Thursday, August 23, 2012

Filipino mung bean stew (vegetarian version)

I have to (embarrassingly) admit that, for as much as I love to cook, I don't cook a whole lot of Filipino food. Many of the "classic" Filipino dishes are meat-based, like the popular adobo which is a stew of pork or chicken, slow-cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, lots of garlic, and black peppercorns. They say that there are as many versions of adobo as there are Filipino households, and I don't doubt that. But this is not a post on adobo; rather it's about the humble mung bean stew.

I know many of us might not want to say goodbye to summer and think of stews just yet. But I'm starting to feel a little chill in the air now during my after-dinner walks with A. Fall is in the air, folks. At least in the Cleveland air, that is. :)

Given my love for lentils, mung bean stew is frequently part of our rotation of legume dishes. It's cheap, protein- and fiber-packed, and so good for you.



I make a very different version from what you might encounter in non-vegetarian Filipino households. In the traditional version(s), you'll see bits of pork and maybe tiny shrimp, perhaps the flavor of shrimp paste and/or fish sauce. Some add a chile pepper for a little spice; some add a little greens. I think the traditional version also calls for fish sauce as a seasoning; although I have started to eat fish 1-2 times a week now, A. doesn't, so I use a low-sodium tamari instead (or any reduced-sodium soy sauce). Balsamic vinegar is not a traditional ingredient, but I find that it works in here. Lemon juice would work too, but I like the sweet-tart flavor of balsamic vinegar.

It does take a bit of advanced planning to soak the mung beans 24-30 hours, or at least four hours; although you can cook mung beans without soaking, soaking makes it so much faster to cook. I actually soak mine at least overnight to about 30 hours, at which point you'll start seeing the white insides of the mung beans begin to push out of the green covering. Soaking and sprouting makes them more digestible as well. For those of you who are not used to consuming large amounts of legumes or lentils, this is really helpful in reducing your chances of... you-know-what. You're welcome.

Of course, before doing that just make sure you sort the beans, picking out any pebbles or unwanted items - easiest to spread it out on a light colored dish or baking sheet pan. Then rinse a few times before soaking, and if you are doing a long soak, change the water a couple of times. After soaking the mung beans will have plumped up. Even if you just start out with a cup of dried mung beans, it will triple in volume at least after a long soak, so in the end this recipe can probably serve 4.

Filipino-Style Mung Bean Stew (vegetarian)

  • olive oil - a healthy glug (I'm offically making that a technical culinary term now), enough to cover the bottom of the pot
  • half a large onion, chopped
  • half a head of garlic, chopped (I know... I'm pretty unapologetic about my use of garlic. Except before yoga class.)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup mung beans, soaked 24-30 hours (or at least four hours), then drained and rinsed
  • water or vegetable broth
  • tamari or soy sauce - I think I used 3 or 4 tablespoons
  • balsamic vinegar - about a tablespoon
  • salt and pepper


In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, and tomatoes (the trio that makes up the traditional sofrito, or the basis of many Filipino dishes) with a little salt and pepper. Once the onions are soft and the tomatoes have broken down, add the mung beans, and pour in enough water or vegetable broth to cover the mung beans by about an inch.

Bring it to a boil, then cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Let it cook until the mung beans are soft. Season with tamari or soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and pepper (be sure to taste for saltiness after adding the tamari or soy sauce). The stew should be somewhat thick; if it's too watery, continue simmering uncovered to reduce the liquid. I like mine pretty thick, as you can tell from the photos below; but you can just cook it until you get the consistency you want.

I'm not sure if this is traditional, but for extra nutrition I sometimes add some chopped leafy greens (spinach or kale) at the end, and cook through briefly till they wilt. 

And because I'm also unapologetic about my use of olive oil, serve the mung beans in bowls with a drizzle of good olive oil. I don't think that's traditional either, but I learned that from my late grandfather, who liked to drizzle olive oil over his bean stews. We Filipinos typically eat this with rice, but A. enjoys it with roti (Indian flatbread). It actually works out that way too. We are a Filipino-Indian household, after all.



A few notes...
~ The napkin in the upper right photo above is from betsygrace on Etsy. I splurged on this set of rustic linen embroidered napkins and asked for a custom set embroidered with "welcome" in different languages, but I asked for Filipino and Hindi as well to represent mine and my husband's language and culture. "Kain" actually literally translates to "eat" in Filipino. This is how we welcome people into our home; we don't say "welcome", we invite them to eat. :)

~ Here is a great book on Filipino food: Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan. Gorgeous photos and lovely stories about the history of Filipino food. 

~ Here is an informative and entertaining blog on Filipino food: Burnt Lumpia

~ My friend Dianne writes much more about Filipino food than I do, such as in this post.

Update on 11.12.12:
I made mung bean stew again tonight, and I added something to a whole other level: homemade garlic confit! It was SO.GOOD. I had some leftover garlic confit that I made last week, so at the last minute I decided to add some. While we were eating the stew, every now and then we would find these creamy, soft, sweet garlic cloves in our bowl, which we then mashed into the stew. Yum.

Here are a few recipe sources for garlic confit:
Epicurious - just garlic and olive oil
Food and Wine - garlic, olive oil, thyme, and chiles 


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2 comments:

Dianne Khu said...

Mia, I'm in love with munggo! I super love this post. Btw, coincidentally I'm in Manila right now, though not for a happier reason - dad is sick but getting better everyday. Anyway, I'm at least feasting on Pinoy food I love.

Mia (Savor Everyday) said...

I'm sorry to hear that, Dianne... sent you a private message too.

Would love to hear more about your version of munggo.

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