I like to keep a batch of cooked sweetened mung beans (綠豆; lǔdòu) in my fridge at the ready. It’s cheap, filling, quick and easy to cook, and nutritious with protein and fiber. It also requires no prep when you’re ready to eat it; just scoop it into a bowl cold. It’s my crutch for when I’m too lazy/too hungry to cook yet too virtuous to go buy something, so I’m usually eating it for breakfast, as a between-meal snack, or dessert.
When I want to make it a dessert, I favor a preparation that’s pretty close to an Indonesian dish called bubur kacang hijau, or “burjo” for short. At its most basic, burjo is mung beans boiled with coconut milk and palm sugar. It’s common to add other ingredients including ginger, pandan leaf, and black glutinous rice.
Personally, I prefer it served cold. And I like it on the dry side, meaning without a lot of water and without boiling the beans to oblivion. You can try this preparation, but it might be a stretch to really call it burjo. It’s just a sweet mung bean dessert. You will need:
Mung beans, dry
Sugar or honey
Ginger, peeled and sliced or grated
Rinse the mung beans to remove any dirt. Soak them in water for 2-4 hours. Before cooking, drain and discard the soak water.
Put the beans in a pot. Add enough water to cover them, plus about 1 inch (3 cm) more. Bring it to a boil.
While it is boiling, skim off any scum that gathers at the top. Add sugar or honey to taste (I like it barely sweet). Add the ginger to taste (two or three thick slices will do). Stir occasionally.
Boil until the beans start to get soft, and some start to split and lose their skins. Remove from heat and let the pot sit for about 30 minutes.
Store it in the refrigerator.
When ready to serve, add coconut milk to taste.
– You don’t need measurements because it’s all to taste and it’s very forgiving. Go wild.
– Soaking the mung beans beforehand is optional. I recommend it because it speeds cooking time, and it removes some of the color from the beans, which makes the end result less muddy-looking.
– Pretty much any kind of sugar—white, brown, black, rock, etc.—will work.
A couple of weeks ago I borrowed a friend’s ice cream machine, a basic Cuisinart with freezer bowls, and I’ve been churning out ice cream on the regular. At this point, I have a good feel for the basics and I’ve learned that ice cream is pretty forgiving as far as recipes go. Every batch I made varied widely in ingredients and measurements, and now I don’t feel a need at all to follow anyone else’s recipe. Let the experimenting begin!
My first experimental flavor was toasted milk ice cream with sesame candy and pineapple cakes. There’s an obvious Asian influence here. Many Asian treats, such as milk toast, shaved ice, and bubble tea, incorporate milky flavor. Ice & Vice, which is Asian-owned, lists a “Toasted Milk” flavor on their website that I thought sounded delightful, but pairing it with chocolate ganache sounded a bit boring. Why not keep the Asian influence strong? There are tons of ingredients and flavors from Asian cuisine that have yet to be developed for and applied to ice cream; it’s novel territory that’s begging to be mined. It’s time we innovated beyond green tea and black sesame.
It took about two seconds to decide on what I wanted to mix into this ice cream. First: Taiwanese pineapple cakes. Dense, chewy, sweet pineapple paste covered in a crumbly milk-powder crust, a childhood favorite. Second: sesame candy. Crunchy little slabs made of toasty sesame seeds and sugar. You can get both of these items at any grocery store in Chinatown (I went to Hong Kong Supermarket on Hester Street).
To make the toasted milk in toasted milk ice cream, I toasted non-fat milk powder in the microwave, a technique I learned from Ideas in Food. The authors of that blog said it took them 10 minutes, but I think it took me more like 30 minutes! I also overheated our microwave in the process. Anyway, the end result was perfect, a heap of fragrant crumbs that should be sprinkled on everything.
My go-to ice cream base is whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and eggs. To ensure a really strong milk flavor, I swapped in condensed milk for some of the whole milk. Whole milk and condensed milk have about the same amount of fat, but condensed milk has more non-fat milk solids (the stuff that gives milk its flavor—it’s basically what non-fat milk powder is).
I ended up dumping in the milk powder all at once right before adding the eggs. Next time I make this flavor (and I will definitely be making it again), I’ll make sure to sift out all lumps in the powder, and gradually whisk it in to the rest of the milk earlier in the process. I’ll also decrease the amount of added sugar, since the lactose in milk powder naturally amps up the sweetness.
So there are a few things I would’ve done differently, but I knew I had a winner when the base finished cooking. It turned out a light, warm brown color, with an intensely milky flavor similar to caramel/dulce de leche. “Like Werther’s,” according to E.S.
I chopped up the pineapple cakes into one-centimeter cubes and broke the sesame candy into little pieces. I felt sad when most of the crust on the pineapple cakes sheared off as it was mixed in, but it turned out that the crust was the best part. After a night in the freezer, the pineapple filling was chewy but a bit too hard for comfort, while the crust retained it’s dry, crumbly-yet-rich texture. Next time I might add a milk-powder crust only, or chop the pineapple filling into even smaller pieces. The sesame candy stayed crispy and toasty—such a perfect ice cream mix-in that I’m shocked no one else seems to be adding it to their ice cream.
Well, actually I can guess why scoop shops aren’t adding sesame candy to their ice cream. It’s really difficult to scoop out smoothly! It complemented the ice cream flavor and added awesome crunchy texture, but it’s an ice cream scooper’s nightmare. It also doesn’t make a great photo-op. I have no perfectly round scoops of ice cream to show for my efforts. Oh well. In real life I’m not scooping this stuff into a bowl; I’m eating it straight out of the pint.