'The true cook is the perfect blend, the only perfect blend, of artist and philosopher. He knows his worth: he holds in his palm the happiness of mankind, the welfare of generations yet unborn.'

Friday, 26 October 2012

Mung bean drink 清熱解毒綠豆水

Like the ubiquitous red bean soup, mung bean soup (綠豆沙) is the other popular sweet dessert soup in China. I like to think of them as the ying and yang of legumes: while red beans are warm and comforting, mung beans are cooling and detoxifying. The medicinal properties of mung beans have long been prized in China. The father of Chinese medicine 李時珍 taught that :「綠豆消腫下氣,治寒熱,止泄痢,利小便,除脹滿,厚實腸胃,補益元氣,調和五臟,安精神,去浮風,潤皮膚,解金石、砒霜、草本等一切毒。」 Maybe we don't use them often enough to experience these medicinal benefits, but I'm sure those of you who have had well-chilled mung bean soup at the height of summer would agree with me that it's a godsend: it cools you down immediately like nothing else. No, not even ice cream. It cleanses you from within without the headache that accompanies an icy scoop of sorbet.

The part in the mung bean that gives the detox and cooling effects (清熱解毒) is actually the skin, and its medicinal properties diminish when you cook them for too long. Those who have made mung bean soup will recall that the colour starts off as a bright, clear yellow-green and gradually becomes darker and cloudier after half an hour or so. For this reason, if you want to exploit mung bean's medicinal properties, it's best to cook them very briefly and drain the beans while the soup is still a bright yellow-green. If you continue to cook the beans as you would for mung bean soup, they'd lose much of their detox and cooling properties, but would still help with getting rid of excess liquid and toxins in your digestive tracts (健脾祛濕). If you soak the beans for a few days, they'd transform into bean sprouts (綠豆芽) which are extremely high in vitamin C and full of essential amino acids. A real superfood!

Since mung beans are 'cooling' (性寒) in nature, they're best for summer and less so for autumn or winter. The past week has been getting warmer and warmer as if autumn was quietly slipping away for a second summer, so maybe this drink wasn't so untimely after all.

Mung bean drink 清熱解毒綠豆水

If you feel that your body is 'heaty' (熱氣) and are suffering from a sore throat or ulcers in your mouth, this drink would really help. Obviously don't drink an excessive amount since it's quite 'cool'  (性寒), especially if you haven't been digesting well. The taste of mung beans may be somewhat of an acquired taste for non-Chinese people, but it's definitely worth giving a try!

1. In a large bowl, soak the mung beans in cold water for a few hours - not too long or they will start sprouting!

2. Drain the soaked beans in a colander.

3. Place them in a large pan with plenty of water to cover. The exact ratio doesn't really matter and it depends on how strong a taste you want. I would suggest at least one part beans to ten parts water.

3. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes. The beans should still be intact. Immediately drain the soup through a colander and remove the beans. Sweeten the water minimally with sugar. The leftover beans could be used to make mung bean soup (綠豆湯).

The beans should still be intact at the end of the brief cooking.

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