Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Golden: Mug Nu Saak--Mung Beans With Yogurt

Do you recognize these lovely olive green legumes?

Mung beans. They aren't exactly the most common of foods, but Nathanael and I love them. The recipe I am sharing with you today is probably the most regularly occurring food in our diet. I know that isn't saying much, since I try a new recipe almost every time I cook, but I would say we make a big pot of Mug Nu Saak about once a month. This recipe ended up in golden because the finish product turns out orangish...but it really is just another food that laughs at my color categories.

I have heard a number of people joke that you know someone is in graduate school when their diet is mostly beans and rice, but I doubt we would eat differently if given the choice. Not only are legumes in general high in magnesium (good for lowering blood pressure) and a low fat sources of protein, mung beans particularly are high in iron and very high in fiber. Have a look at these mung bean nutrition facts. One downside to legumes is that they reduce the amount of calcium your body metabolizes, so like all things, don't go to extremes. Keep your diet balanced with many different sources of nutrition....and it might be a good idea to take a regular calcium supplement whether you are male or female.

The main reason Nathanael and I like mung beans so much is this recipe. The spices are perfect and the combination is hearty, but not difficult to create. You don't even have to chop an onion if you don't want to (I throw one in occasionally, but it is not in the original recipe). The only real effort this recipe will take on your part is making sure you have all the right spices (you will want to buy most of them whole), but you won't be sorry you went to that effort once you taste this...and those spices will probably just fly by. Especially if you check out the cookbook where I found this recipe. Cooking with My Indian Mother-in-Law by Simon Dale and his Mother-In-Law Roshan Hirani (plus the wife took the pictures). It really is a charming book containing some of the best recipes I have encountered in my life.

Mung beans do not need to be soaked, but only brought to a boil and simmered for 45 minutes. (I am constantly glad about that fact, because I infrequently plan dinner an entire day before.) Fourty-five minutes will go quickly, because meanwhile you will be heating the oil, and testing to make sure its hot enough by waiting for a few pieces to sizzle and bubble.

Then you'll add all of the cumin and mustard seeds and let them heat to sizzling. They will smell so fantastic.

Then you'll add the peppers, tomatoes and other spices, and mix.


And cook until the oil pools at the edge of the pan. (The above pictures were of a time I used onion, below I did not.)

Then you will add the lovely beans.

And cook for ten minutes.

Then you mix some yogurt with water,

and stir it in, to really make the flavor pop.

Then once everything is heated, and tasted to adjust seasonings

You will serve it on rice and your mouth will be quite delighted.

Mug Nu Saak--Mung Beans With Yogurt
modified recipe from Cooking with my Indian Mother-In-Law 
by Simon Daley and Roshan Hirani

3/4 cup (175g) whole mung beans, rinsed
2 Tbs groundnut (peanut) oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
Large pinch of asafoetida*
200ml 7fl oz crushed canned plum tomatoes and juice (about half a can)
2 green chillies
2 cloves garlic, crushed with 1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbs finely chopped coriander stems
2 tsp dhana jiru**
1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder (to taste)
1/2 tsp turmeric
6  Tbs yoghurt
Lemon juice, to taste
1 Tbs chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
1. Put the mung beans in a deep pot with 4 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil, then 
reduce the heat and simmer for around 45 minutes until the beans are soft and beginning to split 
open--but stop cooking before they turn to complete mush.
2. In the meantime, prepare the masala. Put the oil in a medium sized pan and heat 
gently. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook until they begin to sizzle. Add the asafoetida, 
cook for a few seconds, add the onion if using and cook until clear. 
3. Cut the green chillies in half along their length and prick the skins with the tip of the 
knife. Add to the tomatoes in the pan. Then add the garlic paste, coriander stems, dhana jiru, 
chilli powder and turmeric. Increase the heat so that the sauce simmers rapidly, stirring 
frequently, until the oil pools around the sides of the pan.
4. Once the mung beans are cooked, tip them and their cooking water into the 
simmering masala. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to 
5. Combine the youghurt with 1 cup of water (or a bit less if you had a lot of bean water). Stir this mixture into the beans. Cook gently for a couple of minutes until the yoghurt is heated through, then check the seasoning--add salt if necessary (you many need more than you expect) and some lemon juice to taste (this dish should have a slightly sharp flavour). Throw over the chopped coriander leaves and serve with 
plain boiled rice.

*Asafoetida is a salt-powder made from an herb related to chives and onions. It can be found at Indian markets, but is seldom sold elsewhere. It kind of stinks to tell you the truth. I don't keep it in the cabinet with my other spices because it has so strong an odor. Only tiny amounts are used in this recipe, and most others, so unless you are committed to cooking lots of Indian recipes, just omit it. No one will be able to tell. 

**Dhana jiru is a different story. It is the backbone of this, and many other recipes I will eventually share. Luckily it is also simple to make. To make an amount to fill a small jar, take 2 parts whole coriander seeds, 1 part cumin seeds (I usually do 4Tbs coriander 2 Tbs cumin), and roast them for 5 minutes at 350F on a baking sheet. Once cooled, grind them and save in a tight jar. Substituting cumin powder and coriander powder will not yield adequate results; you will probably still like the flavor of the food, but it will be no where near the flavor of the real thing. (Plus, store powders are only roasted if they mention it on the label.)


  1. That looks so delicious! I think I might have to try this.


  2. Wow, The items I don't already have are now on my grocery list for the upcoming shopping! I love indian foods, but I've never made from scratch (we usually start with a jar sauce and add tofu or quorn)

    No soak is totally a bonus! Perfect for my procrastinating cook style! Edamame often hit our plates for the very same reason. (or I drag out the pressure cooker... dry black beans, without soaking are perfect with 11 minutes at 15psi)

  3. That looks so interesting and tasty. I've never had mung beans, but if I'm going to try them, this looks like the way to do it.

  4. That looks pretty good! I've never tried mung beans (although I have heard of them)--maybe I'll give this a try sometime!

    Rachel @ Maybe Matilda

  5. Oh my gosh, my mouth started watering before I could even finish reading. I eat lots of legumes and I didn't realize it lowers the calcium the body metabolizes. Thanks for noting that.

    email me anytime you'd like to:)


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