Recipes for Health – Just Add Pulses (Beans) | สูตรอาหารเพื่อสุขภาพอร่อยๆ

Above: Five Bean Thai Larb with Minced Duck. 

I drew a blank – such a rare moment for myself – when asked to name some Thai savouries that use dry beans. I simply could not think of a single Thai dish that features the beans as the main ingredient.

So, this cooking workshop organised by the United States Dry Bean Council is a real eye-opener for me. As the industry’s association, the Council represents the US dry bean growers, processors, exporters and affiliated associations. The US is one of the world’s top dry bean producers, with most of its production coming from the northern hemispheres – from North Dakota and Nebraska to Washington and Oregon State.

Above: Vietnamese Pork and Lentil Stuffed Squid.

‘Dry beans’ are usually dubbed as ‘pulses’; the two words largely are interchangeable. They include dry peas, lentils, chickpeas, red beans and many other luscious looking things such as blackeye, pinto, cranberry, adzuki and pinto (with a close resemblance to Thailand Mae Hong Son’s ‘tiger bean’). While other cuisines such as Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican use a lot of beans in their staples, Thai people’s familiarity of the dry beans are limited to red bean or mung bean stew with rock sugar served as family-style warm desserts.

But the world is changing, and so are people’s perceptions of good food. More animal-loving and health-conscious humans are now seriously cutting back on meats. Some people are deeper, citing the widely suffering environmental impacts of the meat industry, hence their conscious choice to adopt or lean towards the plant-based cuisine. For me, I am all of the above, I used to be an 80-per cent-vegan for close to a year by avoiding meats as much as I could and cooked vegan at home, and found the lightness in my stomach very powerful and invigorating.

This workshop, by introducing beans as an addition or substitute of the typical ingredients, just confirms the fact that one does not have to be full-time plant-based to get healthier while also helping the world. The secret is in the knowledge that you can incorporate some dry beans into your recipes, use it to replace some or all of the meat required, and by that, you are consuming less meat and still have a wonderful, healthy, if not more delicious and fulfilling meal.

Above: Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas and Roasted Peppers. The chickpea sauce is so tasty and awesome. 

Dry Beans are a new Food Trend because they are:

  • Cost-effective with high-quality nutrients, protein, and dietary fibre
  • High in antioxidants and micronutrients
  • Lower glycemic index scores compared to cereals
  • Gluten free
  • Non-GMO. Pulses are planted in annual rotation with other crops, generally alternating with cereal grains like wheat and barley. Pulses produced in the northern sphere of the USA thrive on the native conditions. They flourish in the relatively cool spring weather, relying only on snowmelt and rainfall to provide moisture in the soil.
  • Non-allergen
  • Clean and consistent. Pulse seeds are allowed to dry on the vine during the hot days of summer. And they are harvested dry. Harvested pulses are placed in storage elevators, where fans circulate the air to keep them dry and mould free.
  • Convenient storage. Dry bean can keep for a long time, although you should always buy new season beans. Harvest time is usually from July – September.

Above: Spiced Bean Chips with Red Curry Bean and Mushroom Dip.

While the recipes of many Thai dishes do not originally contain dry bean, the minced duck meat larb (top picture) proves that the addition of five beans (in this case: kidney bean, lentil, chickpea, cannellini beans or navy bean or white bean) fabulously adds to the crunch and the overall taste. The dish is wholesome, tasty and with loads of feel-good elements. A lot less meat, but still with all flavours and some more plus a potent quantity of fat-free protein.

I personally love the warm lentil salad that our group was assigned to make – in the front bowl of the picture below. The lentil, rinsed and cooked to tender, is dressed with a spiced oil (steeped with black mustard seed, cumin seed, dried chillies, curry leaves and onion) before mixing with shredded dried coconut and fresh tomato. The well-rounded flavours also come from cilantro and lime. This is a real hearty and refreshing salad. Perfect as a meal or a midnight snack, too.

Above: Clockwise: Falafel with Smoky Eggplant, Tzatziki, Roasted Red Pepper and Tahini, Warm Lentil Salad with Coconut and Tomato.

Like anything else, cooking involves some trial and errors. And usually, the errors here are not all deadly. 😀 The recipes at the workshop are by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), with the two teaching chefs – Chef Brand Barnes and Chef Gypsy Gifford – the masters of tasty creations. The fact that Chef Gypsy is a fan of Asian foods does not hurt either. The result is we have a folder filled with great recipes that are all very inspiring. Thank you!

Above: The workshop took place at the Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodia in Phnom Penh with the cooking demonstration and recipes by the Culinary Institute of Americal (CIA) and the United States Dry Bean Council and USDA. The last picture on the right corner is our team from Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. 

Cooking dry bean takes some planning, however, because most of the produce needs to be soaked and cooked prior to your meal. Some dry beans such as lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked, though they still take hours to cook. For those in a hurry, a pressure cooker can be handy to save the day. 😀

Pro Tips. 1. Always use unsalted water to cook pulses because salt toughens the legumes during the cooking. 2. Acidic ingredients such as tomatoes slow down the cooking, so add them late in the cooking process. 3. Pulses get softer the longer they cook, adjust your cooking time to suit each recipe. For more pulses cooking guidelines, visit Cooking with Pulses.

Above: At last, a group picture with everyone in it. Participants include media, bloggers and traders from Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. The workshop was organised by the United States Dry Bean Council, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodia.

Above: This and that between the workshop. Phnom Penh is one of my favourite cities. Read more about my Phnom Penh experiences, their food, their precious assets and Raffles Hote Le Royal here.

For more information about the US Pulses in Thailand, follow their Facebook here. FOR Information about the US pulses, visit their website here.  all are worth exploring. 😀


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