Friday, June 30, 2006

Jihva for DAL: Mujadarah

Jihva for ingredients

Jihva for ingredients, a brain-child of Indira of Mahanandi is an event that celebrates Indian ingredients. This month's host, Sailaja of Sailu's Food, has come up with the far-ranging theme of DALS or lentils. Indian cuisine is blessed with a surfeit of dals of all types, and they are invaluable to my vegetarian diet.

For this month's jihva, I decided to take a break from all my favorite dal preparations and explore lentils from a different cuisine. Two dishes that came to my mind immediately were (a) Ethiopian Yemisir wat (lentils cooked with aromatic spices and typically served with tangy injera bread). (b) Mid-Eastern Mujadarah, a simple dish of rice, lentils and fried onions. In the end, I went with the latter. Other traditional lentil dishes include the Greek Moussaka (I tried making this once, and quite liked it) and the Italian Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta and Lentils).

My inspiration for mujadarah came from a post written by Lindy, who writes the lovely blog Toast. Lindy praised mujadarah as a dish that is "much more than the sum of its parts". It uses few ingredients, all of them inexpensive pantry staples, and is downright delicious. How could I not try it? The one modification I used was: instead of using the lentils plain, I sprouted them for this dish, to enhance their nutritive value. The resultant mujadarah is a perfect combination of carbs and protein, a complete one-dish meal. The addition of the fried chocolate-brown onions, with their complex flavors, elevates this simple dish to a whole new level.


(Click here for original recipe. Thanks, Lindy! I owe you!)
1/4 cup olive oil (see note below)
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 cup brown lentils, sprouted
1 cup basmati rice
salt and pepper to taste
minced parsley/cilantro for garnish
1. Heat oil in a frying pan, then fry the onions on *medium heat*, stirring occasionally, till they are dark brown and aromatic (this may take 20-30 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, bring 5 cups of water to a boil, then add rice and lentils and simmer till both are cooked to tenderness.
3. Season lentil-rice mixture generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the browned onions, along with the oil. Leave covered for 15 minutes.
4. Serve hot garnished with parsley/cilantro.

Note: Extra-virgin olive oil tends to break down at lower temperatures than pure olive oil, so for this type of prolonged sauteeing, I prefer using a 1:1 mixture of extra virgin olive oil and pure olive oil, so as to get the flavor of the former and the frying characteristics of the latter. It still smoked a bit, but tasted fine in the end.

The verdict: You have to eat it to believe it! The combination of fragrant onions with the rice and lentils is absolutely heavenly. With gentle seasoning and the lack of other spices, the true flavor of the fried onions comes through. This goes right on my all-time favorites list. It reheats very well and tastes even better the next day.

Serving suggestions: I served mujadarah with Fage Greek yogurt. It would be also be delicious with a refreshing tomato-cucumber-radish salad. I can envision a delicious Mid-Eastern themed picnic spread with mujadarah, salad, pitas and hummus, with maybe some feta cheese to sprinkle on top.

Thanks, Sailu for hosting this event. The round-up of this event is going to be very valuable, with lots of new ideas to use dals in everyday cooking!


  1. Nupur this dish is loaded with nutrients Wow!I also read your previous post on sprouting,Well done,i found it very useful!

  2. hi nupur. reminds me of ajis layered pulao with layers of rice, chana dal, minced meat, yogurt, and fried onions. nice to have you back. luv, yoma.

  3. Fabulous one pot meal!
    Easily adaptable to individual taste. Great entry for JFI-Lentils. Thanks Nupur.

  4. My mouth is watering! This is my absolute favorite middle-eastern dish. There used to be a restaurant in Salt Lake that served it and they put the Mujadarah in a mound in the middle of the plate and a ring of finely diced tomato/cucumber around it. I think there was some kind of a dressing on the tomatoes and cucumbers, probably olive oil/lemon juice but I'm not sure about that. I do know I would order it every single time I went there. Now they are no longer in business, and there isn't a place here that has duplicated it.

    Ok, I must try making this. I had tried once a long time ago but couldn't quite duplicate what I had at the restaurant.

  5. Oh wow ! Thanks for introducing me to something so different and delicious. Your picture looks mouth watering.

  6. Thanks for the kind words.I must check out your post on sprouting lentils, it sounds very interesting, and this version looks delicious.

    Your side dishes sound very compatible and yummy too.

    There is a traditional accompanyment, which I learned at a middle-eastern restaurant. A tradional side salad would have romaine type lettuce, cukes, tomatoes and broken up toasted pitas mixed in, with a lemony vinagrette. If you have or can find sumac- a tart, lemony spice the color of paprika, it adds an extra lemony tang to the salad.This does compliment it very well, and takes it into the realm of total nutritional extravaganza.

    I am a bit of an evangilist when it comes to muhjadarrah, and am always happy to see someone else like it as much as I do.

