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A recipe for a sweet soup

A grandmother's recipe.

Beans? Citrus Peel? Seaweed? In a dessert? Let me introduce you to the mung bean soup. Directly translated from Mandarin or Cantonese, the dish is actually called “green bean sand”, pronounced ‘lǜ dòu shā”. A sweet soup is called ‘táng shuǐ’ in Mandarin, and directly translates to mean “sugar water”. They are of Cantonese speciality/origin, but are now widely enjoyed around all places in Asia. Usually traditional dessert soups will feature ingredients with medicinal properties or principles that are beneficial for health, skin, elements, etc.

In Chinese medicine, there is “hot” and “coolness”; which are properties that can be attributed to every food and drink. For example, mandarins, mangoes, lychees and fried food are all considered “hot”, whereas “coolness” is found in herbal jelly, green leafy vegetables, cucumbers and watermelon. They have an affect the balance of our internal heal and energy (qi). Thus, this principle is often applied to reduce the risk of changing seasons, extreme temperature environments or illnesses. This is a very basic and vague version of a complex principle- all information has been gathered from different family members and some brief readings.

Back to the mung bean soup- it is considered to have cooling properties like reducing heat rashes, clearing toxins and reducing other ailments that occur when you body is too “hot”. This could be a result of extremely hot weather, or just consuming too many foods with “hot” properties. The soup is usually served cold during the summer, but one should be wary that a body should not be subject to too many cold liquids or foods. Therefore, it is still enjoyed hot. I recommend trying it freshly-made, hot and then decide what you’d like to do with the rest.

There are so many East-Asian desserts that are based around this magnificent mung bean! This is a really special recipe of a beloved food I have been eating since my childhood. Usually, a big pot would be cooked and stored in the fridge to be reheated throughout the course of one or two days. The basic recipe structure has been verbally passed down from my paternal grandma, but edited, modified and written by me.

Recipe makes a large pot, enough to share between 6-8 people.

Equipment

A large pot (Minimum 5L capacity. We use a ceramic stockpot)
A ceramic spoon (to place in pot while soup is boiling away- said to prevent sticking to bottom/burning as well as preventing the soup to boil over)
Knife, ladle, etc.

Ingredients

  • 200g dried mung beans (these are most commonly found in the dried food section of asian grocery stores)
  • 25g dried red beans (not kidney, but adzuki- approximately three handfuls to add “hot-ness” and balance the cooling properties of the mung bean)
  • 50g white or brown rice (approximately three sparse handfuls, for a smoother soup)
  • 2L of water

Optional:

  • 30- 60g of cane sugar (in block-form, depending on sweetness preference. Can be substituted with ~½ cup or 100g of brown/raw sugar.)
  • 2 pieces dried tangerine peel (if available)
  • 2 sheets of dried kombu, soaked in water, then sliced into thinner strips
  • A few stalks (with leaves) of common rue, commonly known as herb-of-grace. (If available, it is hard to find but we have them growing in the backyard. It is a medicinal herb which provides a special fragrance to this soup)
  • You can add pandan leaves, coconut milk, or sago if preferred.
    These ingredients are more popular in South-East Asian areas like Malaysia and Vietnam. However, this recipe has more traditional Guangdong/Canton region flavours.

Cooking Instructions

Wash beans, rice and seaweed. Set the rice aside.
Soak beans and seaweed for 1-2 hours (Optional step! Only do if you have the time).
Measure out and put water in the pot. Allow it to come to a boil on high heat.
Meanwhile, slice seaweed into 2-5 cm strips.
When the water has come to a boil, place the beans, rice, seaweed and dried tangerine peel with the ceramic spoon into the pot.
Let it boil on high heat for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Turn off and let it rest in the pot, lid closed, for half an hour. (Optional, go straight to Step 9 if in a rush)
Bring it to a boil on high-heat again.
Then allow the soup to simmer on low-medium heat for half an hour. Stir occasionally. The beans are ready when they have bloomed, or have opened up/broken down. The longer you cook, the thicker of a soup it becomes.
Before turning off the heat, place the sugar and common rue. Stir till sugar has dissolved.
Leave the lid on and allow the soup to rest for a further half an hour.
Please serve and enjoy!

If you are in a rush and feeling lazy, just wash the ingredients and throw it all in the pot, and let it cook on low-medium heat for 40 minutes! A must-try dish!

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