Thursday, 12 January 2012

The sad saga of the mung beans

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The mung beans are disgusting. Who eats them? I mean, really?

I have, as I have grown older, become very grumpy about people with closed palates. When I cook for the small cousins, during my annual month with them in the south, I always say they don’t have to eat something they hate, but they must try one bite before they decide. As a result, they eat my special green soup, and Swiss chard, and Cavalo Nero, and other things which many children would run from. (I am wildly proud of them, I freely admit.)

Because there must be no pots and kettles, and money must be put where mouths are, I must apply this to myself. I have never been good with pulses, ever since they forced me to eat butter beans and lentils at prep school. This once led to spectacular projectile vomiting. For years, I could not go near a lentil. But then, I cranked my mind open, and tried again, and discovered that when properly cooked they are things of beauty and a joy forever. I now love almost nothing more than a nutty little Puy.

I’m still a bit leery of the kidney bean, and even those glamorous little white things that the Italians adore (suddenly can’t remember the name), but I love a good split pea, of green or yellow, and the chickpea is one of my most beloved. The other day, I remembered the health-mad Older Brother always going on about the mung bean, as a perfect silver bullet of nutritional delight. Oh yes, I thought; that can be my next pulse attempt.

I cooked the little brown things gently in chicken stock for the allotted time. About half way through, they started giving off an alarming aroma. It had a faint farmyard quality to it. Still, I could not let myself be put off by that. I was brought up on a farm, after all. The smell of dung is the scent of my childhood. (As a result, I am not too squeamish about smells, although I draw the line at silage and oilseed rape.)

By the time I had finished, the beans looked like a brackish brown swamp. The oddly cloying smell was stronger than ever. I followed the instructions to the letter; I could not have cooked them badly. Gingerly, I tried a few, poised delicately on the end of a fork.


I mean properly revolting; the kind of thing you would eat if you were punishing yourself for some perceived misdemeanour.

So I ended up with a horrid pot of ghastly brown gloop, so nasty that I could not even contemplate offering it to Virginia the Pig. I had to throw it away. And I hate waste. Please, may we never speak of it again.


Now for pictures. It was the most glorious sunshiny day, but like an idiot I missed the light, and did not take the camera out until the gloaming had come. So instead of dazzle, you get a faint shade of blue. So sorry about that.

Up the avenue goes The Pigeon, her tail held high like a flag:

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Trees and hills:

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Wall and moss:

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My favourite little baby beech:

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And the dear old avenue of beeches:

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Oh, oh, the beautiful gaze:

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Evening hill:

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  1. I have never heard of a mung bean!My husband thought my mother was trying to poison him when she served him butter beans once!! He can't look at any since!! I would like to try puy lentils though:)

  2. I love all pulses...except mung beans. And the mung noodles in asian food are disgusting too. Must be something you need to grow up eating, much like marmite!
    Are the italian beans you speak of borlotti? One of my absolute favourites!

  3. How so very delightful, today short story is.
    From your gentle, nurturing approach, to that first alarming smell!
    And NOT even good enough for Virginia?
    Una vera penitenza! As us Italian would say.
    Your little cousins down south will just love this story too.
    Please give the tender, white Cannellini beans another chance. I am sure they will respond much more kindly to your tender loving care.
    I would be curious to know.

    Cristina :)

  4. Anne - the butter bean story is making me laugh a lot.

    Jaqueline and Cristina - you are both brilliant. I think I meant Borlotti AND Cannellini. Thank you. :)

  5. I wish I could eat chick peas but I find I can't. How do you feel about quinoa?

  6. Cannelini beans are fab whizzed up with some garlic & olive oil. You can use it as a dip or like posh mash.

    When I was at university I shared a flat with a girl who must have had a fairly serious eating disorder. She ate mung beans every day and the smell of them boiling will stay with me forever unfortunately!

  7. Wow. I've never even heard of cooking mung beans. Something I will have to try on a weekend that the Beloved Spouse is away (he's not good with stretching his palate). We have them as sprouts, and a lovely, nutty flavour they have that way. In a normal summer, I grow sprouts all the time, but this is a weird one and quite cool, so we're still cooking hot meals! Most odd. Where have our 30+ degree days gone?

    Seriously love the Pigeon's earnest look...

  8. Hahahahahaha! How reassuring. Reading about your delectable soups has singlehandedly gotten me back in the kitchen, enthusiastic about cooking (soup only; otherwise, my scope is limited to salads these days). Your mung bean episode sounds way too familiar, alas. Nice to know I'm not the only one.

    If you really want to like kidney beans, go to New Orleans and have red beans and rice. Or even better, white beans and rice, especially if you get them at the race track. Not your normal gourmet hangout, I know, but NOLA never has been considered normal. ;-) Even the kidney beans are special.


  9. Agree wholeheartedly about the mung beans. I hate them myself and in a country where they are generally loved! like the red lentils myself but no to kidney beans as well.

  10. Black beans and yellow rice are a staple in the Little Havana section of Miami (Florida).
    Kidney beans with (cooked) green beans (haricots) and thinly sliced onions (red or white) in a vinaigrette dressing make a great salad (hot or cooled).
    I put those fast-cooking red and/ or yellow lentils with brown rice.
    I haven't seen a mung bean since those early post-university days when we used to sprout them to get "extra vitamins" during winter. Mung, unfortunately, sounds too much like dung....

  11. I have laways struggled with pulses but find I can stomach canellini beans in a nice hearty chorizo stew. I can stomach most pulses in a nice hearty chorizo stew in fact!

    And kidney beans come into their own in a chilli.

    And much as I like to attempt to avoid having a closed palate I am likely to consign mung beans to live with baked beans (I was once forced to eat an entire bean salad as my mother thought I was being faddy, twenty minutes later she knew it was not a fad and I avoided beans for about 7 years thereafter)

  12. I have a recipe for mung beans with potato which is amazing. I cannot do mungs on their own though.... it doesn't end well...

  13. How lovely and brilliant you all are. So glad I am not alone on the mung front. :)


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