Green Mung Bean Curry ‘Usal’ / Hirvya Mugachi Hirvi Usal / हिरव्या मुगाची उसळ

A green curry for a green pulse – the mung bean (pronounced ‘moo-ng’ bean). Boasting an impressive nutritional profile, mung beans (or moong beans) are abundant in protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Leaving the nutrients aside, most people in India consume them regularly for their unique nutty flavour. Whether you’re looking to make dosas or dal, their mild, slightly sweet nutty flavour is guaranteed to add a delicious twist to your food.

The last time I was in India my mum handed me a large bag of homegrown mung beans. I preserved them in my freezer to use throughout the year in the UK. I grew up having them in dals, stir-fries and snacks but more often than not, they were a favourite at home for the delicious curries my mum made with them. 

What is an ‘usal or ‘oosal’?

Now, there is the word ‘curry’ for the rest of the world and there’s ‘usal’ or ‘oosal’ for us Maharashtrians which we swear by. An ‘usal’, pronounced ‘oo-sal’, is a kind of curry, a bit on the runny side and cooked using pulses, ideally after sprouting them.

So inevitably, I decided to sprout the mung beans to enhance their sweet, earthy notes and indelible nutty flavour. I have shared how to sprout pulses here. This general technique works well with mung beans. 

About this recipe

This recipe features sprouted moong beans and a green masala made with fresh coriander leaves, green chillies, garlic and coconut. A tadka of curry leaves, dried red chillies and peanuts adds to the flavour. I call this dish an ‘usal’ because it’s made with plenty of liquid, perfect for ladling over a bed of soft fluffy rice. You can even enjoy it with jowar or sorghum flatbreads, popular in Maharashtra, called ‘bhakri’ 

Sprouting mung beans

Sprouting mung beans not only releases their nutrients, it also enhances their mild, sweet earthy and nutty flavours. For making any usal, sprouting is the first step. Here’s how to sprout pulses. 

When I go to the trouble of sprouting mung beans I make a big batch so that I can cook multiple dishes with this versatile pulse. The beans need to be soaked in lukewarm water overnight or for a minimum of 7-8 hours. Then they’re drained and wrapped in a tightly wrung wet cloth and left for another 20-24 hours in a warm dark place to sprout. Sprouting makes the ‘usal’ more palatable and nutritious.

Ingredients:

Green whole mung lentils: are the main ingredient. They’re a budget-friendly source of plant-based protein. Make sure the mung beans are not infested and free of debris. Usually, shop bought ones don’t need winnowing but if you’re buying straight from a farmer or if they’re homegrown, like mine, then you may need to eye-ball them for stones and chaff. In the UK, you’ll find whole mung beans at most Asian or Indian grocery stores.

Fresh coconut: It adds creaminess to the sauce that helps offset the pungent and spicy flavours of garlic and green chillies. Your local supermarket is your best bet for finding whole fresh coconut or ready-to-use sliced coconut. So is your local Indian grocery store. Failing that, try frozen grated coconut. It goes well in this usal. 

Fresh coriander – is not an optional ingredient in this recipe. It’s cheering on the earthy mung and very much present as supporting cast rather than only making a garnishing guest appearance at the end. It’s the underrated coriander that gives this usal its lush green colour. So please do not scrimp on fresh coriander.  

Whole red peanuts: Ideally use red peanuts with skin. Again, they are easy to find in Indian grocers across the UK. If you can’t find red peanuts, feel free to use skinless salted peanuts found in UK supermarkets.

Curry leaves: can be skipped but you’ll miss their aroma. Frozen or dried curry leaves can be used in a pinch.

Garlic

ginger

Green chillies

Kashmiri dried red chilli

Mustard seeds

Turmeric

Asafoetida – easily found in Asian stores.

Oil: use a neutral-tasting oil like rapeseed or sunflower oil. 

Jaggery: is optional. In some Maharashtrian households, jaggery is used to introduce a new flavour dimension and sometimes to take the edge off the spice. But it’s entirely a personal preference.

How to make ‘hirvya mugachi hirvi usal’ or green moong bean usal?

Mug (pronounced ‘moo-g’) in my mother tongue, Marathi, means Mung or Moong beans. ‘Hirvya mugachi hirvi usal’ literally translates to ‘green mung beans green usal’. ‘Usal’ is a Maharashtrian (usually) runny curry, of sprouted beans, legumes or pulses, like moth beans, peas, horse gram, mung beans etc. Sometimes a dry stir fry of sprouted beans is also called ‘usal’.

