More information on Mung Bean Sprouts

Monday, June 30, 2008

First, a bit of clarification. By bean sprouts I am referring to mung bean sprouts, the distinctive plump silver sprouts with two yellowish "horns" at one end and a scraggly tail that come from the sprouted seeds of the mung bean plant.

The Chinese have been growing mung bean sprouts (nga choy or nga choi) for approximately 3,000 years. However, the popularity of bean sprouts in the west is a more recent phenomenon. Many of us first got turned on to sprouts during the health conscious seventies, when we began piling them onto green salads or in tofu burgers. And why not? Not only are bean sprouts high in protein, vitamin C and Folacin, but they are a dieter's dream. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one cup of bean sprouts contains a mere twenty-six calories. They are low in salicylate, a naturally occurring chemical in plants that some individuals have difficulty tolerating. (Aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid). In Chinese medicine bean sprouts are considered to be a yin or cooling food.

Both the texture and taste of mung bean sprouts - crunchy with a delicate hint of sweetness - enhances a number of popular Chinese dishes, from Egg Rolls to stir-fries and salads. In The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson notes that stir-frying bean sprouts releases a protein that isn't available when they are eaten raw. However, to maintain their crisp texture, they shouldn't be stir-fried longer for longer than about thirty seconds.

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