Mug, as residents of the Westernmost state in India like to call it, is a staple of Gujarati cuisine. It is to Gujaratis what Pasta with Tomato Sauce is to Italians, what Fish and Chips are to the English and what Meat and Potatoes are to Germans, though considering the largely vegetarian population of Gujarat, it ends up becoming Mug and Potatoes. It is consumed with Pooris (deep fried bread), Rotlis (very thin flatbread, similar to Chapatis) and boiled rice. It is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner (pretty much whenever anybody fancies eating it). It is wholesome and if accompanied by another dry vegetable dish or a salad makes for a complete meal.
My mother-in-law (who is Gujarati) makes a mean Mug. Many a times I have asked her to teach me and many a times she has complied but I have the sneakiest suspicion that she is not being totally honest with me. For some reason my Mug never turns out as good as her’s. I am convinced she has a secret ingredient. Given the Western Indian’s (Gujaratis, Maharashtrians and Marwaris) fondness for adding sugar to just about anything including, gasp, Sambar (South Indian Spicy, Tangy Lentil-based dish – which absolutely should have NOTHING to do with sugar. In fact, they should not even be on speaking terms), I thought that maybe it was sugar she was adding. I tried that, but no cigar. So, for now, I have given up. But the next time I am around when she making Mug, I plan to either hide a video camera or hover over her when she makes it. Maybe I will catch her in the act then.
For now, here is my version of this classic. It is a pretty good dish even if I say so myself.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 adults)
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
12-15 curry leaves (you can find them at any Indian store)
A pinch Asofetida (Hing)
1 dry red chili
1/2 medium onion – diced fine
1 large tomato – chopped fine
1 inch piece of ginger – peeled and julienned
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup uncooked dry mung beans, washed and soaked in 3 cups of water
1 tbsp ground coriander powder
1 tbsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp red chili powder
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste
1. Soak the mung overnight till it has expanded in size (osmosis happens).
2. In a saucepan heat the oil.
3. Fry the mustard seeds, asafetida, dry red chili, curry leaves and cinnamon stick till they sputter.
4. Add onion and fry till they start to brown.
5. Add the tomatoes, ginger and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes.
6. Add the mung and water.
7. Add the turmeric, red chili powder, coriander and cumin powders.
8. Bring to a boil and then cover the saucepan and let it simmer till the mung dal is cooked.
9. Add more water if it gets too dry – it should be pretty thick but still flowing.
10. Add salt to taste. Add some lemon juice to taste to give just a hint of tang.
11. Serve hot with an Indian bread of your choice or boiled rice. You can even eat this with just toasted white bread. It tastes pretty good.
12. Repeat from 1.