May 28, 2021

Chinese Bean Sprout Salad Cold Dish 冷拌芽菜

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Here's another deliciously chill veggie dish for a hot summer's meal.  We discovered this unusual vegetable dish in the wonderful The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, one of our favorite Chinese cookbooks as our dear readers will already know.  This seemly very simple and humble vegetable cold dish knocked our socks off the first time we tried it and we've been making this simple dish often ever since.  

It was not so much the very yummilicious taste and texture of this dish, but rather the fact that the taste and texture of this vegetarian dish is somehow exactly like that of the exotic Chinese Jellyfish Salad!!  Yes, we're talking about a dish made from real jellyfish and it's quite the seafood treat as you can see if you check our Jellyfish Salad 涼拌海蜇 recipe.  

So, if you've interested in a vegetarian version of Chinese jellyfish salad or just would like to explore a new, simple and delicious veggie dish,  try out this Bean Sprout Salad Cold Dish, a refreshing cold dish of crunchy yet tender vegetables marinated to chilly perfection in a light sweet and sour dressing.

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The star ingredient of this dish is the mung bean sprout, also known as green bean sprout and in Chinese as 綠豆芽 and 芽菜.  The mung bean sprout is crisp and has a slightly sweet, slightly nutty flavor.

Don't confuse the mung bean with soybean sprouts 黃豆芽/大荳芽 which look similar but are thicker and have a large yellow hard head at the top of the sprout.  Soybeans are more suitable for stir fries.  The mung bean sprout only has some yellow leafy bits at the head as you can see in the photo and are suitable for both raw and cooked dishes.

Both these sprouts have one troublesome characteristic in common.  These sprouts have roots.  Yup, every one of those sprouts has a little root at the end.  Which, for aesthetic reasons, the Chinese usually remove.  And therein lies the catch, ladies and gentlemen, cuz that is one heck of a lot of roots!  

Many folks might have stories of endless hours spent chained to a big bowl of sprouts, plucking away at never ending roots.  My Grandma 奶奶 always made us kids do it for her even though we grumbled and moaned terribly through out the long and boring task.  

Thing is, I have to agree, any dish with sprouts in it looks a lot better without roots sticking out every which way.  Roots won't affect the taste so if you want to skip the de-rooting bit that's fine.  But we've got a couple of cheats to get around all that.  

First cheat is to go to your local wet market to buy your sprouts at the shops that sell tofu.  They have sprouts that have been plucked of their roots already!  A lovely service, that.  Second cheat is when you buy sprouts from grocery stores.  In this case the sprouts are usually packed in plastic baggies with the heads to one end and the roots the other.  Before opening the bag, just slice the root end off by an inch or so and you've cut off most of the roots in one fell swoop!

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The only other veggie needed is the carrot which is added for the contrasting color, its sweet taste and crunchy texture.  It's the minor player in this dish, so you only need a bit.  In order to match the texture of the bean sprouts the carrot must be sliced to very fine shreds.

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Once the bean sprouts have been plucked (or not) they need to have a bath in a large bowl of water.  A gentle swish or two will loosen any mung bean shells to float to the bottom of the pan.  At this point you can locate and pluck any remaining roots.  Lift the washed sprouts into another bowl, leaving shells and residue behind.  The sprouts are now ready for cooking.

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Bean sprouts limp after blanching

The cooking of the sprouts is very simple, just a quick blanch in boiling water to soften.  Softened but still retaining their crunch, it is this step that creates the texture so similar to the texture of the jellyfish.

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Sprouts and carrots are mixed, salt is added to help the veggies release their liquids.  Contrary to most other dishes, the released liquids are kept and are a necessary part of the final sauce for this salad.  Add in the sugar, vinegar and dash of sesame oil and let the dish marinate in the fridge until time to serve.  You'll find that quite a bit of liquid has formed, creating the most delicious sauce.

Light, cool, crunchy yet tender, this Bean Sprout Salad Cold Dish 冷拌芽菜 with its sweet and vinegary sauce is a most yummiliciously refreshing summer veggie dish!  Hope you will enjoy it as much as we did!

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Bean Sprout Salad Cold Dish Recipe

(adapted from The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo
Prep time: 10 mins  Cook time: 30 secs  Chill time: 1 hour



Pluck the roots off the sprouts if desired.  Put the bean sprouts in a large bowl and add water until bean sprouts float.  Swish the sprouts gently about to dislodge any green shells.  They will fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Pick out any loose roots.  Scoop the bean sprouts out into another bowl, leaving the green shells behind to be discarded.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil.  Blanch the bean sprouts for 30 secs before removing to colander and rinsing with cold water until cold.  Shake out the water.

Shred the carrot very finely to 2 inch shreds.  Place carrot, bean sprouts and salt into serving bowl and toss until completely mixed. 

Make the sauce by mixing together the sugar, rice vinegar and sesame oil until the sugar is melted.  Add to the bean sprouts and stir.  Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour* or until completely chilled.  Serve cold and enjoy!

*Note:  There will be quite a bit of liquid after chilling.  That is normal and part of the deliciousness of the dish.



  1. Why are bean sprouts in HK so long? You can't find such long sprouts in Malaysia or Singapore. If we sprout mung beans they will sprout leaves once they are about 2 cm long

  2. Hey See Kay - I have no idea but these ones are factory grown sprouts (bought at supermarket) so maybe they have some method of encouraging them to grow longer. The sprouts we buy at the wet market are usually shorter. ~ellen