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The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Are the soaking and cooking instructions for dried peas and lentils the same as for beans?

No, on the whole the cooking process is simpler for peas and lentils. Only chickpeas (garbanzos) need soaking. Place them in cold water for 7-8 hours, then change the water. Fast-boil for 15 minutes and low-boil for 45 minutes.

Neither soaking nor fast-boiling is required for cooking the peas and lentils. They will require only low-boiling for the following times: blue boiler peas for 90 minutes; puy lentils for 30-35 minutes; split green or yellow peas for 25-30 minutes; brown lentils for 20-25 minutes; and split red lentils for 10-15 minutes.

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11:09:15 on 11/01/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are canned beans as nutritious as dried ones, and which is more economical to use?

Canning does not reduce the nutritional value of beans but canned beans do cost considerably more than dried varieties. For example, 425 g of canned lima beans will give 250 g drained weight only, while 100 g of dried beans bulks up to the same weight after soaking and cooking.

Dried beans work out at less than a third of the price, but lima and some other beans require long cooking. The time and energy saved by using these beans canned may well justify the additional cost.

Whether you choose canned or dried, beans are a good source of protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. They are low in fat and contain minerals as well as nearly all the vitamins we need.

09:48:01 on 11/01/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do some beans and lentils cook in far less time than is recommended on the pack?

The recommended cooking times often reflect the fact that beans and lentils used to be stored for long periods before being cooked. This made them very dry and hard. Packets now feature 'use-by' dates, so the dried beans and lentils may become tender in a shorter cooking time, especially if you follow these guidelines.

To low-boil beans, cook them at a boil that is low but continuous, not at a simmer. The loss of water in the saucepan through eveporation can be minimized by partially covering the pan with a lid, but as water is bing absorbed by the beans as well, you should be prepared to top up the level with boiling water when necessary.

The scum that rises to the surface during cooking is not dirt but a mixture of proteins and starches. It is best to skim it off, both for the sake of your pans and to prevent the liquid boiling over.

Do not salt dried beans during cooking, or cook them in a liquid containing salted meat for any longer than is necessary. This can toughen their skins and inhibit the swelling and softening of the beans. Acidity also impedes their cooking, so do not add tomato sauces or any other that are acidic until the beans are soft. Herbs and spices may be added early.

The acid to alkaline balance of local water can also affect cooking times. Keep testing the beans in the later stages of cooking.

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07:04:55 on 11/01/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -