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Kerala-style Drumstick dal curry

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

This is a very unusual dish, the kind I have not had before, originating from the state of Kerala in India. Drumstick pods, or moringa, are common across India and are used in everything from sautéed vegetable dishes to curries and in dals. They have a delicate flavor and it is fun to open them up and scrape out the tender flesh and seeds with your teeth. This dish is packed with flavor from the spices, the delicate drumstick pods, but also topped with crisp fried potatoes that add a wonderful texture and flavor to the curry. The crisp potatoes take the dal from regular to luxurious. This little cookbook that I picked up in Cochin many years ago is one of my favorites for Kerala cuisine. The recipes are packed in, this is not the glossy picture recipe book, but it makes up with its depth of wonderfu and authentic recipes. It is also so cheap, you cannot resist but buy it, if you can find it after all these years. You will definItaly see me publish from here more, as I have cooked a large part of this book over the decades.

For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.


For the spice paste:

2 teaspoons garlic

1 inch ginger

2-3 green chilies, or to taste

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste

For the dal:

1/2 cup toor dal

1/2 cup split green moong dal, both mixed and soaked overnight

4 cloves

1 1-inch cinnamon stick

6 green cardamom pods

10-12 black peppercorns

1 cup onions, finely minced

3-4 green chilies, minced

Juice from 1-2 limes

Cilantro minced for garnish

Oil as needed

3 large and fresh drumsticks (moring) cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup potatoes cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Add all the ingredients for the spice paste to a small blender and purée to a smooth paste with minimal water. Set aside.

Wash the soaked lentils with a touch of salt and cook either on the stove or Instapot, or pressure cooker.

Add the drumsticks to a pot of water with some salt and simmer for 10-12 minutes till cooked. You want to keep the insides tender but firm, not mushy as you generally get them. The reason for them is that you still want to taste the drumstick flesh as you eat it, otherwise it tends to get infused with the curry and you loose both the joy of scraping the meat out and tasting it. Drain and set aside.

Add some oil to a deep pot and add the cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom and peppercorns and sauté for 1 minute. Add the onions and green chilies and sauté till lightly golden. Add the puréed spice paste and cook till the ginger and garlic are cooked through and the oil begins to seperate from the paste, about 10 minutes.

Add the cooked lentils, stir in and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. Add the drained drumsticks, mix in and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and spices as needed. Set aside till ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve this dish, pan fry the potatoes in a tablespoon of oil on a non-stick pan till crispy outside and cooked through. The potatoes should have a wonderful golden hue And be crispy on the outside. You need to do this at the last minute as the potatoes get soft over time and loose their crispness.

To serve, heat the dal, ladle the dal into a deep bowl and top with the fried potatoes and minced cilantro. Serve immediately with rice or dosas.

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