The Mighty Mung Bean

These delicate, slightly sweet legumes range in color from green to yellow to black. Get ideas for cooking the beans and using the sprouts in favorite dishes.

Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you…get the benefit of precious plant protein and favorable fiber. With so many varieties right here at home, can you believe that around the world there are still more choices? This reminds me of my year in Mumbai, India where I learned to love a variety of beans not so common to my native home. One in particular stands out in my mind: the mung bean. When I was child in Louisiana, I was certain my Dad taught me everything I needed to know about beans, like how to sing the song, what they were called, what dishes you ate them in, and the noisy effect they had on your belly. I knew limas were in lots of dishes, split peas came in soup with a ham hock, and pintos came in hot-n-spicy Texas chili. Moving to California, then to Hawaii and later to Texas matured me quickly. Soon I was able to grasp the concept of lentils, black beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans and, of course, the versatile soybean, but it was my year in India that opened my palate to a whole new level of bean cuisine. That’s where I learned to love the small, oval-shaped “Mighty Mung” bean. Mung beans can be purchased whole or split and hulled. They are delicate and slightly sweet in flavor and range in color from green to yellow to black. I am especially fond of the split, hulled variety, which I call the “mellow-yellow-mung.” In Indian cuisine, it is known as moong dhal. Traditionally cooked with spices and herbs, ghee and vegetables, a dish of moong dhal creates a delicious, nourishing meal that, as beans go, is relatively easy to digest. A complete meal is often moong dhal paired with Basmati rice, vegetables and Indian roti (bread). Here in the U. S. mung beans are probably best known for their sprouts, used in Asian dishes and salads. Unlike many other legumes, mung beans do not need to be pre-soaked. They cook quickly, especially the yellow split variety. Around the world, they are revered as a healing food. If you’ve yet to try the “mighty mung,” I think you’ll be pretty pleased with these ideas:

  • Cook them with flavorful, colorful veggies and aromatics such as garlic, onion, ginger, chives, leeks, carrots and multi-colored peppers.

  • Add the sprouts to just about any Asian dish. Here’s an idea for Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce opens in a new tab.

  • Cook with Basmati rice and spices for a more traditional Indian-style meal.

  • Mash well cooked beans and use as a thickener in soups, sauces and gravies.

  • Serve cooked mung beans as a side dish to chicken, tofu or tempeh.

  • Replace the French lentils in this recipe for Lentil Soup with Smokey Ham opens in a new tab with mung beans.

  • Cook mung beans until just tender. Toss with chopped cucumber, carrots, celery, radish and your favorite salad dressing. Remember: Don’t overcook!

  • Add cooked mung beans to your favorite pasta sauce.

Have you tried mung beans? Got a favorite recipe? I’d love to know!

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