Oct 13, 2014

MUNG BEANS – The Little Bean with Many Faces!

Dried Whole Mung Beans
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You've probably seen these little beans and didn't even know it because mung beans come in many forms, and have many faces. The bean sprouts you see in the fresh vegetable section of your grocery store are the sprouts of the mung bean. Mung bean sprouts are used raw in salads, sandwiches and Asian dishes like egg rolls, and stir-fries, but mung beans can also be purchased dried in the dried bean section of your grocery store. They come whole with the hull on, which look green (see photo), or split with the hull off, which look yellow. It turns out that these little green beans, about the size of a lady bug, are a nutrient-dense food that is a native of the Indian subcontinent and is a popular ingredient in recipes prepared in India, China, Thailand, Korea and Japan. They have been cultivated for over three thousand years. 

Mung beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber, plant protein, and complex carbohydrates and iron, and are packed with vitamins and minerals. They are also low in calories, fat and sodium, and are cholesterol free. One cup of these mung beans has less than 30 calories.

So by now you are thinking that anything that's that good for you must taste bad. Not so! They actually have a sweet flavor. That sweet flavor can be enhanced by adding sugar, ginger and coconut milk to make desserts like ice cream, and custards in many Asian countries. Mung beans cook fast and are easily digested, and they don't usually cause a gassy reaction like other beans do. 

You can cook mung beans with spices to prepare soups or curries, you can consume them as a standalone meal or combine with other foods. You can cook them with vegetables, grains and greens in soups, ground into flour for use in flatbreads, mixed with rice, oatmeal or cracked wheat, stuffed into pastries to make sweets. They are even used to make a pasta called bean thread noodles, Chinese vermicelli noodles, cellophane noodles, or glass noodles, a type of transparent noodle made from mung bean starch and water. 

One Cantonese dish called "haam joong", or in Mandarin, "zongzi", is a Chinese rustic food at its best. Every family will have their own recipe, but basically it is a layer of lightly salted glutinous rice, mixed with sweet split mung beans, surrounding a filling of salted duck egg yolk, sliced Chinese sausage (lap cheong), cured pork belly, dried baby shrimp or scallops, and dried shiitake mushrooms, snugly wrapped in aromatic bamboo leaves and tied with string, then boiled. Check out this website to see how it's made on You Tube, or this website for a recipe. This dish reminds me a little of Hawaii's Lau Lau; butterfish, pork and chicken wrapped in layers of taro leaves and ti lives, and then steamed, but with no rice or mung beans.

Now you see why I call mung beans "the little bean with many faces."

Mung Bean Recipes:

Spicy Asian Chicken Wrap
2 1/2 ounces bean thread noodles
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon chile paste with garlic
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken
12 large Boston or romaine lettuce leaves, or Napa cabbage leaves

Cover bean thread noodles with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes or until softened. Drain, and rinse under cool water. Chop noodles. While bean threads soak, combine cilantro, soy sauce, chile paste, and oil in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add noodles and chicken to soy sauce mixture; toss well to coat. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture down center of each lettuce leaf; roll up. Makes 4 servings of 3 wraps each.

Korean Mung Bean Sprout Salad
Bean Sprout Salad
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Called "sukju namul", this simple salad is often on the Korean table as a small vegetable side dish.

4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
10 ounces mung bean sprouts

1 tablespoon sesame oil
rice wine vinegar to taste
salt or Tamari sauce to taste
1/4 teaspoon Nanami Togarashi (ground chili peppers), or hot sauce

pickled red ginger
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high flame. Add the sprouts and blanch for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover tightly and set aside for another 2 minutes. Drain the sprouts, rinse them with cold water and dry out any extra water with a towel. Toss the sprouts with sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, Tamari sauce, and ground chili, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the flavors mingle. Garnish each serving with pickled red ginger, toasted sesame seeds, and sliced green onion tops. Makes 4 servings.

Glass Noodle Salad
Glass (or "cellophane") noodles are very different than other noodles, they are thin and as transparent as the name suggests. Healthier than wheat noodles, glass noodles are made from mung bean starch, which makes them gluten-free and a source of iron, calcium, and fiber.

