Market Matters- March Mung Madness

mung bean salad with cranberries and walnutsI have been looking forward to this week for sometime.

Today’s Market Matters is turning its sights on the moong bean, the mash bean. Sometimes called munggo or monggo.  Green gram, golden gram, and green soy.

But you may know it as the Mighty Mung Bean!

Yep this is the bean responsible for the ubiquitous bean-sprout of salad bar fame! But I think it is much more interesting fresh; un-sprouted, simply dressed and served with something pert and pretty (but not too cute sweet).

This is my favorite bean, hands down. With out a doubt. I have never met a legume I couldn’t love so this bold proclamation is really saying something!

In India the bean is cultivated during two main growing seasons. Rabi, which begins in November; and the wet monsoonal season known as Kharif, which starts in March. March? This is March!

sesame tarragon dressing ingredientsThe Bangladeshi farmers who provide them at my market seem to stick to this same rule here in California. It probably has something to do with our seasonal rain cycle. So I decided to March right down there and get them while they are still available fresh.

I am going to be rather brief today. Which is not my greatest talent I know. But those beans are calling my name and I am hungry for them.

That’s why I prepared in advance for this eventuality.

About a week ago I put together a sesame vinaigrette just so I could be ready for this day.

I hesitate to call it vinaigrette, because there is but the sparest amount of vinegar in this concoction. This dressing gets it’s real zing from a very complex pairing of tarragon and cranberries.

When pert and pretty flavors as cute and sweet as tarragon and cranberries get together they need a chaperone. Otherwise things can get out of hand. “Pert and pretty” is nice, but “cute and sweet” makes me want to puke.

That’s why I introduced sesame into this dressing. Both in seed form and in oil form. Please do not make any open sesame jokes either. Not around my girls…

Which brings me back to the dressing. I take equal parts sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, and water (I know, I know) but there is a method to my madness.

Into this liquid I toss a couple a tablespoons of white sesame seeds (the black ones get ugly during the steeping process).

Have you guessed what we are going to be steeping?

Why the girls of course, Miss Tarragon and Miss Cranberry Festival herself. The sweetest of the cranberries. The dried-cranberry. That’s why we need the water. I want to perk those cranberries up. With out the water this dressing can get a little cocky. I want these berries to retain their sweetness, well some of their sweetness.

So, you let these ingredients co-habituate for three days or maybe a week. The sesame seeds will give up all their color (read flavor) and become nearly translucent. The cranberries will re-hydrate and turn into little rubies.

Then when you get home with your fresh, raw mung beans (they must be fresh and raw, not dried) all you have to do is toss them with a generous amount of this dressing.

If you can let them sit an hour or two you’ll be much happier. Even overnight is good. But not much more because they begin to let off a foul odor once they start thinking about germinating.

When you are ready to plate them drain off as much as the dressing as you can. They should not be soupy because that dressing could overpower the real star here. And that is the mung bean with that earthy, crunchy, nutty appeal I find absolutely addicting.

This salad is a powerhouse of flavor. It has the added bonus of practically being the healthiest dose of anti-oxidants you can get your hands on. So I ask you, who “a‑mung” us would not be thrilled if this baby were sitting on the plate in front of you.

That was bad. May I be excused? There’s a party on my plate and I call it Sesame Mung Bean Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts, because I am too hungry to think of anything else.


Greg Henry