‘Hirvya mugachi hirvi usal’ is the name I gave this usal curry because of its vivid lush green colour. I dreamt up this recipe during winter at my home in the UK when I found myself cooking a lot of green dishes, perhaps subconsciously, to overcome the lacklustre sight of leafless beige-coloured trees in my back garden. Adding a pop of green to my food was my way of compensating for the lack of greenery my eyes longed for.

This is a very quick usal. I don’t recommend boiling the sprouted mung beans before cooking the usal. Boiling can make the sprouts go mushy and less nutritious. The beauty of this usal is that the sprouts have a bit of bite when cooked perfectly. Skipping boiling also earns extra brownie points for saving a lot of time.

This green mung bean usal:

  • requires soaking the beans overnight and sprouting the next day
  • comes together in under 30 minutes once the beans are sprouted
  • is rich in nutrients and protein from sprouted mung beans
  • tastes creamy & spicy with the sweet nutty flavour of mung beans
  • is easy to make less spicy by reducing the number of green chillies and increasing the quantity of fresh coconut used
  • is vegan and gluten-free
  • looks appetising with its remarkably lush green colour from fresh coriander
  • is a budget-friendly recipe that brings the best out of a plant-based protein, that is, the whole green mung beans.

Recipe steps

Step 1
200-220g sprouted mung beans are rinsed, drained and kept aside. Take care not to break the tasty shoots. Prepare a masala, we call ‘vatan’ in Marathi, of 7-9 green chillies, 5-6 garlic cloves, ½ inch ginger, about 50-75g fresh coconut and about 30-40g fresh coriander by grinding them together into a fine paste. 

Step 2
Heat about 35-50g rapeseed oil or sunflower oil, in a kadhai or a heavy-bottomed deep pan, over a medium flame. Throw in about 30g (¼ cup) whole peanuts. Immediately follow with a teaspoon of whole mustard seeds. Wait until they splutter. 

Step 3
Then throw in 8-10 curry leaves followed by a couple of dried Kashmiri red chillies. Add a ¼ teaspoon of asafoetida.

Step 4
Tip in the ground green masala from step 1. Add ½ a teaspoon of turmeric powder for wellness and flavour. Resist the urge to add more turmeric to this recipe as we want the colour of this usal to be green. Stir it well for 15 seconds. Don’t let the masala brown or fully cook through at this stage. 

Step 5
Add the sprouted mung beans and stir gently for 30 seconds over a medium flame. Make sure they’re well coated in the green masala. Add 600ml of boiling hot water (from a kettle). You can adjust the water quantity depending on how runny you like your usal. Stir until it comes to a boil. Then put the lid on and simmer over a low to medium flame for about 3-7 minutes.

Step 6
Remove the lid and check if the beans are cooked. If they’re not fully cooked, cover and cook a minute or two longer. Season with salt to taste and optionally, a teaspoon of jaggery. Stir and garnish with chopped fresh coriander. Ladle over steaming hot rice and serve. 

Servings and storage:

This usal (curry) is best enjoyed with hot steamed rice as well as with soft sorghum Maharashtrian flatbreads called ‘bhakri’. All these together make a delicious and filling meal. Include a seasonal salad of choice to go on the side in a thali and you’ll be relishing a nutritious wholesome meal. This combination is regularly served at my parent’s home in India during the hot summer. 

This usal keeps well in the fridge for up to a week as it doesn’t contain tomatoes. Your best bet, should you want to freeze this usal, is to cook the gravy or sauce without the sprouted mung beans and then freeze just the sauce. Season the sprouts with turmeric and steam separately on the day the sauce from the freezer is thawed. Reheat the sauce with freshly steamed sprouts and bring to a boil once. Freeze the gravy in small portions as once thawed it should not be re-frozen

FAQ

Can I use shop-bought ready-to-eat sprouted mung beans?
Of course, you can. But ensure they’re within date and as fresh as they can be. You may want to rinse them before using in this usal.

Do I have to sprout the mung beans for this recipe?
No, you don’t. You can simply soak the dried whole green mung beans overnight in water and cook them the next day. However, you will need to cook them a bit longer in the pan.

Why are you not boiling or steaming the mung beans before cooking in this recipe?
Because that is completely unnecessary and could lead to a mushy usal. This curry is best enjoyed when you can savour each grain of this pulse with the gravy. Secondly, you are likely to lose some of the nutrients if you pre-boil or steam the beans. 

