Murungai Keerai | Drumstick leaves | Moringa – A unique green from the Indian subcontinent that is used extensively in south Indian cooking and also used in Ayurvedic Medicine. Click to see south indian recipes using murungai keerai.
This is a two-recipe post and a long one. It is detailed. Click below if you want to go to the recipe directly
Moringa leaves, native to the Indian subcontinent is packed with nutrients and minerals. Derived from the Tamil name Murungai , meaning twisted (indicating the shape of the tree) strand, is known for its beneficial properties. While it may have gained its momentum in the western world as a superfood in the recent years, the leaves and the seeds have been used in Indian cooking for ages. This post describes how to use these leaves in the Indian cooking and has two popular recipes using the star ingredient.
Similar to the banana plant, most parts of the Murungai tree is edible, either taken as food or used for traditional medicinal purposes. But the leaves and its long and slender seed pods, popularly known as Drumsticks in India, are consumed predominantly. These greens tend to have a slightly pungent taste and as a kid, I didn’t enjoy it. As most of you can relate to age our palette changes and we tend to appreciate things for its worth and benefit. My mom was beyond surprised when I told her that I had lugged half a kilo of murungai leaves. I know! Maybe crazy? Well, in my defense I get to see them once or twice a year. So, I was excited when I could spot a unique Indian veggie in Germany!
- Buying – Try to get fresh and tender leaves. Look for smaller green leaves variety. They are more flavourful and cooks fast.
- Prepare them the same day you get them or at the max, the next day. These tend to wilt easily and lose fragrance.
- You have to carefully pick each leaf from its stem. Separate them from its stalk (the small tender ones attached to the leaves are okay) as they are not digestible.
I have to admit that prepping the leaves is the most time-consuming thing I have ever done or do. It is not hard but you need patience. This is one of the reasons why most of them refrain from having this besides the taste. Sometimes, you need to work hard to get the best things in life, isn’t it? When you think of its benefits, you wouldn’t mind about the prepping hassle!
Cooking with the leaves:
The murungai levaes take a long time to cook unlike its green counterparts. So make sure you cook them completely, through and through by adding sufficient water. It is very essential else it can cause indigestion.
These can be prepared just like the other greens. They are made as Kootu, Poriyal, Masiyal, Thuvayal and also as a Podi. I have listed some of the recipes on the top of the page. You can use the print option to save them for later use.
Murungai Elai as a Flavouring agent:
The leaves are also mainly used as a flavouring agent. It has a wonderful aroma when added in the right amounts. The Tamil classic breakfast dish Adai is never complete without these leaves. Slurp! The shallots and these greens are the highlights of this Adai dish. You can expand its use further by adding it in Dosa, Idli and also in rice dishes.
Do not have this often or in very large quantities. Sometimes it forms gas or bloating in the stomach.
Cooking with the pods:
The use of pods are more common and relished by many. Just like the leaves, these pods enhance the dish to which they are added. Once again you can use them to prepare kootu and most commonly in Sambhar.
Try to pick slender ones to enhance cooking and flavour. While making Sambar, cook the drumsticks in plain water and then add the tamarind extract. The acidity of tamarind sometimes prolongs the cooking time of the veggie.
Recipes using Murungai Keerai (Moringa leaves)
Recipe 1: Murungai Keerai Podi | Moringa leaves spice mix
Murungai keerai podi - Moringa leaves spice mix that can be had with idly, dosa or mixed with rice.
- 4 cups picked moringa leaves (murungai keerai)
- 1 tablespoon bengal gram (channa dhal)
- 2 tablespoons split husked black gram (urad dhal)
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds (dhaniya)
- 10 no's red chillies (vatha milagai)
- 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder (perungayam thool) Omit if you are gluten allergic or use a pinch of whole asafoetida dissolved in water
- Salt to taste
Wash the leaves and pat them dry with a towel. Spread them on a plate and let it air dry for at least one hour.
Then heat a pan and roast these leaves until they turn crisp. When you press them it should crush and you should hear the crushing sound. Keep them aside.
In the same pan, roast the remaining ingredients one by one until they turn golden brown in colour. Keep them aside.
Once it cools, grind the leaves first. If you want some texture, grind them coarsely. But the smoothness is your own preference. Put them in a bowl.
Then grind the rest of the ingredients together until they are smooth. In batches mix these with the powdered leaf and add salt.
Taste and see after each mix until you get the prefered taste. Please refer notes (2) to know why.
Store them in an airtight container and it will last up to two weeks.
- Roasting is basically removing moisture content from the leaves. It is very important that these be completely dried before grinding. Else the spice mix will lose its shelf life.
- Sometimes the leaves can be very pungent and strongly aromatic or vice versa. So adding the lentils in batches will ensure that you don't overdo the lentils and leaf ratio. It is easier to adjust if the leaves overpower rather than the lentils. Else you might have to pick and clean some more!
- If you feel it has become more bitter, roast some more red chillies, urad dhal & coriander seeds and mix it with them. This is easier to adjust rather than having to add more leaves.
Recipe 2: Murungai keerai poricha kootu | Moringa leaves kootu
Moringa leaves cooked in mung dhal and seasoned with South Indian spices.
- 3 cups tightly packed cleaned and picked murungai elai (leaves)
- 1/2 cup split moong dhal (pasi parupu)
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated cococnut
- 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns (milagu)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablsespoon split bengal gram | urad dhal (ulutham parupu)
- 1 tabslespoon coconut oil (thengai ennai)
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds (kadugu)
- 1 teaspoon split bengal gram | urad dhal (ulutham parupu)
- 10 curry leaves, chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon asafoetida (perungayam) Omit if you are gluten allergic or use a pinch of whole asafoetida dissolved in water
In a kadai or pan, add the leaves and a cup of water. Cook the leaves until they become soft to bite and keep adding more water (as it dries) to cook it through completely.
Meanwhile, cook the dhal separately until it is mashed well.
Also, fry the ingredients, one by one (except the coconut) mentioned under to grind in a teaspoon of coconut oil. The cumin seeds and peppercorns should splutter and the urad dhal must turn golden brown. Then turn off the flame and add the scraped coconut to the pan. Let it cool and grind them to a fine paste.
Once the leaves are cooked completely, add the cooked dhal and the ground coconut paste. Add salt and 1/2 cup water; mix well.
Bring it to a boil and keep it on the flame for another couple of minutes. Turn off the flame.
In another kadai do the tempering. Add the coconut oil and once it is hot, add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Then add the urad dhal, red chillies and curry leaves. Fry until the dhal turns golden brown. TUrn off the flame and add the asafoetida powder.
Pour this tempering in the kootu and mix well. This gravy thickens on cooling. If needed, add little water before serving. It is of a thick gravy consistency and you should be able to mix it with rice.
- The moringa leaves take a long time to cook, unlike the other greens. So try to get fresh and tender ones.
- Cook them as soon as you get it. The leaves tend to dry soon and it also becomes difficult to cook.