Cause you’re hot then you’re cold

Ingredients for Sweet Green Bean Soup

Ingredients for Sweet Green Bean Soup

No, this is not a post about Katy Perry’s hit song Hot N Cold, but I bet you’ll have that song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.  You’re welcome.

In Chicagoland, we don’t really have Spring or Fall.  We have hot/sticky and Chiberia.  When I first came to Chicago for a summer internship in the early 2000’s, I didn’t even think to pack a winter coat.  It was mid May for goodness sake!  Flowers were supposed to be blooming!  Of course I got the flu that first week, having only a fleece and days of 30 degrees weather with wind-chills of 0.  This year was an exception of course.  Typical of Northern IL, always keeping us on our toes.

In this unpredictable climate it’s always useful to have simple recipes that are versatile and can chill you out or warm you hands. One of my favorite desserts from childhood is Sweet Green Bean Soup (or Sweet Mung Bean Soup).  It not only has the wonderful health benefits of mung beans, but it is refreshing in the summer when eaten cooled and hearty in the winter when eaten hot.  The recipe is the same for both ways of consumption, other than cooling after cooked or eaten right away.  So simple.

Dried Tapioca Pearls / Sago

Dried Tapioca Pearls / Sago

Ok, so it doesn’t sound appetizing to you.  Mung beans, soup, that’s not dessert?!  Trust me, you’ll like it.  Other fun items are added to the soup for texture and of course sugar is too.  You can be creative and even throw in some pearl barley, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, mochi balls, or some orange peels and pandan leaves while it’s cooking to infuse some flavor.

Dried pearl barley

Dried pearl barley

Mung beans have wonderful health benefits and are considered in the “cooling” category of Chinese cuisine (see the science here).  High cholesterol, MUNG BEANS.  Hypertension, MUNG BEANS.  Magnesium deficiency, MUNG BEANS.  Type II diabetes, MUNG BEANS.  Acne, MUNG BEANS.  And lots more.

It is kind of foreign in the US, but has been around in Asian cuisine forever.  You can easily find mung beans and other fun ingredients at any Asian market, even in my tiny closet of an Asian grocery store in the Chicago suburbs.  My favorite way to make the dessert is with small tapioca pearls (or sago), pearl barley, and rock sugar.  Yum Yum!

Sweet Green Bean Soup

Sweet Green Bean Soup

(I cook the sago first)



  1. 1/2 cup sago (adjust the amount of sago to your needs)
  2. water


  1. Boil a small pot of water (fill pot to about 3/4). When the water is boiling, add the sago. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Occasionally stir the sides and bottom of the pot to prevent sticking.
  2. After 10 minutes, the sago will turn partially translucent. Turn off the flame, cover the pot with lid and let it stand for 10 minutes. The sago will continue cooking by itself and turn fully translucent.
  3. Rinse the cooked sago through a sieve and running water to remove the excess starch.
  4. Keep sago in a bowl of water until ready to use (drain through sieve before adding to bean soup).

Sweet Green Bean Soup


  • 1 cup whole green beans
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 medium pot of water, 75% filled
  • 1 big lump of crystal rock sugar or 1/2 cup brown sugar


  1. Wash green beans by rubbing and rinsing a few times.
  2. Place beans in a pot of water. Bring beans and water to a boil over medium fire. Cover with lid.
  3. Briefly wash pearl barley, and place in the pot, when water boiled.
  4. Add rock sugar or brown sugar into boiling water.
  5. Reduce heat to low fire, simmer for about 45 min to 1 hour, or until beans have slightly expanded out of their skins. Texture of beans and barley should be soft and fluffy.
  6. Add cooked tapioca pearls/sago after beans and barley are cooked.
  7. Cool in refrigerator over night or eat while hot.

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