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The mung bean (Vigna radiata), alternatively known as the moong bean, green gram, is a plant species in the legume family. Native to South America, the mung bean is mainly cultivated today in India, China, and Southeast Asia. It is used as an ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes.
Mung beans are commonly used in various cuisines across Asia.
Whole beans and mung bean paste
Whole cooked mung beans are generally prepared from dried beans by boiling until they are soft. Mung beans are light yellow in colour when their skins are removed. Mung bean paste can be made by dehulling, cooking, and pulverizing the beans to a dry paste.
Although whole mung beans are also occasionally used in Indian cuisine, beans without skins are more commonly used; but in Kerala, whole mung beans are commonly boiled to make a dry preparation often served with rice gruel (kanji). Dehulled mung beans can also be used in a similar fashion as whole beans for the purpose of making sweet soups. Mung beans in some regional cuisines of India are stripped of their outer coats to make mung dal. In Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, steamed whole beans are seasoned with spices and fresh grated coconut in a preparation called sundal. In south and north Indian states, mung beans are also eaten as pancakes. They are soaked in water for six to 12 hours (the higher the temperature, the lesser soaking time). Then they are ground into fine paste along with ginger and salt. Then pancakes are made on a very hot griddle. These are usually eaten for breakfast. This provides high quality protein that is rare in most Indian regional cuisines. Pongal or kichdi is another recipe that is made with rice and mung beans without skin. In Kerala, it is commonly used to make the parippu preparation in the Travancore region (unlike Cochin and Malabar, where toor dal, tuvara parippu, is used). It is also used, with coconut milk and jaggery, to make a type of payasam.
In Chinese cuisine, whole mung beans are used to make a tángshuǐ, or dessert, otherwise literally translated, "sugar water", called lǜdòu tángshuǐ, which is served either warm or chilled. In Indonesia, they are made into a popular dessert snack called es kacang hijau, which has the consistency of a porridge. The beans are cooked with sugar, coconut milk, and a little ginger.
In Hong Kong, dehulled mung beans and mung bean paste are made into ice cream or frozen ice pops. Mung bean paste is used as a common filling for Chinese mooncakes in East China and Taiwan. Also in China, the boiled and shelled beans are used as filling in glutinous rice dumplings eaten during the dragon boat festival (端午节). The beans may also be cooked until soft, blended into a liquid, sweetened, and served as a beverage, popular in many parts of China.
In the Philippines, ginisáng monggó (sautéed mung bean stew), also known as monggó guisado or balatong, is a savoury stew of whole mung beans with prawns or fish. It is traditionally served on Fridays of Lent, when the majority Roman Catholic Filipinos traditionally abstain from meat. Variants of ginisáng monggó may also be made with chicken or pork.
Mung bean paste is also a common filling of pastries known as hopia (or bakpia) popular in Indonesia, the Philippines and further afield in Guyana (where it is known as black eye cake) and originating from southern China.
Mung bean are germinated by leaving them in water for four hours of daytime light and spending the rest of the day in the dark. Mung bean sprouts can be grown under artificial light for four hours over the period of a week. They are usually simply called "bean sprouts". However, when bean sprouts are called for in recipes, it generally refers to mung bean or soybean sprouts.
Mung bean sprouts are stir-fried as a Chinese vegetable accompaniment to a meal, usually with garlic, ginger, spring onions, or pieces of salted dried fish to add flavour. Uncooked bean sprouts are used in filling for Vietnamese spring rolls, as well as a garnish for phở. They are a major ingredient in a variety of Malaysian and Peranakan cuisine, including char kway teow, hokkien mee, mee rebus, and pasembor. In Korea, slightly cooked mung bean sprouts, called sukjunamul (hangul: 숙주나물), are often served as a side dish. They are blanched (placed into boiling water for less than a minute), immediately cooled in cold water, and mixed with sesame oil, garlic, salt, and often other ingredients. In the Philippines, mung bean sprouts are made into lumpia rolls called lumpiang togue. In Indonesia the food are often used as fillings like Tahu Isi (stuffed tofu) and complimentary ingredient in many cookings such as rawon and soto.
In northern China and Korea, soybean sprouts, called kongnamul (hangul: 콩나물) in Korean, are more widely used in a variety of dishes.
Mung bean starch, which is extracted from ground mung beans, is used to make transparent cellophane noodles (also known as bean thread noodles, bean threads, glass noodles, fensi (粉絲), tung hoon (冬粉), miến, bún tàu, or bún tào). Cellophane noodles become soft and slippery when they are soaked in hot water. A variation of cellophane noodles, called mung bean sheets or green bean sheets, are also available. In Korea, a jelly called nokdumuk (hangul: 녹두묵; also called cheongpomuk; hangul: 청포묵) is made from mung bean starch; a similar jelly, colored yellow with the addition of gardenia coloring, is called hwangpomuk (hangul: 황포묵). In northern China, mung bean jelly is called liangfen (凉粉, meaning chilled bean jelly), which is very popular food during summer. Jidou liangfen is another flavor of mung bean jelly food in Yunnan, in southern China.
History of domestication and cultivation
The mung bean was domesticated in Persia (Iran), where its progenitor (Vigna radiata subspecies sublobata) occurs wild. Archaeology has turned up carbonized mung beans on many sites in India. Areas with early finds include the eastern zone of the Harappan civilization in Punjab and Haryana, where finds date back about 4500 years, and South India in the modern state of Karnataka where finds date back more than 4000 years. Some scholars therefore infer two separate domestications in the northwest and south of India. In South India there is evidence for evolution of larger-seeded mung beans 3500 to 3000 years ago. By about 3500 years ago mung beans were widely cultivated throughout India. Cultivated mung beans later spread from India to China and Southeast Asia. Archaeobotanical research at the site of Khao Sam Kaeo in southern Thailand indicates that mung beans had arrived in Thailand by at least 2200 years ago. Finds on Pemba Island indicate that during the era of Swahili trade, in the 9th or 10th century, mung beans also came to be cultivated in Africa,.
Mung beans are known under a variety of names in different languages:
Mung bean sprouts are known as the following: