Monday, February 22, 2010

Among mung

The recipe

Spicy mung bean soup

1 cup dried mung beans, washed and rinsed
5 cups cold water or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
4 teaspoons canola oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 or 3 large tomatoes, chopped
a 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 or 3 serrano peppers, very thinly sliced (do not remove the seeds)
1 cup coconut milk
2 medium or 1 large chicken breast (optional)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
salt to taste
juice of 1 lemon

The process

I’m not gonna lie – spicy mung bean soup sounds wholly unappealing, because what does it rhyme with? A name my dad might give cow manure before laughing and saying, “Smells like money!” In fact, when I was about 12 I was playing “golf” with my cousins on my grandma’s farm, and we were teeing off from dung piles in the pasture (I know, I know). The game ended abruptly when the front of my shirt got splattered after a cousin’s errant swing.

Unfortunate word associations aside, everything else in the recipe sounds delightful, and it came highly recommended from a friend. I make the pilgrimage to Whole Foods in Overland Park to hunt down the exotic Indian spices I’ll need, as well as the mung beans themselves. When a stocker at the store tells me they don’t have my mung, I begin to panic and wonder what would make an acceptable substitute – lentils, perhaps? Surely not kidney beans – but luckily he locates them in the bulk foods section, and moments later I am among mung.

When I get home, I sit all the ingredients out on the counter, and they’re just nice to look at, like I am a legit cook who knows exactly what she’s doing. Even Phoenix jumps up to inspect my loot.

For cooking music, I start with “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” by the Pogues, and the inherent booziness of “Fairytale of New York” triggers my subconscious desire to get hammered, so I pour myself a nice, sloshing-over-the-rim glass of Yellow Tail cabernet sauvignon. Then, because this recipe requires a fuckload of veggies, I start chopping. When I see the immensity of the pile of chopped tomatoes alone, I am reminded yet again that I need to invest in a larger soup pot.

The recipe tells me to mix the spices ahead of time, so I put them in a bowl and set them aside. As I look at the yellow, brown and red pile sitting there like a granulated desert sunset, I can’t help but think: what if I sneezed on it?

As it simmers, the soup smells increasingly delightful, and when I’m momentarily interrupted by my neighbor who forgot his keys, I’m disappointed that he doesn’t mention the warm, wonderful smells wafting into the hallway.

The verdict

Holy fucking cats, the soup is delicious. The serrano peppers provide a biting but not overpowering spiciness, the ginger provides an unexpected but pleasant tang, and the coconut milk complements the Indian spices nicely. If I had included the optional chicken breast, it would have been off any of the following: the chart, the chain, the hook, etc.

Next up

I’m leaving the world of soup and attempting eggplant parmesan.

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