Following a plant-based diet can be intimidating at first, especially given the wide variety of products currently available in the market due to a growing population of informed consumers demanding healthier and more sustainable alternatives to popular food items.
A problem also arises in trying to figure out how to integrate these ingredients into recipes that you and your family will enjoy. Luckily, our neighbors in the east have practiced plant-based eating for over a millennium, and it is deeply embedded in their customs and culture.
Many of the plant products we see on the shelves today have their origins of use in Southeast Asian cuisines, a good example being the Mung bean, from which flour and starch can be derived.
Mung bean starch is derived from the straining of mung bean paste, such that only the starch is extracted. After solidifying, the starch is completely dried and finely ground to yield a fine white powder that can be used in a variety of recipes. In general, the Mung bean starch will result in a more consistent and firm texture.
Whether you are looking for gluten-free alternatives for your noodles and other recipes that require thickening agents due to health reasons, or simply looking to expand the variety of your plant-based diet, the starch extracted from Mung beans might be a good and healthy alternative to the gluten-rich starches commonly used in western cuisine.
It also has the advantage of being lower calorie compared to other gluten-free starches. Despite this, Mung bean starch should not be considered low-carb or more keto-friendly than other gluten-free plant-based starches as it has a carbohydrate composition comparable to ordinary starches such as potato and corn.
Mung bean starch is widely used in Southeast Asian desserts due to its naturally sweet taste but still scores very low on the glycemic index, meaning it will not trigger a spike in your blood sugar levels.
In addition, the Mung bean jelly made with starch has been considered for centuries in Ancient Chinese medicine as having the cleansing and detoxifying effects commonly associated with the Mung bean itself.
Is Mung Bean Flour and Mung Bean Starch the Same?
Mung bean flour and Mung bean starch are not the same and should not be used interchangeably when preparing recipes that specifically require one or the other.
Mung Bean Flour is made from finely ground mung beans with their hull removed and beige in color. The flour can be used in the production of bread and pastries.
On the other hand, Mung bean starch is derived from the straining of mung bean paste, such that only the starch is extracted. After solidifying, the starch is completely dried and finely ground to yield a fine white powder that can be used in a variety of recipes.
In general, the Mung bean starch will result in a more consistent and firm texture.
What Is Mung Bean Starch Used For?
Mung Bean Starch is most commonly used in the production of glass noodles, also commonly referred to as bean threads or cellophane noodles.
This type of noodle is transparent and gelatinous in appearance but will harden once it is cooked.
The starch is responsible for making the noodle smooth and stretchy. It is also employed in making mung bean jelly, which may be used in the preparation of sweets or desserts and as a garnishment in more savory foods such as salads, spring rolls, and side dishes.
In addition to classic southeast Asian dishes, Mung bean starch functions as a great thickener for most soups and stews.
Some common dishes that can be made using Mung Bean Starch:
- Dishes containing cellophane noodles such as spring rolls, stir-fries like the Korean Japchae and noodle salads or soups.
- Dishes containing Mung bean jelly such as the chinese dish Liangfen.
- Dumpling wrappers.
- Desserts such as Thai Leum Kleun, Pandan jelly and Mung bean cakes.
Is Mung Bean Starch healthy?
While the Mung bean itself possesses a high nutritional value and is classified as one of the best plant-based protein sources, the processing of the Mung bean in the making of Mung Bean starch removes a lot of the nutritional components, leaving the starch mostly as a carbohydrate source with little to no presence of amino acids and minerals.
In making the starch, fiber, and protein components that make the Mung bean so healthy are lost, along with vitamins and mineral proteins that the bean contains in its role form.
Although nutritional value is lost, Mung bean starch is still a healthy alternative to starch for people who follow a gluten-free diet or need to pay attention to their blood sugar levels and calorie intake, despite having similar carbohydrate composition to other commonly used gluten-free starches.
Mung bean starch is somewhat more expensive than traditional gluten-free starches used in western cuisine.
This is due to being mostly imported and irregularly supplied from southeast Asian countries in addition to being of higher quality in relation to other starches.
For example, an ounce of Mung bean starch costs about twice as much as domestic plant-based starches such as corn and potato starches. It is also less affordable than tapioca starch, its counterpart in Asian cuisine.
Common Gluten-Free Starches Comparison Chart
|Average Cost Per Ounce||$0.69||$0.35||$0.33||$0.53|
|Calories Per One Tablespoon (14 g)||37||47||49||48|
|Nutritional Highlights||Contains trace amounts of iron and calcium||Contains trace amounts of dietary fiber||N/A||Contains trace amounts of iron|
Where Can You Buy Mung Bean Starch
Mung bean starch can be found on Amazon in a variety of brands and sizes.
It can also be found in health food stores like Whole Foods. You are also likely to find it at your local Asian or Indian products stores, but be aware that the names “Mung Bean Flour” and “Mung Bean Starch” are sometimes used interchangeably in Asian product labels.
To make sure you buy the correct product, look for a white powder when buying the starch and a beige powder when buying the flour.
If you already have Mung beans at home that you would like to use, do not want to risk gluten cross-contamination, or simply would like to derive the starch from scratch, an easy-to-follow tutorial on how to extract your own starch from Mung beans can be found on Youtube.