What are Bean Sprouts? How to Cook Bean Sprouts? 豆芽菜

What are bean sprouts? Are they good for health? How to cook bean sprouts? How to choose? How to clean? Find the answers here.  

When Singaporeans talk about bean sprouts 豆芽 (dou ya), we typically refer to sprouts from green beans 绿豆芽 (lui dou ya), also known as mung beans. As Korean cuisine becomes more popular and common in Singapore, we are gradually introduced to soybean sprouts 黄豆芽 (huang dou ya). 

Both types of bean sprouts are very healthy. They are low in calories; about 23 calories per 100g of sprouts! According to Ruled.me website, their carb count is:

  • Serving Size - 100g
  • Total Carbs - 5.94g
  • Fiber - 1.8g
  • Net Carbs - 4.14g

Yet they pack a punch in the nutrient department. High in protein with many trace minerals and vitamins.

Both are mild tasting, in my opinion. They are relatively easy to prepare. They can be added to a wide variety of dishes. Throw them into soups (my favourite), stir fry them, add them to wraps or savoury pancakes, steam or blanch them for a salad, or juice the mung bean sprouts. 

Mung bean sprouts 绿豆芽 (lui dou ya)

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) green bean sprouts are considered cooling and detoxifying. It helps dispel summer heat and harmonizes the 5 major organs. As natural remedies, it is commonly given for hangovers, discomfort from the summer heat, lack of appetite, and general lethargy.

People with high blood pressure and coronary heart disease can eat it more frequently, especially during the summer months where high temperatures may add additional stress to the body. People with urinary tract infection or experience burning sensation when urinating can also try juicing mung bean sprouts.

Japanese researchers found that serving chives with mung bean sprouts can help constipation amongst the elderly and children. It is also beneficial for people with conditions caused by deficiencies in Vitamin A, B2 and C. 

I am most familiar with mung bean sprouts when growing up. Granny loves to fry them with garlic and chives or dried tofu cubes. She also likes to add them to noodle soup or meatball soup. 

Soybean Sprouts 黄豆芽 (huang dou ya)

I first encountered soybean sprouts in a Korean pickled side dish. Sprouted from soybeans, these are more common in Northeast Asian, especially in Korean cuisine. 

They have large yellow heads and are bigger than mung bean sprouts, which means that they take longer to cook. 

Soybeans benefit greatly from sprouting. Sprouting advocates will tell you that the amount of protein and trace minerals in beans dramatically increases for better absorption after sprouting. It also eliminates potential bloating experienced by some people when they consume legumes.

In the case of soybeans, sprouting breaks down the tough cellular walls and makes the nutrients inside the beans more readily available.

How To Choose Bean Sprouts

In the past, bean sprouts were sold loose and by weight. You buy the amount you want. Now, they are sold in pre-weighted packets. If you can, pick those that are dry and the sprouts are white, firm with no unusual smell. Avoid those with brown spots or are limp. 

Most are sold with both heads and roots intact although I have seen sprouts with both removed. These are, as expected, more expensive because removal is manual. I don’t see how any machine can do that yet. 

To prolong their storage time, remove as much moisture as possible, wrap them up in newspapers or kitchen towels, place them in a ziplock bag and into the refrigerator. They do not keep well. Buy and use them up as soon as possible. 

How To Clean Bean Sprouts?

Bean sprouts bruise and oxidise easily. So it is better to handle them as little as possible. But they do need a thorough wash. 

My family prefers to remove the roots of the bean sprouts and keep the heads. As a child, I used to get the bean sprout duty. 

My granny would lay pieces of old newspapers on the kitchen floor. On top of it sits a mount of bean sprouts, a colander, and me. My task is to remove the roots from the sprouts, place the sprouts into a colander, and the roots onto the newspapers. When all the sprouts are "de-rooted", granny will wash and drain them for use. The roots and the newspapers are wrapped up and thrown away. I must say, it is quite therapeutic. I felt like I "earned" my dinner. 

The video below resembles how I prepare bean sprouts. 

Removing roots is optional. They are perfectly safe to eat. 

I have seen bean sprout dishes where both heads and roots are removed. They are supposed to look like silver needles and many of the dishes have names such as Sitr-fried Silver Needles with Black Fungus 木耳炒银针 (mu er chao yin zhen).

As bean sprouts are grown in a fairly warm and moist environment, they can sometimes feel a bit slimy. A good wash and rinse is important. 

How To Use Bean Sprouts

Bean sprouts are super versatile. They can be used in a wide variety of dishes. 

  1. Add to soups and stews - bean sprouts cook quickly and are a great way to add bulk, crunch and nutrients to soups. Wash the bean sprouts thoroughly before use. Some popular Southeast Asian soup dishes such as laksa soup, prawn noodle soup, and Vietnamese pho noodle soup use bean sprouts.
  2. Fresh in salads or pickled in side dishes. Both the Chinese and Koreans use bean sprouts in refreshing side dishes. The sprouts are blanched or boiled quickly before use. 
  3. Stir-fry with meat, other types of vegetables, noodles or rice. 
  4. Use in fillings for wraps, rolls and dumplings
  5. Use in omelettes and pancakes

 Here is a collection of bean sprout recipes for your consideration. 

Interested in trying your hands at sprouting mung beans or soybeans? Check this post on How to Grow Bean Sprouts out. 

I’ll leave you with this youtube video that documents the growing, cleaning, cooking, and eating of mung bean sprouts. 

Happy Souping, Phoebe