This soup is a Chinese soup made with whole unpeeled mung beans. They are called 绿豆 (lü dou, also spelled lv dou, pronounced like “lee doh”) in Chinese, literally “green bean”, which is a good description because they are green colored and beans. But in English we already have a “green beans” (called 四季豆 or “four seasons beans” in Chinese) so we have to name them after the Indian name. In Hindi, they are called moong dal, so we call them mung beans in English. There are two main kinds, the whole unpeeled beans and the split peeled beans. I already introduced the whole unpeeled beans in my pesarattu recipe. They are also used to make a dal dish in India. The split peeled beans are also used to make dal, and they cook very quickly. In China, beans are always used to make sweet dishes, unlike India. So there are mainly two uses. The whole unpeeled ones make this soup, called 绿豆汤 (lü dou tang, “green bean soup”), and the peeled split ones make a sweet paste used as a filling for desserts, called 绿豆沙 (lü dou sha, “green bean sand”). In Cantonese, the soup is also called 绿豆沙, the same name as the paste.
Mung bean soup is always eaten during the summer in China. It is believed to have strong cooling effects, even though it is traditionally served piping hot. People who are too yin cannot eat the soup, and same with people who are older. But that’s just superstition because in India many old people eat mung dal and are fine. Actually in China there is less superstition now so more people can enjoy the soup. 🙂 But maybe they do have some cooling effect, hehe. When I visited China in the summer (every day 100 degrees Fahrenheit with over 90+% relative humidity, I almost had heat stroke twice…) there were many ice cream stands selling mung bean popsicles, yum! Anyways, it’s not summer, but it southern California even during Christmas it is over 80 degrees, and today it was over 90 degrees, so not as hot as China suring the summer but still quite hot. So try this soup to get cool! And although it is traditionally served piping hot, I prefer it just warm. You can even serve it cold like cold soups in western cuisines. Chinese people also sometimes eat it cold or room temperature. Or incorporate it into a popsicle, hehe. I serve the soup as a dessert after dinner. You can serve it for breakfast or lunch too or as a snack meal.
This recipe includes Chinese brown slab sugar. This ingredient is easily found in Chinese grocery stores. In soups, Chinese people use either yellow rock sugar (冰糖, bing tang, “ice sugar”) or brown slab sugar (片糖, pian tang, “slice sugar”). Use brown slab sugar for this recipe. They are sold in about 1 lb packages that have slabs of brown colored sugar inside.
Adapted from Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young, a great book filled with traditional Cantonese recipes including many healthy soups 🙂
1 cup whole unpeeled moong dal / mung beans
1/4 cup lotus seeds (optional) (I did not use)
1.5 liters (1500 ml) water
1 1/2 slabs (3 oz) of Chinese brown sugar (you can also use rock sugar)
1. Rinse mung beans and lotus seeds if using, drain.
2. Add to pot with 1.5 liters water.
3. Bring to a boil on high.
4. Simmer on low for 1 hour. Actually they cook very quickly and are already soft after 30 minutes, so you can stop then. You can partially mash after done.
5. Add sugar and cook until dissolved.
6. Serve hot (traditional), warm, or cold.
(Sorry! I forgot to take a picture. I will next time :))