Thursday, October 28, 2004


Cranberry Beans a.k.a. Pearl Beans

Until I met my hubby's family, I had never even heard of or seen this legume. My mother-in-law (henceforth referred to as MIL), is a Cantonese. Cantonese women are famed for their skill in making wholesome, stewed soups (bo tong in the Cantonese dialect). Ok, perhaps this statement better applies to the women of my MIL's generation and before. Most women of my generation are probably more interested in other activities than labouring in the kitchen making bo tong. Case in point: my MIL's daughter, i.e. my sis-in-law, is a clueless cook, and though she grew up on a regular diet of bo tong, she has no idea how to make bo tong.

But I digress. My first contact with cranberry beans was my MIL's superb soup, pearl bean and pork ribs soup. In Singapore, cranberry beans are known as "pearl beans", a literal translation from its Chinese name. They're sold fresh in their pods. Only the beans are used, and they cook very quickly in soup, turning soft in just 20 minutes. Cook them any longer and they turn into mush.

I was curious why this delicious bean has such a low profile here in S'pore. It isn't sold regularly in the market, and even when it is, the quantity is small. Besides soup, I don't know how else it can be cooked. And is it available in other countries? How do people in other cultures prepare it?

Google turned up some references. Apparently, pearl beans are known as "cranberry beans" in the west, and they are referred to by more than one name!

Anyone who has eaten cranberry beans a.k.a. pearl beans, do share your experience with here!

As un-alike as (cranberry) beans in a pod. Look at the pink-and-white marbled beans. Aren't they pretty?

These large beans are slightly smaller than cashew nuts.

My MIL's Pearl Bean & Pork Rib Soup. The beans give a mildly sweet and nutty flavor to the rich meat broth.



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