Mung beans are one of the more ubiquitous food staples in Asian cuisine, and are super easy and delicious to prepare at home, in a variety of ways. Also known as Moong beans or green gram, these little beauties are perfectly at home in savoury or sweet dishes, and have been a part of our diet for a long, long time: archaeological digs in Punjab and Haryana indicate that these little green legumes formed a significant part of the diet as far back as 4,500 years, and spread throughout India and become widely cultivated across the continent about 3,500 years ago.
When used in dal, they are dried and split like split peas, and in fact resemble yellow split peas. But mung beans are not just prized for their use in dal; bean sprouts, the ones you see in supermarkets and in dishes like chop suey are the tender shoots sprouted from the mung bean, and grinding the bean gives you mung starch used to make cellophane noodles and bean thread as well as mung bean sheets. Further, the flour made from mung beans is used for crepes and pancakes, and in Korean cuisine a delicious jelly called nokdumuk is made from the starch.
You know how sometimes you feel like eating or cooking with bean sprouts, but you can only find them in a large bag? To be honest, they do not freeze that well, so you try to use as much as possible, but you are still left with-too many sprouts! Well a good solution to this is to sprout your own bean sprouts from the little green beans themselves. Sprouting is easy, and this way you end up with just the right amount.
Just-sprouted mung beans are also a staple in the raw/live- food diet, and are delicious in salads and sandwiches, adding a healthy, fresh and wholesome crunch to stir-fries as well. To sprout them, just follow these easy directions. This is also a cool project that will amuse the kids too, as it can take two to five days to get the beans sprouted to the size you want, and your little sprouts will delight in checking on their progress.
Now if you’re the impatient type, and just want a mung bean hit today, you might want to make a batch of vegan chop suey at home, or a delicious and fragrant Indian dal. Here’s a quick and simple vegetarian recipe for moong dal, perfect for Meatless Monday. Or any other day, really!
1 cup moong dal (split mung beans)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
¼ tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 1/2 cups water
2-3 tbsp oil or ghee or butter
1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
4-5 cloves chopped garlic
1 or 2 green chilli, split
½ tsp garam masala powder
¼ tsp red chili powder
Mix first 7 ingredients and bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally until dal is soft and cooked, about 25 min. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste if desired. Meanwhile, in another pan heat oil or ghee or butter over medium heat and fry the cumin seeds for about a minute, then stir in the garlic and green chilli, mindful to avoid burning the garlic. Reduce heat and stir in the garam masala powder and red chili powder. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture into the dal and stir. Serve hot with steamed rice or chapatis.