A hearty and humble soup made of nutrient packed mung beans
One of us loves beans; loves to eat them, loves to buy them, and loves to store them in her pantry in pretty glass jars where their various colours, adorable shapes and infinite possibilities can be admired. It was this love of beans, and a commitment to capturing as many of our parents’ recipes as possible, that had us inquire about a soup which we had vague and disturbing memories of. We remembered a childhood where a soup of little green beans was served, and the sadness which it elicited. When we asked our parents about it, they immediately knew what we were talking about. Psilofasola (also called rovitsa) is a Greek soup made of mung beans (pronounced moong) and it is a staple around Kalamata, Messinia, which is near where our parents were raised.
The memory of this mung bean soup was distant because we really
hated it did not like it very much growing up, and so our parents stopped making it. Now, before you start thinking that our parents were progressive and open-minded and allowed their children to dictate meals, remember that we also hated spanakorizo, yet that didn’t stop it from being on the menu almost every week. We suppose that since we enjoyed fakes, and fasolatha, our parents simply turned to those legume based soups, and left psilofasola behind.
Our father was especially happy to be asked about psilofasola. This was a soup that his mother made every few days for her family. Made with ingredients which were easily accessible in the village where our dad was raised, this soup was, and still is, as nutritious and filling as it is affordable. Now we’re so happy to make its acquaintance again because our taste buds have evolved (this soup is actually delicious), and mung beans may be the cutest beans ever!
According to Google, you don’t really need to soak mung beans before cooking them. But, according to our parents, you do. So, we have offered that you should soak your mung beans for at least 2 hours before cooking. This is, after all, our parents’ recipe, so we’re going to stick to their wisdom; they haven’t steered us wrong yet! (But if you prefer to trust Google, go ahead. We won’t be offended, and our parents will never know).
You can make this soup as lemony, or not, as you like. The quantity of lemon juice we have listed in the recipe gives the soup a nice, citrus-y flavour. Feel free to serve your soup with some extra lemon wedges to give people the option of adding more lemon juice if they would like. Also, serve your mung bean soup with lots of fresh bread, because bread is delicious and is great for dipping into the soup broth.
This soup freezes beautifully. If you freeze in individual serving containers, this makes a nutritious and easy take-along lunch. You will then have something delicious to eat mid-day and have the added bonus of telling curious co-workers or co-students that you are eating mung bean soup, a traditional vegan soup from Kalamata. How exotic this humble soup sounds!
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Mung bean soup (ψιλοφάσουλα σούπα)
- 2 cups dry mung beans
- 1 onion, medium
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 tbsp dry oregano
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 6 - 7 cups water
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Rinse your mung beans and pick over any stones or shriveled beans. Rinse and then soak in a bowl of cold water for approximately 2 hours. (See Recipe Notes)
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the finely diced onion, celery and dry oregano. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until the vegetables are softened.
- Drain the mung beans and add them to the pot, along with the water.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook, covered, for 30 - 40 minutes.
- Check your beans for doneness; when done, add the salt, pepper and lemon juice to the soup.