Lentils are a very huge and important part of the vegetarian Indian diet. Naturally, they’re one of our main sources of protein and are also extremely nutritious. Lentils are used in both their whole or split, and skinned or unskinned forms in Indian cooking. The most common lentils are yellow lentils or tuvar dal, black gram lentils or urad dal, Bengal gram lentils or channa dal, red lentils or masoor dal and moong lentils or moong dal. Indian regional cuisines cook lentils in literally hundreds of different ways. Today I’m sharing the recipe for Kerala Parippu Curry made with split moong lentils or moong dal.
Parippu Chaadam/ Saadham or soft cooked and lightly salted lentils mixed with rice and ghee is comfort food for me. This is something we eat from childhood, toddlerhood actually, right into adulthood. We feed it in small quantities to toddlers as part of their solid food once they’ve been weaned. Parippu Chaadam/ Saadham is even a part of our Sadya or festive lunch in my community. We always use spilt yellow lentils or tuvar dal for this.
This lentil curry similarly served with rice especially for the Sadya. It is quite different from the way we cook it in my community. For one, split moong lentils or dal is used in this curry. Moong dal is called Cheruparippu (cheru =small, parippu=lentils) in Malayalam. Moong lentils have a low glycemic index, are rich in nutrients and fibre, and easily digested.
Kerala Parippu Curry is very delicately flavoured and usually served as part of the Sadya. It is prepared by cooking the lentils very soft, almost creamy. A chilli-cumin-onion-coconut paste is added after which the curry is tempered. Though festive fare, it can be cooked as every day dish too. Pan roasting/ toasting the moong lentils before cooking them is not typical but doing so adds flavour.
One thing to note are the onions used in this dish, both in the coconut paste and tempering. They’re small red and pungent onions called Sambhar onions or Madras onions. These are not the same as shallots. If you cannot find these little onions, use the larger red onions. You can make this lentil curry with split yellow lentils or tuvar dal as well in a pinch. Serve the curry with hot rice and vegetables on the side.
Kerala Parippu Curry
- 1/2 cup of split moong lentils moong dal
- 1 tsp ghee or coconut oil
- 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
For Grinding :
- 1/3 cup fresh grated coconut
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 sambhar onions or 1 very small red onion
- 2 green chillies
For Tempering/ Tadka :
- 2 tsp of coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds
- 3-4 sambhar onions sliced
- 1 red chilli torn into pieces
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- You don’t have to pan roast/ toast the lentils. I do because the Parippu Curry develops much better flavor. Start by pan roasting the lentils in ghee, on medium heat till they just start changing colour and give off a nutty aroma. Stir frequently and do not brown the lentils. Substitute ghee with coconut oil for a vegan dish.
- I prefer to cook the lentils at this point, with the turmeric powder in the pressure cooker till very soft. You can cook them in a pot on the stove but it will take much longer.
- While the lentils are cooking, grind together the coconut, cumin seeds, sambhar onions and green chillies with a little water to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
- Take the cooked lentils out of the pressure cooker and mash well. Put this in a pot, adding a little water if necessary to adjust the consistency, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, and stir in the coconut paste. Add salt to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes till well blended but do not bring to a vigorous boil. Take the pot off the heat.
- Heat the coconut oil in a tempering pan or small pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the sliced sambhar onions and sauté over medium heat, till they caramelize and turn golden brown. Stir in the red chilli pieces and curry leaves and immediately pour it all into the cooked lentil curry.
- Stir and serve with hot rice and other accompaniments.