Thursday, June 25, 2009

Drumstick leaves Molagoottal - Muringa leaves and Moong daal with coconut and spices

Drumstick or Muringakkai is a very popular vegetable in South India. How can it not be, with dishes like the flavorful Muringakkai sambar? Muringai ilai Molagoottal, the topic of this post, is made using drumstick leaves and lentils, and is a very popular dish among Palakkad Iyers. It is traditionally made with Toor dal but my mom always makes it with Moong dal.

In a typical everyday menu in our household, Muringai ilai molagoottal would accompany white rice topped with a dollop of ghee, with arachu kalakki and rasam. Arachu kalakki (means mish-mash, if you ask me) is a curd based side dish with fresh cucumbers or tomatoes, spiced with green chillies and ginger and tempered with mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves. After this dual main course (molagoottal and arachukalakki makes a pair, so does molagoottal & rasam) the third course would be rice and curd with a simple pickle, or more rasam :)

We use the Moringa leaves primarily to make molagoottal and muringai ilai adai. Muringai ilai adai is a crepe similar to dosa but thicker, and is one of our favorite breakfast dishes.

In my grandfather's house that I grew up, we had a muringakkai tree in our yard. It stood near the mossy dark laterite wall surrounding the yard and was visible from the road leading to our house. Tall and slender, the branches of the tree swayed back and forth with the 15 or so drumsticks in various stages of growth. The branches would break at the slightest tug so harvesting them was best left to the elders. As a kid, I loved gathering the fresh flowers that fell. About half of them were on our side of the wall and the other half lay scattered on the dusty road. My mom made a poriyal(stir-fry) for me, with the ten or fifteen flowers I brought in. Mildly spiced and full of freshly grated coconuts, I loved to eat it with Thayir saadam (Curd rice). The poriyal wasn't even sufficient for the tiny me, how could I share it? She would add a handful of drumstick leaves to make up for the quantity but the poriyal with just the flowers was my favorite.

Two years back, we brought home a muringakkai plant from our local farmers' market here and have been enjoying it since. Even though we live in sunny Florida, we've had an extreme cold spell in winter the last two years when local TV channels advise you to cover your plants in order to protect them. We would wrap the plants in our backyard with blankets, then wait with our fingers crossed, hoping they make it. The first winter with us, the muringakkai plant didn't make it - or so we thought. When we removed the blanket, the poor plant with its wilted leaves looked so sad and cold. The ice formed in the cells apparently killed the plant, we said to ourselves. One sunny beautiful day in the next month or so, my husband caught a tiny & tender baby shoot sprouting out from the ground, saying hello to the morning sun! Looks like we have a fighter :)

Wikipedia lists extensive uses of this plant, Moringa oleifera. "The leaves are highly nutritious, being a significant source of Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Protein, Iron and Pottassium. "

More from Wikipedia below - I have highlighted the nutritional comparisons with other vegetables/fruits.

A large number of reports on the nutritional qualities of Moringa now exist in both the scientific and the popular literature. Moringa leaves contain more Vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas, and that the protein quality of Moringa leaves rivals that of milk and eggs. The oral histories recorded by Lowell Fuglie in Senegal and throughout West Africa, who reports countless instances of lifesaving nutritional rescue that are attributed to Moringa (Fuglie, L.J., 1999, 2000). In fact, the nutritional properties of Moringa are now so well known that there seems to be little doubt of the substantial health benefit to be realized by consumption of Moringa leaf powder in situations where starvation is imminent. Nonetheless, the outcomes of well controlled and well documented clinical studies are still clearly of great value. (Jed W. Fahey, 2005)

The Wikipedia article on Moringa is here, it is very informative and it talks about ben oil, which is extracted from Moringa seeds. Make sure to check it out. But don't go just yet!

Muringai ilai Molagoottal Ingredients -
Drumstick leaves de-stemmed and rinsed in cold water - 2 cups
Dry roasted Moong Daal - 1 cup. (Alternatively, you can use Toor dal too)
Toast the Moong dal in a pan, stirring well so it doesn't stick to the pan, for about 6-8 minutes
until it is brownish & toasted. This toasting ensures the dal doesn't get too mushy when it is pressure cooked.

To grind into a paste -
Urad dal - 2 tablespoons
Red chillies - 2 or 3 - depending on your level of heat.
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds(Jeera) - 1 teaspoon
In a small pan, add 1 tsp oil, add the urad dal and fry it without burning until it turns brownish red. Now add the red chillies and fry it in the oil. Remove from fire and transfer to a blender/mixie jar. Add the jeera and grated coconut, grind well into a smooth paste. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to assist grinding. Set aside.

For tempering -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Urad dal - 1/2 teaspoon
Red chillies - 1 or 2
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs

Method -
Pressure cook the dal with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder.

In a pan, add the ground coconut paste, the cooked dal, 1/2 cup water and mix well. Add the cleaned muringai ilai leaves, bring it to a boil. Boil for a couple minutes and check for salt.

Remove from fire. Now is the time for tadka, or tempering. In a small pan, add 1 tsp oil and when it is hot, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add urad dal, red chillies and curry leaves and mix well. Add this to the curry that was just removed from fire.

Mix well, serve hot. There you have it. Nutritious and yummy!

Leftovers make an excellent side dish for rotis. When you reheat the dish, just add a chopped and saute-ed onion, tomato and a couple more green chillies.

My little one loves molagoottal with plain rice and ghee. So I am sending this to Cooking For Kids - Leafy greens hosted by Pavani, conceptualized by Sharmi, of Neivedyam. Here is the original event announcement at Sharmi's blog.


  1. Very nicely written post, i never knew drumstick leaves were so healthy!! with dal it sounds delicious combination!

  2. Looks lovely, we don't get the leaves over here. My mom used to make this dal and sambar using the leaves. Your picture has kindled old sweet memories.

  3. I love muringai leaves. Muringai tree looks fabulous.Dish looks so yummy.

  4. I never used drumstick leaves... looks good...will try it !

  5. Lovely post.. very innovative.. thanks for the recipe :)

  6. I heard of this leaves recently.....these carry these many values....came to know recently......paring up with dal sounds yum....

  7. Moringa is part of our every course meal. I had a collection of many moringa recipes.

    It must be posted here after some time.

    Eat Moringa Daily!! Live healthy

    Check this link too Moringa seeds


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