Was I just talking about the heat not too long ago? As June rolls in, so does our rainy (or “wet”) season, the second season of our two-season year (the other being, you guessed it, “dry” – or summer if you want to give it a prettier name). The season’s misty monsoon spray showers us all, bringing with it its usual accoutrements – grey skies and power outages, leaks and traffic, and on the more serious side, the dreaded typhoons.
Although a gloomy, overcast aura that hangs over the city (and nothing does gloomy like a city in the rain) and slowly dampens warms summer spirits, there is a silver lining for those who care to see it. After the blazing heat of the summer, the rains bring me fresh relief (and I love summer so don’t think I’m a sun-shunner). The steady thrum of raindrops, even the severe lashing of torrential downpours, can make my oft-too-hot apartment seem like a cozy and cool cave. I sometimes open the windows just a sliver to let some of that chilly wind in (supervised of course). Weekends ensconced in a warm duvet, good books tucked into its folds, musings both important and random to keep me entertained – that’s rainy season.
And that is not even saying anything about the absolute best part of all this – the comfort food! Soups, stews, hot chocolate! I love this type of food, both the making and the eating of it. Slow-simmered pots of goodness, hearty with sustenance and comfort and memories. Unfortunately, with most of the year being under a glorious tropical blanket of humidity, this is really not the place to indulge in such home-and-hearth dishes. Which doesn’t stop me of course. It’s just much better to enjoy them when you aren’t breaking a sweat.
I’ve spoken about munggo guisado before and how much I love this humble bean stew. It is a dish that crosses many social, political, and economic barriers over here. Eaten by all. Perhaps not enjoyed by all though, but definitely enjoyed by my brother and I who, even as children, would scrape our bowls of munggo clean and fight over the last remnants in the pot. This definitely ranks as one of my top comfort foods of all time. I can eat this for days on end and still come back, like little Oliver, empty bowl in hand, asking for more.
Munggo Guisado is basically a kind of bean stew using munggo or mung beans. The beans are boiled until soft, and then sautéed with a mixture or onions, garlic, tomatoes, flavourings, vegetables, meat or fish...or any combination thereof. It’s very typical here, the type of dish you would find in somebody’s home rather than on a Filipino restaurant menu.
Since I started cooking munggo on my own, I’ve experimented quite a bit. Beans being what they are, this dish is open to limitless versions. Here is one of my favourites (with tinapang bangus – smoked milkfish). This is another.
Spanish-style Munggo Guisado
- 250 grams munggo beans
- 4 cups of water
- 4 – 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 150 grams Spanish chorizo for cooking (either what is known here as chorizo bilbao, or any other Spanish-style chorizo that is meant for cooking)
- 100 grams slab bacon, chopped
- 1 cup malunggay (moringa) leaves, optional
- Canola oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Clean the munggo by dunking the beans in a bowl of tap water and skimming off the “floaters”.
- Place munggo in a pot with the 4 cups of water and cook on low heat until soft (around an hour, more or less). Add water if you see it drying out.
- Once beans are done, start with your guisa (sauté).
- Heat some oil in a large pan (large enough to fit all your cooked and softened munggo).
- Sauté garlic, onions, and bay leaf until the onions are soft.
- Add the bacon and chorizo and sauté until the bacon is cooked but still soft and the chorizo has rendered its orange oil.
- Add cooked munggo and stir. If you have a lot of liquid with your munggo don’t add it in all at once, add all the beans and some of the liquid first. As you cook the stew, keep adding liquid until you reach your desired consistency. Some like this very soupy, some like it thick.
- Let it simmer until all the flavours have melded together, about 20 minutes, stirring every so often. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- If using, add malunggay leaves, give it a few stirs (they’ll cook fast), and you’re done.
If you really want to give this amazing depth of flavour, boil the beans in ham stock instead of water, just make sure to taste before adding any salt...you may not even need any. If you don’t have 4 cups of ham stock lying around you can use part ham stock or part water. Or you can also toss a small piece of ham bone in the water when boiling the beans.
If you don’t have any slab bacon you can use whatever bacon you do have. I’ve labelled the malunggay (moringa) leaves optional because it doesn’t really fit with the Spanish theme but I really do love greens in my munggo so I always add them – and it still does taste wonderful with this addition. I like to eat this atop a bowl of steaming rice with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Some argue that I’ve fancied our munggo up unnecessarily with this but I have to disagree. I think munggo is a perfect canvas for all sorts of adaptations and we should experiment far and wide with our little green bean. Why would we give the same treatment to lentils but not munggo? And it’s delicious! Which is really all the reason I need to make something :)
As I type this the sun has peeked out again, hissing at the moist leavings of last night’s rain. But this is only the beginning of rainy season, so I foresee more munggo on the horizon.