Lentil and Basmati Salad with Tamarind, Coconut, and Cilantro

December 29, 2010
5 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
Author Notes

About a month ago, I took a wonderful vegetarian Indian cooking class. Everything we made (lentil sambar, vegetable biryani, potato curry, tomato chutney) was delicious, but the dish that knocked my socks off in terms of subtle, yet amazing flavor was a simple mung bean salad with lemon, coconut, cilantro, black mustard, and curry leaf. Here is my version, using du Puy lentils (the mung beans still had a bite to them so I wanted to use a lentil that held its shape) and basmati rice for a complete protein. I have kept the coconut and cilantro but changed up the tempered dressing using tamarind paste and black caraway seeds for sour and nutty notes. The end result is a refreshing salad that is easy to make, flavorful, and equally delicious the next day.

Note: If refrigerating overnight, be sure to allow dish to come to room temperature before serving. —gingerroot

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Gingerroot is an art teacher living in Honolulu, HI.
WHAT: A hearty but refreshing Indian salad.
HOW: To make the dressing, mix black caraway seeds fried in vegetable oil with tamarind paste and water. Toss with cooked rice and lentils, then fold in cilantro, coconut, lime juice, and salt.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This salad is easy to pull together, especially if you're already stocked with Indian ingredients. While the tamarind dressing is sour, the nigella seeds gives the dressing depth, and the entire salad is lightened by the lime juice and cilantro. The resulting salad is balanced, subtle, and addicting -- we dare you to put your fork down after the first bite. —The Editors

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 27 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
  • For the lentil-rice salad:
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup du Puy lentils (also known as French lentils), rinsed and picked through
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, including stems
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
  • For the dressing:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black caraway seeds (also known as nigella seeds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tamarind paste (I used Neera’s brand)
  • 3 teaspoons water
  • 1 pinch Salt, to taste
In This Recipe
  1. In a small saucepan, combine rice, lentils and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender and water has evaporated, about 25 minutes. Fluff and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  2. In a skillet, temper dressing by heating vegetable oil over medium heat. Add black caraway seeds and cook for about 1 minute. Seeds should sputter a bit. Remove from heat. Add tamarind paste and water, stirring to combine.
  3. Pour dressing over rice and fold to mix thoroughly. Fold in coconut and cilantro. Add lime juice and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

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Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.