A cooked dal is often one of the most substantial courses in a West Bengali dinner, making West Bengali cuisine an important source of inspiration for mung bean dishes, where it is the dominant legume of choice in addition to red lentils or "masoor dal". Another characteristic feature of West Bengali cooking is the refined use of exquisite spice blends incorporating cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns.
It is one of these unique spice mixtures that lends to an extraordinary and perfect balance of flavors and fragrances in this mung bean and tomato soup, loosely adapted from a recipe in Yamuna Devi's Lord Krishna's Cuisine. Toasted cardamom, cloves and peppercorns with coriander, cumin and fennel seeds will fill your kitchen with a smoky and spicy-but-slightly-sweet aroma that will have you anticipating the meal to come, and the addition of the earthy sweetness of toasted sesame oil and the heat of just a few fresh chilies makes this one of the most perfectly seasoned and perfumed soups I have made in a long while. Serve this with green tea & curry rice and spiced creamed spinach for an elegant and satisfying simple meal.
If you are going to embark on a journey through Indian cooking, it is a good idea to buy an extra coffee grinder to save yourself the effort of grinding seeds and spices in a mortar and pestle. If you don't enjoy coriander-flavored coffee, you have further incentive to buy a second grinder! Most of the ingredients in this soup are readily available, but if you don't have toasted sesame oil on hand, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of sesame seeds to the seed and spice mixture before toasting and substitute the oil with ghee or a mixture of butter and olive oil.
|West Bengali Mung Bean & Tomato Soup|
|Recipe by Lisa Turner|
Adapted from Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking
Published on April 2, 2008
Warm, creamy mung bean and tomato soup seasoned with wonderfully fragrant toasted seeds and spices