By Sara Moulton
Mung beans have been a staple of the cuisines of India, China, Korea, and Southeast Asia for thousands of years. And with good reason. They are a delicious and healthy source of protein and fiber.
In the U.S., we tend to know them mostly in their sprouted state, and by the rather simple name of “bean sprouts.” But they also are delicious when consumed prior to sprouting, as you would a bean.
For this recipe, inspired by a classic Korean street food, the mung beans are soaked and ground, then combined with other ingredients to form pancakes that are fried. Called bindaetteok in Korea, they can be flavored with scallions, kimchee, even ground pork. The batter is made ahead of time, then shallow-fried and served hot, with or without a dipping sauce.
The resulting pancakes are robust with a crispy exterior and a creamy interior. This recipe calls for ground pork, but you can leave it out to make them vegetarian. You’re also welcome to swap in different vegetables, including shredded raw carrots or sauteed sliced mushrooms, or add some chopped kimchee. (There are all kinds of tasty brands of kimchee at the supermarket these days.)
The frying technique here is very important. The pancakes are cooked in 1/4 inch of vegetable oil. Which is to say, they are shallow-fried, not deep-fried. Even so, you’ll want to choose an oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut, safflower or sunflower. The label will let you know if the oil is appropriate for frying.
Also, the oil must be heated to the right temperature before the batter is added. If it is too cold, the pancakes will absorb the oil and become soggy. If it’s too hot, they’ll brown too quickly and not cook on the inside.
How will you know when the oil is hot enough? It’ll start to shimmer. To test, carefully tip the pan so the oil pools on one side, then dip the handle end of a wooden spoon into it. If the oil is ready, bubbles should rise up immediately. Be careful not to crowd the pan with too many pancakes at a time, which cools down the oil. You want the temperature to remain constant.
After the pancakes are done, they should be drained on paper towels to eliminate any excess oil. You can serve them as quickly as you cook them (just as you would with flapjacks on a Saturday morning), or stash them in a 200 F oven to keep warm. These pancakes are delicious all by themselves, but the dipping sauce — soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil — puts them over the top. (end)
Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”