Ingredients for Vietnamese dressing:
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 lime, juiced
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Ingredients for salad:
8 ounces cooked small shrimp
6 ounces glass noodles
4 ounces sugar snap peas
4 ounces bean sprouts
3 scallions, sliced at an angle in thin circles
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, to garnish

To make the Vietnamese dressing, simply mix all the ingredients together. The dressing will keep very well in a jar in the refrigerator for at least a week. To make the salad, marinate the shrimp in 1/2 cup of the dressing for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the noodles in warm water for 15 minutes to soften them. Once re-hydrated, drain them. Snip the glass noodles into smaller sections with scissors, if desired. Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the drained noodles to the boiling water. Cook the noodles for 30 seconds to one minute to the desired textured. Drain the glass noodles immediately and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and avoid mushiness in the glass noodles. Put the sugar snaps and bean sprouts into a colander and pour boiling water over them. Rinse with cold water and drain. In a large bowl, mix the marinated shrimp with the drained noodles, scallions, sugar snaps, and bean sprouts. Dress with 2 tablespoons more of the dressing; add more dressing, to taste, if desired. Sprinkle over the chopped cilantro and toss everything together before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Crispy Mung Bean Flatbread
This easy-to-make flatbread tastes wonderful on its own, but also makes a great base for gluten-free pizzas. Not only that, but it's high in protein, relatively low in carbs and low in fat.

1 cup dried mung beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 1/2 cups white rice flour
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
3 whole cloves garlic
canola oil for frying

Place the soaked mung beans, salt, garlic and basil in a food processor and blend for about two minutes. Try to avoid adding any water at this point – you shouldn't need any as the soaked beans have plenty of moisture already. Stop mixing, and add the white rice flour, one spoon at a time (this will help the flour from flying all over). Blend for another 15 to 30 seconds and add enough water to make a thin pudding like batter. The amount of rice flour and water can be altered to achieve a good consistency.

Heat a teaspoon of oil in the bottom of nonstick skillet. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons of batter to the oil, spread as thin as you can get it, with the back of a spoon, without holes and fry for 3-4 minutes per side before removing onto paper towels.

This batter can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until you're ready to fry one up. Makes about 20 flatbread.

Mung Bean Soup with Pork Rinds
There I go again, taking a healthy food... then I add pork rinds, some chefs can't be trusted.

1 cup dried mung beans, washed and drained
2 cups chicharon (pork cracklings or pork rinds)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium onion, peeled and minced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach, stems trimmed
7 cups water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt and more to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a pot over medium heat, combine beans, water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, skimming off froth that accumulates and beans that float on top. Lower heat, cover and cook for about 1 hour or until beans are softened and skins have burst. Makes about 2 1/2 cups of beans.

In another pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add garlic and onions and cook until tender and aromatic. Add tomatoes and cook, mashing with back of spoon, for about 3 to 5 minutes or until softened and releases juice. Add fish sauce and continue to cook for about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add cooked mung bean including liquid. Bring to a boil. Add pork cracklings and continue to cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until softened. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Add spinach, turn off heat and cover pot for about 2 to 3 minutes or until spinach are just wilted. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings. 

Note: In this Filipino dish I use pork rinds for convenience (who doesn't like pork rinds), but it can also be made with seared or roasted pork belly, cut into bit sized pieces and added to the soup, check out this website. I also like to substitute the spinach with chopped tatsoi, read about it here.

Mung Bean & Rice Stew
This is an Indian stew that combines protein (mung beans) and carbohydrates (basmati rice) into a complete protein meal. This tasty dish is known to heal digestive distress, balances the metabolism, to be a potent blood and liver cleanser, assist in healthy weight loss, help the body’s tissues to detox what they don’t need and absorb the nutrients they do.

1/2 cup split yellow mung beans (without the green hulls)
1/2 cup basmati rice
4 1/2 cups water for cooking rice and mung beans
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup ginger root, finely minced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chopped vegetables of your choice (carrots, celery, green beans, asparagus, beets, sweet potato, kombu (seaweed), etc.)
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 bay leaf
fresh cilantro and yogurt for garnish

Soak the split mung beans for at least 3 hours, or overnight, in water. Rinse mung beans and rice. Add mung beans and rice to 4 1/2 cups boiling, salted water, cover and simmer for (approx. 30-45 minutes) until tender, stirring occasionally. Now add the vegetables of your choice. If you need to add more water you can, a little at a time. Cook for another 20 minutes or so, covered. As the mixture cooks, it will start to thicken. 

Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a frying pan. Add onions, ginger, and garlic and sauté until clear. Add spices and cook 5 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the bay leaf and add this mixture to the rice and beans. The final consistency should be like a thick soup or stew as opposed to a broth. Taste and add more salt if needed. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, parsley, dill, or basil. Serve plain or with yogurt. Serve with steamed vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach, or bok choy on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Chicken Soup with Bean Thread Noodles
Bean thread noodles are made from mung beans. This transparent glass-like noodle is available in the Asian section of most grocery stores. It is almost tasteless and relies on other ingredients for flavor.

1/2 pound (200 grams) bean thread noodles, cut into short 3-inch pieces with scissors
1 cup cooked chicken meat, pulled apart into bite-sized pieces
6-7 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
4 dried Chinese black mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or to taste
green onions, chopped

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for about 30 minutes. Remove and squeeze out excess water. Cut and discard stems, slice caps into fourths. Heat oil in a pot. Saute garlic and onion in low to medium heat. Make sure the garlic is not burned. Add chicken meat, mushrooms and fish sauce. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Drop the bean thread noodles in the soup and simmer for about 3 minutes or until noodles are tender and cooked. Add the fresh lemon juice and garnish with chopped green onions. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

Sichuan Bean Thread Noodles with Shrimp
6 ounces dried mung bean noodles (bean thread noodles)
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns*
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chile oil

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. In a large bowl, cover the mung bean noodles with warm water and let stand until pliable, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and cut them into 4-inch lengths. Boil the noodles until tender but still chewy, about 25 seconds. Drain and return the noodles to the pot. Rinse twice under cold water and drain; let stand in the colander.

Season the shrimp with salt, white pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of the Sichuan peppercorns. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until pink on the outside and white within, about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. Stir in the scallions and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the mung bean noodles, soy sauce, vinegar, chile oil and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and season with salt and white pepper. Transfer to shallow bowls and serve right away. Makes 4 servings.

*Note: There is no substitute for Sichuan peppercorns, however if you don't have any, try substituting 2/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1/3 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest. You can order Sichuan peppercorns from Penzy's.

Potluck Fried Rice
Potluck Fried Rice
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Potluck Fried Rice can be any combination you like, whatever you have in your refrigerator. This is how fried rice started in China, throwing together whatever you happen to have and making a delicious meal out of it. Most of the work is in the preparation. The cooking only takes minutes.

3 eggs scrambled into an omelet then cut into thin strips
canola oil for frying
1 1/2 cups leftover roast pork tenderloin cut into thin strips
oyster sauce
6 cups of cooked day-old long grain rice
Tamari sauce or soy sauce
1 cup green onions sliced thin, divided
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup celery, small dice
1/2 cup broccoli tops cut thin
1/2 cup red bell pepper cut into small 1/4" squares
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts or chop suey mix (mung bean sprouts mixed with carrots, etc)
sesame oil
sesame seeds or furikake for garnish
Japanese cucumber cut thin on an angle for garnish
seasoned rice vinegar

In a wok on low heat, scramble eggs in a little canola oil to make a small flat omelet like cake. Remove and cut omelet into 1/2" strips and set aside. Add a little more oil to the wok and turn the heat up to medium-high, add the roast pork strips. Cook and stir for a minute or so, then add one teaspoon each of oyster sauce and Tamari sauce. Cook and stir one minute more. Remove the pork and set aside. Add half the green onions, garlic, celery, broccoli, bell pepper, and bean sprouts to the wok. Toss, then season with 1 tablespoons of oyster sauce, one tablespoon of Tamari sauce, and one teaspoon sesame oil. Stir-fry for 2- 3 minutes, then remove. Add a little more oil to the wok and the cooked rice. Season the rice with 2 to 3 tablespoons of Tamari sauce. Stir-fry the rice until heated through. Now add the pork and vegetables back into the wok with the rice. When well mixed and hot, you are ready to serve.

Pack the rice into a small bowl like a cereal bowl. Put your serving plate on top of the bowl and carefully turn it upside down so the bowl is now on top of the plate. Remove the bowl for a rounded mound of fried rice. Garnish the top of the rice mounds with the egg strips and the other half of the onions. Sprinkle sesame seeds or furikake on top. Arrange thin slices of cucumber around the fried rice and sprinkle seasoned rice vinegar on top of the cucumbers. Sprinkle more sesame seeds on top of the cucumbers and the plate. Makes 6 servings. Note: Adding shrimp to this combinations of flavors would be a good thing, I just didn't have any when I put this dish together.

