Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Molagushyam ( Roasted Mung Bean, Green Banana, And Taro Root Stew)

Molagushyam is another classic Kerala stew that we adored as children. Although it does not sport an impressive list of herbs or spices, it is simply divine and satisfying. I have only seen it served for family meals and never at any formal occasions. It definitely belongs in the homey, comfort food category.

It is one of Amma's favorite dishes too; she would forgo the traditional rice in favor of enjoying a little more molagushyam! I remember that although she preferred using the Indian 'thali' or stainless steel plate instead of porcelain plates or bowls in general, she would bring out the wide soup bowls with a big smile to serve the molagushyam :).

According to Ayur Veda, mung beans are restorative and strength building. Mung bean, especially the split yellow dal, generally leads the list of the "pathiam" or convalescent foods which are the traditional get-well foods which are easy to digest and nutritious. Mung beans provide high quality nutrition with great taste and easy digestibility especially for people recovering from an illness. Beans are low in fat but high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble), good sources of protein, B vitamins, Iron, and other trace minerals.

Unlike other plants, beans also enrich the very soil they grow in by a process called nitrogen-fixing whereby the bacteria present in the bean plants pull out nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix it in the soil so that it is available to subsequent crops grown at that same site. I remember that my Thatha (grandfather) used this principle to do crop rotations to enrich the soil; he would plow the old bean plants which he called "green manure" into the soil after they were finished to start the planting cycle all anew. We got wonderful beans to eat and fertile soil too for future crops - all without the use of synthetic fertilizers which are harsh on the environment. Very Earth-friendly indeed!

Caveat: Do remember that the taro (Chembu/Cheppan kizhangu in Malayalam/Tamil, Arbi in Hindi) must be well cooked until soft. See note of caution about taro/arbi in Puli Kuthi Poduthul.


1 cup Whole Mung Beans
2 Moringa Pods (Indian Drumsticks) Optional
1 unripe green Plantain Banana
4 to 6  mediumTaro roots (Arbi) (Colocasia esculenta)
1 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Salt or to taste
1 or 2 Dry Red Chilies
1 Tbsp Whole Black Pepper or to taste
1 Tbsp Whole Cumin Seeds
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves
1 Tsp Coconut Oil or Creamed Coconut


Sort the beans to remove any rocks or other debris. Lightly roast the mung beans without any oil in a skillet constantly stirring until just fragrant; cool. Wash well when cool and place in a large heavy bottomed pot with fresh water to cover; break the dry red chilies in half and shake out and discard the seeds and drop them into the pot. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer until soft (about 40 minutes on stove top). 

 Alternately cook the beans in a pressure cooker according to manufacturer's directions; usually it takes about 15 minutes or so.

Wash and dry the vegetables. Peel only the outer green skin of the banana; cut into half or quarters lengthwise and slice diagonally at 1" intervals. Peel the arbi roots and cut in half so the pieces are approximately the same size as the banana pieces. Trim the ends of the moringa pods and cut them into 2" long pieces.

Add the vegetables, the turmeric, and salt to the soft mung beans and simmer covered until the vegetables are almost tender (about 20 minutes).

Grind the pepper and cumin to a fine powder and sprinkle over the beans and veggies. Simmer another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Crush the curry leaves in your hand by squeezing them to release their aroma and place on top of the molagushyam. Pour the coconut oil on top and cover immediately. Let sit for 10 minutes for the flavors to develop.

Serve hot on its own, over plain hot rice, with chapatis or as desired.

Variation: Other mild vegetables such as the yard long beans or zucchini may be added to the molagushyam along with the cumin and pepper and simmered until tender. In Kerala, a true yam called Chenai also is a main ingredient.

Note: The moringa pods are eaten in a similar fashion as artichoke leaves; gently squeeze the pieces to open up into 3 sections, bite firmly onto one section at a time and then scrape off the flesh by pulling between your teeth while firmly holding on with your fingers - it is a lot easier to do than describe.


Andrea Frazer said...

Stop it! YOu're making me hungry!

Geetha said...

Hi Mama P: Did anyone tell you that you are just too cute :)? I will just have to bring you some tastes of some of the stuff and then tell me what you think. Deal?