Simple Mung Dal Soup | Old Boyfriends | New Recipes

easy mung dal coup

My first important boyfriend came into my life during high school. He was important for all the reasons that matter when you’re 16 years old. “A” was beautiful, sweet, drove a cool vintage car, liked the same music, and sported a fabulously hip wardrobe. He also owned a Vespa, which was one of the most direct paths to my heart during those brutal years of black mini-skirts and fishnet stockings.

A was also Indian. He moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old with his parents and multiple siblings. Although he adopted an American name and did his best to assimilate, his parents worked tirelessly to keep their native traditions alive in their modest South Bay home. Such efforts included building an indoor shrine, wearing traditional clothing, and, of course, cooking Indian cuisine. I loved walking into their home, which was always awash in the deep earthy scents of allspice and curry. It was so comforting and warm.

Not everyone was so enamored with the warm and distinctively Indian smell of their home, however. A’s sister developed a strict routine that was nearly pathological in order to avoid revealing her obvious Indian heritage to the rest of the world. So worried was she that she would carry the odor of curry with her wherever she went that she dry-cleaned her entire closet every week and kept her clothing sealed in a special curry-free location.

I marveled at her unwavering commitment to this routine, but also at the her disregard and barely contained hatred of her heritage. I didn’t understand this. I loved her world and wanted to immerse myself in it every minute. Looking back, there was a lot we didn’t understand about each other and admittedly, I was viewing the situation with rose-colored lenses. After I left for college and developed some distance from the situation, I wasn’t very surprised to hear she ran off with a boy that was a dead-ringer for Tom Petty. He was, to everyone’s great displeasure, a front-man in a heavy metal band. A’s sister broke a lot of hearts in this manner, but she also succeeded in avoiding an arranged marriage.

I think about her and A often. I have only limited knowledge of what happened to them and, because I’m no fan of cyberstalking nor particularly adept at spelling Indian names, I may never know.

I am thankful, however, for all the family brought into my world. I love Indian food and Indian culture. I find myself transported into their loving home whenever I open up one of my favorite and most cherished cookbooks, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. If you don’t have this cookbook, it is a must-have whether or not you desire to be transported to an Indian state of mind. I think you will like it a great deal. Don’t be threatened, however, when you open the pages and see long lists of ingredients. You will find the spices and ingredients are finite. There are multitudes of methods to use them and many recipes are similar but for a change in technique in the cooking process.

split mung beans

Once you make one of the recipes, you’ll be hooked. I see no way around it.

You can start with this simple soup today or, if you are feeling up to something a bit more daring (but still breathtakingly simple), sample this dish. Let me know what you think or if you know the whereabouts of A and his wayward sister from San Bruno. I love hearing from you.

Easy Indian Soup

Simple Mung Dal Soup

2/3 cup split moong dal, without skins
6 and 1/2 cups water
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 and 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger root
1 tsp fresh minced green chili (such as jalepeno)
1 and 1/4 tsp salt
2 tblsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander or parsley

Sort, wash, and drain the split mung dal beans.

Combine the mung beans, water, turmeric, coriander, ginger, and green chili in a heavy 3 quart non-stick saucepan. Stirring occasionally, bring to a full boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderately low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and boil gently for 1 hour or until the dal is soft and fully cooked. Remove from the heat.

Once off the heat, uncover the soup and blend in salt to taste. Whisk with a wire whisk until the dal is creamy and smooth.

Heat the ghee or oil in a small saucepan over moderate to high heat. When hot, toss in the cumin seeds and fry until the seeds turn brown. Pour this mixture into the dal. Immediately cover and allow the seasoning to soak into the hot dal for 1-2 minutes. Add the minced herb, stir, and serve.

Note: This is a broth-based soup. In other words, it’s a thin soup. If you are looking to make it heartier or thicker, try adding 1/2 cup of rice when you begin the cooking process.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    I LOVE Indian food; you do not have to ask me twice to put this recipe into my repertoire! I’m sure A would be please to know he rubbed off on you in such a delicious manner!


  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    Love Indian food and culture. I hope A and his sister both wound up happy- and enjoy lots of food like this.

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    Oh this looks great! I just posted about how I just completed my 4-week Vegetarian Indian Cooking class- I loooove Indian food!

