Red Lentil Soup, Bengali style and mustard oil

red lentils in mustard oil


Have you ever tasted Mustard oil? It’s a fantastically flavored oil, a little heavy, and has a pungent vapor that can tear you up when heated. It’s rich in Omega3 fatty acids. It also imparts a nutty flavor to the dish it is cooked in. Mustard oil is also one of the few table oils that can be directly consumed without cooked. Mustard oil is the favored cooking oil in many of the states in Northern India, the entire Eastern India (especially Bengal), some parts of Korea and China, and the entire Nepal and Bangladesh.mustard oil

Mustard oil lends itself to multiple therapeutic uses. Massage, ear ache, tooth ache, joint pain – it has been known to bring temporary relief in most cases.  It is also very popular as a massage oil for children and adults alike. Culturally, it is thought to be a great remedy for cold and cough in infant and toddlers. Of course, due to it’s very strong smell, it gives out a pungent odor, so gradually lighter and more sensory friendly aromatic oils have replaced it. When my boys were young, I would often boil a clove of garlic in mustard oil and use that oil to massage away colic discomfort, earache, and congested chest. Of course, these are not medically recommended remedies, rather cultural hand me down tips passed on through generations, but for me and my kids, they worked.

According to a paper published in 2004 American Journal in Clinical Nutrition titled ‘Diet and risk of ischemic heart disease in India’, the authors have observed that consumption of Mustard Oil significantly lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. In rural Northern and Eastern India, where consumption of mustard oil is still the highest, there are lesser known incidents of cardiovascular disease, though it is not the only mitigating factor.

Today, I’m going to share two mustard oil recipes which are simple to make, and are made by every Bengali worth her salt. I should warn you though, it has a strong flavor and it is an acquired taste, like wasabi. Those who know the flavor of mustard oil will agree with me that once you have tasted this oil, there is nothing that comes close to it as far as flavors go. Some of the dishes cannot be cooked without this oil, there is simply no substitute. New York Times published a lovely article on this: “American Chefs Discover Mustard Oil“. It’s a fascinating read.

It’s interesting how mustard seeds are pressed to get oil in villages of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Mustard seeds are pressed into mortar like well, and a gigantic pestle is used to press the seeds in it by rotation. A bull is generally engaged to rotate the pestle, and a person manually regulates the speed of the bull and the pestle. I found some interesting images here.

The dishes I am sharing today use raw mustard oil. It’s more like a drizzle, bringing a raw burst of flavor.

The first one is red lentil dish. I got inspired by a post by Lorraine in her fabulous blog Not Quite Nigella, where she posted about Egyptian Red Lentil Soup. Red lentils are such a regular fare in a Bong household, that I could not help but post this recipe.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Red Lentil Soup with mustard oil
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • I cup Basmati or any other regular white rice.
Red lentil soup
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 pod of garlic
  • ½th cup onions chopped fine
  • 1 Thai green chili (jalapeno works too. Use more if you like the heat).
  • salt
  • 1 tbs. mustard oil
For salad
  • ½ cup cucumber finely sliced
  • 1 tomato sliced
  • 1 boiled egg halved
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • dash of black pepper
  1. Cook rice as per instructions.
  2. Boil the lentils with salt and garlic in 3 cups of water till cooked. Boil them just enough so that they are soft, but retain their shape.The lentils should not loose their shape or get mashed.They should also have quarter inch of water floating on top.
  3. Pour in a bowl.
  4. Mix in onions and finely chopped green chili.
  5. Drizzle mustard oil over it.
  1. Lay the sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and halved eggs on a shallow bowl and drizzle lemon juice all over it.
Serve with rice and salad.


My next recipe is mashed potato recipe. This is a dish I grew up on, and just thinking of it gives me nostalgia. We call it ‘Aloo sheddho bhaat’. Translated: Boiled potatoes with rice. It serves mostly as a first course, preceding a vegetable, lentil, meat and finally a sweet dish in a full course meal; or on days to fill gaps, when you really don’t feel like cooking. But there is no dearth of flavors here. Given half a chance, any Bong will give you an animated discourse on how flavorful this dish is. But then, we have grown up on it. Try it yourself and see how you like it.


