Karnataka is a lovely state located along the southwestern Indian coast. My mother grew up in the capital city of Bangalore, well known for its gorgeous parks and lush gardens. I have such wonderful childhood memories of this beautiful city and especially the delicious food found in this region.
The cuisine of Karnataka is as varied and diverse as the region itself. The food is mainly vegetarian, except along the coastal borders where seafood is plentiful. The cuisine is well known for its spicy bold tastes and flavors combined with extensive use of coconut.
My grandmother was an excellent cook and this particular recipe was one of her favorites and mine as well. She traditionally made it using an Indian variety of orange pumpkin but any variety of pumpkin (especially sugar pumpkins) or a hard squash (such as butternut or acorn) will work well.
PUMPKIN DAL (South Indian style)
1 lb of pumpkin, peeled, seeded & cut into bite size pieces
1 cup of toor dal (split yellow pigeon peas)
1 medium onion, finely diced
½” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
pinch of asafetida
6-8 fresh curry leaves
3-4 dried red chilies
1 tsp tamarind paste or powder (substitute with lemon or lime juice)
salt & pepper, to taste
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
½ tsp ground cumin powder
½ tsp ground coriander powder
¼ tsp red chili powder, to taste
2 tbsp oil, vegetable or canola
½ cup of freshly grated coconut (frozen or dried unsweetened is fine), pureed until smooth
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
In a small stockpot on medium high heat, add the pumpkin pieces along with enough water to cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the pumpkin is just fork tender. Drain well and set aside until needed.
Now using the same stockpot on medium high heat, add about 2 cups of water and the dal. Bring to a good boil, cover, reduce the heat and let simmer. Cook the dal until tender but not overcooked. This should take roughly 15 minutes or so. Alternatively, this can be done in the pressure cooker as well.
In a medium stockpot on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, carefully add the black mustard seeds. When the splattering stops, quickly add the cumin seeds and asafetida. Then add the curry leaves and dried red chilies. After a few seconds, quickly add the onions. Stir fry until translucent and slightly browned, then add the ginger and pureed coconut. Stir fry for a few minutes and then add the spices (turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, red chili powder, salt & pepper). Now add the cooked dal along with any cooking liquid. The dal should be slightly thick and not too watery, adjust to your own personal preference. Lastly, add the pumpkin pieces and the tamarind. Stir well to combine all of the ingredients. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and let cook for 5-6 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and serve with fragrant Basmati rice.