A Gram is a Gram is a Gram…or is it?!

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(Gram: English-as-in-the-other-side-of-the-pond for Lentils/Pulses)

This week, in a moment of rushed preparation, I made a rookie mistake ~ took one lentil to be another.

I meant to use Green Gram (Mung) for this dish and ended up using Black Gram instead – two very different creatures! Don’t tell my mom 🙂

This post is my attempt to turn this into a teaching moment for myself and my readers 🙂

IMG_4079-2 Green Gram, also called Mung is used essentially in Indian cooking as one of the main sources of vegetable protein; babies are usually started on first solid meals of rice and Mung. Picture on left: the top row, L-R, is whole Mung, the missing cracked Mung with skin on that I meant to use and didn’t have, and Mung without the green hull.

Black Gram (Gram ~ English for Lentil) is also called Urad and used extensively in Indian cooking for its property to bind and act as a good pre-biotic for fermented foods. The bottom row, L-R: Whole Urad, Cracked Urad that I mistook for the Green, and hulled Urad.

If you were to make this dish, best start with cracked green mung with hull on! All else works just the same!

Ingredients: Lentils best soaked overnight


  • 1 cup cracked Green Mung, soaked in several cups of warm water, overnight or 4-6 hours until the lentil is bite-able and soaked all the way through; next morning, rinse out the lentils, add to a blender and add in the next few ingredients
  • Green chiles and fresh (peeled) ginger to taste;  the tan powder is Asafoetida (or Hing, available in Indian groceries) which helps in digesting the lentil and adding the wonderful ‘Umami’ flavor; add salt as desired!

With just enough water to make a smooth and stiff batter that coats a spoon, blend everything together.

Best to make batter in the morning; When steaming this batter, it is ideal to allow batter to sit on the counter for several hours to start natural fermentation.   Ready for lunch or supper!

To Steam:


IMG_4073A metal steamer or a stainless steel plate with a lip; I used the latter.

Coat the surface of your steamer with some oil; pour in the batter and even out with a spoon; you can go about 1/2-1 inch thick depending on the steamer.

To steam: I use a large wok, some hot water in the wok, place the plate inside, cover with a well-fitting lid, and allow this to steam for 8-10 minutes until done.  Donen-ess is a toothpick inserted in the middle of this cake and coming out clean.




This cake can be sliced and served with any relish or vegetables on the side – my dinner happened to be late-summer zucchini and fenugreek greens sauteed in olive oil with cumin-coriander-turmeric.

Phew! Salvaged a batter! But more importantly a fun culinary experiment!


Side Note:

Legumes are a class of vegetables that include lentils, peanuts, peas, and beans. 

Lentils are the seeds of a specific species of legume, Lens Culinaris – Brown, Green, French or Puy, Beluga etc.

Beans, according to United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, should include only species of Phaseolus: Aduki, Lima, Black, Pinto, Kidney etc.  It commonly also includes Castor, Soy, and Chickpeas.

When training your gut to eat vegetable proteins like lentils and beans. it is important to start by preparing them well.  These proteins are rich in fiber and act as good pre-biotic foods.  Ideally, they should be pre-soaked for several hours, then rinsed and further cooked stove-top or pressure cooked with appropriate spices ~ fresh ginger, roasted and powdered cumin-coriander seeds and turmeric go a long way towards helping one digest the protein without discomfort ~ a side of gas and bloating anyone? :-).  Another common prep is to pre-soak for several hours, rinse, and then grind them into a batter along with a grain like rice.  This batter is most commonly allowed to ferment for several hours, turning it into a naturally rich pro-biotic food.  Depending on region, there are many versions of this process, using many different lentils and grains.  This makes for a versatile repertoire of dishes, everything from steamed dumplings to many different crepe or pancake like foods, both sweet and savory!

Author: AyurJaya

Clinical Ayurveda Specialist

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