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Mindful Eating– Sumac-Spiced Red Lentil Soup

January 23, 2012

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” rashaski · Zen Proverb

Yesterday I sat down for lunch with a bowl of red lentil soup, and I couldn’t help noticing its beautiful sunshine color.  As I put first spoonful in my mouth and then another, its creamy texture and tangy taste shook my taste buds.  I savored every bit of it slowly.  Its bold flavors and smooth consistency pleasantly surprised me.  After all, it was just a bowl of soup– red lentil soup, I wondered.  But it was the attention that I was eating it with made it special.  I realized, I was eating it mindfully.

In today’s fast-paced world where we grab food on the go, have lunch meetings, and TV dinners, we tend to forget to take a few moments to enjoy our meals.  In the process of multitasking where we combine meals with other activities, we rarely pay attention to our food.  Whether it is driving, attending business at lunch meetings, or watching television, food for the most part goes unnoticed.

Mindful eating is eating with awareness.  It’s the awareness of the food as well as the experience of eating.  Eating mindfully and appreciating the appearance and the taste of the food, and enjoying the surroundings makes the experience even more worthwhile.  It often brings a sense of gratitude with the realization of what we have.  At the same time recognizing the ones who are not as privileged, we tend to eat consciously and not be wasteful.  As Thich Nhat Hanh says:

Before each meal, we can join our palms in mindfulness

and think about the children who do not have enough to eat.

Doing so will help us maintain mindfulness of our good fortune,

and perhaps one day we will find ways to do something to help

change the system of injustice that exists in the world.

In many refugee families, before each meal,

a child holds up his bowl of rice an says something like

this: “Today, on the table, there are many delicious foods.

I am grateful to be here with my family enjoying these

wonderful dishes. I know there are many children less fortunate,

who are very hungry.” Being a refugee he knows,

for example, that most Thai children never see the kind

of fine rice grown in Thailand that he is about to eat.

It is difficult to explain to children in the “overdeveloped”

nations that not all children in the world have such

beautiful and nourishing food. Awareness of this fact alone

can help us overcome many of our own psychological pains.

Eventually our contemplation can help us see how to assist

those who need our help so much.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Read more about mindful eating on  A blog about simplified life.

I am hooked on red lentils– something I always have in my pantry.  I cook them quite often because they’re an easy solution to a quick hearty meal.  Make them as soups, dips, Indian style lentils, or add them to stews, their versatility is endless.

This soup is inspired through my love for Mediterranean flavors such as sumac, lemon and mint.  I have added a little tahini for its earthy flavor.  All combined,  it’s a bowlful of delicious explosion.  I can’t have enough of it.

Sumac:  A Tangy Zing

Sumac spice is widely used in Turkish and Arabic cuisine.  It comes from sumac berries.
It is a wonderful spice with a tangy flavor and can be substituted for lemon at times.

Sumac can be used over salads, rice, or grilled vegetables.  It complements lentils and beans well.  If you love hummus, try sprinkling a little sumac for an added zing.  French fries and a pinch of sumac is a perfect match for a zesty treat.  It can be used simply as a condiment as well to add an extra flavor to your meal.

I love using it on grilled vegetables, salads, and beans,.  Sometimes I add a pinch on a sourdough toast with olive oil.  Another similar option is on toasted pita chips.  Goes well on plain yogurt too.  For me, choices are endless when it comes to sumac.


3 tablespoons light olive oil or canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons canned crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sumac and some for garnish
½-1 teaspoon paprika
red chili flakes to taste  (optional)
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 tablespoon tahini
Salt to taste
11/2 cups red lentils, cleaned and washed
4 cups water
juice of 1 lime/lemon or to taste
Oil to drizzle on top
Fresh mint or parsley for garnish

In a heavy bottom pot, heat oil and cook onions until golden.  Add garlic, crushed tomatoes, sumac, paprika, chili flakes, turmeric, mint, tahini, and salt.  Cook for 1-2 minutes taking care not to burn the spices.  Add lentils and water.  Bring it to boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils and soft and the consistency is creamy.  Add more water if it is too thick or cook a little longer if it is too thin.  Add lime/lemon juice to taste.  (Red lentils come in several varieties.  Thus, the texture and time will depend on the variety you are using.  Some cook faster than the others and have creamier consistency).

To serve, pour in a bowl.  Drizzle a little oil, sprinkle a pinch of paprika and sumac to taste.
Garnish with mint or parsley.  Serve hot with warm pita or your favorite bread.

Enjoy eating mindfully!


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