Mimi’s Bean Soup with Tender Leaves


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 or 5

Appears in

A friend named Mimi introduced me to this beautiful soup. She uses large butterfly beans (bei leikpya in Burmese), which are pale green beans tinged with pink that look like exotic limas. You can substitute fresh or frozen lima beans. The beans are cooked in water with lots of shallots to make a mild, slightly sweet soup. Near the end, handfuls of fresh greens or leaves are added.

In Mimi’s garden in Rangoon, we gathered the delicate tips of a cucumber-like vine and other tender leaves. In Burma the leaves are added as much for their medicinal properties as for their flavor. Their beauty is another good reason for adding them; this is a very attractive soup to serve to guests.

Use a mixture (at least two or three different kinds) of coarsely chopped greens. Depending on the time of year, and the climate you live in, possible choices include pea tendrils, sawtooth herb, sorrel leaves, nasturtium leaves, tender endive, or other tender leaves. The soup is light on the tongue, a great foil for fried dishes.

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  • 1 cup shelled fresh butterfly beans, or substitute fresh or frozen limas
  • 4 cups water
  • cups minced shallots
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • About 2 teaspoons fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • 2 cups loosely packed greens, such as coarsely chopped sorrel, sawtooth herb, nasturtium leaves, pea tendrils, and/or others of your choice


Place the beans in a medium pot, add the water and shallots, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the turmeric, lower the heat to maintain a strong simmer, and cook until the beans are tender, adding more hot water if needed. If using precooked frozen beans, they’ll be ready very quickly; otherwise, timing will vary with the freshness and size of your beans.

If you wish, process the beans and broth to a puree before proceeding; return to the pot.

Add the fish sauce or soy sauce and salt to taste. Bring to a gentle boil, stir in the greens, and serve.

Put out a chili sauce, if you wish, for guests who like to spice things up.