Experiments in Cooking

Mung dal for beginners, in IP

Mung dal is the perfect lentil for beginners to Indian food. It is forgiving, delicious, and oh so nutritious. It can be cooked easily on the stovetop in under 30 minutes, and in the IP, it takes 10ish minutes- time to heat up and then just 5 minutes under pressure!

The mung dal routinely cooked for daily fair is “split mung”, where the green peel is gone and the grain is split in two. The lentil is small, and a light yellow color. Check out how they look in this picture from when I cooked them on the stovetop (pic taken before they started cooking).

I like my cooking to be hands off, so prefer the electric pressure cooker. I can add everything in, close it, press a few buttons, and then do some other chore without fear of burning my food. I also acquired a bag of pink “matta” rice from the Indian grocery store. This rice harkens back to many family meals in Kerala (where half my family lives), and I enjoy its flavor so much more than white rice, and prefer its texture over brown rice. Rice is a standard accompaniment to dal. You can also go with unleavened flatbreads like rotis.

I’ve recently started making my dal with spinach added it in. Its an easy way for everyone to get their greens.

I made stir-fried eggplant as a side using Chinese Eggplant. The whole meal was so delicious, simple, and satisfying!

Mung dal for beginners:


  • Half a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 dry red chili (optional)
  • powder together: 2 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • pinch of hing (optional)
  • salt to taste (starting with 1.5 tsp)
  • 1 cup raw mung dal
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 2-3 cups spinach leaves, chopped coarsely
  • 2 tbsp oil of your choice (I use ghee)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice


  1. Heat the IP on the saute setting. Add ghee and swirl when hot.
  2. Add cumin seeds and dry red chilli (omit if no heat is desired). Allow to toast.
  3. Add in the onions and stir gently, allowing them to brown to a light color without burning. Add in the powdered spices and turmeric. Mix well.
  4. Turn off IP.
  5. Add the hing (if using), immediately followed by garlic, tomatoes, dal, and water. Do not add the salt yet.
  6. Set the cooker to cook at high pressure for 5 minutes. I like to do a 5 minute release when done.
  7. Open the cooker, mix the cooked dal well, loosening any lumps caught at the bottom.
  8. Switch to “low saute”, then add the salt and spinach leaves. If at this point your dal looks too thick, you can add up to another half cup of water. Add the lemon juice.
  9. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Your dal is ready!

Couple of notes on chillis: If you want a hint of red chilli but not too much, then don’t add it in step 2. Instead, after step 6, heat some oil separately and add the red chilli to it. Then add this oil and chilli to the dal before step 7 or 8. This will allow some heat to come through, but not too much. Alternately, my family uses a slit thai green chilli. My son won’t eat that kind of heat yet, so I don’t use it.