Mung Bean Porridge
Wednesday, 7 Jun 2017


My mother makes this on very hot days as she believes it has a ‘cooling’ (yin) effect on the body - this comes from traditional Chinese medicine beliefs. Mung beans are listed in the Ben Ca Gang Mu, the ancient Chinese materia medica, as clearingyour body of heat and toxins and tonifying your Qi. Mung bean soup is also used in Ayurveda and are considered to be tri-doshic, ie. suitable for anyone of any dosha, depending on the spices you use. Objectively, they’re nutritious little green nuggets, with high magnesium and folate content.

Mung beans aren’t as popular in the Western world but are a great staple to add to your kitchen. Other than the nutrients they contain, you can do so many things with them. You can cook them in a sweet porridge, or in a savoury khichdi, or sprout them (they sprout very easily) to add to salads.

In its simplest form it’s just mung beans, coconut milk and sugar. It’s commonly made with pandan leaves and you can use pandan essence or vanilla paste as a substitute but I just leave it out. In Indonesia the porridge is normally cooked with a little bit of crushed ginger. You can add chopped bananas or durians for fruit content and a creamier texture. Sago seeds are a common addition, and chia seeds make a good substitute: just soak them overnight with your beans. Add in your mixins with the coconut milk and cook everything together in a porridge jumble. You can top it with some coconut cream or coconut ice-cream to serve.

For the basic ingredients, while my mother uses fresh coconut milk from actual coconuts, I use tinned coconut milk. You’ll have some milk left over to top your porridge with. If you only have the drinking type coconut milk from a carton (Koko, Alpro, etc.) you can use 1.5 cups of that, plus about 50g creamed coconut (I use the Patak’s sachets from the supermarket).

The type of sugar is important for the correct taste. The types of palm sugar normally used for the Indonesian and Malaysian versions respectively are gula jawa/gula merah and gula melaka. These are darker and less refined coconut palm sugars. They’re often come in dark, reddish brown blocks, and have a deep caramelly, slightly smokey taste. They’re harder to find outside the region, although not impossible. I use coconut sugar which is easily found in stores like Whole Foods and their ilk, and would suggest looking into that first - this has the added bonus of coming granulated in a box so you don’t have to hack away at a block of sugar and grate tablespoons of it. Failing that, you can substitute with the yellowish palm sugar discs from Thailand, followed by jaggery, or soft brown or muscovado sugars. White sugar just doesn’t have that depth of flavour and caramel edge.

I like having this porridge for breakfast and dessert. It’s good both hot and cold, keeps well in the fridge and is microwaveable. It’s also high in protein and grainless - though the sugar content means it isn’t exactly a diet food. It is, however, reasonably healthy especially as it’s filling enough that you don’t have to eat much of it.

Mung Bean Porridge


Serves 4

  • 150g dried mung beans
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar

Rinse the beans in cold water. Soak overnight in 3x the amount of cold water, ie. about 3 cups.

In the morning discard the soaking water. Dump mung beans in a pot with about 3 cups cold water, bring to the boil then simmer until soft. Drain.

Add in coconut milk and coconut sugar. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until thickened.