Mashed Potatoes with Rice


2 Potatoes

2 thai green/jalapeno chilies chopped

salt to taste

1 tbsp. mustard oil

a few leaves of coriander (optional)


Boil potatoes, peel and mash them.

Add salt, chopped chilies and mustard oil and mash them till the potatoes reach a creamy texture.mashed potato

Drizzle some more oil.

Serve. Goes great with rice.mustard oil with mashed potatoes

Note: If you eat with rice, then rice and the potatoes have to mixed in well to get the right flavors.

Soon, I’ll be coming up with more flavorful and cooked dishes with mustard oil – Sorshe maach, Mushurer dal, Aloo posto……don’t worry, I’ll translate all of them for you when I post about them. A hint: The above mentioned dishes describe a fish dish, lentils and poppy seed preparation. Btw, did I tell you Bengalis take pride in eating close to seven courses in a single meal, everyday? Stay tuned, all of that coming up soon.

This post is linked to

Full Plate Thursday

Bobbi’s cozy kitchen



18 comments for “Red Lentil Soup, Bengali style and mustard oil

  1. June 7, 2012 at 11:42 PM

    Seven courses?? wow! I nearly said holy cow but then thought better of it. 🙂

    I love your food.
    Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef recently posted..Food Writer Fridays – Meet Charles Smith of Five Euro FoodMy Profile

    • June 8, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      hahahaha! You crack me up Maureen, everytime!!

  2. June 8, 2012 at 4:13 AM

    I’m fascinated to try mustard oil now! 😀 And thank you for the lovely shoutout, you are too kind! I hope you have a lovely weekend coming up!
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella recently posted..Egyptian Lentil SoupMy Profile

    • June 8, 2012 at 9:30 AM

      You are so welcome!! Your post yesterday totally excited me. Normally I take 2-3 days to get a post ready, but this was ready in an hour, excluding the time taken to feed the kids, dogs, hubby, cleaning, and the whole 9 yards.

      I will be posting more mustard oil recipes. If you don’t like it in the first go, don’t give up on it. It’s notorious for growing on you.

  3. June 8, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    What an interesting post! I have never heard of mustard oil before. Do you buy it at an Asian grocery store?
    Erin {Recimplicity} recently posted..Roasted Beet Salad with Beet GreensMy Profile

    • June 8, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      Thanks Erin! I do know some Chinese and Japanese recipes call for mustard oil, but I’m not sure if they sell it on a large scale.Indian and Bangladeshi stores would be more like it.
      Minnie recently posted..Red Lentil Soup, Bengali style and mustard oilMy Profile

  4. Indrani
    June 8, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    Minnie..You brought back childhood memories…
    well call this Patato dish …Alo Bharta….
    As a kid I used to eat it with Rice and Dal!

    • June 8, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Join me, I have a one big bowl of aloo bharta sitting my my fridge. It’s going to be my lunch today :))

  5. June 8, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    I am in the South and had never had Lentils until a few years back and I love them. I will have to try this recipe some time soon.

    • June 8, 2012 at 4:03 PM

      Do try. This one is very simple. Normally they are cooked in spices and have amazing delicate flavors.

  6. June 8, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    I love mustard…spreading kind, English kind, dried kind, mustard seeds etc. I don’t use mustard oil so much though, my family is from Hyderabad and we use mustard seeds in everything. Your soup and especially your potatoes are compelling me to give mustard oil a go. I love mustard seeds with potatoes.

    • June 8, 2012 at 5:10 PM

      Thanks so much! We use to cook fish and mutton. Hopefully I will post some more great recipes that you can try.

  7. Pam
    June 8, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Looks delicious.
    Pam recently posted..Strawberry & Chocolate Shortcake ParfaitMy Profile

    • June 8, 2012 at 11:02 PM

      Thank you so much for stopping by 🙂

  8. June 24, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Hi Minnie,
    Your Red Lentil Soup looks delicious, I can’t wait to try it. Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing on Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen
    Miz Helen recently posted..Whats For Dinner Next Week 6-24-12My Profile

    • June 24, 2012 at 7:47 PM

      Thank you so much Helen. Thank you for the opportunity 🙂

Comments are closed.