Moong Dal with Spinach, Fennel and Ginger

This dal is infused with favourite flavours of South India – fennel, ginger and coconut – and was inspired by a fresh-from-the-fields spinach dal we enjoyed as part of a lunch time thali at Solitude Cafe in Auroville. Our Moong Dal with Spinach, Fennel and Ginger will satisfy any craving for classic South Indian flavours.

A thali is a multi-course feast usually served in small round cylinders on a stainless steel, copper or brass tray. A mound of rice will be piled in the middle and refilled as many times as the eater would like. Roti comes on the side and the vessels contain a variety of rasam (soups) of which pepper is always one. Dal and a few vegetable dishes and chutneys add protein, savoury and astringent flavours. There’s usually a poppadum to help scoop up the food and one sweet bite to finish. All the taste buds are appeased and hunger satiated.

Moong Dal with Spinach, Fennel and Ginger

Meals in South India are eaten with hands. The four fingers act as a loader and the thumb gently pushes the food forward into the mouth. The five fingers represent the five elements and remind the eater of our connection to the elements of life as they eat their food.

Being mindful of the life in food as we consume it helps raise one’s consciousness. And that’s a very Aurovillian thing to do. Give it a try when you make and enjoy this delicious dal.

Moong Dal with Spinach, Fennel and Ginger Recipe

4 servings


Notes: Most of the cooking time involved in this recipe is boiling time for the lentils so this is much easier than the time suggests. If you own a pressure cooker, you can prepare this dish – with less water – in about 30 minutes.
Tip: It’s important to note that moong dal is green when the husks are on and whole and yellow when they are removed and split.

1 cup moong dal, without husks
3 cups water
1 teaspoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1½ teaspoons ginger paste
½ teaspoon Green Chilli Paste or Sambal Oelek – or to taste
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 cup pureed tomato (2 medium)
8 cups packed, chopped fresh spinach leaves (about 225 grams)
½ (13 oz – 398 mL) can coconut milk, shaken
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1–2 Tablespoons finely cut coriander leaves


  1. Wash the dal and soak in warm water for 1 hour.
  2. Combine drained dal and 3 cups of water in a saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until the dal is tender, about 30 minutes. Mash with a potato masher. Set aside.
  3. Place a wok on medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once hot, add the fennel seeds cooking until fragrant.
  4. Stir in the ginger and chilli paste followed by the turmeric and then the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and then add the spinach, cooking until wilted and bright green. Tip: Add a few tablespoons of water if necessary to avoid sticking.
  5. Stir the spinach mixture into the dal, add the coconut milk, and lemon juice.
  6. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes on medium-low heat or until the consistency of the dal is like a thick cream soup.
  7. Season with salt and adjust to taste.
  8. Garnish with finely cut coriander leaves.
  9. Enjoy as part of a thali or on its own with rice or roti.

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