Mung Bean Pasta

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I have been trying to use my cookbooks more often. My effort has paid off with a lot of new knowledge about ingredients and some great go-to recipes that I never knew I always had, sitting right there on the bookcase in my kitchen. One thing that I was surprised to learn was how healthy mung beans are for you. Featured in my new favorite recipe for Pad Thai from Terry Walters’ Clean Food cookbook, mung bean sprouts are surprisingly nutritious. So when I saw Mung Bean Fettuccine in the grocery store, I had to give it a try.

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The package boasts an extremely high protein and fiber content as well as a high iron content, and states that the pasta is a great gluten-free alternative to wheat pasta. I am not gluten-free. In fact I think gluten is one of my favorite foods, however I am always looking for tasty protein sources so I had to check it out. Mung beans, which are low in cholesterol and high in soluble dietary fibers, can also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Until recently, mung beans had only entered our household to fill Kyle’s iron palm training bag for Wing Chun (Kung Fu), so it was a pretty big deal to start tossing mung bean sprouts in salads and stir-fry dishes. Experimenting with the fresh, crunchy sprouts was fun, but those beady green beans were a little scary, so it took us awhile to take the next step. Opening this bag of wavy green noodles was intimidating, but we were willing to give it a go in the name of science.

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After cooking and rinsing the noodles, I tasted them plain, and they weren’t too bad. I have to be honest though, they do taste a little… grassy? Because they are naturally chewier than regular pasta, it was pretty easy to get them al dente. However, I thought they really needed some flavor (besides “health food” flavor), so I mixed them with sauteed asparagus and baby bok choy, a soy dressing, and toasted sesame seeds. A drizzle of chili sauce made the meal complete.

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I thought this salad would work well either hot or cold, but I definitely preferred it hot. The noodles were so chewy after being chilled that I had a hard time getting through half of a serving before feeling full. I guess that could be a good thing? It felt weird to me, so I reheated them with a few minutes in the microwave and a generous portion of sambal. Kyle enjoyed the dish both hot and cold, so I guess you will have to decide for yourself!

The flavor combination was very fresh and springy, and versatile enough to work with any type of grain, so I recommend that you try it out even if you substitute a different kind of pasta or rice for the mung bean fettuccine. We are now firmly in the spring season, so break out that bright green asparagus and your favorite set of chopsticks and chow down!

Sesame Mung Bean Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

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Ingredients:

  • 7 oz. dry mung bean fettuccine
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil, divided (2+1)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 baby bok choy
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup liquid aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili sauce (sriracha or similar)
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Preparation:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse and set aside.
  2. Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces and roughly chop baby bok choy, discarding the ends. Thinly slice the green onions.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 1 minute. Add bok choy and asparagus and saute until tender and bright green, about 3 minutes.
  4. To the vegetables, add garlic and saute for another minute.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the liquid aminos (or soy sauce), brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, and chili sauce.
  6. Add pasta and sauce to the pan with the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook until heated throughout. Add toasted sesame seeds and serve while hot.
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Bok Choy

I’ve been saving this post for awhile because every time I got to researching bok choy, I ended up getting intrigued by some other Chinese cooking ingredient and reading myself way off track. So while this is no longer the seasonally relevant post I had hoped it to be, I’m not waiting until bok choy reappears in my local farmers market to talk about it, so here we go!

This is not my photo. I snagged this one from milwaukeeadventurebootcamp because every picture I took of my bok choy turned out to be horrible. The shot of my springy, green, freshly washed Chinese cabbage came out looking like dark, wet, soggy lettuce. And that is not the most appetizing thing to look at, so I have omitted the un-sexy vegetable photo.

Bok choy has always scared me. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t know what to do with it, and I felt it was best to leave it to the experts down at the Chinese carry-out place around the corner. When I saw it at the grocery store or at the market, I admired it from a distance while picking out a nice bunch of kale or spinach leaves instead. Then one day I saw it while perusing the produce at the South of the James market and I decided to go for it. I don’t know if it was the extra shot of espresso in my iced latte or the fresh cash burning a hole in the pocket of my jersey cotton sundress but something made me think, “oh, what the heck.” And so began my adventure.

Bok choy originated in China, and then was introduced to Korea and Japan in the early 20th century as a result of war in the region. It was then that bok choy became the main ingredient in kimchi (yum!). It was introduced to Europe shortly thereafter and it is now available in markets around the world. While it is available year round at the grocery store, I have seen bok choy in the local farmers’ markets mainly in the Spring.

The crop has tender white stalks and dark green leaves. Its name comes from “pak choi” which means “white vegetable” in Chinese (according to chinesefood.about.com, so take that with a big grain of salt, or soy sauce if you prefer). Bok choy is rich in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. This was definitely one of the more healthy decisions I have made as a result of a wad of cash burning a hole in the pocket of my sundress. Three cheers for maturity!

I wasn’t too adventurous on my first attempt at cooking bok choy because I wasn’t sure how it would taste or how it would behave on the stovetop, so I made a nice stir fry. Somewhat vague instructions follow because my soy sauce stained notes were made hastily as I chopped and sauteed my way through this simple and improvised recipe.

1. Press one 14 oz block of tofu until water is drained.

2. Cut tofu into small rectangles and saute in oil over medium-high heat, turning to brown all sides. Remove tofu from pan and onto paper towels.

3. Add 8 oz of thin spaghetti to a pot of salted boiling water. Cook according to package instructions while stir frying the vegetables.

4. Add one small onion, chopped, to the stir fry pan and saute until translucent. Add 3-4 bunches of chopped bok choy (stalks and leaves) and a few chopped carrots to the pan, adding more cooking oil as necessary. It is okay to chop the vegetables into big chunks; I like it better that way than a fine dice.

5. Stir fry vegetables until bok choy is bright green and nearly wilted.

6. Mix together and add to the stir fry pan: 1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of oil. Return the tofu to the pan and simmer 1-2 minutes.

7. Add 1 jalapeño, minced, with ribs and seeds removed, to the pan. Also add 2 teaspoons of chopped ginger and 2 teaspoons of minced garlic. Simmer an additional 2-3 minutes.

8. Toss tofu-vegetable mixture with drained spaghetti and serve on adorable little square plates.

I think we ate this with mojitos, but in the future I would have it with a lager for a better pairing. But hey, when you need a minty sweet cocktail, you gotta have a minty sweet cocktail, so pair it with whatever you would like and choose your own adventure.