What are the alternatives for fresh coconut?
I would advise against using alternatives for fresh coconut as that may change the flavour of this usal. The creaminess in this usal comes from using fresh coconut. You will get great results by using frozen fresh coconut and better still, with frozen shredded fresh coconut. You can use desiccated coconut if you must, but it’ll have to be ground well with a little water to extract the creaminess this curry needs and it won’t taste quite the same.

Green Mung Bean Curry ‘Usal’ / Hirvya Mugachi Hirvi Usal

Recipe by RieethaaCourse: Main, SidesDifficulty: Easy
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

15

minutes
Total time

30

minutes

A Maharashtrian green curry of sprouted mung beans that is nutritious and full of earthy and nutty flavours of green mung beans.

Ingredients

  • 200g sprouted mung or moong beans

  • 35ml rapeseed oil

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds

  • 30g whole red peanuts

  • 2 whole dried Kashmiri red chillies

  • 8-10 curry leaves

  • ¼ tsp asafoetida

  • ½ tsp turmeric powder

  • 600ml hot water

  • 10g fresh coriander (chopped) to garnish

  • 1 tsp jaggery (optional)

  • salt to taste

  • For the masala
  • 9 green chillies

  • 7 garlic cloves

  • 1 cm ginger

  • 55g shredded or ground fresh coconut

  • 30g fresh coriander (roughly chopped)

  • Equipment
  • Karahi/kadhai or a heavy-bottomed deep pan

  • A ladle or large spoon

Directions

  • Carefully rinse and drain the mung beans and keep aside.
  • Prepare a green masala (or vatan) by grinding all the masala ingredients i.e. the green chillies, garlic, ginger, coconut and fresh coriander together. Keep it aside.
  • Heat the oil in a karahi/kadhai or a heavy-bottomed deep pan, over a medium flame. Throw in the whole peanuts followed by the mustard seeds and let them splutter.
  • Throw in the curry leaves followed by the Kashmiri red chillies. Add the asafoetida.
  • Tip in the ground masala from step 2 and add the turmeric. Stir for 15 seconds ensuring the masala does not brown or overcook.
  • Tip in the sprouted mung beans and stir gently for 30 seconds ensuring they’re well coated with the masala.
  • Pour in the hot water. Stir and bring it to a boil. Put the lid on and simmer over a low to medium flame for about 3-7 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and check if the beans are cooked. If they’re too al dente, cover and cook for a further two minutes. Season with salt. Optionally, add jaggery. Stir and garnish with chopped fresh coriander. Ladle over hot steamed rice for a blissful meal.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • 1. You can use ready-sprouted mung beans from supermarkets if you wish.
  • 2. Step 1 is optional if you’ve sprouted your mung beans at home and they were rinsed well before sprouting in a clean hygienic container. You may want to rinse the sprouts if they’re shop-bought to get rid of the smell and for hygiene. If you do, ensure you don’t snap the delicate shoots whilst rinsing.
  • 3. The masala needs to be finely ground. To enable that, you may want to chop the garlic and fresh coconut into small-sized pieces, if using coconut chunks
  • 4. Ensure the pan or karahi is not too hot whilst frying the green masala otherwise it may turn brown which we don’t want to happen in this recipe.
  • 5. The cooked sprouts are meant to have a bite but without being too al dente. There’s a fine line between too al dente and overcooked mung beans. To help get it right, check the texture regularly after 2-4 minutes.
  • 6. You can adjust the runnyness of this usal to your liking though make sure not to dilute the flavours too much.
  • 7. This usal keeps well in the fridge for up to a week as it doesn’t contain tomatoes. Your best bet, should you want to freeze this usal, is to cook the gravy or sauce without the sprouted mung beans and freeze just the sauce. Season the sprouts with turmeric and steam separately on the day the sauce from the freezer is thawed. Reheat the sauce with freshly steamed sprouts and bring to a boil once. Freeze the gravy in small portions as once thawed it should not be re-frozen.

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If you liked this recipe, you’ll love my moth bean usal called Matkichi Usal / मटकीची उसळ

Matkichi Usal / Moth Bean Usal / मटकीची उसळ

Moth Bean Usal

My matkichi usal is an unashamedly simple rustic dish. It’s made the same way my farming ancestors did, using ingredients they produced themselves, and bringing the best of this nutritious legume and its inherent flavour to the table.


Have you tried my sprouted horse gram ‘usal’ curry?

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