Delhiwale: The moong masoor ambassador
- To be sure, Mr Hashim admits he has good feelings for a few other dishes, too.
Surely there’s nothing wrong with moong masoor—but this dal certainly isn’t celebrated much. In restaurants, you are more likely to find dal makhani, not the humble moong masoor. But at least one person’s life in the city revolves around it.
“I make it every day for my lunch,” says Muhammed Hashim. A long-time staffer in a central Delhi hotel, Mr Hashim is busy preparing his meal during his midday break. He’s of course making the moong masoor. He has set up his makeshift kitchen on the floor of his room and is quietly chopping onions and tomatoes. Green chilies and dhaniya are already chopped. A pot of dal is on a low flame. “It takes about 20 minutes to cook,” says the gentleman in a voice permeated with extreme politeness.
Looking thoughtfully at the pot, he mutters that “my dal is always very simple. Only a little salt and haldi powder. No mirchi. No garam masala.”
In his 60s, Mr Hashim lives alone. Nobody taught him the recipe of his favoured dish. He smiles while chopping a tomato with great care. “One lives, one learns,” he declares enigmatically, as if reading aloud a bumper sticker at the back of a truck.
To be sure, Mr Hashim admits he has good feelings for a few other dishes, too. “My mother used to make delicious meat curry... my wife and my daughter-in-law too make good meat,” he says. The family lives in the village in Darbhanga, Bihar. “But no other dish can come close to moong masoor... it beats every meat.”
Even so, this same masoor day after day after day? Doesn’t his palate rebel?
Mr Hashim shakes his head, though he confesses that “sometimes I cook something different... I made gosht (meat) the day before yesterday.” Here he suddenly stops and makes an eye contact with his interlocutor. “I tell you by experience that moong masoor gives more taakat (energy) than the gosht.”
He now lifts the lid from the pan to check on the dal. “A few more minutes,” he murmurs. He was sitting cross-legged all this while, but now settles on his haunches and briefly stirs the dal, saying, “After this I’ll make rice and the lunch will be ready.”
At night too, he makes his own dinner. “I will again make masoor,” he confirms.