How Well Do You Know Your Local Leafy Greens?
Learn to cook with malunggay, kangkong, saluyot, pako and more!
The Philippines is home to a lot of leafy greens so take advantage of this abundance! Get to know their flavor profiles, ways to cook them, recommended recipes and their health benefits. Know your way around whether it’s in the supermarket or the wet market with this guide.
Malunggay (Moringga Leaves)
Over the years, malunggay has gained popularity because of its claimed health benefits and medicinal properties. Rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, it’s said to prevent cardiovascular diseases. In addition to seeing malunggay used in ginataang kalabasa, monggo, and tinola, we’ve seen it dried, pulverized, and added to various dishes, sauces, and drinks. Add this superfood to your soup to make it extra healthy without tarning other flavors thanks to its subtlety.
Kangkong or (Water Spinach)
Long stems and arrowhead-shaped leaves characterize kangkong. It grows well in tropical countries with ample water and sunlight which is why it’s widely available locally. Usually added to sinigang, it can also be cooked in coconut milk, or breaded and fried to make a crispy appetizer.
Sayote Tops (Chayote Tops)
You know you have a bunch of sayote tops as soon as you spot the curly shoots. It’s used in tinolang manok and is also a favorite when it comes to sautéing because it goes well with most proteins. Cook it only halfway through if you want to retain its crisp texture. Sayote tops are rich in vitamin C and fiber, and have detoxifying properties.
Ampalaya Tops (Bitter Gourd Tops)
Planning to make ginisang monggo? Don’t forget to add ampalaya tops. The young tendrils have a spicy flavor profile that goes well with seafood. It’s very affordable and, like all leafy greens, is a nutrition powerhouse, too.
Dahon ng sili (Chili Leaves)
Don’t be fooled! Dahon ng sili isn't actually spicy. Found widely in wet markets and supermarkets in abundance, add ito your dishes as a great way to add color. Usually used for tinola locally, in Thai recipes however, they’re used to give green curries their signature bright green color.
Saluyot (Nalta Jute)
Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers, it’s also said to be good for people with diabetes and liver diseases. This is best blanched and not overcooked. You’ll love it drizzled with a little bagoong, mixed in with salted egg, pako, and tomatoes.
These pretty swirls of dark green are citrusy and crunchy. You can eat the pinched leaves fresh as a salad, or cook them in gata (coconut milk). Its distinct flavor and texture is a great addition to your vegetable dishes. They don’t just taste great, it’s also packed with calcium, phosphorous, iron and thiamine.
Use them in your classic Filipino dishes as well! Add them into your soups when you’re nearly done so you don't overcook them. Here are recipes to use them:
Article was published in the May 2015 issue of Yummy magazine. Minor edits were made Yummy.ph editors.