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    Hey Robin, I loved reading this. Too bad that you don’t know what happened to A and his sister. You might soon though. I mean, one of them might try to find you…it happens (smile).
    Oh, and I make a similar soup all the time. I will try yours-it looks better;)

    • redmenace
      November 8, 2010 - | Permalink

      Stella, strangely enough I do have one (rather awful) snippet about A. He got engaged a few years after I left for college to a really wonderful lady and then she had a horrible accident. She’s alive today, but they are no longer together. Actually, the story of her accident (fall from a balcony) is documented in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers— which is one of my all-time favorite books. xoxo

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    Oh my, the post I’m writing at the moment has similar undertones… great minds? There can never be too much about Indian food. Healthy South Indian Cooking by Alamelu Vairavan ( is the book we turn to at home, though I’m tempted to search your recommendation out. My stepmom took a class with Alamelu while my dad was in India, and she had a blast. Though with all that great food and chatter, how could she not?!



  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    What a neat story! I can’t imagine going to all that trouble to avoid smelling like curry, though I can see how I might want to reserve the privilige of picking out my husband for myself! Now I’m craving the lamb kadai masala that the indian place here in town serves!

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    Your post brought back memories of an Indian couple that lived next to me when I was a child. Looking back, I was probably this annoying little kid that was forever hanging around their house, but I was so fascinated by them! The wife was always very kind, the mother-in-law always dressing in traditional Indian garb, and I still remember the way their house used to smell.

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    Great memories! I remember my grandmother telling me that her Caribbean neighbors used to apologize whenever they cooked goat and warned my grandparents about the “strong smell” that might come out of their house…

    That is a wonderful soup!



  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    Yummy soup, and I love broth based soups. I especially enjoy sipping them on lazy days, in front of a warm fire if possible! I too love looking back and being grateful for the life lessons and insights learned in friendships. Even if the friendship has slipped away. Even that is OK, I no longer think we were meant to hold onto everyone that enters our own little sphere. Take care, and good thoughts to Miss Bump!

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    woah, what a story. As a Brazilian mommy I often cook rice and beans, actually I always cook rice and beans, and other Brazilian food. I hope my son never rejects our food. I want to go give your ex-boyfriend’s mom a big hug.

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    I’ve only eaten Indian food a couple of times, and it’s very different, and interesting. I like the looks of this recipe and plan on trying it soon, being a soup lover to begin with, and also the weather turned cold. LOL

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. I love coming here, and visiting K’s website/blog too. Recipes and photography, what could be better. :)

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    Robin, I am very excited to see an Indian recipe on your site plus the recommendation on the cookbook. I have rarely eaten Indian cuisine but every time I do it’s amazing, and I want to eat mainly vegetarian. I’ve been searching for the right Indian cookbook for years, with no success, so I’m excited to get a recommendation!

    • redmenace
      November 8, 2010 - | Permalink

      I love the cookbook. I hope you will too!

  • November 5, 2010 - | Permalink

    I love dal, and Indian cooking in general, the spices combined with gentle coconut milk, yum. Very comforting too. And you are so right about the ingredients, once you have them they will be good for any Indian dish.

  • November 6, 2010 - | Permalink

    This looks fabulous! I will have to try it out sometime.

  • November 6, 2010 - | Permalink

    A wonderful story as always. And gorgeous soup. I am horrified to tell you that I don’t have that cookbook in spite of the fact that I also adore Indian cuisine. Now I know what to make for you when I bring you post-baby food. I hope you are feeling well!

  • November 6, 2010 - | Permalink

    Such a lovely story, I also am jumping for joy for this recipe! I love love love Indian food! The book you mention is amazing! Have you seen Vij’s book? If you don’t have it check it out, I think you would love it. Hope your really well! xoxo e

  • November 7, 2010 - | Permalink

    What gorgeous pictures! I love mung dal soup and its so nourishing and filling. My husband is Indian – we’re recently married so I have been exploring Indian cuisine these days – will have to check out this recipe :)

  • November 8, 2010 - | Permalink

    Hehe I am always so curious about ex boyfriends and their families :-) Soup looks awesome! – So healthy!

