Moong Dal Vegetable Curry
If this dish were on a restaurant menu, it might read something like this: Split mung beans with eggplant, broccolini, cremini mushrooms, baby spinach and sweet cranberries in a light, creamy curry sauce, served over steamed basmati rice. Sounds fancy that way, doesn’t it?
This recipe has a really diverse combination of flavors: earthy mung beans, bitter spinach, sweet cranberries and feisty spices that bite you back. When you add the coconut milk at the end, all the flavors come together in a light and creamy curry.
As you may know, whole mung beans are green, but when they are split the skin comes off, leaving behind tiny little golden beans known in India as “moong dal” (“dal” is the general Hindi word for beans, lentils and peas).
Like all legumes, it’s wise to soak these for a few hours before you cook them to help with digestion. Thorough rinsing is also a good idea. It usually takes me about ten rinses for the water to come out clear.
- 1 cup moong dal, rinsed and soaked for up to 4 hours if possible
- 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and soaked for 15 minutes
- 2 T. coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 6 oz. baby spinach (4 cups firmly packed), chopped
- 9 cremini mushrooms, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 2 cups broccolini or broccoli, chopped into small florets
- 1 cup eggplant, chopped (zucchini is a good alternative)
- ½ tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 Tbsp. curry powder
- 2 tsp. fine sea salt, divided
- ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ½ cup sweetened dried cranberries (chopped if whole)
- ¾ cup coconut milk, or more to taste
In a saucepan bring 2 cups of salted water and the soaked, drained moong dal to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and partially cover the pot; simmer for 20 minutes or until the beans are soft. If the beans soften to “al dente” texture before all the water evaporates, drain the water. Replace the lid firmly on the pot to keep them warm.
In the meantime in a separate saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil. Add the soaked, drained basmati rice, return to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer, covered, until all the water evaporates and the rice is cooked, roughly 15 minutes. Again, if the rice cooks before the water evaporates, pour the rest out.
In a large saute pan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions until soft, then add the garlic slices, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown. Add the broccoli(ni) and stir occasionally for a minute or two (longer for regular broccoli, shorter for broccolini) to give it a head start over the other veggies, as it takes a little longer to soften. Next add the mushrooms and eggplant (or zucchini), and stir until the veggies begin to soften.
Measure out the spices and stir them together in a small bowl: ½ tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. coriander, 1 T. curry powder, 1 ½ tsp. sea salt, ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper and ¼ cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot). Sprinkle the spice mixture over the sauteeing veggies and stir until they are coated evenly in spices.
Add the cooked moong dal and chopped spinach and sprinkle with the remaining ½ tsp. of sea salt. Stir until the spinach begins to wilt. You may be tempted to skip the chopping, but if the spinach is not chopped it will tend to clump up rather than be evenly incorporated throughout the dish.
Stir in the cranberries. Turn off the heat and add the coconut milk. Stir until all the ingredients are moistened in the sauce. If you prefer your dish to be saucier, add more coconut milk or water. Serve the vegetable curry over steamed basmati rice.
As a single-dish meal, this recipe makes about four reasonable servings. If we’re both very hungry, it will be enough for my husband and me, with seconds for both of us, plus a little left over for lunch the next day.
Additional note: My favorite curry powder comes from Epicurean Organics and I buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs. Do you have a favorite curry powder? Please leave a comment below!
What’s healthy about this recipe?
Mung beans are valued for their easy digestibility. A one-cup serving of cooked mung beans provides 14 g of protein and 80% of the recommended daily folate intake. They are also an excellent source of fiber and vitamin K.
Breaking news! Spinach is good for you. More specifically, it is a good source of vitamins K and A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2 and calcium.
A member of the cabbage family, broccolini is a good source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, fiber, iron and calcium.
Garlic is strongly anti-inflammatory and is known for its anti-bacterial properties. It contains manganese, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, and has also been found to help reduce high blood pressure and other circulatory conditions.
Eggplant is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals. In particular, its skin contains nausunin, which has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage.
Curry powder contains turmeric, a root that’s part of the ginger family. Turmeric, in turn, contains curcumin, which is currently the subject of a dizzying number of scientific studies. It has been found to have some powerful health benefits such as inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer cells, and is prized for its anti-inflammatory properties.