Sunday, 15 April 2012

SmartCooks Discovers Spicy Mung Beans are Hot, Hot, Hot

April 2012

SmartCooks here. 
I grew up without discovering the unique properties of a whole range of legumes.  So.... never too late....  I did my homework, sought out what I wanted, tested a few recipes, and discovered the true taste of mung beans, a staple commonly used in many cuisines in Southeast Asia and India. 

About Mung Beans 

Mung beans can be used one of three ways, at left in order:   
- either whole (green colour), the 
- common hulled or split beans (light yellow); and 
- sprouted, which are delicious in salads. 

Legumes like mung beans are an essential part of a vegetarian diet, filled with protein, vitamins and nutrients and packed with fiber.  Soaking them overnight makes them easily digestible; split beans are easiest on the digestion.  

Funny factoid.  When I googled nutritional properties of mung beans, the first article I got was a U.S. Department of Agriculture study from 1927, which concluded very succinctly:  "The indications are that the mung is a superior type of bean from a nutritional standpoint, but not adequate as a sole source of protein."  Studies to this day are consistent with that one.  So .... as part of a balanced meal plan, I'm there.

Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen website/blog  

I found the perfect recipe for Spicy Mung Beans on a website written by a food blogger based in London, Ontario (my hometown!).  She calls herself a 'veteran vegetarian' for 22 years who cooks vegetarian dishes from her kitchen, with an emphasis on spicy Indian dishes.  I've cooked 3 or 4 of her creations now and they're all fabulous. 

Spicy Mung Beans was particularly tasty, although, warning, I used only 2 jalapeños (not 3-4 as suggested in the recipe) and found it plenty hot enough!  The other variation I made to the recipe was to use split mung beans (not whole) as they are easier to cook and digest. I found split mung beans at Loblaws! (... rant for electronic directories in supermarkets goes here... ). I used the same cooking times as she recommends and did several taste tests to ensure I wasn't overcooking the beans.  

Pre-soaking the Beans

I'm not a big fan of a lot of advance prep work for recipes, mostly because usually I get home from work and then decide what's for dinner. The later it is, the more haphazard the dinner (and bad choices result). But, given I've had more time for myself in recent months (hence, the blog), I've done more advance planning on meals.

Prep work for mung beans is essential but super easy.  Basically measure out 1 cup of beans, rinse well under cold running water for several minutes, place in a pot or bowl, cover with lots of water and soak a minimum of 6 hours or overnight until dinner the next night. That I can do. Note that the beans more than double in bulk after soaking. A cup of split beans gave me 3 meals.


The recipe calls for using a mixture of either butter and oil (easy) or ghee, also known as clarified butter, an ingredient found in many MIddle Eastern recipes.  It is easily found in Loblaws (not with the Butter of course... rant for an electronic directory yet again ... )  OR, you can make your own on a weekend as it keeps well in the fridge for 3 months or so. Cheaper... 

There are many ghee recipes but what I did was take 1 pound of unsalted butter, put in a pot, and heat it on medium on the stove.  Allow the butter to melt, stirring constantly.  The oil will separate and top will begin to froth.  Remove the froth.  Keep cooking to allow oil to become clear, then remove from heat and let it cool (about 15 minutes).  When cool, strain it through a strainer with cheesecloth or a kitchen towel right into a jar or other container.  Done.  Easy.  

Recipe for Spicy Mung Beans 

1 cup whole (or split) dry mung beans
2 tsp ghee (or a combination of butter and oil)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1-2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 T ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped
3-4 jalapeños green chilies, finely chopped (I only used 2 jalapeños, plenty hot enough!)
1 large tomato, diced (or little ones... your choice)
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped (I'm a fan of both so mixed 'em up)

Rinse the split or whole mung beans under cold running water and place in a bowl. Cover with several inches of cold water and soak for 6 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and set aside. 

Heat the ghee or butter and oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and stir and fry for a minute or two. Next add the ground spices, stir for about 15 seconds, and then add the onion, ginger and green chillies to the pan. Fry until the onion wilts and begins to brown. 

Add the mung beans and and 1 1/2 cups of water to the pot.  Bring to a boil, immediately reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered until the beans are just tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add more water if necessary just to keep the beans covered. (I definitely needed to add more.) 

Now add the tomato, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until the beans are soft and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Taste for seasoning, then stir in the parsley near the end of the cooking time. Serve hot with fresh cooked brown rice.

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