Bacon & Egg Foo Yung
I love this recipe, not only does it taste great, but my wife makes it for me so I can take a break from cooking. I love it when that happens!

6 slices bacon, fried and chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
4 large fresh button mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon instant beef bouillon granules
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
5 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 large cooked shrimp, chopped
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
canola oil for frying

In a large skillet or wok, fry bacon until crisp, then set aside to cool on paper towel. Using 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease, sauté the chopped onion, mushrooms, and garlic for 2 or 3 minutes, then chop up the bacon and add it to the onion and garlic mixture. Set aside.

To prepare sauce, in a small saucepan combine the oyster sauce, beef bouillon granules, molasses, soy sauce, sugar, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Blend 2 tablespoons of cold water with the cornstarch, stir into hot sauce mixture. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Turn to low heat and keep warm.

To make bacon & egg foo yung, beat together eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and the vegetable/bacon mixture. Stir in the chopped shrimp, and fresh mung bean sprouts, mix well. In a skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil till hot. Using about 1/4 cup of the mixture for each patty, fry patties in hot oil about 1 minute per side or till golden. (Spread the meat mixture to cover egg as the egg spreads slightly.) Keep warm. Repeat till all the mixture is used, stirring each time; add more oil as needed. Serve sauce with bacon & egg foo yung. Serve with Asian vegetables, like snow peas or bok choy, and pot stickers (see recipe index for recipes.) Makes 4 servings.

Fried Sesame Balls with Sweet Mung Beans
This is a beautiful sweet mung bean dessert from South Vietnam called Bánh Cam. It is excellent served with coffee or tea.

Ingredients for outer shell:
4 ounce sweet (glutinous) rice flour
0.75 ounce rice flour
0.75 ounce all-purpose wheat flour
5 tablespoons potato flakes
1.6 ounces sugar
1/2 cup warm water (plus ~2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons later to reach desired consistency)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons baking powder

Ingredients for mung bean filling:
4 ounces steamed mung bean + water added to desired consistency
0.75 ounce sugar (This equals 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
A dash of vanilla extract

canola oil for frying

Procedure for outer shell:
Mix 1/2 of the water in a big bowl. Add sugar, salt and mix to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients and mix (you can use a food processor if you want). The dough should be slightly dry and have a play-dough consistency. Rest 2-8 hours. It will slightly rise and hydrate after resting, making it easier to work with.

Procedure for mung bean filling:
It's best to steam this if you can. You can also make it in a rice cooker with slightly more water than you would use to make rice, but you will lose some sticking to the pot. Mash after it's cooked and add water to desired consistency. The goal is to have a paste similar to thick, slightly dry mashed potatoes.

Procedure for forming the balls:
Flatten out a disk of the dough and add a ball of mung bean filling. The dough to filling ratio is up to you! I like about 1" in diameter, but you can make them bigger. Keep in mind they will slightly expand during cooking. Try not to leave any air pockets inside, since the dough will already be expanding and adding air to the center. Close off the ball so there aren't any cracks. Slightly roll in your hands to make a ball shape and then roll in a bowl of sesame seeds to coat thoroughly. Set aside for frying.

Procedure for frying:
Deep fry the balls at around 285˚F. It should take about 11 minutes per batch. You may need to stir them a bit for an even fry.

Mung Beans with Sweetened Coconut Milk
This is a simple Filipino comfort food called Ginataang Munggo. It is sort of like a porridge, served warm with coconut milk on top.

1/2 cup mung beans
2 1/2 cups coconut milk
6 to 7 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sticky rice, washed

Heat a pan and put-in the mung beans. Toast them until they turn brown. Turn off the heat and let the mung beans cool down. Crack the toasted mung beans using a mortar and pestle or pulse in a food processor. Set aside. Add the coconut milk to a pot and bring to a boil. Stir in the sticky rice and toasted mung beans. Cook in low heat for 15 to 18 minutes, stirring often until the coconut milk is almost absorbed. Add sugar then stir. Turn off heat and serve warm with coconut milk on top. Makes 3 servings.

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