The age old question vegetarians and vegans get asked:
As a vegetarian of two years, I can attest to the diverse sources of non-animal protein we have access to - especially from the legume family, which include beans, lentils and peas.
On that note, say hello to a vital member of the legume family: mung beans! Highly valuable to South Asia, these beans are incredibly rich in protein (20-24% of the daily value) and iron (6 mg/100g). With this high dose of iron, anemia is significantly reduced among pregnant women and children who are most susceptible to the disease in South Asia (Shanmugasundaram, Singh, & Sekhon, 2004). Mung beans also add nitrogen to soil, making it's cultivation in South Asia highly beneficial because farmers don't have to rely on man made fertilizers to ensure the nutritional quality of their soil (Shanmugasundaram, et al., 2004).
Can I get a "what what" for mung beans! (Apparently sprouted beans means throwing it back to Jay-Z from the 90s) ...
My mom tells me this dish is a Tamil staple, which reminded me of the skillfully crafted cookbook: "Handmade". This post seemed like an appropriate opportunity to rave about this book, so here goes:
Palmera Projects is a Sydney-based, non-profit organization that helps establish micro-businesses throughout rural villages, supporting local economies to thrive. They published this beautifully photographed cookbook that includes detailed explanations of the stories and recipes of 34 Tamil women from Sri Lanka. A super cool fact is that 100% of the proceeds go back to these women who have been working relentlessly to support themselves and their families, despite the adversities presented by the civil war. I love that this organization supports these women in a manner that doesn't take away from their roots and productivity.
So often, relief organizations transport rice and corn in bulk from North America, and continue to do so even after the area in need no longer requires any relief. Local people are forced to live on a nutrition-less diet and many of the local farmers take a hit economically because the agriculture coming in is cheaper (Tahri, 2004). However genuine the intentions, economical support from international aid can't just stop there. The end simply does not justify the means.
"During the war in Vanni, we didn't have access to a lot of key ingredients. So the kinds of food we cooked depended on what was already being produced. For example we were able to make puttu using rice flour because rice was being produced in Vanni" (Handmade, 2015). My mom would tell me stories about relying on puttu (steamed rice flour) and sambal (chili-coconut dip of sorts) for days on end when there was a shortage of food due to the war. As a kid, I brushed it off. But now, I always find myself needing to go to the grocery store for a few missing ingredients. So it's awe-inspiring to me, to appreciate the incredible dishes these women make out of the minimal resources they have in their villages.
My New Year's Resolution: optimize the items and foods I have at home for making dishes and photographing them. I definitely have one too many bowls and mason jars in my cabinet!
Serves: 3 Time: 50 minutes
1 cup dried green whole mung beans
2.5 cups water
1/2 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp crushed palm jaggery*
1. Rinse the beans thoroughly.
2. In a pot, boil the water. Lower the heat and let the beans cook covered for 40 minutes.*
3. Melt the palm jaggery with some hot water. Mix the palm jaggery and shredded coconut into the beans, smashing the beans with the back of a spoon.
First of all, it's okay if there's still some water, the beans will soak everything up as it sits on the stove.
Palm jaggery (or Karupatti as it's called in Tamil) - the brown masses that appear in this article's feature picture, is extracted from palm trees, whereby water is evaporated from the palm syrup, resulting in this unrefined natural sweetener. In an anthropological study of Tamilnadu's Kattunayakan tribe and their ethno-medicinal practices, palm jaggery is often mixed with various herbs and plants to successfully treat different diseases (Amuthavalluvan, 2011). For instance, palm jaggery is mixed with the juices of ginger, radish and lemon and milk to relieve vomiting, indigestion and a lack of appetite (Amuthavalluvan, 2011). Even though whenever I feel any physiological discomfort, my hand instinctively reaches for a bottle of Advil. However, having grown up in a Tamil household, I can attest to the efficiency of these traditional means of healing (albeit some of these concoctions can taste absolutely vile). Palm jaggery is an amazing nutritionally dense natural sweetener. It can usually be found in South Asian stores. If not, Amazon always comes to the rescue!
2015. Handmade. Sydney, AU: Palmera Projects.
Amuthavalluvan, V. (2011). Ethno medicinal practices and traditional healing system of Kattunayakan in Tamilnadu: An anthropological study. International Multidisciplinary Research Journal, 1(7), 47-51.
Shanmugasundaram, S., Singh, G., & Sekhon, H.S. 2004. Role of mung bean in Asian farming systems and relevance of coordinated research and development programs in Asia. In C.L.L. Gowda & S. Pande (Eds.), Role of legume in crop diversification and poverty reduction in Asia (pp. 194-203). Patancheru, IN: ICRISAT.
Tahri, J.E. (Director). (2004). The price of aid (Motion picture). Brooklyn, NY: Icarus Films.