In India, “dal” is the word for lentils, and “moong dal” is the general term for mung lentils, also known as split yellow mung beans. Moong dal is native to India, but has also been cultivated in southeast Asia and China since the late Neolithic era, according to “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.” Many Indian home cooks use split yellow mung beans in soups because they cook quickly, but you can also blend cooked moong dal into a fine paste to make dumpling batter. A classic Indian dish called “muger dal” combines moong dal, spinach and an aromatic blend of spices.
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Put 1 cup moong dal in a fine-meshed strainer. Rinse thoroughly under cold running water, removing any debris or damaged beans.
Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp. canola oil, the rinsed, drained moong dal and ½ tsp. turmeric to the saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, for one to two minutes.
Add 4 cups warm water, 1 bay leaf and 1 ½ tsp. salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Thoroughly skim all the froth off the surface with a spoon.
Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
Stir in 2 cups firmly packed, finely chopped fresh spinach and ½ tsp. cayenne pepper. Cook, partially covered, for about 15 more minutes.
Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. canola oil, 1 tsp. cumin, ½ tsp. coriander, ½ tsp. fennel, 3 dried whole red chilies and ½ fresh, minced hot green chili in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly, cooking for one to two minutes, until golden brown.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in ½ tsp. dried mango powder.
Stir the spiced oil into the cooked moong dal and spinach. Transfer to a large bowl and serve immediately.