A late visit to the “tabo” or market day at the large central Dao market in Tagbilaran at noon meant I had missed most of the produce sold earlier in the day. Fridays are the THE market day but our “fast” ferry from Cebu City just wasn’t fast enough. There were still a few vendors, and these incredibly vibrant leaves caught my eye, and a local said they were “bago” leaves, and used in soups and stews. I had come across bago leaves once before, in a small mountain market in Cebu, here, and at the time I figured out their scientific name was gnetum gnemon.
What I DID NOT REALIZE at the time is that bago trees, or gnetum gnemon thrive in both the Philippines and Indonesia (along with a few other countries) and their fruit has a large seed that is pounded and fried and made into emping in Indonesia. Emping is a slightly bitter cracker that I used to devour in huge quantities while eating an oxtail soup or sop buntot at least once a week when I worked and lived in Indonesia many years ago. I suppose I might be the only one that finds this connection the least bit fascinating, but to my knowledge, we don’t seem to make use of the fruit or seeds of the bago trees in the Philippines, and they are just left for the birds to munch on… :)