When I was a student at Iowa State University, I liked to attend the Foreign Culture Center’s student potlucks. I met a young Bengali woman at one potluck who laughed when I asked her for the recipe for her mung beans and rice. She had never written down a recipe before and thought it strange that I hadn’t learned to cook from my mother. After a long talk, I learned that she had come to Iowa with her husband while he studied engineering, plus I learned most of the ingredients she thought she had put into her pilaf “this time.” I also had an idea how to prepare the dish, but it’s taken some research into Bengali cooking techniques to even come close to replicating it. Strangely enough, I didn’t have to modify her mung beans and rice to make it low oxalate. She told me she didn’t have any cloves this time, but cloves were usually good (no problem for me—cloves are really high oxalate; glad to leave them out!). She also didn’t use as much pepper because she thought Americans wouldn’t eat it that way (I thought it was really hot and have reduced the pepper even more—not because it was too high in oxalate but because most of my readers are sensitive to spicy foods or have kids to please). I think she said she put cardamom in the dish, but I was a newbie to Indian and Bengali cooking at the time, so I wasn’t sure what she was saying and was beginning to get embarrassed after asking so many times. Since cardamom is often used in spice blends with cinnamon and cloves in Indian cooking and is relatively low in oxalate, I decided to add a little. Cardamom has a strong flavor, however, so you may want to start with the smaller amount or leave it out.
Hope you enjoy this yummy dish!
Spiced Mung Beans and Rice (Bangladesh)
1 cup mung beans* (soaked overnight)
3 tablespoons butter (or cooking oil of your choice)
1 ½ teaspoons raw ginger, grated
1 bay leaf
2 cups long grain rice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 – 2 hard-boiled eggs
Prepare the beans by letting them soak overnight (at least 8 hours) OR place them in a large pot with about 4 cups water and bring them to a boil. Turn off the stove and let the beans sit for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ginger and bay leaf and fry for about a minute. Add the prepared beans, rice, cinnamon, cardamom and pepper, and fry for about 12 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour six cups water and the salt into the pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes until the rice and beans are tender. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, fry the onion in a little butter or oil. Place the beans and rice into a serving dish and garnish with the fried onions and slices of hard-boiled egg.
*Note: If mung beans are unavailable in your area, you may substitute lentils. Lentils do not need to be pre-soaked.
Oxalate Note: Mung beans are a medium oxalate food with 7.9 mg. oxalate per half cup. All of the spices are low oxalate in the amount used: 1.5 teaspoons raw ginger, grated (3.1 mg.), 1 bay leaf (0.3), ½ teaspoon cinnamon (4.2), ½ teaspoon cardamom (3.1), and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (1.3). Onion is low oxalate (3.3 mg./half cup), while the rest of the ingredients are very low oxalate or have no oxalate (eggs, butter, long grain white rice and salt.) Each serving has about 3.8 mg. oxalate (based on 8 servings per recipe).
OXALATE UPDATE (Dec. 2011): Cinnamon has been retested since I wrote this post and found to be high oxalate at 38.5 mg./teaspoon. I suggest you either leave out the cinnamon or reduce the cinnamon to 1/4 teaspoon. The recipe made with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon has about 5.7 mg. oxalate per serving or without cinnamon it has about 3.3 mg. serving.
Picky Eater Pleaser: If you can get your kids to eat this, please let me know your secret! I don’t have any cheesy pictures of my kids eating Low Oxalate Mung Beans and Rice because they think it looks “yucky” and won’t even taste it (except Aidan will pick the hard-boiled eggs off the top.) I think I’ll try again with just a hint of spices and introduce them to the dish slowly.
Other Diets: Low oxalate spiced mung beans and rice may be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian diets.