Has it ever occurred to you just how strange it is that ginisang monggo always seems to be cooked and served on a Friday? Has it always been that way? And why? What’s the whole connection between the last working day before the weekend and this bean sprout?
If you ask your lolo and lola, they’ll most likely say that this custom stems from the Philippines’ predominantly Catholic population, which refrains from eating meat during Friday every Lenten season. Catholics typically abstain from meat as a form of sacrifice, and monggo was a favorite substitute.
History lesson: This theory dates back to the time of the Spanish occupation when Filipinos were taught by Spanish friars that it was forbidden to eat meat during Friday. Pork, especially, was avoided.
But out of all the vegetables one could possibly opt for, why monggo?
It Pays to Be Practical
Another theory points us to the reality of the common Filipino’s financial capability and lifestyle back in the day. We have to remember that in the olden days, before electricity became available, people had to buy their pantry stock during the weekends, when they had their days off from work.
You can just imagine how the produce and meat would fare, given the absence of refrigeration. Since Fridays were reserved for vegetables, meat and other fresh ingredients must have been consumed during the weekends or early in the week. By the time Friday rolled around, the working class had little money left to buy anything, so they had to settle for an ingredient that was inexpensive and easy to prepare—dried monggo. Since monggo also does not spoil easily, this quality contributed to its being a staple in the kitchen and being purchased during trips to the palengke.
Today, the humble but protein-packed legume has taken on a whole new culinary form, with the addition of meat such as chicken, pork and even seafood. Still commonly sautéed with garlic and onions, ginisang monggo remains a lovingly prepared dish by moms and lolas, satisfying Filipino tummies (and hearts) for thousands of Fridays.