A few days before Chinese New Year, I brought red bean sticky rice cake  for my friends at the restaurant to try. “What is it?” one of the servers asked. “Bean cake,” K told them. “Hmm, is this eaten with anything else- ice cream or something?” S asked. “It tastes….innnnnteresting…”

1) Sweet bean taste (and weaker bean taste, too, because this was a store-bought cake, not the one I made) and 2) Rice in dessert made for some disappointments in taste and texture department from these French cuisiners. Oops! Needless to say, they were not fans. I later told my mom on the phone about this funny cultural exchange, and we talked about the differences in Western and Eastern palates.

It’s funny how different cultures think about different ingredients. For beans, Western cuisine and Eastern cuisine have completely different takes on it!

When I think of beans with a Western brain, I think of salt: chili, hummus, rice and beans, split pea soup, and salad.
When I think of beans with an Eastern mindset, I think of both salt and sugar: tofu, soy sauce, soymilk pudding, red bean paste (豆沙), Vietnamese 三色冰 or Che Ba Mau, red bean soup, mung bean soup, etc.

But, please stay with me on this beany journey- learn to appreciate both the savory and sweet applications of our legume friends!

‘Mung bean’ is the more appealing translation of the Chinese word lv dou (綠豆). Lv dou actually translates to ‘green bean,’ just like adzuki bean is another word for red bean. I’m sure people would be gagging if they heard green bean soup as a dessert, as a picture of the lovely string bean would first pop up in their minds.

If the taro version is the ‘original’ 西米露, then allow me to call this its mung bean cousin.
I was tempted to add a pinch of salt, after thinking of how salt is so smartly applied in the famous Thai dessert of mango sticky rice, but feel free to include or exclude that if you wish. I don’t think Chinese people ever add salt to desserts, so I guess this is my take on this one.
Also, I’m not sure if 綠豆西米露 is the official correct name for this, but it’s the way I thought to differentiate it from its popular taro counterpart. Bon appétit!

綠豆西米露 tapioca pudding
Pre-coconut milk…post coconut milk looks kind of funky! :d

lv dou xi mi lu
Mung Bean Tapioca Soup

1/2 cup mung beans
6 cups water
3 Tbsp tapioca
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
A pinch of salt (optional)

1) Rinse and pick through mung beans for rocks or sand or intruders. Dump the rinsing water.

2) Add water to mung beans, bring to a boil, and simmer for 40-45 minutes, until the beans have split and gotten tender.

3) Bring the beans back to a boil and add tapioca while stirring constantly. Cook tapioca: pick a method!
a): Cover the pot, turn the heat off, walk away and the tapioca will cook itself with the residual heat. We have an electric stove, and the tapioca was completely cooked after 18 minutes.
b) If you have a gas stove, you may choose to simmer the tapioca for 2-3 minutes after it boils, then proceed to cover the lid, turn the heat off, and let tapioca stand.
c) Least heat efficient way: simmer the tapioca on low heat for 5-6 minutes until they are translucent.

4) Add the coconut milk, brown sugar, and pinch of salt.

5) Serve while hot/warm!

-Feel free to use red beans instead, if you wish!

-I always choose 3a) or 3b)!