My mom is not a fan of long and complicated recipes as she doesn't like stocking ingredients that are used only once in a blue moon. Hence the food she whipped up are usually simple and straightforward - just like this Green Bean Soup that I'm sharing today - only 3 ingredients are needed! (Okay, 4 if you count in the water...)
Green bean, or more commonly known as mung bean, is an important and popular ingredient in Asian cuisine in both sweet and asvoury applications. The beans can be cooked whole or split, ground into a paste or powder before they are mixed with other ingredients, have the starch extracted to make the transparent glass noodles (my absolute favourite in Thai salads) and even germinated to grow bean sprouts. Isn't it amazing how one small bean can bring so much wonders?
My mom makes Green Bean Soup whenever we are getting heaty. Green bean soup has a cooling property which cools our bodies down to keep our body balanced and healthy. Heatiness and coldness are Traditional Chinese Medicine terms that describe the factors that trigger certain types of illnesses. When one eats too much heaty food, like deep-fried food, durians or chocolate, or when the weather is extremely hot, it can cause ailments such as cough with sticky phlegm. On the other hand, coldness cause ailments such as aching joints and fatigue. (Read more about heatiness and coldness here.)
My mom makes her Green Bean Soup very simply with only three ingredients. Pandan is added for flavour but if you can't get it it's okay to omit them. Many people make their Green Bean Soup with caster sugar or rock sugar but my mom uses black sugar. This sugar is known as hei tang (黑糖) in Chinese, which literally means black sugar in English. It's actually a type of dark brown sugar that probably contains more molasses than regular dark brown sugar - hence the really deep, dark colour.
Apparently black sugar contains more nutrients and minerals, like iron and calcium, but I cannot be sure if it's really healthier/more nutritional to eat this type of sugar. Black sugar is more molasses-y, which adds more flavour to the soup and that's the type of Green Bean Soup that I'm used to eating. Black sugar is sold in blocks or in powder form like the one shown in the photo above, and should be available in Asian supermarkets. If you can't get hold of any, dark brown sugar will work well too.
Making this Green Bean Soup is not difficult as it's a dump-all-in-one-pot kind of recipe. However, do note that the beans have a tendency to boil over - so one method that my mom always use is to add a ceramic spoon into the pot with the rest of the ingredients and cook together. The ceramic spoon allows the liquid to boil more smoothly and less likely to boil over. Apparently it also allows the beans to cook faster (though I haven't really experiment on this yet). For me, I used a simpler method - by using a larger pot. 😛
Mom's 3-Ingredient Green Bean Soup [绿豆汤]
- Place green beans, water and pandan leaves in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until the beans are soft and start to break down.
- Remove from heat and stir in dark brown sugar to taste. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold.
- The beans have a tendency to boil over, so try to use a larger pot - for me, I used a 2-litre pot to cook the green bean soup. If you don't have a larger pot, place a ceramic spoon in the pot together with the rest of the ingredients and cook together. Do still keep a close eye on the pot and leave the lid ajar if necessary while simmering so that the soup doesn't boil over.
- Desserts tend to taste less sweet when they are hot or cold, so depends on whether you are serving the soup hot, warm, room temperature or cold, the amount of sugar added will need to be adjusted.
- Leftover soup can be frozen in popsicle moulds to make a tasty treat!