Ryan Tatsumoto
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

I’m not sure how many of you remember that science experiment from elementary school where the teacher placed these little green seeds on a tray lined with wet paper towels and in a couple of days, those seeds sprouted white stalks. Okay, maybe my elementary school memories predate yours by several decades but back then, I never knew what those green seeds were or what eventually sprouted from them.

I later learned that those small green seeds were mung beans. I wondered why bean sprouts weren’t called mung sprouts since they came from mung beans. Anyway, bean sprouts weren’t part of the usual Tatsumoto diet as Mom occasionally prepared them as a vegetable side dish by boiling them with watercress and serving it with a splash of shoyu. When I started my nutrition studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, found that along with a good dose of fiber, bean sprouts also provided the same amount of protein as the un-germinated bean with one cup supplying three grams of protein, two grams of fiber along with Vitamin C, iron and calcium and just 31 calories.

Bean sprouts are also a favorable addition to local-style chow fun. My first exposure was at the annual bon dances in Wailuku. Because Mom hails from Wailuku, we always took our annual summer vacation on Maui right in the midst of obon season and several Hongwanji would sell grilled corn, yakitori chicken, shave ice and chow fun that was served in the conical shave ice cups. I’m not sure if I enjoyed consuming something not normally consumed from a shave ice cup or the chow fun itself. Closer to home, you might still find chow fun among the okazu on a Grace’s Drive Inn plate lunch or a Megumi’s bento.

I will confess that I can’t eat bean sprouts raw. Something about the grassy quality (the same goes for raw beans and broccoli) so if they’re raw sitting on pho, I’ll make sure I submerge them which is like blanching them but if they are in a summer roll, I’ll give the roll to Ms. S.

Since sampling that first chow fun on Maui, I’ve created my own version preferably using locally raised Pono Pork from Mountain View Farms or 2 Lady Farmers both out of Wai‘anae. I also select the locally created fresh chow fun noodles from Sun Noodle and add a lot more vegetables than versions I initially sampled and enjoyed.

Chow Fun
1 lb. ground pork
Macadamia nut oil
1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
4 6-ounce packages Sun Noodle fresh chow fun noodles
2 9-ounce packages Taro Brand chop suey mix
½ bunch watercress, roughly chopped
¼ to ½ head cabbage, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, large grate
1 small onion, sliced with the grain
Green onion for garnish

Chow fun. (Photos by Ryan Tatsumoto)
Chow fun. (Photos by Ryan Tatsumoto)

In about 1 tablespoon of oil, brown the ground pork and garlic over medium heat. Add all the vegetables and stir fry just until they start wilting (about 5 minutes). Add the chow fun noodles and constantly toss to separate the noodles and incorporate the pork and vegetables. Once everything is incorporated (about another 3 to 5 minutes), add the Memmi to taste and garnish with sliced green onion. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

Before Sprouting

While mung beans are still in hibernation as those little green seeds, they can still be used in salads and soups. I’m sure most of you have sampled that famous Costco quinoa salad at some point in your life. Other than the mix of quinoa and freshly chopped herbs and veggies, you’ll also find whole mung beans in the mix which led me to creating my own version.

Quinoa Salad

1 cup red and white quinoa (mixed)
1/2 cup red lentil
1/2 cup mung beans
kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, more as needed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more as needed
1-2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped Roma tomato
3/4 cup diced English cucumber (1/4-inch dice)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
3/4 cup diced red bell pepper (1/4-inch dice)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup dill pickle juice

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water and drain. Bring 7 cups water to a boil in a 4-quart pot over high heat. Add 3/4 teaspoons salt; add mung beans, reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes then add the quinoa and lentils and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Put the vinegars and lemon juice in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the 1/3 cup olive oil (vinaigrette). Whisk in lemon zest; taste; season with salt, pepper and additional vinegar and lemon juice or olive oil as needed.

Place the cooked and cooled grains in a large serving bowl and toss to break up any clumps. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, bell peppers, cilantro and parsley plus 1/2 cup vinaigrette and pickle juice and toss. Taste and season as needed with more vinaigrette, salt and pepper. This recipe makes 8 to 10 side salad servings.

Serve or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Finally, this traditional Filipino mung bean soup was first created in the Tatsumoto kitchen years ago by none other than the other half, Ms. S. For several months, she had a craving for this soup and made it almost weekly but since then has moved on to other food cravings. However, since I work with a couple of LPNs originally from the Philippines, I’ll occasionally try my hand at creating classic Filipino dishes and have them sample it but asking if my version qualifies me as an honorary Pinoy. And as usual, my soups usually turn into stoups since I like thicker soups. And this Ginisang Munggo contains both the whole green beans and yellow hulled mung beans as well as that new superfood, malunggay or moringa which you can occasionally find at local supermarkets.

Ginisang Munggo (Mung Bean Soup)

3/4 cup each, yellow and green mung beans
4 cups water
2 cups malunggay leaves
2 cups long green beans
2 cups sliced bitter melon
1 thumb size of ginger, slightly smashed
1 medium onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
1 tablespoon shoyu
1 bay leaf

Mung bean sprouts in Taro Brand’s chop suey mix and dried mung beans.
Mung bean sprouts in Taro Brand’s chop suey mix and dried mung beans.

In a cooking pot, pour water and mung beans. Let it simmer for 25-30 minutes or until it becomes soft. Set aside.

In a different pot, add vegetable oil heat on medium-low. Add sliced onion, ginger and chopped garlic. Stir until it turns translucent. Add the green beans, bitter melon and bay leaf. Stir to combine then transfer to the boiled mung bean soup along with the water into the same pot. Mix gently.

Ginisan munggo. Or mung bean soup.
Ginisan munggo. Or mung bean soup.

Season the soup with patis, shoyu, salt and black pepper.

Add the malunggay leaves into the pot. Let it simmer for an additional 5 minutes before turning off the heat.

Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet” (nichibei.org/columns/gochiso-gourmet/).



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