  • November 8, 2010 - | Permalink

    i like the stories attached to your food. it is sad that one would dislike a part of who they are so much. it’s a struggle that one has to own + reconcile. hope happiness found them all. they have obviously found your indian-food-happy. i have that kind of happy, too. : ) thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • Steph
    November 8, 2010 - | Permalink

    As Asian-Americans / Indian-Americans go, it’s hard to get past feeling the sensation of “otherness” compared to Caucasians sometimes, even in diverse California, and happens whether one is born in the US or immigrated while young. There is usually past teasing involved, past trauma involving skin color, food, scents, etc. Children can be cruel. One starts to rebel against it all, especially as girls in strict, more “traditional” families who insist on keeping within cultural standards. I can see where she would try to escape..

    That said, I love Indian food, and that naan + soup combination looks amazing.

  • November 8, 2010 - | Permalink

    I know almost nothing about Indian food, but am slowly learning and was quite surprised that I enjoy more than I ever thought I would. You MUST check out the lovely Nupur’s foodie blog, One Hot Stove. She’s a St. Louis kid like me and a lovely girl. She shares your passion for Indian cooking and always has wonderful pictures and posts! She’s also a terrific crocheter. I met her a couple years ago when I helped run and organize Needles for Newborns, a charity knit/crochet event benefiting preemie babies in our area. She makes WONDERFUL baby items! :)

  • November 8, 2010 - | Permalink

    I love Indian food but never make it myself, I think I am put off by the ingredient lists usually. Like always, I must be brave and begin to branch out and explore…and use cookbooks! I love them, but so rarely use them. Resolutions, resolutions. I wish I could have dated someone in high school who’s family could have opened me up to culinary wonders. My mother was one of the few moms I knew of who used fresh vegetables and cooked from scratch. Don’t even get me started on the state of everyone’s meat cooking…

  • November 9, 2010 - | Permalink

    You’re such a wonderful storyteller. While it’s totally none of my business, I feel like I really want to know what happened to A.

    I love Indian food! I never make it as much as I’d like….in part bc I haven’t found an Indian cookbook that I like. Thanks for the rec on this book, I’ll defintely check it out.

    • redmenace
      November 9, 2010 - | Permalink

      Hi Kelli,
      I was just telling Stella that I do have one last snippet about A (albeit sort of tragic). He got engaged a few years after I left for college to a really wonderful lady and then she had a horrible accident after which she was never quite the same. She’s alive today, but they are no longer together. Actually, the story of her accident (fall from a balcony during a party) is documented in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers— which is one of my all-time favorite books. xoxo

  • November 9, 2010 - | Permalink

    that looks soooo good, right up my alley im definitely trying this one.
    im going to india in january and i cant wait to come home, open my suitcase and smell the beautiful spices and odours seeped into my clothes!

  • November 9, 2010 - | Permalink

    Robin, right now this sounds so perfect I want it already made in front of me. It is on my list for the next week. I adore Indian food but have never made a soup – this sound perfect and I loved reading your story!!

  • November 10, 2010 - | Permalink

    I adore Indian food too and got acquainted with both the amazing cuisine and more restrictive traditions of their culture through being best friends with an Indian girl since high school. That’s pretty hilarious about A’s sister dry-cleaning her closet though. They must have been fairly well off :). Love this soup and definitely need to use that book more.

  • November 12, 2010 - | Permalink

    I love the fresh smells of Indian Food. I love broth soups like this. The simplicity of seeing a tiny bit of cilantro floating on top is somehow really elegant.

  • November 17, 2010 - | Permalink

    Mmmmmmm, I do love a good bowl of dal. Such a satisfying and simple soup. I have made a thicker version but your brothy recipe looks wonderful

  • November 18, 2010 - | Permalink

    As always, what a beautiful story. :) It’s amazing how one’s experiences can be tied back to food, or vice versa. I’ve never had this soup, but I am a fan of Indian food. This one’s going in the very-long-queue. :)


  • November 21, 2010 - | Permalink

    Such a lovely story! I really enjoyed reading it, of course part of it is because I’m an Indian, and many of us who move out of the country try to be *other*, which really annoys me because the *the other* really have no dislike for our culture and tradition. Of course I won’t say arrange marriage is good but i believe trying to be others always leads to more agitation and at some point you would feel lost! Duh all that :) and this is a fabulous looking Dal as we call it.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>