I discovered mung beans while researching my upcoming Persian cookbook. These grass-colored beans with a white speck at the center are a staple in Iran, India, and China, but here in The United States, most people have never tasted them.
Mung beans make a great addition to your pantry, and here’s the main reason: they cook much faster than most other beans! Boil whole mung beans in water and they’re ready to eat in about 45 minutes. Split mung beans, which have the outer skin removed and are yellow, take only 20-30 minutes to cook. That means that you can throw a handful of grains like quinoa, rice, or rolled oats in with the beans, take your time chopping up vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and kale, and then throw them into the pot for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Voila, you have a flavorful, nutritionally balanced soup, and you probably had time for a glass of wine and a phone call, too.
Besides cooking quickly, mung beans have a well-rounded, comforting taste, that’s reminiscent of potatoes. They’re complemented by a little minced garlic and onion, and a dash of Indian spice like turmeric, cumin, or curry powder. You can take mung beans in a different direction by adding Persian herbs like dried mint, dill weed, and cilantro. Or, do as the Chinese, Filipinos, and some Indians do, and use mung beans in dessert. Sweetened with honey, and flavored with coconut milk and ginger, mung beans make a delightful porridge.
Besides their adaptability and short cooking time, mung beans are high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and are packed with protein. Mung beans also contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals including B-6, iron, and potassium. You can find mung beans in natural food stores as well as Indian and Chinese markets.
Here’s a simple recipe for mung bean soup that’s perfect for cold weather.
Mung Bean and Quinoa Soup
1/2 cup whole green mung beans
1/2 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons cooking oil
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1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
2 large handfuls chopped leafy greens, such as kale or spinach
1/2 of a juicy lime or lemon
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
Pick through the mung beans and quinoa and rinse them under cold water.
Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, mung beans, quinoa, turmeric, and dill, and cook for a few minutes until heated through. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then cover and cook at a very gentle boil, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. The beans should be starting to split open.
Add the greens to the pot and return to a boil, them reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, until the greens are tender. Add salt and season to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and squeeze in equal amounts of lemon or lime juice. Top each bowl with a tablespoon of yogurt, and serve.