One of my favorite summer meals is a simple, refreshing bowl of chilled soup — gazpacho, cucumber-avocado, curried carrot and other veggie-based soups are lovely ways to enjoy the season’s bounty. When my sister and I were growing up, our mom would serve us sweet, cold mung bean soup in the summertime. We were fond of it since it was basically dessert to us; I’m guessing my mom preferred its nutritional value. It’s filling, satisfying, and has been my breakfast staple for the past few days in this ridiculous Chicago heat.
Mung beans are used in many Asian cuisines; you may be familiar with them in the form of bean sprouts or cellophane noodles, made from its starch. They’re high in protein, contain a significant amount of calcium and iron, and according to traditional Chinese medicine, have a cooling effect on the body by flushing out excess heat, which is why mung bean soup is typically eaten during summer.
Unlike a lot of dried legumes, mung beans don’t require soaking so they’re quick to prepare. Just stick in them in a pot with some water, start the rice cooker, and walk away. You can use all that extra time to whip up a batch of ice cream or another cool treat. In fact, they make great popsicles — they’re exactly like the red bean variety except they’re green, of course. After the soup is done, pour and freeze in popsicle molds. The frozen beans add a delightfully crunchy texture.
Sweet mung bean soup (and/or popsicles)
1 part dried mung beans, rinsed (you can buy them at any Asian grocery store or Whole Foods)
3-4 parts water (use the lower end if you’re making popsicles)
natural sweetener of your choice (I use brown sugar but white sugar or agave nectar would be fine, too)
Combine beans and water in rice cooker pot. Start rice cooker. When it shuts off, it’s done. If the beans aren’t tender enough to your liking, cook another few minutes. Add sweetener to taste (you may want to add a little more if you’re freezing this into pops). Serve cold (or frozen).