I first tasted this delicious Ayurvedic recipe of mung beans about 5 years ago when my yoga teacher in Brighton, Dot Bowen, taught a yoga workshop followed by a light vegetarian lunch. I wasn’t the only one that was chomping at the bit for the recipe. Put off by some of the strange ingredients like asoefedita and the need to soak the beans, I never attempted the recipe.
Then, in the summer of 2013, I traveled to Italy with Dot and Abi Denyer-Bewick who is a nutritionist for 4 days of intensive yoga taught by Diane Long. To my delight, Dot had packed her mung beans along with all of the spices. I was amazed at how easy it was to make with a little bit of prior planning and it now appears on our menu at least once a week if not more! In fact, I love it that much, that for my hen party (AKA kitchen tea for my Zambian readers) Dot taught an Ayurvedic cooking class to my friends while we retreated in the Kent countryside and mung beans were on the menu 🙂
Mung beans, despite being really small, contain an abundance of goodness for you. They are less gas-producing than other beans, help remove toxins from the body (including heavy metals) and stimulate the digestive fire. This soup balances all three doshas. This forms the staple diet at most Ayurvedic centres offering retreats, so why not make your own retreat this weekend?
If you’re reading this in Turks & Caicos you can pick up green mung beans from the small Quality Supermarket on the Leeward highway next to Menzies and for those in the rest of the world, most large supermarkets or Indian food stores should stock them.
- 400g mung beans
- 2 litres water
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp asafoetida (this is magical stuff reduces the gas-forming properties of beans – stinky but very useful)
- cubic inch of fresh root ginger (or more depending on your taste)
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- other spices that tickle your fancy (some of my favourites are (ginger powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and gara masala)
- rock salt or pink Himalayan salt
Total cooking time: 4 hours 45 minutes (4 hours soaking beans 45 minutes cooking beans)
Wash the mung beans thoroughly and then soak them over night (or for at least 4 hours) before cooking.
In a pan heat ghee or sesame oil (both are heat-stable) and add 1 tsp. turmeric powder and ¼ tsp. asafoetida (reduces the gas-forming properties of beans). Sauté for a few seconds, then add the soaked beans and fresh water.
For 1 part soaked mung you need about 4 parts of water. The amounts given above will make 5 generous portions. Leave to bubble for 30-40 minutes and add more water if necessary. Continue to cook until all the beans are soft and broken up. If you use a pressure cooker, the soup needs to cook for only 8 minutes once the vessel has come to pressure. You can then turn off the heat and leave the pot to cool for a further 10 minutes before opening it.
Once the beans are cooked, heat some ghee or sesame oil in a frying pan, add 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic (if you like) and sauté lightly for a minute until soft but still aromatic. Then add finely chopped root ginger and 1 tsp. cumin and coriander seeds plus any other herbs or spices you like, such as cardamom, black pepper, black cumin, or a mild curry powder, and briefly sauté. You can experiment with different flavours each time you make your soup to maintain a sense of variety. Add the sautéed spices plus some rock salt to the mung and continue to simmer for a further 2 minutes. Adding these spices at the end of the cooking process helps retain more of their flavour and therapeutic value. Also, adding salt in the beginning makes beans tougher and take longer to cook, so always add salt at the end.
Serve the soup hot with finely chopped coriander leaves or other fresh herbs. If you prefer a fine creamy consistency, simply blend the soup. You can also add 1 tsp. of ghee or – if you are vegan or do not like the taste of ghee – 1 tsp. of an omega 3/6/9 oil. Omega oils should be added to food after it has cooled down a bit, as these oils are not heat stable and thus also not suitable for cooking.
The soup can be eaten by itself or accompanied with some green vegetables, quinoa or wild rice. I like to lightly fry chopped courgette and fennel for about 5 minutes and add this to the soup with some quinoa. Delicious!
Let me know how it goes? Have I managed to convert you to being a mung fan too?!?