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Why beans are India’s most underrated comfort food

Beans — rich, versatile, magical — have inspired countless stories, proverbs, idioms, slang and analogies. They can be had as soup, as an accompanying dish, with bread, rotis , puris , rice, noodles, tacos… or simply as a bowl of comfort food (aka the Buddha bowl). The diversity begins long before these protein powerhouses reach your kitchen counter: varieties of this crop, as they are sown in different parts of the country, are more than you can count.

Well-loved rajma, chickpeas, lentils, and soyabean are what we come across in our day-to-day life. But there is a huge repertoire of beans that India consumes: butter beans, lablab or mochai , moth or matki , rice beans, winged beans, velvet beans, yongchak beans…

Under each of these varieties are yet more varieties, which vary as per the soil where it is grown. What is sad, though, is that several have never been documented: people continue to use local names for them, or name them based on the district or village they are grown in.

Try this: one of the most common is rajma or kidney beans. A quick check at any market reveals three-four varieties, with small Kashmiri rajma the choicest. But rajma is actually available in at least 120 varieties in Uttarakhand alone: from white, light coloured, speckled, maroon, brown to luscious, dark purple.

Rajma from Chakrata is among the best: light coloured, it swells to three times its size when soaked in water and boils in a few whistles of the pressure cooker. It is soft and delicious. The Munsiyari one is different from Supi, which is white.

Sikkim has around 34 varieties of beans, with seven varieties of rice bean alone, and 14 of French beans. The Northeastern states have over 70 different varieties. Several are used as seeds after they mature, others are used both as a vegetable and as a seed.

Devender Singh Negi, Centre Incharge, State Training and Research Centre for Organic Farming in Majkhali, Uttarakhand, elaborates, “In Uttarakhand, according to the shape of the plant, beans can be divided into two parts: dwarf and vine. Mature pods are used as pulses.”

The state is also home to the remarkable naurangi beans. Negi adds, “ Naurangi is a rice bean, also called titriyal dal , jhilingya , jhalugu or navrangi locally. This crop is of nine colours of grains. The scientific name is vigna umbellata .” The bean is used along with kidney beans in stuffed paranthas, or what is called daal ki bhari roti , in the Garhwal region.

The North-East is prolific in the types of beans found. Rice bean is commonly used to make chutneys, soups, and of course, dals . It is combined with fish and meat, though very little spices are added.

In Rajasthan and Maharashtra, matki dal or moth dal is more popular. Food blogger Nisha Madhulika says, “It’s a speciality food from Rajasthan and is mostly grown in the north-western part of the state. Moth is mostly eaten in Rajasthan.” So quintessential is this food to the region, that the region of Mewar has a special saying for it., “ Aak ki jopadi, kogan ki baad, bajri ka sogra, moth ki dal, dekhi raja manne thari Marwar ,” recites Madhulika, translating roughly, “A cottage of aak , and a fence of kogan , A roti of bajri , and moth dal , O King, I’ve seen your Marwar.”

Sabut Moth Dal Recipe


Soaked Whole Moth Dal: 1/2 cup (100 gms)

Tomato: 1

Ghee: 2 to 3 tbsp

Green Coriander: 2 to 3 tbsp

Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp

Asafoetida: 1/2 pinch

Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp

Coriander powder: 1 tsp

Red chilli powder: 1/4 tsp

Garam masala: Less than 1/4 tsp

Green chillies: 2 (finely chopped)

Ginger paste: 1/2 tsp

Salt: Less than 1 tsp or to taste

Baking Soda: 1 pinch


Take cleaned, washed moth dal , soaked in water for upto 7 to 8 hours or overnight. Remove the excess water from it. Prepare paste from tomato. Put soaked dal , add 2 cups of water, salt, half of the turmeric powder, baking soda. Boil dal in a cooker until a single whistle. Cook dal for 5 more minutes on low flame. Then turn off flame. Let dal stay till the pressure from the cooker escapes.

For masala, pour ghee in a pan. Heat it, then add cumin seeds. Reduce flame. Add asafoetida, leftover turmeric powder, coriander powder, green chilli, ginger paste. Slightly roast the spices. Add tomato puree, followed by red chilli powder. Roast the masala till ghee separates from it.

Once masala is ready, add dal from cooker to it. Add garam masala , green coriander and mix well. Cover and cook the dal for 2 minutes. Serve it in a bowl, pour some ghee over it and garnish with green coriander and ginger julienne.

Courtesy: Nisha Madhulika

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 1:44:59 pm |