By Naini Setalvad
Versatile, nourishing and easily digestible, this delectable dal enjoys pride of place in the Indian culinary landscape, says Naini Setalvad
Why is mung such a favourite with Indians, be it babies, the sick, athletes or multi-tasking housewives? One, it suits all constitutions. Two, it is one of the lightest proteins to digest as it creates the least discomfort to the digestive system. My earliest memories of the humble mung are the aromatic khichidis made at home. I also recall the crisp mung khakras that I enjoyed at a friend’s house.
Mung nourishes Mother Earth, as its roots draw nitrogen from the air and sustain the earth, making farming possible.
Mung, which is consumed whole, or split into green and yellow variants, is versatile and popular across cuisines. For vegetarians, mung, which is 20 per cent protein, is one of the most wonderful sources of the nutrient. It is also loaded with fibre, which prevents binging, makes one ‘full’ easily and wards off obesity.
It also lowers cholesterol thanks to the niacin content in its B vitamins. The ‘feel good’ vitamin B6 in mung produces serotonin, which has a calming effect.
Mung contains folate, which aids in the production of red blood cells. It also has B1, which reduces pain by producing essential transmitters that send messages between nerves and muscles making co-ordination and body movement easy. The B2 in mung makes your skin glow, eyes twinkle and hair shine. The reasons, in short, for consuming mung are many.
Wealth of minerals
Mung has potassium, which is vital for maintaining blood pressure. Zinc, which gives mung its peculiar taste, helps us maintains insulin levels in our bodies. Athletes prefer mung for its high iron and, of course, copper content without which iron consumed by us cannot be used to make vital haemoglobin. The magnesium content in mung helps us stay calm and relaxes our muscles, keeping heart disease at bay.
The vitamins and mineral content of mung multiplies when it is consumed in its sprouted form, and the nutrients also become more accessible to the body. Sprouting produces vitamin C, which helps one develop immunity and acts as an antioxidant that arrests aging and fights cancer.
Mung, which is easily the most digestible among dals, is described as a cooling food by Ayurveda thanks to its alkaline nature.
Bengal gram flour is used to bathe infants but mung is better because some people are allergic to Bengal gram flour.
Make a soup, salad, dal, a vegetable, dhokla, shira or chilla – one cup of mung can fulfill about 20 per cent of your daily nutritional requirement. No wonder, it is recommended food for athletes, convalescing patients, babies, and for pregnant and lactating mothers.
It is important to note that like all proteins, mung can only be absorbed by the body if it is consumed along with Vitamin C. So remember to add tomato, lemon, imli or kokam to your mung.
A Jain friend has the last word on the essentially satvic nature of mung: “The day after fasting starts with mung pani for breakfast. On other days it is mung khakra. All celebration lunches invariably have mung puris.”
Life, in the Jain scheme of things, in short, is incomplete without mung – the magic dal.
Agra Chaat (Serves 3)
100 gm mung dal (split yellow gram)
100 gm cauliflower (option: cabbage), grated
150 gm tomatoes, finely chopped
100 gm cucumber, finely chopped
4 tbsp sweet chutney
2 tbsp green chutney
1/2 tsp jeera (cumin) powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
1 cup corriander
1. Cook mung dal with minimum water so that it has a thick falling consistency.
2. While serving warm the dal.
3. Pour dal in the serving bowl. Top with cut vegetables. Spread green and sweet chutney over it.
4. Sprinkle red chilli powder, jeera and salt to taste.
5. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
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