Mung beans are a delicious ingredient that make their way here from Southeast Asia and India, where they are commonly consumed for great nutrition, cleansing the body, promoting robust health, and for their delicious, earthy taste. Of course, the earthy flavor of mung beans is a source of some unfair derision, and it is a source of a nearly unique flavor that can bring a simple dish together, ground it, and give it homey depth.
Cooked in the slow-cooker or crock pot, mung beans, like any small bean, will soften over the course of a few hours to the point where much of their substance comes out to give body to the broth while the husks give texture and flavor to the stew. The Chinese and Indians considered this a very nourishing way to prepare this remarkably healthy bean, making it easy to digest and assimilate, but for the gourmand, its the lovely texture and flavor spreading throughout the dish that makes this cooking method one of the best for this small, simple, green bean.
The following recipe is a real delight, playing off of the green bean by adding several other green ingredients including celery and some spicy fire-roasted jalapenos, and as many great crock pot dishes go, it's just about as simple as it can be. The mung beans themselves can be soaked overnight (or, for quicker results, boiled for about 20 minutes) and then drained and rinsed before cooking to shorten the cooking time, but if cooked all day in a slow cooker or crock pot, the additional step isn't needed.
Recipe: Fire-roasted jalapeno mung beans and chicken with rice -- Ingredients
- 4-5 bone-in chicken thighs (substitute 3 bone-in breasts for a lighter dish);
- 1 c. dried mung beans;
- 1/2 onion, diced;
- 6 ribs of celery, bottoms and leaves removed, sliced;
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped;
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger rhizome (root), finely chopped;
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce;
- 1-3 fresh green jalapeno peppers, fire-roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped (see below for instructions);
- 3 bay leaves;
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste;
- Enough chicken stock or water (with up to 1/2 cup white wine, e.g. sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio, if desired) to cover the beans and chicken [Tip: follow the link to see how to make your own great chicken stocks from scratch];
- Optional: 1/2 - 1 tsp. Victoria's Gourmet jalapeno pepper flakes (for more heat);
- 1 1/2 c. (dry) brown rice, cooked (about 3 c. cooked).
- First, fire-roast the jalapenos with a grill or gas burner by skewering them through the stem and holding them directly in the flame until the waxy outer skin blisters and eventually chars. Make sure the entire outside surface of the pepper is blackened well. This makes your house smell great. Then, place the charred pepper (still hot) in a paper bag or under a bowl on the cutting board to let it steam for 5 or more minutes (this also lets it cool enough to handle). Then, running it under cold water, the charred skin is easily removed. Once skinless, cut off the stem and slice the pepper lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Then chop. Repeat as needed. If you don't have access to an open flame, this can also be accomplished in the oven under the broiler, though you will have to turn the peppers every couple of minutes to char all of the sides.
- Once all of the vegetables are prepared, add the beans (soaked and rinsed for quicker cooking, i.e. 3-4 hours, or completely dry for longer, more than 6 hours), then the chicken, then the vegetables, then the seasonings, and then the liquid to your crock pot. You need only add stock or water until the chicken is covered, but for more soup, feel free to fill it. Cover the crock pot, set it to high, and let it do its thing for several hours (at least 3 or 4).
- About an hour before dinner, prepare the rice. For best results, toast the brown rice lightly in the pan before adding just shy of 3 cups water (the right ratio is 1 rice to 2 waters, minus just a little water) and some salt. When the pot has boiled for about 3-4 minutes, cover it, reduce the heat to low, and let it steam for about 45-50 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork or gently with a spoon.
- While the rice finishes cooking, remove the chicken from the crock pot. The meat should be falling from the bones. Remove the skins (if you didn't already -- chicken fat is tasty and a little fat in the diet is good for you, so I'll leave that up to you) and bones and discard, trying to catch the cartilage as well (for a rustic result, don't remove it... it's crunchy and slippery in texture, bland in flavor, but edible and allegedly good for you, at least according to the Chinese). Shred the chicken in to pieces with two forks or your fingers (if it is cool enough), and add it back into the stew. Stir well to combine.
- Serve the stew over the rice, garnished with jalapeno pepper flakes, diced pickled jalapenos, and/or finely chopped parsley.
Variation: Instead of serving this over rice, which is how something of this sort would be taken in Chinese cuisine, serve it alongside or poured over jalapeno (and cheddar) cornbread. It's not quite as healthy, but it really brings the Knoxville food culture to the plate.
Serving suggestion: Lightly steamed fresh green beans or asparagus will make a nice side, complementing the green nature of this stew quite well.
Buy it locally! Mung beans are available locally in bulk for a great price at the two Knoxville locations of Earth Fare, one in Bearden and one in Turkey Creek.
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