Months of sweets treats and indulgent cuisines from all around the world means it's time for a reset. Kick-off the new year with this healthy recipe to try at home.    

Today's healthy dish hails from India - mung tarka dhal. 

What is it?

This mild curry is a staple of the Indian diet. Often prescribed as part of the ayurvedic healing system, it fuses protein and fiber-rich mung beans with medicinal spices such as cumin, ginger, turmeric and cardamom. 


Technically the word “dhal” means “split” in Sanskrit. Yet, while the dish is often made with split lentils, the term has come to signify all dried peas and beans. It has been part of India’s daily diet since before 6000 BCE, long before rice even arrived in India. Ancient texts say the dish was served at celebrations such as the marriage of Helen of Troy to Chadragupta Maurya in 303 BCE. The mung bean version is particularly popular in southern India. 

You'll need (serves 6)

14oz (400g) mung dhal (skinned yellow split mung beans) 
8 cups (2L ) vegetable stock 
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 
1 ½in (4cm) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into quarters 
1 tbs turmeric powder 
2 small green chillies, finely chopped and deseeded (if liked) 
1 tsp salt 
2 tbs ghee 
2 French shallots, peeled and finely sliced 
1 tbs cumin seeds 
1 tsp mustard seeds 
1 tsp chilli flakes 
juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes 
3 handfuls of coriander leaves (cilantro), chopped, to serve 
cooked rice or flatbreads to serve 


Step 1: Rinse the mung beans until the water runs clear. 
Step 2: Put the mung beans in a pan and cover with the vegetable stock. 
Step 3: Bring the stock to the boil, removing any residue that appears on the surface. 
Step 4: Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, chopped chillies and a pinch of salt to the pan. Partially cover the pan with a lid, and simmer over a low heat for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the dhal has broken down and developed a creamy consistency. 
Step 5: Add boiling water or reduce the dhal further to achieve your preferred consistency, then season to taste with more salt, if necessary. 
Step 6: Next, make the tarka (the spice mix that is drizzled over the finished dhal to make it explode with flavor). Heat the ghee in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the shallots and stir-fry until golden. 
Step 7: Add the cumin and mustard seeds and the chilli flakes and cook for a couple of minutes until the mustard seeds are beginning to pop. 
Step 8: Tip the tarka and the lemon or lime juice over the dhal, stir in, and top with chopped coriander. 
Step 9: Serve with rice or flatbreads. 

Tasting notes

There's something undeniably soothing about this gentle comfort food: whether you are enjoying it in the peaceful environs of a Keralan ayurvedic retreat as you gaze on to the backwaters, or seated on a plastic stool by a Delhi street-food shack as tuk tuks hurtle past and cows plod by, it has the ability to calm and ground.

Its creaminess, achieved by churning the mixture with a wooden tool called a mathani or through a super-slow cooking process, is crucial to its heartwarming nature. An integral part of any thali (an Indian meal composed of a selection of dishes), the softly aromatic mix is especially sumptuous soaked up with a paratha (flatbread) or spooned over rice, being full-bodied enough to interest the taste buds while retaining its soothing feel.

For additional recipes, check our Travel Kitchen page.

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