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Instant Pot Moong Dal: A healthier alternative to boring tomato soup

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

When the weather gets colder, and the days shorter, we start looking for comforting foods. Soups are right up at the top of the list at our house, and I always have at least one in the fridge, and a couple in the freezer. Although we both like good old tomato soup, it just seems like a missed opportunity to not 'amp' it up with more fiber and nutrition.

Moong (or Mung) Dal, which is simply the 'split' version of the Mung bean, is a nutritional powerhouse. It provides nearly 64% of our daily requirement for fiber (wow!), plus 16 grams of protein, and, importantly 16% non-heme iron. I've been working harder of late to take in more non-heme iron to reduce my RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome)* symptoms, and thereby need less medication to control it. And, it's working. Great, in fact. But, this is why I've added tomatoes. Tomatoes have Vitamin C, which helps with non-heme iron absorption and uptake.

Making this soup in the Instant Pot is a breeze, and just one more reason why no modern kitchen should be without one. Additionally, this soup freezes really well, so feel free to make up a large batch and give your freezer a portion for another day.

What you'll need:

  • 3 cups water (24 oz)

  • 1 cup Moong Dal

  • 1-2 medium tomatoes chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder - or more to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

  • 5-6 large garlic cloves sliced

  • 2 tsp Red Chili Flakes

  • 2-3 tbsp of your favorite Curry Powder. I like the Sweet Curry from Penzey's

  • Juice of one half lemon

  • chopped cilantro

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or adjust to taste

OPTIONAL: Coconut milk. I recommend you have the Anthony's dried coconut milk powder in your pantry. This allows you to make just what you need. No more. No less.

OPTIONAL: You can make this Moong Dal and leave it 'yellow', but my husband loves 'tomato-ey' things, so I stir in about 4 tablespoons of tomato paste to the finished product.

How you'll make it:

  • To the Instant Pot, add the dal, 3 cups water, chopped tomato, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine.

  • Cook for 5 minutes at high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then do a quick release.

  • Once the pressure is released, open the Instant Pot lid and give the dal a stir. Adjust the consistency of dal at this point to your preference. This is where I will add 1 cup of coconut milk. I like to make the coconut milk (from the powdered) extra 'rich' since we like the resulting flavor.

  • To make the tempering spices, heat a small pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin and the mustard seeds.

  • Let the seeds heat until the mustard seeds pop.

  • Add the sliced garlic and dried red chili flakes, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until garlic become light brown in color.

  • Then add the curry powder and sauté for few more seconds.

  • Transfer tempering to the cooked dal and stir.

  • Add in the lemon juice, chopped cilantro and mix. Serve moong dal over rice or other whole grains for a comforting meal, or just serve it like a soup with Naan or Roti to scoop it up.

If you're looking to do the full-on Thali-syle dinner presentation, this dal is the perfect vehicle for it. Below, I served the dal with whole grains and chopped green onions. Then, accompanied it with some homemade chutney (tomatoes and golden raisins mixed with Major Grey's Chutney), and a shredded brussels sprout and radicchio 'salad' with pistachios (in a light honey-based vinaigrette).

*I've had RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome) for many years. Long before I became Whole Food, Plant-based. And, I've had a tendency since childhood to be just slightly anemic. Iron deficiency is thought to be one of the possible factors causing RLS. The issue with RLS is ferritin levels within the brain - and not overall ferritin levels in the body. Over the last several years, as I've gotten, ahem, older, the symptoms are worsening. Several years ago, an emergency IV infusion of ferritin was needed (and I was still eating meat, then). Recently, I was becoming concerned, as I was needing more medication to control the symptoms at night. The doctor was puzzled. My recent serum ferritin levels are at the very bottom of the 'normal' range.

The pandemic makes going to a center that specializes in the treatment of RLS (like the Sleep Disorders Clinic at UCSF) problematic. So, I started paying much closer attention to adding more dietary non-heme iron. I take a large spoonful of Blackstrap Molasses morning and evening. I actually like the taste, so no biggie. I've added little tiny dried figs to my snack rotation. And, I'm making sure to add more dark green, leafy vegetables to our meal rotation - we like Collards and Chard. He doesn't like spinach, so that's out. Legumes are another rich source of non-heme iron. So, that, again, is reason to load up our soups with them.

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