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Horse gram lentils panfried with mustard and curry leaves

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Vegetable protein is essential in Indian cuisine for the large vegetarian population. In addition, meat is still quite expensive and is out of budget for folks. Lentils, the numerous varieties that exist commonly on any Indian grocery shelf, are cheap and plentiful. Indians have developed countless recipes to use lentils, dhals, curries, pan-fried, deep fried, steamed, and other countless variations of cooking these delicious pulses. The recipes change with the region, village and even between neighbouring houses adding an infinite variety to the cuisine. Western vegetarian and vegan cuisine is now appreciating the diverse nutrients, vitamins, essential amino acids and minerals, that lentils naturally provide in our diet.

Horse gram (also called kulith beans) is one of the most nutritious lentils available. These lentils are used most commonly in Southern India, usually in curries and as a stir-fry as in this case. Also, check out this beautiful recipe for Telangana horse gram stew (Ulava Chāru) on this site.

This is a super simple recipe to make. The beans are slow-cooked but always retain a bite that makes the texture of this dish wonderful. The mild spices enhance the earthy flavour of the beans. Light and healthy, this is the perfect side dish to compliment any meal.

This is a wonderful cookbook by one of the masters of Keralite cooking. It is an unpretentious book, without any photographs, but is packed full of delicious and authentic recipes like this one. Ammini Ramachandran is a Texas based food writer, cookbook author and publishes on the history of South iNdian cuisine. She is widely regarded as one of the doyens in the field. This cookbook clearly demonstrates her knowledge and skill in the kitchen and with the history of the region.

For more delicious, and spicy, dishes from this cookbook, click here.


2 cups whole horse gram, soaked in 6 cups of water overnight

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon chilli powder

4 cups water

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

15-18 curry leaves

2-3 dried red chillies

Cilantro, minced, to garnish

Drain the soaked lentils and rinse them out. Add to a pot with turmeric, chilli powder, water and salt. Bring to a boil and stir to allow to foam to settle. Simmer gently for 45-50 minutes till the lentils are cooked but not mushy. They need to retain a nice bite. Horse gram takes a long time to cook, so the lentils will be firm, however they should not taste raw. Check water and make sure that there is enough during the cooking time.

Heat a wok, non-stick is very strongly preferred with the oil. Add the mustard seeds, and when they pop, about 20 seconds, add the curry leaves and whole chillies and stir. Add the lentils, and any residual water, and stir in. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often. The liquids should all be evaporated at the end of the cooking period, and the lentils should shine with the oil and spices.

Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

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