The inspiration for this recipe came to me on a hot, sunny Myanmar day, where a craving for chickpeas grabbed hold of me. Chickpeas are a staple in my pantry back home in Tennessee – I use them all the time. I knew that living in Myanmar might make some of my favorite ingredients scarcer, but I definitely didn't think that chickpeas would be one of them. I found a can of the little legumes in one of my friend’s pantries here early on, so I assumed they wouldn’t be too hard to find.
How wrong I was. Supply levels of many ingredients in Myanmar are quite unstable; if you find a product that you love you’d better stock up because you never know when you will see it again. I searched high and low, in markets and grocery stores, and was never able to find chickpeas. I wasn’t going to give up, though.
My quest to find chickpeas led me to one of the stores in town – I carefully investigated every inch in search of my prize. I was happy to find several shelves filled with legumes and grains. Unfortunately, trying to figure out what the items were without being distracted by really colorful packaging and Burmese writing was a challenge. Amidst the wild array of indecipherable products, however, something that caught my eye: a package of small green beans flirted with me though the plastic wrapping. I didn’t know what they were, but they begged me to take them home. I studied the label on these cuties and found a small English translation: “mung beans.”
Mung beans are mainly cultivated in India, China, and Southeast Asia, and are often used in soups, curries, and salads. If you water them, they turn into sprouts. In the United States and Europe mung beans are usually consumed raw. Cooked or sprouted, these beans are nutrient-rich and provide lots of much-needed protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Mung beans are associated with lots of other of health benefits.
I had read plenty about these magical green superfood beans, but never put enough effort to go find them in specialty stores in the states. But here they were, in Yangon! I shuffled through the different sizes, grabbed the largest bag they had, and rushed over to the cash register. I was surprised at how cheap the beans were. My chickpea adventure for that day was officially over - I was ready to begin a new culinary journey with mung beans instead.
While I hailed a taxi, I brainstormed all kinds of dishes I could prepare with these beans – a salad seemed the most appealing. I was too excited to wait three days for the beans to sprout, as recommended by many online recipes. Instead I cooked them as they were, rapidly cooled them, and started to play with different salad recipes. After a few successful attempts in making delicious salads with mung beans I was able to find a great combination with beets and quail eggs.
Fair warning to all legume-lovers out there: this stuff is addictive! These beautiful bright-green-and gray oval-shaped beans are deceptively complex. The soft, creamy, texture and nutty, slightly sweet and savory flavors that develop after cooking are irresistible. Sometimes I even eat them plain and sprinkle a little salt on top.
So I’ve gotten a little bit carried away. Ever since I tried mung beans for the first time I find them making their way into almost everything I make: salads, soups, stews, curries. My husband is totally ok with my mung beans obsession as long as I include some meat in the recipe or prepare a sizzling chicken breast on the side. He probably still eats more mung beans that he ever wanted to, but I simply can’t resist preparing them.
The protein-rich mung beans combined with the quail eggs for a protein bomb that can appease the most passionate meat lovers (like my husband). I was inspired to use quail eggs because here in Myanmar they are available in abundance in almost every market. Quail eggs are surprisingly affordable and also frequently used in daily street food dishes like the very popular Mont Lin Ma Yar, which is quail eggs baked into pancake balls.
I am an unapologetic lover of beets and finding out just how well they pair with mung beans was a real treat. They bring a certain savory sweetness to the salad and make it quite refreshing. If you prefer, you can substitute beets with green beans, potatoes, carrots or other root vegetables. Most of the ingredients for this recipe are available in the international section of most supermarkets in the United States or Europe, so finding them shouldn’t be much of a hassle. They are usually located near the Indian food or health food sections.
The one really challenging ingredient might be finding fresh mangos. Instead, you could substitute fresh peaches, which will also add the desired tangy-sweet flavor to the dish.
If you are looking for a hearty, comforting, and power-packed lunch, this high-protein, insanely delicious salad can’t be beat.
Mung Bean Salad with Beets
Serves: 3-4 (depending on if you serve it as a main dish or as a side)
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 10 min
Total time: 40 min
This superfood salad of mung beans and beets is one of my go-to dishes for both lunch and dinner. It can be enjoyed on its own or on the side of some grilled chicken or tofu. I like this dish as a warm or cold salad, and I get especially excited when there are some leftovers available the next day. It’s really easy to make a big batch and then store it in the refrigerator.
For the salad
- 2 cups dried mung beans
- 2 medium-size red beets (or gold)
- 1 medium-size mango
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 5-8 soft boiled quail eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the vinaigrette
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
- 2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard
- 1 ½ teaspoons honey
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon chopped shallot
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup chopped fresh mint (8 to 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped)
- ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper, more to taste
- Heat some water in a saucepan. When boiling, add mung beans together with 1-2 bay leaves and salt. Mung beans can be pre-soaked the night before (it speeds the time of cooking) or just simmered for 30-35minutes until tender. The best thing it is to check on them as they tend to get overcooked. When cooked, drain the beans and let them cool down.
- Drain and cool the cooked beans. You can store them in a plastic or glass container for 3-4 days and add them to different dishes.
- In a separate saucepan, boil some water and add the beets. Simmer the beets until tender, around 30-45min (depending on the size of the beets). I like my beets a bit crunchier so I prefer to cook them for less time. When the beets are cooked let them cool down and dice them.
- In the meantime, prepare the vinaigrette. In a bowl combine the lemon juice, mustard, honey, chopped shallot, and minced garlic. Whisk together until smooth. When all ingredients are well combined, stir in chopped mint, salt, and pepper.
- Soft boil 5-8 quail eggs (in order to get that perfect soft boiled egg cook them for 2.5min and then submerge into an ice bath in order to prevent further cooking and to make peeling easier).
- Peel the mango with a vegetable peeler. To julienne it, slice off thin strips of mango with a mandolin or sharp knife and cut it into thin, long strips (matchstick thickness).
- Mix together mung beans, diced red beets and the julienned mango slices.
- Tossed the mixture with vinaigrette and stir well so all ingredients are well coated.
- Place the salad in a serving dish and decorate it with halved quail eggs.
Note: For a spicy twist, add some dried or freshly chopped chilies.