Ottolenghi-Inspired Spiced Mung Beans with Caramelized Onion + Roasted Kabocha

Wednesday night special. Mung beans with caramelized onion and lots of spice, tender wedges of kabocha squash, pan-roasted grape tomatoes: a meal like this is pretty much food nirvana for me. As I bathed in the light of my oh-so-sophisticated creation, Mr Yogi strolled into the kitchen and at a glance proclaimed my beloved to be A Hippie Salad.

Fine, call my salad a hippie; I’m okay with that. I recognize that mung beans are an iconic hippie relic of the 1970s. They’re still delicious. Maybe I’m a hippie, or a hippie wanna-be. Maybe I wear a chakra necklace, slather on coconut oil as a moisturizer, and (twice) attempted to convert over to the no-poo shampoo method (didn’t work for me, though; subtract three hippie points). I’m in the process of owning my unique brand of crazy these days, hippie tendencies, mung beans, and all.

I usually cook with whole mung beans from the bulk bins (bonus hippie points, that one!), soaking them for a few hours before cooking. Recently, though, I discovered these slightly sprouted and dried green mung beans at Fairway and decided to give them a try. As with most grains and legumes, sprouting increases nutrient availability and speeds cooking time, making these guys ideal for a weeknight dinner with no advance planning required. Boiling the beans for 5 minutes, then turning off the heat and letting them sit for 8 minutes or so, yields a nutty, fresh-tasting bean with a pleasantly snappy bite.
Researching mung bean preparations online, I landed upon an Ottolenghi recipe for carrot-mung bean salad published in The Guardian. Super-simple, spiced with cumin, fennel, and caraway seeds, and blessed by Sir Yotam himself, it was the one. I nixed the carrots, opting instead to serve the beans over wedges of bright-orange kabocha squash, and adding caramelized onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno to the mix along with lusciously shriveled orbs of sweet-tart, pan-seared grape tomatoes for a bright finish.
Crazy for kabocha! With dense, sweet flesh, and beautiful green skin that is thin and tender, so it doesn’t need to be peeled, this squash gets two thumbs up for easy weeknight dinner prep. 

Plated and ready to e.a.t. In the interest of keepin’ it real…an of-the-moment iphone pic snapped before devouring this at 10 pm on a Wednesday night. Workweek dinner, nyc style.
(Other pics taken the next morning, with the great benefit of natural light 🙂

Spiced Mung Beans with Caramelized Onion + Roasted Kabocha
Serves 4

2-pound kabocha squash, stem and base trimmed, halved lengthwise, and seeds removed; halves cut into 1-inch wedges (can substitute buttercup or acorn squash)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)
1 garlic clove, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced (including seeds)
1 cup sprouted and dried mung beans (or whole dried mung beans, soaked in water for 6 to 8 hours and drained)
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (or to taste)
zest and juice of 1 lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro (plus a few leaves for garnish)
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cups baby greens (spinach, arugula, etc)
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds, to garnish (optional)

olive oil

sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400F.

Kabocha: In a large bowl combine kabocha squash, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss to coat the squash. Transfer squash to a baking sheet, arranging the wedges in a single layer. Cook until tender and lightly browned around the edges, about 40 minutes, turning pieces halfway through.

Mung beans: Bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt and mung beans. Boil for 5 minutes, turn off heat and let sit for about 8 minutes, covered, until the beans are tender but retain some bite. (If using whole, soaked mung beans, you may need to cook the beans longer. Test as you go.) Drain excess water and set beans aside.

Caramelized onions: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add cumin, caraway, and fennel seeds, stirring for a few minutes until they start to pop. Add onion and a pinch of salt; cook until the onion softens and turns a deep brown color, 12 to 15 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno, and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl.

Pan-roasted tomatoes: After cooking onion mixture, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet and cook the tomatoes, with a pinch of salt, over medium-high heat until they burst and caramelize, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Putting it together: While the tomatoes cook, add the mung beans to the onion mixture. Add chile flakes, lemon zest and juice, and cilantro, tossing gently to combine. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

To serve: arrange 3 or 4 kabocha wedges on each plate; place a small handful of greens in the center. Place a large scoop (about 1/2 cup) of the mung bean mixture atop the greens. Garnish with roasted tomatoes, toasted nuts or seeds, cilantro leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.

6 thoughts on “Ottolenghi-Inspired Spiced Mung Beans with Caramelized Onion + Roasted Kabocha

  1. You just pushed all of my food buttons at once with this recipe! YUMMO! No sprouted mung beans here in Northern Tasmania (where tofu is extreme food 😉 ) but that never stopped me before…I will just par sprout them and consider this dinner futures 🙂


  2. Haha, that's great to hear! Par-sprouting sounds like the way to go; just soaking for a few hours before cooking should yield similar results. Honored that my little recipe might be making into your Northern Tasmanian kitchen 😀


  3. Aw, thanks, Janet! How funny that you discovered the same recipe. I love his spice combinations. Just bought Plenty and Jerusalem recently and drooling over the gorgeous photos 😉


  4. Hi Nancy, this post is great—made me laugh, having come up through the ranks of hippiedom. I do believe that it has its own particular brand of cuisine.Recently we made the hippie classic of steamed veggies over brown rice, doused in tamari butter and nutritional yeast. It was good, and reminded me of how I ate a long time ago.

    Your food is much more vibrantly seasoned.


  5. Thanks, Nancy – glad you got a chuckle out of it 🙂 Personally, I think brown rice and veggies never gets old. A hippie classic for a reason. And your tamari butter sounds amazing. Have a lovely weekend.


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