Bangladeshi mug dhal bhuna

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This incredible dhal recipe from Bangladesh boasts bags of flavour for minimal effort. Toasting the lentils first provides a nutty aroma which complements the spices beautifully, while tempering the delicious ghee with chillies and garlic results in an unctuous finish. Vegetable ghee is available if you wish to keep the dish vegan.

First published in 2020

Dhals are the ultimate in southern Asian comfort foods and this simple vegetarian and vegan dish (if you use vegetable ghee) is one of my favourite recipes learned from my mother. Spicy and fragrant without being hot, this dhal bhuna is hearty, rich and so flavourful – perfect with a steaming plate of fluffy white basmati rice. In Bangladesh this dish is sometimes eaten with flaky porotas (fried flatbread) and this actually makes for a wonderful brunch dish during leisurely weekends. Toasting the lentils adds a deliciously nutty dimension to the dhal, so try not to skip this stage.







Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add the moong lentils. Dry roast for 7–8 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent them from burning. You should have a toasted aroma towards the end. Once done, immediately place the beans into a bowl filled with cold water. If the beans clump together, break apart with a spoon. Make sure that the water is about two inches above the beans
Soak for 15 minutes. Once soaked, rinse a few times until the water runs clean, drain and set aside
Heat the vegetable oil in a large, deep frying pan or karai over a medium-high heat and add the crushed garlic and ginger. Fry for around 2 minutes until golden
Add the onions, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom and salt and cook for 8–10 minutes until golden. Pour in 100ml water and simmer for 2–3 minutes until the onions are soft
Stir through the ground spices and cook over a low heat for 2–3 minutes
Add the moong lentils and stir through to incorporate all the spices, then add 400ml water. Turn up the heat to medium, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, covered, stirring once or twice
Once the water is absorbed, stir in another 500ml water. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat to low and add the whole green chillies. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, by which time the lentils should have almost completely absorbed all the water
Prepare the torka (tempering) by heating the ghee over a medium-high heat in a frying pan. Add the dried red chillies and fry until deep brown in colour, then add the garlic
Once the garlic is golden brown, pour the ghee mixture into the lentils and stir. Cook for 5 minutes, then stir though the chopped coriander just before turning off the heat
Serve with plain rice or porotas

Dina Begum a cookbook author and writer who is passionate about highlighting the recipes and food traditions of Bangladesh.

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