsley and serve.


Arthur’s recipe doesn’t specify a yield. I get three servings as a side, which is how I’ve computed the data below; as a main dish it’s probably two servings (certainly would be for me, anyway, assuming I managed to stop before finishing the whole pot).

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: about a cup
Servings per recipe: 3
Amount per serving
Calories 399 Calories from fat 134
% Daily Value
Total Fat 15g 23%
 Saturated Fat 9g 45%
 Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 40mg 13%
Sodium 791mg 33%
Potassium 114mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 16%
 Dietary fiber 13g 52%
 Sugars 3.5g
Proteins 18g 36%
Vitamin A 14%
Vitamin C 10%
Calcium 5%
Iron 25%
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