Preparation / Directions:
Pick over and wash the beans. Soak them overnight in cold water to cover.
Soak the tamarind pulp in 2 cups hot water in a nonmetallic bowl for at least 1 hour. Squeeze the pulp with fingers to extract as much juice as possible. Strain, pressing the pulp. Discard the residue and reserve the strained juice and pulp.
Heat the oil in a heavy, shallow pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they turn almost reddish brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the chile pepper, cumin and turmeric, and cook for 10 or 15 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and let them cook until they form a sauce and fat separates out.
Drain the beans and add to the pan along with 2 cups water. Cover and simmer until the beans are almost done. Check the water level from time to time, and if the beans look dry, add small amounts of hot water.
When the beans have finished cooking, there should be plenty of sauce. Stir in the tamarind, cover and simmer until the beans are very tender. Stir in the roasted cumin seeds, garam masala, salt and 1/2 cup of the cilantro leaves. Cover the pan and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Reheat and serve garnished with remaining cilantro leaves.
NOTE: Tamarind is available in cake form at Indian markets.
Adapted from Julie Sahni's "Classic Indian Cooking." From San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7/88