“How do you cook your beans?” Maybe not the best pick-up line, but this question is an excellent way to get to know someone . . . well, their digestion at least, which according to Ayurveda says a whole lot about a person’s current state and/or dosha. Beans and legumes are a foundational food group in any balanced diet, especially a vegan one, because of their expertly calibrated (by nature of course) combination of carbohydrates and protein. That’s two out of three major nutrient sources combined in a tiny bean! Who could ask for a more perfect food?
If you suffer from digestive upset including bloating, constipation, or a low-diversity microbiome (all falling in the ubiquitous “IBS” category), then you might not 100 percent agree. Having experienced all these conditions myself, I know all too well the fear that can arise when an unfamiliar bean finds its way onto my plate. Thanks to their high fiber content, beans can be just as hard to digest for some as they are easy to digest for others.
And this is why no one knows what to eat!
Here is where Ayurveda steps in in to important ways. The first way is through the concept of eating intuitively—following nature’s cues by choosing seasonal produce, as well as listening to and heeding your body’s acceptance/rejection of foods. Babies are great examples of people who simply don’t stand for things they don’t like or want, and Ayurveda teaches that there’s no reason to go against preferences. That being said, eating too much of one or two of the main flavor groups—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent—can lead to doshic imbalances, so it’s also important to pay attention to strong patterns in cravings and make adjustments accordingly.
The second way is a mindful preparation of the beans themselves. In our age of convenience, it might seem good enough to pop a can of Trader Joe’s Garbanzos for less than your subway ride home. There’s nothing bad about prepared beans, but as it is with most things making them yourself from scratch is better. Starting with dry beans brings us closer to their natural form—always a good place to start (and stay) with our food to access their full nutritional profile. The combination of soaking and cooking a long time offers important assistance to our guts, releasing the enzymes that make them easier to digest as well as literally softening the hard peas so our stomachs work less to break them down. Adding baking soda and asafoetida, a prominent Ayurvedic spice, contribute to this. Don’t be scared of the asafoetida—it’s no coincidence that “fetid” is buried in its name, since it has a rather pungent smell on its own, but when cooked it becomes mellow and smoky. The kombu is an excellent source of trace minerals and vitamins that could be lacking in a vegan diet; it also adds a healthy dose of umami to the beans’ flavor.
- 2 cups soaked chickpeas
- 2 cups water
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp asafoetida
- 1 sheet kombu
- Soak chickpeas in a large bowl in the refrigerator overnight, covered by about 2 inches of water. The beans will grow in size, so make sure you have plenty of space in your bowl.
- Strain and rinse the beans. Add them with the remaining ingredients to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Once the water looks foamy on the top, immediately reduce heat to the lowest setting. If you think, “This is barely even cooking,” you’re at the right setting.
- Cook the beans with the lid slightly ajar for 30 minutes, or until the beans are very soft (nearly falling apart) and the skins are blistering off.
- Strain the beans over a wide bowl to collect the liquid. Remove kombu, chop into small pieces and save for another use.
- Use the beans immediately, or refrigerate in a glass container for up to 1 week. Store liquid in a separate glass jar, or freeze it, to use as a “broth”—it’s perfect as a soup base or a liquid in a creamy dip.