West Bengali Mung Bean & Tomato Soup

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West Bengali Mung Bean & Tomato Soup

A cooked dal is often one of the most substantial courses in a West Bengali dinner, making West Bengali cuisine an important source of inspiration for mung bean dishes, where it is the dominant legume of choice in addition to red lentils or "masoor dal". Another characteristic feature of West Bengali cooking is the refined use of exquisite spice blends incorporating cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns.

It is one of these unique spice mixtures that lends to an extraordinary and perfect balance of flavors and fragrances in this mung bean and tomato soup. Toasted cardamom, cloves and peppercorns with coriander, cumin and fennel seeds will fill your kitchen with a smoky and spicy-but-slightly-sweet aroma that will have you anticipating the meal to come, and the addition of the earthy sweetness of toasted sesame oil and the heat of just a few fresh chilies makes this one of the most perfectly seasoned and perfumed soups I have made in a long while. Serve this with green tea & curry rice and spiced creamed spinach for an elegant and satisfying simple meal.

If you are going to embark on a journey through Indian cooking, it is a good idea to buy an extra coffee grinder to save yourself the effort of grinding seeds and spices in a mortar and pestle. If you don't enjoy coriander-flavored coffee, you have further incentive to buy a second grinder! Most of the ingredients in this soup are readily available, but if you don't have toasted sesame oil on hand, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of sesame seeds to the seed and spice mixture before toasting and substitute the oil with ghee or a mixture of butter and olive oil.

West Bengali Mung Bean & Tomato SoupWest Bengali Mung Bean & Tomato Soup
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on April 2, 2008

Warm, creamy mung bean and tomato soup seasoned with wonderfully fragrant toasted seeds and spices

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 to 60 minutes

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  • 3/4 cup dried whole mung beans
  • 5 cups water
  • 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • dab of butter
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 to 3 green chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar
  • 2 firm medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Rinse the mung beans and soak for 6 hours or overnight in several inches of water. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a large saucepan and cover with 5 cups of fresh water. Add the cinnamon stick, turmeric and a little dab of butter, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 to 60 minutes or until the beans are soft. Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Beat with a whisk or hand blender until smooth, and set aside.

  • Meanwhile, warm a cast-iron or stainless-steel frying pan over low heat. Toss in the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cardamom pods. Dry-roast, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the coriander seeds are lightly browned and the mixture is fragrant. Remove the cardamom pods and crack with the back of a wooden spoon to take out the black seeds inside. Use a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder to grind the cardamom seeds along with the other toasted seeds and spices to a powder. Transfer the spice powder to a bowl, and mix with a little water to form a paste.

  • When the beans are cooked, heat the sesame oil in the same frying pan used for the spices over moderately high heat. When hot, toss in the chilies and stir in the spice paste. Stir for 30 seconds, then stir in the maple syrup or brown sugar and cook for 1 minute, making sure if you are using brown sugar that it is blended in and there are no clumps. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with water, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and reduced.

  • Pour the tomato mixture into the beans and bring the soup to a boil once again. Turn off the heat and cover, letting the soup sit for 2 minutes to let the seasonings blend in. Stir in the salt, taste for seasoning, and add the chopped cilantro. Serve hot.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

West Bengali Mung Bean & Tomato Soup


test it comm said...

That blend of spices sound really interesting for a savoury soup dish.

Johanna GGG said...

this looks really interesting - I would like to try it after my last dal episode didn't really work - but I think you are right about me needing a spice grinder (which would be fine for me as I don't need to grind any coffee)

Bong Mom said...

Very nice and interesting dal Lisa. Thanks for this lovely entry

Venera from veggykitchen said...

I've been making this soup for two years now. I just love it. It becomes creamy and so delicious.