Vaal is a beloved legume on India's west coast. A small bean that's more round than oval, it has a hard beige coat that is pretty much inedible, unlike the coats of most common beans and legumes. But inside this tough coat sits a soft, creamy core. Peeled val cooks up quickly and easily into a pleasant, buttery, very slightly bitter flavor that's absolutely addictive.
Vaal is easily found at Indian stores here in the United States and you can usually buy the whole vaal, skin and all, or just the "dal": the split legume with the outer coat removed. I like keeping both on hand. The whole vaal, when you have the time to sprout it and then peel the coat off (yes, you have to do it one bean at a time), is gorgeous in dishes like Nupur's Dalimbay Bhaat, a recipe I make over and over again. The dal is a harried cook's best friend because it cooks up in a jiffy-- quicker than most lentils, in fact. I use it to make weeknight recipes like this one I have for you today.
I thought it would be a good idea to combine sweet potatoes and vaal because of the complementary flavors: sweet and bitter. To the dal I also added some fiery, grated ginger and a few splashes of lemon juice. All those flavors worked together really well.
Gotta run now, but here's the recipe. Enjoy, all!
Creamy Sweet Potato and Vaal Dal Curry
1 cup vaal dal
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, diced
1 1-inch knob of ginger, grated
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 heaping tbsp sambar powder (use garam masala if you have that instead, for a slightly different but still yummy variation)
1 tsp canola or any vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1/4 cup chopped coriander
Juice of 1 lemon
Cook the vaal dal in a pressure cooker or on the stovetop in a saucepan. To cook in a saucepan, cover the dal with 1 inch of water, bring to a boil, turn the heat to a simmer, slap on a lid, and cook about 20-30 minutes until the dal is very tender. Add more water if the dal starts to get too dry.
Heat the oil in another saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the curry leaves and onions.
Saute until the onions are transparent, about five minutes, then add the ginger and garlic.
Stir fry for half a minute or until the garlic becomes lightly blond. Add the sweet potatoes and the sambar powder and stir well to coat the sweet potato with the spices. Cook, stirring, another five minutes or until the sweet potatoes start to soften.
Add the cooked vaal dal and mix well. Bring the curry to a boil, lower the heat, put on a lid, and let the dal simmer away another 10 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are completely tender. Add water if the dal gets too dry. Vaal dal will turn really soft and break up when it's well-cooked, which is great because that's what gives this curry its really creamy consistency without any cream.
Add salt to taste and mix in the coriander. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice.
Serve hot with some rice or rotis.
If you'd like to get a box of homebaked goodies from Holy Cow! in your mailbox, head on over to Richa's blog to bid for it. Richa is raising funds for VSPCA, an organization that's hard at work in India to make this world a better place for animals and other creatures. What's really cool about this group is that it not only works on animal welfare issues, but it also provides vegan meals for the disadvantaged, including seniors and children. I can only ship within the U.S., but Richa has more goodies you can bid on if you happen to be outside the country.