Breakfast for dinner - Moong Dal Chilla

It's (blog) party time! And Stephanie has chosen brunch as this month's theme. Think lazy Sunday morning, a delicious breakfast spread, freshly brewed coffee, the weekend newspaper... well you get the idea!

If I am talking about brunch can pancakes be far behind? My husband grew up in a predominantly Gujarati area of Bombay and would often eat these pancakes at his friends' homes. When he told me about them, I had no idea what they were. So he tried to help in all earnest, "they were made of some dal, had cilantro or something green and were fried". That really narrowed my search :-)

So on our last visit to India we went hunting for the mystery dish. Help was forthcoming from all quarters and it didn't take us long to figure out they were moong dal chillas (or chilley to be precise).


Traditionally a chilla is made with besan (chickpea flour) and spices, but there are several variations (with bajra, whole moong, sprouts etc.). I added some peas to my batter today to make an all round satisfying brunch party.

MOONG DAL CHILLA (Split Green Gram Pancakes)
(makes 6 of regular size)
1 cup yellow moong dal (split and husked green gram)
a handful of peas, cooked
1" ginger, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 small green chillies, halved
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon asafetida (hing)
1 small onion chopped fine
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped fine
oil for frying
salt to taste

Wash the dal thoroughly. Put in a bowl and soak overnight in 3 cups of water. Drain while reserving the water. Add ginger, garlic, chillies, asafoetida and turmeric. Season to taste.

Grind with 1/2 cup of reserved water in a blender to make a smooth batter. Pour batter into a bowl and add onion, cilantro and peas. Mix well.

To make chilla -
Heat a pan with a teaspoon oil. Drop a ladleful of batter in the centre of the pan. Using the back of the ladle spread the batter into a circle. Make sure the chilla is not too thick so it gets cooked evenly.

Add a little oil along the edges of the chilla, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the chilla over and cook on the otherside until it gets brown patches. Serve hot with cilantro chutney or ketchup.

A chilla is sometimes called a vegetable omelet. And it does taste like a lacy French omelet because of the lightness of the ground dal. Adding vegetables like cabbage, peas, corn or tomatoes also makes it nutritious.


The best drink to go with these pancakes is spiced buttermilk. Earlier in India milk used to be churned by hand to make butter. The liquid left over from this process was called Mattha (chhans). The common practice today is to dilute yogurt for the same result. It makes a refreshing drink, particularly in the sweltering heat of Bombay, where you can find vendors selling it by the roadside.

MATTHA (Spiced Buttermilk)
(serves 2)
1 cup yogurt
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
thinly sliced pieces of ginger (optional)
1 tsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Whisk yoghurt, water and salt together. Cover and chill.
Heat a pan. Add cumin seeds and roast till they become aromatic. Pound coarsely with a rolling pin or pestle. Add to buttermilk along with ginger and chopped herbs. Allow flavours to blend for about five minutes and serve.


P.S. - Editing to add that the peas, cilantro and lentils make this dish eligible for Sweetnicks' ARF Tuesday too. How sneaky am I?!



Blogger Stephanie said...

Ashwini; I love it!

And I had to laugh when I read the 'well, they were made from dal and fried...' bit from your husband. Funny!

This is a great entry, and I'm intrigued by the spiced yogurt drink...it's all wonderful; thank you so much for coming to the party!

I'll have the round-up posted Saturday night...

9:01 PM  
Blogger Sury said...

The pancakes look yummy, Ashwini! I have been planning to make moong pancakes for a while now and your post is prodding me big time. I think I'll have to make them in the next couple of days. Can hardly resist!

2:02 AM  
Blogger Shammi said...

Gorgeous photo... I want to make this rightaway! I love all types of pancakes!

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ashwini, mindblowing pictures!! I have had chillas at a wedding im bombay, freshly made on a hot griddle...yummmm. I have to try your version.


8:07 AM  
Blogger Arthi said...

Ashwini, this looks yummy ! We've a slightly different version down south, called 'Pesarattu', except its made with whole green moong and doesnt have any veggies. Its more like a thin dosa. I'm going to try your version, I love one dish wholesome meals, ideal for week nights !

8:10 AM  
Blogger Tina Jennifer D'Silva said...

Looks so yummy, Ashwini...

Gotta try this out..

9:23 AM  
Blogger GourmayMasala said...

That looks yummy Ashwini! I usually make chillas with moong flour as a shortcut. Grinding the dals must give it a better taste... And the butter milk looks absolutely refreshing.

