Mung Bean Soup

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the type of mung bean

Recipes for all kinds of dishes often begin with a base of aromatic vegetables and spices cooked in oil or butter, a process that activates the aromatics’ essential oils and releases flavor. But the same technique can be an effective way to finish a dish. In India the common name for such after-flavoring is tarka, and it’s often used with legumes and grains, either stirred in at the end of cooking or passed at the table.

Mung beans come whole or split and hulled in both green and yellow varieties (see Legumes for Enthusiasts), and the form you use will affect the cooking time and, to a lesser degree, the color, texture, and taste. But really, you can’t go wrong.

1 cup mung beans, split or whole, washed and picked over

6 cups vegetable stock or water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

4 small dried red chiles, or more or less to taste

1/2 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds (optional)

1/2 cup chopped scallion

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

01 Put the mung beans and stock into a medium to large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat so that the soup just bubbles, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, an hour or so for whole beans, 40 to 50 minutes for split beans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep hot. (The soup may be made ahead to this point, cooled, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

02 To make the tarka, put the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden and slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the cumin, chiles, and fenugreek if you’re using it. Keep stirring until the spice seeds are fragrant. Add the scallion and cook until soft, about 1 minute more.

03 Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Remove the chiles, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the tarka to the soup in the pot or, if you like, garnish each bowl with a small spoonful and serve.