Nei urundai, also known as ghee balls, these little traditional treats are really sought-after over the Diwali celebrations (or Deepavali around these parts). I admit, I only had my first one last Friday when walking around Little India with my colleague. As I was enjoying my first nei urundai, I thought to myself, well, isn’t this technically the original bliss ball? Bliss balls are all the rage now in healthy circles even though they have been around since the 70s. These little energy bites are full of nutrition, and nei urundai is just about nutritious enough to be counted among the ranks of bliss balls once you adjust it.
The main ingredient is mung beans, which is ground to a flour, mixed with sugar and melted ghee before pressing together into balls. Since mung beans are really good for you, sugar not so much and ghee is actually okay, I had to figure out how to make a healthier version over the weekend since the original is almost 1:1 ratio of mung bean to sugar. Had a few trial and errors, but this recipe I really really like and it’s a good approximation of the original treat.
Mung beans are the main ingredient of nei urundai, and these beans pack a serious nutritious punch! Firstly, they are low in calories, has a low glycemic index and is also high in fiber, keeping you full without weighing you down, making them perfect for keeping hunger pangs at bay. One cup of mung beans gives you 5% of your daily iron requirement, is a good source of protein and has a considerable amount of vitamin C and K. I have access to mung bean/mung dhal/moong dal/green bean flour here in KL, I’ve found them with the flours, in an Indian food aisle or with the spices, dried beans and such at different supermarkets. I’m pretty sure you could find the same in Little India or Chinatowns anywhere in the world.
If you have a good food processor, blenders in the league of the Vitamix, spice grinder or coffee grinder, you can grind toasted mung beans into a flour too. Just make sure you run it thru a sieve to leave out the larger bits. I then supplement the mung bean flour with more cashew nuts than the original recipe but that’s just my personal take.
What makes them really delightful, besides the ghee of course, is the addition of ground cardamom. In my recipe here I add ground ginger to complement the cardamom. So fragrant and so delicious! I’ve fallen in love with using cardamom in desserts. It’s used in a relatively small amount here, but it’s a really good spice related to ginger and therefore carrying much of the same properties including detoxifying, improving digestion and anti-inflammatory.
Now we come to the ghee. Ghee is made from clarifying butter, and is packed with antioxidants to help boost the immune system. Since the milk solids and impurities have been removed, it is found to be suitable for those who are lactose or casein intolerant. Just like coconut oil, it is rich in medium chain fatty acids which have been found to be a “good” fat, though you still need to take it in moderation. It’s really good in cooking as it has a high smoke point! The original nei urundai recipe uses quite a lot of ghee, so I cut it down to just one tablespoon.
In place of the sugar, I tried this recipe twice with between two to three tablespoons of honey. Two tablespoons is just sweet enough while three makes it really nice and sweet, so base it on your tastes. Honey is a better sweetener than refined sugars as it has antioxidants, trace minerals and anti-bacterial properties. You can use agave or maple syrup in it’s place, if preferred. I find honey very complementary to the cardamom and ginger, which is why I used it. Due to the addition of the liquid sweeteners, the ball will be wetter than the original recipe but it is no less delicious.
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons mung bean/moong dal/green bean flour (possible alternative: almond meal)
- ½ cup cashew nuts
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 - 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- Dry roast the mung bean flour in a frying pan over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes. It should take on a light golden colour and give off a "roasted" smell. This step is important to remove an excessive "beany" taste in the final product. Set aside, separating 2 tablespoons of the flour onto a clean plate for the rolling of your nei urundai later.
- Chop the cashew nuts by hand or blitz them in the food processor until you get small pieces. Mix into the mung bean flour along with the ground cardamom and ground ginger.
- Add the honey into the mung bean flour mix and stir through.
- Heat up the ghee in a small saucepan until melted and sizzling. Carefully pour over the mung bean flour mix and stir thoroughly.
- Let the mix cool slightly for a couple of minutes, then use a tablespoon to measure out a portion and lightly press the dough together and roll it between your palms. Once shaped, roll the balls into the extra mung bean flour and set aside while you finish the rest of the nei urundai.
Enjoy! xx, Bee