Friday, March 4, 2011

Andhra Style Spinach Dal(Pappu)

In the US every third person you meet is a published author. I might be exaggerating a bit but more books are published here than any other place on the planet. No subject is off-limits and with the network readily available to publicize the book and its author. Most make money I presume or so many books would not be published.

The more radical the writing the more air time devoted by radio and TV stations for the authors and their books. One of my favorite radio stations an affiliate of NPR has a Talk Show where mostly sensible and very civil discourse takes place. I had lot of respect for the host and also the staff who I thought I did a pretty good job of researching and promoting and giving air time to the mostly well written and historically correct books. This was until my opinion took a nose dive after lisening to this guy a Kashmiri educated in Delhi for free took to disparaging India to an extent that Indians and a few non-Indians called in to complain about the historical inaccuracies he was passing off as truth. This is scary especially because most of the world tends to believe what is written in a book to be true.

If a subject is confined to matters related to the US the text of a book rarely deviates from the truth unless it is an opinion piece. But most publishing houses, literary personalities, journalists all drop the ball when the subject matter moves beyond the border. For e.g. more often than not information presented about India has inaccuracies which is difficult to detect unless someone spent a considerable amount of time there and are familiar with the country. This perhaps is true for information presented about other countries as well.

Do all these books make Americans better informed than the others? Do they even know what is happening in their own country? When George W. Bush first ran for President he was asked who the PM of India and his answer was Benazir Bhutto!!!! What do you think? Or what has been your experience? Share your thoughts.

Now on to the the recipe,
This is another recipe garnered from the lunch room. Where I came from paruppu(mashed dals) is cooked toor/moong dal lightly seasoned with onions, green chilies, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Eaten with rice generally with a spicy/tart puzhikuzhambu on the side. Just across the border in Andhra I have learned exists a huge variety of paruppu or pappu as they call it and are generally cooked with different kinds vegetables or greens. Vegetables/greens and dal are cooked together with green chilies, tomatoes or tamarind, onions and garlic and lightly mashed and seasoned. This opens up a whole new array of dals to dazzle the pallette. One of my lunch room buddies rents a room from an aunty and lucky for her the aunty cooks great food and packs it for her.

One day was this aromatic spinach dal which was absolutely delicious. She had made it with toor dal. I have tried with both toor and moong and my preference is toor dal.

Andhra style Spinach Dal
1. 2-3 cups of fresh spinach washed and chopped coarsely
2. 1 cup of moong dal or 1 1/2 cups of toor dal
3. 3 tbsp of chopped shallots or red onions
4. 3-4 green chilies (I did not have any)
5. 4 garlic cloves minced
6. 1/2 tbsp of sambhar powder (if adding green chilies skip or reduce)
7. 1 medium tomato chopped (or 1 tbsp of tamarind pulp)
8. 1 tsp of methi powder (roasted and powdered methi seeds)
9. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
10. salt to taste
11. 1 tsp of sesame oil
12. seasonings: ghee, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves

1. In a pressure cooker add the dal, spinach, onions, tomato, green chilies, garlic, sambhar powder, turmeric powder along with 3 cups of water and cook for 2-3 whistles
2. Mash the dal gently and set it on low flame. Add more water if too thick and let it come to a boil (Do not over cook just gently heat for a couple of minutes if not adding extra water)
3. In a small pan heat the ghee and add the seasoning and pour over the dal and sprinkle the powdered methi powder on top. Add salt and turn of the heat

Goes best with rice.


  1. Andhra spinach dal is a favourite in my home as well; what a great way to combine toor and greens, and the tempering is just exquisite. Indira (Mahanandi) shared two ways to make it and I have been cooking both ways for a couple of years. Lip smacking, just like yours!

  2. I think there are all kinds of writers here as well as abroad. Well researched books need time and some people are in too much of a rush to be published. Writing such as that you mention is also deliberate propaganda best spread abroad than here where it will be unpopluar and also contested!

  3. Pappu looks delicious.
    I agree with you, here everybody is an author even Sarah Palin writes a book and our Bush has written one too. You don`t have to know everything to write one but at the least I expect them to know what they write. It is an easy way of making money I guess.

  4. My sis makes this dal a lot as she is married to someone from Andhra>

  5. I have not heard DianeRehm much, does not coincide with my driving I guess. But yes, every third person in the US not only writes a book, they also write memoirs. I mean, you are 35 and you have a memoir, bah!!
    I got the recent book Cleaving by Julie Powell(of Julie & Julia fame) and I cannot tell you how insane it is. I feel they go out and have extra-marital affairs just so they can write a memoir.

    I love any dal, all dal, so this will be cooked for sure.