  7. I am a sucker for middle eastern cuisine. I have actually had Mujadarah in Dubai and it made me swoon :-) Good one N

  8. Nupur,
    Trust you to put a nutritional spin on a traditional recipe! Love the idea of sprouting the lentils for the Mujadrah.

    This goes well with a mildly-spiced tomato stew.

    Btw, your "Books and Food" series is a brilliant idea. I look forward to more posts in that series. And another A-Z series as well.

  9. That looks great!!! I must try this one. A very different recipe.

  10. Hi Sumitha, thanks! I am almost evangelical about sprouting, it is easy to do and really enhances the nutritional value of whole dals.

    Yoma, yes! that's right! We should work on making a vegetarian version of that dish. If you see Aji sometime, will you note the recipe down?

    Thanks, Indira! You know I love this event :)

    Kalyn, I know you like Mujadarah :) Let me know if you try this recipe. The salad would make it a complete and healthy meal. A lemon dressing would go really well with these flavors.

    Hi Krithika, thanks for stopping by!

    Lindy, thanks again for posting this wonderful recipe. I do love it! Thanks for sharing that lovely salad recipe. I do have sumac on hand and I'll be trying it soon.

    Hi Ashwini, no idea if this home-made version compares to the "real" deal that you were lucky enough to eat :)

    Faffer, thanks for the idea of a tomato stew...the flavors would go *really* well, I imagine. I'm glad you like the "books and food"...the next post should be up next week.

    Thanks RP!

  11. Hi Nupur, I tried this today and it tasted..yes, divine!! Such a quick recipe & so easy, its unbelievable! I also added button mushrooms (I cant resist the olive oil-mushrooms combo!). Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  12. That is one brilliant entry! I am very scared to try a different cuisine with our ingredients!

  13. Hi Nupur,
    Thank you for the recipe, i havn't even heard of this dish before. Recipe sounds very easy, and at times that's how i like them, so will defanitely give it a try. i have a question, is there a lentil version of Moussaka? I love the Greek and Turkish versions of it, and those recipes call for egg plants, minced meat as main ingradients. Could you please blog about this lentil version, when u have some time. Thank you

  14. Shvetha, you tried it already?! :) Glad you liked it too! The mushroom version sounds delicious!

    LG, well, lentils are widely used in India but hardly restricted to our cooking. Lentil soups and "meatloafs" are delicious too! Thanks for stopping by!

    Archanat, the moussaka I made used both lentils and chickpeas and it was very flavorful. Here is the link (I added it to the post too):

  15. Hi Nupur,

    A little place down the street from my job serves mujadarah as a side dish, among other things. I have always wanted to try my hand at it but the owner of that shop is not approachable for recipe -- closely guarded secret, no doubt.

    Now I will give it a shot, thanks to your excellent recipe :)

  16. This is a new dish for me and quite an exotic name too...Thanx Nupur...thanx a lot for sharing it!!

  17. Linda, I hope the recipe works! :)

    Indianadoc, thanks for stopping by!

  18. That looks absolutely delicious. I love Mujadarah. I'll have to try this recipe.

    My husband and I even had Mujadarah at our wedding celebration. It was one of the dishes included in the vegetarian maza. We held our wedding party at a popular local Middle Eastern restaurant in the Detroit area called LaShish.

    Btw, I always enjoy reading your blog :)

  19. Nupur, I have heard about this dish but never made it as I didnt have the recipe. Just love the idea of sprouts in this traditional lentil dish.

    A lovely entry and thanks so much for participating in the JFI - Dal event, Nupur.

  20. interesting recipe there nups, will try it sometime soon.

  21. my mom-in-law makes masoorachi khichadi,which is very similar to this....minus the onion an plus a garlic...:)

  22. Looks delicious... :) but being brought up with Lebanese (and Danish) cooking I have to tell you that what you've made is not Mujaddara, but a perfect Mudardara. The 2 dishes are almost identical regarding ingredients, but Mujaddara requires the lentils and rice to be cooked not to tendernes, but to a more gruel like stage; this is actually what lies in the word. Hope you will take kindly to my friendly correction :) .

  23. Hi Nupur,
    can i make it in cooker?

  24. Hi Nupur,
    can i make it in cooker?

  25. I have eaten this dish and love it. I would like to make this dish, but want to use brown rice. How would you alter this recipe if I want use brown rice instead of white rice?

    Brown rice normally takes about 50 minutes to cook.

    Thanks so much!

  26. Anonymous, using a pressure cooker might make it too mushy but you can always try!

    Graphicprd, I might cook the brown rice separately until it is almost tender and then proceed with the recipe. You might have to experiment a bit.

  27. ohh i'm so glad you have this recipe out here..was just about to suggest it to you..a kuwaiti girl in my lab made mujadarah the other day and i totally fell in love with it!
    its delicious!
    nupur you need to come out with a recipe book!! i know plenty people who'll buy it:)


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