Alu mungodi ki subzi is stuff made of nostalgia. Such simpler curries have become so rare these days thanks to the deluge of 'butter masalas' and 'navratan kormas' of the vegetarian world, and of course because no one makes Badiyan or Mungodi at home any more.
No restaurants serve it either.
Thankfully we do get mungodi and badiyan in the markets, made by small scale industries and home based units and some of them are really good.
Badiyan making is an age old tradition all over the country. Badiyan or dried lentil cakes, if I try to translate this unique wonder, are made of lentil paste with is fermented, then mixed with some grated gourd type vegetable according to the regional choice, some spices and then the paste is shaped like small pellets to sun dry. The pellets puff up to become planoconvex shaped while they dry and then are stored for the whole year.
Badiyan are generally made of urad dal paste and are made into several curries like this pyaz badiyon ki subzi and even a badiyon ki chutney. I have always believed the badiyan brought the umami factor in Indian curries, the process of making badiyan ensured the lentil paste gets a flavour boost when fermented and sun dried.
Apart from the Badiyan, there is a type called Mungodi which is made of plain mung dal paste and is not spiced. The mungodi has a flavour of its own, something like when mung gets a mild hint of umami and yet retains its mungness. You know what I mean.
Mungodi can be sun dried or even can be made fresh for some curries. This mungodi wali lauki is made with freshly made mungodis. But freshly made mungodi lacks the umami kick, please note.
The alu mungodi ki subzi is preferred by those who like eating no onion garlic curries or is made often for meals after a puja at home.
One of the kachori walas in Banaras makes such a delicious mungodi ki subzi that I often crave for it. I know I have to recreate it soon.
I shared that the hawan at Kiradu temple complex commenced with a sattvic meal and how much I loved that meal. Alu mungodi ki subzi was on the menu apart from the mirchi ka kutta and I couldn't help but make it again at home. My mother in law used to make alu mungodi and lauki mungodi a lot and I actually started loving it a lot after having tasted her version.
After having a slightly different but equally delicious version of alu mungodi by Suryagarh chefs, I decided to make my MIL's version as that is what makes it more homely for me.
2 large boiled and cooled potatoes (about 250 gm)
1/2 cup dried mungodis
1 tbsp everyday curry powder
(or a mix of coriander, cumin, peppercorns and Indian bay leaf powder)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 green chillies broken
1 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds (optional, I don't use)
1 tsp crushed or minced ginger (optional, I use it always)
1/4 tsp amchoor powder
1.5 tbsp mustard oil
salt to taste
Crush the boiled potatoes with fingers. It should break into uneven pieces, and some completely crushed coarse mash.
Heat the mustard oil in a deep pan and shallow fry the mungodis in it till lightly browned. Remove from the fried mungodis from oil and keep aside.
Tip in the hing and cumin seeds if using, in the remaining oil. Once the oil is well infused add the crushed ginger. Stir to cook for a couple of seconds.
Now take the pan off heat for a moment and add all the powdered spices at once, stir to mix well so the spices infuse but do not get burnt. Within seconds dump all the crushed potatoes in the pan and stir well to mix. Return to heat and stir for a couple of minutes.
Add salt to taste, 2 cups of water and all the fried mungodis. Let the curry come to a rolling boil. Now lower the heat and let the alu mungodi subzi simmer for about 20 minutes, covered with a lid, or till the mungodis get soft and almost double up in size.
Finish with amchoor powder, adjust seasoning and consistency, serve hot with rotis, pooris or plain parathas along with other side dishes if required.
Some people add tomatoes to the alu mungodi ki subzi but I like this version with amchoor. You may want to garnish it with green coriander leaves but please refrain as it interferes with the delicately flavoured mungodis. But if you love your dhaniya patta go ahead and top it with some greens.
This kind of badi or mungodi subzis were a staple during rainy season when other green vegetables were not easily available in older times. That is the reason there is no tomato or dhaniya patta used traditionally for alu mungodi ki subzi but there are versions made in winter season when mungodi is paired with spinach and cabbage too.
One can always adjust this alu mungodi ki subzi to taste. The Suryagarh version is cooked with raw potatoes and it had a different consistency and slightly different taste too.