  6. I love spinach pappu too - quite different from the kootus we make but just as tasty.

  7. Thick dal looks super delicious and comforting..

  8. Indian history is notoriously ill documented. Inaccuracies in the work now is probably because content about India in English is being generated only in the last few years. How to corroborate. Not many prior references.

    Nice dal. I love adding greens to dals. Easy way to get in some greens.

  9. The methi powder in the end is new to me. Its amazing how many variations there are to even the simplest of dals :)

    One other thing that baffles me is how almost every book thats out lands on the best sellers list. A book that I am reading now looks like its never seen an editors pen. All they seem to need is a attractive title and some good endorsements.

  10. As far as history is concerned, isn't that subjective? Either one lives through it to really experience what happened, or someone writes his or her own perception. His point of view, either to give truth or for his own purpose.

    I mean, hasn't India distorted historical points in its textbooks? Does being educated in Delhi for free make the Kashmiri man's version unworthy or neglect-able? Does his gratitude have to go so far that he must toe in line with what will satisfy the Indian public to keep them in a content equilibrium?

    I know most Indians don't know about the problems in the North East. When an unemployed Mallu guy who loafs about his hometown waiting for financial relief to come the Gulf speaks on matters like Kashmir, it irks me. I say Mallu only because they are the supposedly 100% literate society of India, but this attitude is rampant throughout.

    Everyone attacks maoists or naxals (who again, I know little about) but then, conveniently forget the tribal people and poor people whose lands have been grabbed for the middle classes high rises and businesses. I have read blogs of so called patriotic Indian youth who say they have to turn a blind eye to the grey sides(slums, poor, corruption, caste-ism) to move up in life. No fixing these things.

    I have generalized a lot, but I hope the point is clear. In the West, most often than not, the public and media will bring people accountable. Can a Kashmiri person or an Assamese person expect the same from Indian media?


  11. Kajan, Thanks for your perspective.

    Perspective is different from distortion. I did not imply that having been educated in Delhi he should drop everything else and say JaiHind. What I want from someone peddling a book is an undistorted version of what is going on in Kashmir from a guy who has had the good fortune to have been on both sides. Is that too much to ask?

    You are contradicting yourself aren't you? Reread your first paragraph. Why can't an unemployed Mallu guy not comment on matters relating to Kashmir. It is his perspective isn't it?

    I do understand the tragic consequence of tribal land grab in the North and the South and doing away with a way of life which is many ways might be better to the so called modern way of life. Not only in the NE but also in the Andaman and Nicobar islands tribal land grab for installing a Naval or air base by the government is all too common.

    For a long time Indian history has been fed to generations of Indians thorough the perspective of the European history writers. Maculayan distortion of Indian history is still what is education in India.

    Sorry but I do not understand your point at all. In fact in the West especially here in the US people make tons of money writing books which are untrue and false. Yes a distortions do come to light but not lot of them and some falsehood is lapped up with never a second thought. The same avenues that exist in the US do exist in India too.

    Give India some credit, free media and freedom of speech do exist there too. If only someone took the time instead of assuming a morally superior attitude or the other extreme the mantle of victim all the time

  12. Hi Indo,

    Here people have a knack for expressing things well and they are bold enough to publish their own books. But I am not sure about the well informed part, take for instance medication, nutrition etc.
    Here people make medicines for every kind of pain but not for the source of the pain. Not the best solution but it could also be because this country is still young and there is not enough old age wisdom
    My two cents :)

  13. I wrote about the Mallu guy to illustrate that a person who has lived in a certain circumstance or has relations living in such circumstances, in this case, the Kashmiri guy, is better equipped to speak than someone in the far south who just spews words at the kallu shop. Likewise, most of the people who called in probably weren't Kashmiri? I dislike taking one community or the other, but I am more aware of Mallu society than otherwise so used it. Anyone is, of course, entitled to their opinion.

    My point had been that he might come and say the same, that their history has been distorted. Kind of a heavy and inappropriate subject to dwell long on a cooking blog. But thanks for the space.

  14. I guess we are talking about the same subject in two different angles. Yes this is a food blog but I encouraged discussion but posting on the subject so do not feel uncomfortable. Thanks for taking your time.

  15. There will always be people who will talk and try to twist facts - it is for the people to educate themselves so that they can have a balanced view. I believe that TV has been dumbed down enough to make it sound as though everything on is the gospel truth. We get what we deserve - which is why in India, we have so many dance reality shows and saas bahu serials, and (I am guessing) in the US, you have unresearched and unsubstantiated shows. Jaago - as the ad says!

  16. I love Indian veg recipes. Especially Pappu, Tomato dal. Thanks for sharing. Best platform for learners who are trying to learn how to cook south Indian recipes. Jonna rotte is the best combination for it. You can try it.


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