Beans are much neglected, in spite of them being nutritious, power-packed foods. They are not for cooks in a hurry. You’ll need to pre-soak them for a few hours and still set aside over an hour for cooking.
I am more likely to do a bean dish when cooking a big meal and planning to spend some time in the kitchen.
The most common way of preparing beans is in a hearty stew. But beans can be used in any dish – tossed into a salad, cooked with rice, made into a soup or even as dessert – like Chinese red bean soup, or Japanese red bean jelly.
Small, hard beans – those that require longer soaking and take longer time to cook – are more strengthening. They include red (aduki) beans, block soy beans and chick peas and these are recommended for people who are weak.
If you don’t need the strength, there are lots more beans to choose from – soy beans, navy beans, black eye beans, black turtle beans (looks like black soy beans), broad beans, green / mung beans… Plus, there are various types of lentils – french lentils, yellow lentils, green lentils, etc.
Do beans cause flatulence? Not if they are well-soaked, well-cooked and well-eaten. Chew your food well!
Chick pea stew
- 2 cup chick peas
- 4-inch strip kombu seaweed
- 8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks celery
- 2 leek
- 1/2 tsp salt or 2 tbsp soy sauce or 2 tbsp miso
Soak chickpeas with kombu seaweed for at least four hours. Discard soaking water. Cut seaweed into small squares.
Add another 4 cups water. Boil chickpeas (with seaweed) vigorously for 15 minutes, then cook over medium heat until nearly done. This takes about an hour, depending on your fire. Cook longer if necessary to make sure they are well done.
Cut vegetables into small chunks. Add to the chickpeas and cook another 15 minutes.
If using salt for seasoning, add now. If using soy sauce or miso, add during the last three minutes of cooking time.
Vary the beans or the vegetables. Try:
- red beans + Japanese pumpkin with salt;
- soy beans + hijiki seaweed with soy sauce,
- black beans + lotus root with soy sauce
- peanuts + lotus roots with miso.
Flavour with herbs and spices, eg bay leaf, basil, cinnamon, star anise, chilli powder…
Thicken the stew with starches such as corn, arrowroot, lotusroot, kuzu etc.
Cook with lots more water (plus more seasoning) to create a bean soup.
Soy bean bitter-gourd soup
In a small Hongkong restaurant, I once ate a most delicious soup that had soy beans, bitter-gourd and salted vegetables (and meat). Here is my meatless version:
- 1 cup soybeans, soaked 4 hours
- 2-inch strip kombu seaweed
- 1/2 bitter-gourd
- 1/4 section salted vegetable, rinsed
- 1 medium carrot
- 2 small or 1 large leek
- 5 cups water
- 3 cups unsweetened soy milk
- salt to taste
Cook soybeans with kombu. Boil vigorously in water for 15 minutes, reduce fire to medium and cook another 45 minutes or longer until soft.
Cut bitter-gourd into large chunks, carrot and kombu into thin slices, leek and salted vegetables into medium slices. Add vegetables and soy milk, bring to the boil.
If necessary, depending on how well you have rinsed the salted vegetables, add salt to taste. Cook another 15 minutes.