Mongo: Mung Beans with Spinach and Tomatoes

Mongo - Fillipino mung bean dahl with tomatoes and spinach

Today is Food Revolution Day, a global forum initiated by Jamie Oliver to celebrate the cooking and sharing of food. Food and cooking are some of the most fundamental ways we have of sharing and connecting as humans and it’s vital we pass this knowledge on to our children and the future generations.

My contribution to Food Revolution Day is a simple Filipino dish: Mongo, a kind of whole mung bean dahl, seasoned with an exuberant mix of onions, half-crushed cloves of garlic, tomatoes, whole spinach leaves and lime juice, which is served with rice, a drizzle olive oil and more lime juice squeezed on top.  There’s no complex cooking techniques or ingredients and what better way could there be to celebrate the joys of home cooking with this simple vegetarian dish – earthy soul food that is peasant cooking at its best.

Mongo - Filipino mung bean dahl with tomatoes, spinach and lime

This recipe comes from one of my most battered and used cookbook bibles – Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. When I became a vegetarian, I poured over this book, studied each recipe and literally devoured its contents. It’s battered, beaten, food splattered and almost falling apart, but I love it and still use it regularly. Like all Jaffrey’s books, it’s both scholarly and imbued with a joyous curiosity for global food traditions.

Here it is: Mongo – all the way from Sydney, Australia via Madhur Jaffrey and the Philippines.

Let’s all get cooking again.

Mongo - Filipino mung bean dahl with tomatoes, spinach and lime

Mongo: Mung beans with spinach and tomatoes

  • 180 grams (6 ounces) whole mung beans
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 7 cloves, garlic peeled and lightly mashed
  • 2 medium sized onions, peeled and chopped
  • 340 grams (¾ pound) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 225grams (½ pound) tender spinach leaves well washed and separated
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1 lime cut into wedges
  • Extra olive oil for drizzling (optional)
  1. Pick over beans. Wash in several changes of water, then drain.
  2. Soak beans overnight or use this quick soak technique.
  3. Place beans in a 2 litre (2 quart) pot, cover with 1 litre (1 quart) of water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for two minutes, turn off heat and let sit covered for 1 hour. Bring beans to boil and simmer for 1½ hours until beans are tender and slightly mushy. Stir gently during the last half hour of cooking to prevent sticking, add more water only if necessary and make sure you don’t add too much, otherwise the stew will be too soupy.
  4. Heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When heated put in the garlic and fry until garlic turns golden, then add onions and fry until translucent.
  5. Add tomatoes, fry for 5–6 minutes until tomatoes start to catch and break down.
  6. Add the mung beans; simmer for 5–10 minutes until the flavours meld.
  7. Just before serving, add spinach, salt, black pepper and 1 tablespoon of lime juice.
  8. Stir and simmer until spinach has melted down and cooked.
  9. Serve with rice, extra olive oil to drizzle and wedges of lime to squeeze over the top.

Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free

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