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Sunday, February 11, 2007

An Ordinary Sunday Dinner (Munggo Guisado)

I had a welcome surprise today. An old university friend was driving through the area and wanted to meet up for some coffee. This visit was quite short, a mere fifteen minutes.

Now, since I was already out of the apartment, I figured I'd head into Albany and hit up the Asian market on Colvin. I never remember the actual name of this place, but I don't think anyone else who shops there knows its name either!

I didn't know what I was going to make for dinner, but I figured I'd get some ideas inside. I picked up things here and there, but still nothing screamed, "Dinner!" Until I came across a box of these darlings:

I don't know the true name of this, but I know it as Indian bitter melon. Doesn't look at all like its cousin, the Chinese bitter melon. I guess you can think of it as IBM= pimply teenager, and CBM= pockmarked adult. The IBM that I find are much smaller than the CBM and much more bitter. This is not for the faint of heart!

I bagged up a pound of the bitter melon and figured out what to make for dinner. Munggo. Its been a while since I made it last. I picked up the rest of the ingredients, along with some other things I would need for future meals. I'd also like to note that I picked up an ounce of saffron for under a dollar. I thought this stuff was supposed to be wicked pricey?

With my purchases put away, I got started on making dinner. In a small pot I put about a quart of dried mung beans and just enough water to cover. Normally I would let these soak overnight, but since I wanted this for dinner, I needed to speed up the process. With the lid on, set the heat on low and let it start to cook though. When the smell of cooking beans fills the kitchen, it's ready. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat and add about two tablespoons of seasame oil. You can substitute with your oil of choice, but I needed to kill this bottle before opening the next one. Add in about three garlic cloves minced and one large onion, thinly sliced. set the heat on low and let it cook down. Stir often, or the garlic will start to burn.

It just isn't Filipino food if there isn't some type of pork-seafood combination. This is how I've always had it, and even though I've tried making munggo with something other than pork, I go back to it every time. Roughly cut up half a pound of bacon and add it to the pot. Turn the heat up a bit, and stir often. I guess the word to use here is render, but let's not get too technical here. I'd say it took about twenty minutes for me to get it to brown bacon goodness.

While the bacon is doing its thang, toss a bag of frozen spinach in a colander and quickly run under hot water to thaw. Drain as much of the water out. Once the bacon's ready, add the mung beans and spinach.Toss quickly and then add about three quarts of water. Turn the heat on high to get it boiling and then turn the heat down low to let it simmer. Add pepper at this point if you'd like.

While this is simmering away, I slice up the ampalaya (bitter melon). I bought a pound, and seeing how full the pot is, three is enough. The rest is in a bowl right now tossed with salt to help extract some of that bitterness out. I'll be using that for a raw salad. Keep the slices not too thick, as you want to cook it through. Also add the dried shrimp.
  • NOTE: Make sure there is no silica gel preservative packet in the package if you dump it straight into the pot. Ask me why *mad.* Luckily there was none. I think...
Since the shrimp are already salty, there really is no need to add any additional salt. However, if it is still on the bland side, patis (fish sauce) will solve that problem. Give it a few more minutes and it's done!

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