What can we use bean sprouts for? other than in stir-fries? Us you never know what to do with the remaining bean sprouts in a bag and they usually end up composting.
Robin and Catherine, Leatherhead, Surrey
The downside to bean sprouts is that they don’t keep very long. Luckily, that crunchy texture and grassy flavor is welcome in many more dishes than just stir-fries, so there’s still hope for Robin and Catherine. But before we get into that, it might be worth addressing the best way to preserve bean sprouts, to prevent them from ending up in the compost bin prematurely.
“The key is water, so the drier [the beansprouts]better,” says Thuy Diem Pham, author of The Little Viet Kitchen. Bean sprouts are grown in humid conditions where bacteria can grow, so wash them well first, then let them air dry (“for about 10 minutes on a cloth”). Pham then transfers the dried bean sprouts to a cloth-lined container, covers them with another cloth, and seals them. “It sounds tedious, it sounds tedious, but that should buy you at least three days.”
Another way to buy more time is to prepare and freeze them, says Kwoklyn Wan, author of The Complete Chinese Takeaway Cookbook. “Give them a quick stir-fry in a little oil, season with salt and soy, then put them in a container and freeze.” That way, they’ll be ready to go the next time you really want a stir-fry, no need for a new bag.
As the weather gets colder, another easy solution is to use bean sprouts to top soups. “They’re amazing as a filling,” says Pham, who often uses them for a late-night noodle soup. “The heat from the broth partially cooks them, so you still get that crisp, sprouted flavor. Also add some spring onion and cilantro, and… gourmet.
Excess bean sprouts can also be pickled, Wan adds, and eaten with equally hot noodle bowls or rice dishes. “Put them in a bowl, pour over boiling water, leave for 20 seconds, then drain and rinse the bean sprouts under cold water.” Wan then adds some vinegar, salt, sugar, fish sauce, maybe soy, maybe chilies. “They will last a good seven days in the fridge.” Pham is also a fan of pickling, but her method involves placing the bean sprouts in a jar, adding one part sugar, one part salt, two parts vinegar, and enough water to cover them. “Pour all of that into a pot, heat up, then pour the vegetables and vinegar solution back into the jar.” She adjusts the seasoning to taste, then seals and chills overnight, ready to serve with pork or to top sandwiches.
Bean sprouts are also at home in spring rolls and lettuce wraps, or incorporated into salads, which is Pranee Laurillard’s go-to choice. The author of the Giggling Squid Cookbook (out November 3) says, “You can transform any veggie you have into something fancier simply by adding bean sprouts, a teaspoon of sesame oil, a squeeze of lime, and a teaspoon of of miso”. Pham, meanwhile, uses the classic Vietnamese nuoc mam chua sauce (fish sauce, garlic, chili, lime, rice vinegar) to dress up watercress, arugula, cucumber, tomatoes and bean sprouts (well washed). “They’ll soak up all that sauce but stay really cool.”
Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email email@example.com