I did it!

I've been meaning to tell you...I donated my hair last week to Locks of Love. I feel so much lighter!

It's spring break and we're on the California Zephyr as you read this. I hope I get better pictures this time!

Dal Matters: Whole Moong Dal

Last weekend, my family celebrated Holi for the first time in the US. It isn't my favorite festival. I hated stepping out on Holi because I was a sure target for water balloons tossed from the 3rd or 4th floor. They hurt. People who refused to make eye contact through the year were suddenly pouring water all over me, touching me and plastering my face and clothes with color. No, thank you. I used to call it the "touch your neighbor's wife anywhere you want and get away with it" festival. This was Rangpanchami or Dhulivandan.

I did enjoy the real Holi. A lot. Mali-dada or the man who was the watchman-gardener-milkman for our little apartment complex would dig a large hole, fill it with twigs and dead leaves and set it ablaze. This, I later learned, was the funeral pyre for Holika, a demoness. The children would dance around the fire and chant:
Holi re Holi
Purana chi Poli

Mali-dada would crack open the coconuts we had given to him for prasad and then most of the women and kids would go to the terrace at the top of the building where much merriment would occur under the full moon, sans bhang.

We didn't partake of any celebrations in Chicagoland as it was always too cold and messing with powdered colors indoors was not something anyone was willing to take on in their homes. It was different last weekend: the weather held out at a breezy 60F with no rain or snow. Perfect for Holi.
We went armed with our Super Soaker but it was a little too breezy for that and Medha was disappointed. She's quite an ace when it comes to making sneak attacks and using the flash flood mode to douse her opponent with water. She made up for it by having a blast with the colors - apparently they smelled good, too. She was quite enthralled by her hair which soon had hues of purple and orange; a shower was the last thing she wanted to do once we got home.

Later in the week, she came home excited that the Time for Kids for that week had a picture of kids in Ahmedabad celebrating Holi.

Puran poli is the traditional food for Holi.

I don't celebrate Holi and I don't make Puran poli. Instead, I made whole moong dal. This recipe boasts a flavor that I had been trying to recreate from memory for what seems like forever. It is based on this recipe and is a keeper. There is no need to molly-coddle the whole moong with an overnight soak. A pressure cooker is all you need to ensure the soft creaminess of these beans.

Whole Moong Dal

  • 1 cup whole green moong dal
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • a pinch asafetida
  • 1 tamalpatra bay leaf
  • 1" cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 whole red chilli, broken into pieces
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp garlic, grated
  • 2 green chillies, slit vertically
  • 3-4 tbsp cilantro, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste

  1. Rinse the whole moong beans, drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the ghee directly in the pan of the pressure cooker.
  3. Add asafetida, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, and red chillies, followed by cumin seeds.
  4. Add chopped onions and cook until they have softened some.
  5. Add turmeric powder, green chillies, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes.
  6. Add whole moong and approximately 4 cups of water.
  7. Add red chilli powder and salt.
  8. Add chopped cilantro.
  9. Cook on a high flame for 2 whistles. Turn the flame to low and cook for about 45 minutes.
  10. Do not release the built-up pressure; instead allow the pressure cooker to cool on its own.
  11. When you can open the pressure cooker, adjust for seasonings, garnish with some cilantro and serve hot with rotis or steaming hot rice.

  1. What I love about this recipe, apart from its fabulous flavors, is that I don't need to plan a day ahead if I want to make this for dinner. One could soak the moong but it's not necessary.
  2. Ghee adds a wonderful dimension to the phodni.
  3. The original recipe suggests using some tomato paste to add an appealing color to the dish. It imparts no additional flavor so I skip that part.
  4. To up the heat, increase the number of red chillies in the phodni and/or green chillies and/or red chilli powder.
Try it. It's a recipe you will want to make again and again.