Foodie Firsts: Mung Beans

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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Another bean is on the agenda this week.  This time I’m talking about mung beans.  Mung beans, from my perspective, are rarely used in American households (they certainly were in mine) and it’s a shame.

A sad, sad shame.

Why?

dry in bowl - edited

Well, mung beans (also called moong beans) are fantastic.  I knew next to nothing about these tiny green/yellow legumes when I set out to cook with them, but I quickly learned that they are incredibly versatile.  Quite frankly, given how many things you can do with them, I’m surprised they are not more of a kitchen staple.  Maybe I need to start a ‘Eat Your Mung Beans’ campaign.

Mung means can be made sweet or savory, cooked whole or broken down, turned into dal or bread, sprouted, or broken down into a paste.  Clearly, they are flexible little things.  I obviously didn’t have time to try all of these manifestations for today’s post, but I did decide to commit to trying mung beans in two different preparations.  I went with a basic savory dish and also tried my hand with bread making in the form of dosas.

I should also mention that mung beans are incredibly healthful.  Like their other various bean cousins, they are a low-glycemic food, are great sources of protein and fiber, and have cancer fighting properties (protease inhibitors).  So, hooray for health!  (I see my campaign coming to life.)

Of the two mung bean dishes I tried, one was successful and one was  . . . not so successful.  Why don’t we start with the good news first?

I decided to combine some of my mung beans with lentils and prepare a dal, as this is one of the most traditional uses of this ingredient.  Also, dal is delicious and I’ll eat it pretty much whenever I can.  So, there’s that.

meal plated 2 - edited

I loved the mung beans this way and found them incredibly easy to work with.  They partnered well with the red lentils and created a tasty and satisfying dinner.  I’ve seen mixed notes on whether or not mung beans need to be soaked overnight (as you might with other dried beans).  I’m sure you could do so, but I will say that I skipped this and they cooked up wonderfully without any soaking whatsoever.

As for the dosas . . . well, I will try them again.  In all honesty, I think the problems I had with them were entirely my fault and not the fault of the recipe or the ingredients.  I had never eaten nor prepared any type of dosa before, so it was a new process.  They actually had good flavor, but the thickness, size, and texture was off.  Dosas are meant to be large, thin discs of bread, but my batter didn’t seem to spread very much and instead of forcing it to, I just went forward and made them thicker than they should have been.  The result was disappointing, as they didn’t fully cook through well and had an undercooked, too doughy consistency in the middle.  In the future, I think thinning the batter a bit with water will be necessary.

Yet another cooking lesson learned, I suppose.

Regardless of my less than stellar dosa making skills, I’m definitely pro-mung bean.  I’ll be adding them into my repertoire and will likely swap them for lentils from time to time to add a bit more variety in my kitchen.

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  I highly recommend going the traditional route and using mung beans to make a dal.  Use your favorite dal recipe dosa - edited(there are plenty out there) or try this one here, which I used as a basis for the one I made.

I also just saw this blog post pop up from Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks and think a mung bean hummus is a wonderful idea.

Get sprouting!  I haven’t sprouted my own beans yet (maybe this is a future endeavor for me), but I know enough to know that it can be done in any home kitchen.  Sprouts are delicious added to salads and wraps and I especially love the crunch they give to a good stir fry or bowl of noodle soup (like pho).

Lessons Learned:  The world of beans is an endless bounty of delicious and nutritious foods.  A different variety exists for even the smallest preferences in color, texture, size, and taste.  I love this.  When I think about how many times, since becoming a vegetarian and switching to a mostly whole foods/minimally processed foods diet, I have read or heard others ask the inevitable questions about my ways of eating (You know the ones:  Where do you get your protein?  What do you possibly eat as a main dish?  Do you just eat salads all day?), I have to laugh and think about things like this.  I understand the questions – really I do.  I would have asked them once, too.  But, it’s funny to me now.  All the foods I have discovered in the last year, the delicious dishes I have savored, and the ingredients I have become infatuated with have only broadened my culinary world – not limited it.

13 comments on “Foodie Firsts: Mung Beans

  1. Stephanie says:

    Tip on dosa making: they don’t have to be large. or even round (I’ve never quite gotten that perfect circle). I had an Indian friend who taught me to make essentially mini-dosas that were more like 6″ in diameter. He would also spoon a bit of oil around the edges after pouring the batter into the hot pan and swirling… and it really makes a difference, if your recipes didn’t suggest that.

    They’re fun, and so flexible!

  2. I tried mung beans (in a dal) and aduki beans for the first time this year – I love them both, but how could I not because they’re so cute!

  3. krrichar says:

    I freaking LOVE mung beans, especially when they’re Sprouted!!!!!

  4. flynthings says:

    Thinning the batter is the trick for making thin dosas especially with moong dal. Also it helps to grease the frying pan the first time around, so the dosa wont stick to it. Here’s how I make mine:
    http://flyncook.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/upma-pesarattu/

    I used de-husked split moong dal here but you can use whole ones as well (more healthy). I also make kichdi with whole moong dal that is very delicious!

    http://flyncook.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/kichdi-rice-with-lentils/

  5. zebveg says:

    I have never done anything with mung beans except sprout them! I am so excited to try your ideas! I have been a whole food plant eater for a few years now and it is always funny when people question how I get “what I need?” I say do I look unhealthy? Could a 50 year old chic run and work like I do if I lacked in protein? It’s so second nature to me now, but it is an interesting road to be on! Thanks for inspiring!

  6. Joanne says:

    It really is sad that mung beans are so underused!! i’ve always wanted to try my hand at dosa but I’ve been a bit afraid to because I am absolutely awful at making pancakes. perhaps I’ll try this recipe with a bit of thinning!

  7. bloomlisa says:

    I have always been oddly curious about the mung bean and I feel your post is a sign for me to do something about it at long last. I must say that I am extra grateful that you stopped by my blog!!! Many thanks on both counts.

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