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the dish that launched my restaurant

Philippine Mung Beans in Coconut Milk, with David's dosas

Philippine Mung Beans in Coconut Milk, with David's dosas

When I was learning how to be a vegetarian, I bought a bunch of cookbooks. I tried so many recipes.  This one, from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, was the first that made me believe I could not only be vegetarian, but vegan (which I am not anymore, but I try–sometimes). The secret is coconut milk, which makes a creamy, delicious, hearty meal, without relying on meat or butter or cream.

When my ex convinced me to help him open a vegetarian restaurant with him in Puerto Rico (a story for another day), this was the first thing I put on our menu. And at our opening night party, on my birthday (three years ago now!) I made a huge batch and served it to all our guests. We kept it on the menu every day after that because it’s that good.

I hadn’t made it in a long time, until today. My friend David brought over batter to make dosas, then sauteed some onions and potatoes, and layered in some coconut plum chutney. I made the mung beans, with the spicy sambal kechap that totally makes it sing.

(i hope you’re ok with this Moosewood!)

Prep: Soak 1 1/2 cup of mung beans for a few hours. Or even better, soak them, sprout them a few days, and then use them in the recipe. If you don’t have the luxury of time, cook the mung beans in a pot of water until they’re soft. It takes about an hour.

Finely dice a large onion

peel and grate and then mince two tablespoons of fresh ginger root

mince 1 jalapeno

mince 6 or more cloves of garlic

wash and chop 2 cups of bitter greens (kale, arugula, mustard, or even spinach)

also needed: salt, soy sauce, 1 can of coconut milk

Heat two teaspoons of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. When the onion is soft and translucent, add the ginger, garlic, and jalapeno pepper and simmer for several minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer for five minutes.

Add the mung beans, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and the greens and cook until the greens wilt.

Meanwhile, make the Sambal Kechap. It’s the key.

Sambal Kechap: 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 small clove of garlic, minced, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried hot pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon of molasses. Mix and let the flavors marry.

Serve the mung beans over rice, and add Sambal Kechap to taste.

I’ll have to ask David for the dosa recipe. It was super yummy.

Spicy hot, satisfying, and comforting enough to allow us to talk about all kinds of deep things that were painful, but in the end, I came away being grateful to be alive.

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