Thursday, April 8, 2010


For my first entry, allow me to write about something almost entirely unrelated to placement. This will be a story about one of my great loves: good food, and cooking good food.

As a result of this love of food, and my desire to get in touch with my Indian roots, I had been bugging my mother to teach me how to make the moong daal that she always made when we were growing up. This is an old family dish, passed down from my great-grandmother and native, as far as I know, to Kolkuntla village in Andhra Pradesh, where my mom's family comes from. So as you can imagine, my mother was overjoyed that I was taking such an interest in her side of the family.

“Adam,” she said, “why don't you just make pasta instead? You make such good pasta.”

So a week or so ago, I had my friend Ange over for lunch. Ange had had this concoction a while ago, and wanted the recipe, so I thought it would be a good idea to do a bit of a photo-documentary on the whole process. (some other time,. I'll post my aborted photo-doc on the excruciating pain of making sorghum rotis)

For the culinarily inclined, here's the recipe behind the photos: first, roast 2 cups of split moong daal in a frying pan on med-high heat, stirring constantly so that the ones on the bottom don't burn. Stop roasting when most have browned a bit and the daal smells fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside. Boil 4-ish cups of water and toss in the daal along with 2 tbsp of turmeric. Cover and let boil, adding water whenever needed until the daal get soft and mushy. Once mushiness is attained, simmer and make the bagaar.

The bagaar, or spice mix, consists of about a half-cup of oil, a tablespoon each of mustard and cumin seeds, a handful of curry leaves, a small onion and 3-4 dried chillies. The oil is heated until it is smoking hot, and then you toss in the seeds. They will pop violently. If they pop pout of the pot, cover for about 30 seconds and then add the onion. Otherwise, add the onion after the popping has started and the seeds begin to burn. The burning is good, it means it's working. After a bit, add in the chillies and curry leaves and keep stirring until the onions are nice and brown. Bit of a side note: make sure to add the onions first. I once added the chillies in before the onions and the kitchen filled with an acrid smoke that made everyone run out in panic. Then add the daal from before, simmer for a while, and enjoy!

Today, I paid my parents' house a long-overdue visit, the first since I had finished the mountain of assignments that had been plaguing me until last Thursday. My mother was making parathas, a kind of roti that is rolled multiple times so that layers are created, giving the bread a light, flaky texture. It is a finnicky process at first, but I gradually got the hang of it, and by the end my parathas were even round-ish, resembling circles more than their lumpy ovoid predecessors.

For a second, my mother's reaction was that my great-grandmother would have been very proud of me. She then appended her claim to “But she would probably ask why you didn't have a wife to do it.”


  1. Those are some mad fancy photography skills. So much oil and lentil deliciousness. I will probably burn the house down in the process of making this so I'm going to hold off til after t-word when I will be more alert.

    Excited to read about your journey!

  2. Hey Adam,

    Of course, your G-G-ma would be proud, but you forgot to mention salt in you recipe! Besides, you must say "green moong ki daal" just so no one mistakes it for yellow moong ki daal. The green one still has the seed coat, or hull, thus more virtuous!

  3. o adam, we're prouder than a purple pig with pink pom-poms...