By Emma Grace Fairchild:
The little green mung bean looks a bit like a lentil and a bit like a black eyed pea, and often goes unrecognized. However, it is tasty, nutritious and versatile. After buying a big bag of them at my local grocery store, I’ve been inspired to eat lots of these healthful beans again. Like many legumes, mung beans provide protein and dietary fiber, and are full of vitamins and minerals. They are low on the glycemic index and are easier to digest than other beans because of their oligosaccharide content, a component that reduces gas and bloating. When sprouted, they contain live enzymes that can help restore gut bacteria and improve digestion.
Mung beans are an especially versatile food because, like any other bean, they can be cooked in whole and dried form, and the sprouts can be eaten cooked or raw as well! Many grocery stores will carry both — dried mung beans in the pantry aisles and fresh sprouts in the produce section; and you can certainly sprout your own. You can read more about sprouting many types of beans by Green-Mom author Larraine Roulston.
They are very popular in cuisines around the world, from grounding ayurvedic cuisines in India, to umami-rich Korean food, and more. Here are some suggestions about how you can incorporate the mung bean into your meals.
A very popular recipe is Kichidi, an Indian rice and split mung bean stew with a reputation for being detoxifying, grounding and fortifying. Another dish is a mung bean and oat porridge, which is hearty and satisfying. I make a variation of this in a regular pot using regular oats — it is a simple and nutritious meal with a side of rice and warm sauteed vegetables. One other great thing about this recipe and many porridges is that they are inexpensive to make! Both the kichidi and porridge recipes are made with whole, dried mung beans. For a creamy meal to eat with rice, cook dried beans with coconut milk and leafy greens with this recipe from Genius Kitchen.
Fresh mung bean sprouts are long and pale yellow, tender and sweet. They can be added fresh to any salads for extra texture or added to hot brothy soups like pho. For a real transformation, consider making savory mung bean pancakes with ginger, tamari, and sesame oil. The long white sprouts can also be blanched and patted dry to make a delicious warm salad with great Korean flavors.
The first time I had mung beans, my friend had sprouted them just a bit and mixed them with avocado, nama shoyu, and lemon juice. I remember tasting just one bite before eating the whole bowl of them! Sprouting them is really easy, as they are fairly quick to present little tails that make the shell soft enough to eat raw. For avocado and mung bean salad, the tails on the bean sprouts should be visible but don’t need to be longer than a quarter of an inch. Be sure to pick through them and take out any beans that didn’t sprout. (They are hard as rocks and are not fun to chomp onto when you’re chewing.)
For every cup of sprouted mung beans, add ⅓ cup of mashed avocado (more if you like!). Season to taste with a teaspoon or more of high quality soy sauce like nama shoyu, and give it a good squeeze of lemon for acidity. Marinating in the fridge, it will stay for a day; but the avocado can oxidize, so it’s best eaten the same day. This is a great salad on its own, as a salad topper, or as a topping on a rice bowl.