Tomato Pappu (Tomato Lentils)

Dals (lentil dishes to go with rice or Indian breads) are normally associated with North India, especially Punjab. But other parts of the country too have several dal varieties, though much lesser known. Each state have their own versions – and all of them taste different. And equally tasty. In my childhood years in Singapore, dal preparations in my home were extremely rare. That’s because both the main meals were rice. Invariably paired with the South Indian ‘kootan’ – wet dishes like samnbar, mulakootal, rasam, kuzhambu… A dal was only prepared when, on rare occasions, chapathi (another form of Indian bread) was prepared.
For me, the real exploration of dals started when I moved to Delhi in 1984. Since then it has been a constant love affair. Invariably Punjabi dishes. But it is only recently that I began exploring dals from various other states – and found each one fascinating and tasty.
This tomato dal is from the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (and Telengana). It can easily hold it’s own with any other dal in the country.

Tomato Pappu

3/4 cup pigeon peas (tuvar dal, thuvaram parupu) – soaked for 20 minutes
2 tomatoes, chopped
A small piece of tamarind, soaked for 20 minutes
1/4 onion, chopped
A pinch of turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1 tsp red chili powder
1 green chili, slit
3 cups water
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1 tsp split black lentils (urad dal, ulutham parupu)
1 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
2 dried red chilis, broken in the middle
1 sprig curry leaves
Salt to taste
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Drain the pigeon peas and transfer to a pressure cooker
Add tomatoes, tamarind, onion, turmeric powder, chili powder and green chili
Add 3 cups of water
Cook, on medium flame, for 5 whistles or till the pigeon peas are done (it should be mushy)
Let the steam release naturally and open the lid
Mash the contents well
Set aside
Heat a wok and add the garlic cloves
Sauté till the garlic cloves are slightly browned
Add the mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the split black lentils, dried red chilies, asafoetida, cumin seeds and curry leaves
Continue to sauté, on low flame, till the cumin seeds begin to splutter
Once the lentils turn golden brown, switch the flame off and add this seasoning to the cooked pigeon peas
Add salt and mix well
Once again, put the cooked pigeon peas on flame and simmer for a couple of minutes till all the flavours are well incorporated
Remove from flame and garnish with chopped coriander leaves
Serve hot with red/brown rice or Indian flat breads

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