Mung beans – or mungo beans, as I grew up calling them – have nothing to do with Bunga Bunga parties, as far as I know. I’m not even sure why I put that in the title of this post. Regardless, mung beans are round, green, lentil-like beans found in Asian grocery stores or health food stores. They look like miniature olives with a small white mark on one side. I love these because although they’re dried, they require no extra fuss and soaking overnight, much like lentils. Pre-soaking will speed up the cooking time, of course, but I usually skip it. My Filipino mother always prepared them with bitter melon, a truly evil looking cucumber also found in Asian markets. It’s appropriately named, as it is….very bitter. I think it provides a complex flavor to the dish, but it’s an acquired taste and took me a while to get used to it. If you’re not quite ready for it, you can use bitter melon leaves (if you can find them), as they’re much milder in taste. Or substitute with a leafy green like spinach, something my mother would do to accommodate my father’s and my more-american taste buds.
- 1 cup mung beans
- 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
- 1 medium-sized onion, sliced
- 1 bitter melon, halved, seeded, and chopped
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- Soy sauce, to taste
- 1 tsp Oyster sauce
- Rice, for serving, of course
- 3 cups water
Put the mung beans in a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, bitter melon, and tomatoes. Season with soy sauce and oyster sauce and let the mixture boil for about 20-30 minutes (for skinned, halved mung beans – usually my preference because they’re quicker) or 45-60 minutes (for whole, green mung beans). If the beans soak up all the liquid but aren’t fully soft, just add a bit more water, keep cooking them, and adjust the seasoning. Serves 3-4.
Enjoy it as a main dish served over rice on cold, wintery days.