What a party!

9:50 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Stephanie - thanks for hosting!
Sury, Shammi - I had a hard time making enough for the photos. I'd just start eating one as soon as it was off the griddle :-)
Saffron - fresh chillas at a wedding? you are one lucky girl!!
Arthi - I love pesarattu! There is a version of chilla with whole moong too. You can try either!
Thanks Tina!
GM - The chilla tastes like dal vada. It is fresh smelling and very light. But your comment makes me want to try the flour version too. Just to see the difference :-)

10:57 AM  
Blogger BDSN said...

Hey Ashwini...
This is totally new to me..
Great pictures..
Will trying making this weekend..

1:47 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

What a surprise! I just posted Besan Cheela... Your pancakes are droolworthy!

Question - Are these cheelas or chillas? OR can they be called anyway? I've seen it spelt both ways, so I have no clue.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Kay - you are right, both spellings are used for the same dish. Chilley or Cheelay is the plural. I think the 'ee' is phonetically accurate, because there is an emphasis on the vowel...
BDSN - you must! they are so tasty and let me know when you do

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mattha! I love mattha! I have been saving my dahi for the truck-load of khichadi I made for my husband. But no longer!!

8:36 PM  
Blogger Annita said...

I haven't heard of this dish anywhere in my life..But your photographs are soo tempting..Looks like crispy pancakes..I'm gonna make it this weekend..

12:50 PM  
Blogger sailu said...

Those pictures look great,Ashwini.This recipe goes into my 'must-try' list.Love buttermilk and we have it every single day..:).I make spiced buttermilk which is slightly different from your recipe.will try your version tomorrow.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks mouthwatering, Ashwini. Your write up, funny. :)

6:57 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Manisha - I looove mattha too. In the summers in Bombay I lived on this drink!
Annita - let me know if you try em.
Thanks Sailu and Indira

12:00 PM  
Blogger Vineela said...

hi Ashwini,
Ur chillas looks good and buttermilk too.i will make buttermilk in different way but i have to try urs definetly.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Arthi said...

I tried this today and they came out very well. Thankyou, this goes to my list of favorite foods.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Arthi said...

Ashwini, I tried this today and they came out very well. This goes to my recipe repertoire, thanks !

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never heard of the spiced buttermilk.Sounds great.

7:30 AM  
Blogger reshma said...

Blogger didn't let me comment last time I was here, Absolutely loved the pics Ashwini! terracotta and lace takes your chillas to a whole new level:)

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like these moong pancakes. Will try it out! Your style of writing is great and photos too :)

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you!
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12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ashwini,
I just discovered food blogging 5 days ago and stumbled onto your site. I am chinese and my husband is maharastrian. I made these moong dal pancakes this morning and they were to die for. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Hi Tashie, glad you liked the pancakes. And thanks for writing to me about it.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Nidhi said...

Gorgeous Pictures....I love Moong dal Chilla, one of the most served dishes in Indian Weddings.

Thanks for sharing.


9:15 PM  
Blogger Vidwata said...

Hi Ashwini,

I tried Moong daal chilla thanks to the recipe you have posted. I have had these just too many times back home and simply love them.

Your twist of adding matar made them look quite different and tempting! I added a little bit of cilantro chutney in the batter to get a slightly greenish hue. That looked pretty good.

Thank you!

1:05 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Hi Vidwata - glad you liked the chillas. Cilantro chutney must surely have given it a nice kick

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ur moongdal chilla recipe rocks!

3:45 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Thanks Mohua.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon ur blog from Mahanandi.Your moong Dhal Chillas are awesome. Tried some today and the kids loved it.My older one wanted them folded in three with melted cheese in between. She wants me to keep making them for a few more days.
Thanks a bunch!!

1:05 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

A few more days?! I am sure you wont be thanking me after endless meals of chillas ;-)
Btw I think you might have a potential food blogger in your family - melted cheese chilla sounds yum!
Glad you and your kids enjoyed the dish Pankaj.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have tried many times but in vain.Chila most of the times stick to the girdle(Tawa)obstinately.Pl.suggest.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Sawhney - try using very little water while grinding. Also use a non stick pan and grease it with oil before you drop the batter. Chilla batter is not sticky so you really shouldnt have problems with it. Good luck.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Sonia said...

Hi Ashwini,
ur Mung-dal chilla's photo has been copied here. check out following link.

1:02 AM  

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