On our way back to Cebu City from Boljoon, we rounded a bend in the road and stopped at a small sari-sari store that also sold clay pots and tiles (more on that later). But when I walked over, I noticed the proprietress of the shop herself was “shucking” freshly gather pods of mung beans or munggo or monggo and I asked her about them. It seems they are grown just a few steps behind their home/store, and as I thought, grow almost as prolifically as weeds. The bean pods are allowed to mature on the plant and dry as the plant itself dies then they are collected by hand, crushed up to separate the shell from the bean and winnowed to separate the beans out further… Seems so basic, and yet, I wonder, how many of marketmanila’s readers have seen munggo THIS FRESH and close to the source. I was intrigued to say the least.
Mung beans, not surprisingly, are native to India, and unlike lentils and other beans from India, do not seem to be as popular in the West. Mung beans feature often in Chinese and some other Asian cooking, but it has always been thought of as sort of a poor man’s food. I wonder about this as I have always loved mung beans and ginisang munggo is one of my favorite comfort foods of all time. Mung beans come in a green or more golden variety. And are related, I think, to tapilan, a native or more indigenous bean of the Philippines, according to Gil Carandang.
Mung beans grow very easily, but I suspect it is the gathering of the beans that is more of a pain in the rear… In China, mung beans are used primarily to make bean sprouts that are used in all sorts of dishes. Remember all those grade school experiments growing mung beans? And the paste or flour from mung beans are used to make bean thread noodles or sotanghon. They also go as fillers in sweet desserts. But here in the Philippines, I think I have only ever come across this ingredient used in a stew or soup of sorts…
This cheerful lady showed me how to winnow the husks away and leave only the olive green beans behind. It looks simple, but when you try it yourself, it is obvious that it is a learned skill. One of the guys with me, who hails from the Western side of the island and claimed to be an expert rice winnower, had beans flying in all directions! :) At PHP30 a kilo, after all this gathering and hand work, I thought the munggo were a great deal, so I purchased several kilos to take home with me. I have never had it this fresh. A day out of the pods.
And it is here when i realized so many of our foods, fancy or not, have a story. They are farmed by folks with stories of their own. Harvested by hand and prepped to pounding music playing on the radio. Sold for a decent profit and as it goes down the “chain” slowly gets removed from these individual stories. I would go on to make a stunningly good ginisang munggo from this purchase and I am happy that I got the beans from the source itself. I encourage you all to buy at the source when you are home in the province visiting or travelling through the countryside… it is such a satisfying exchange indeed.
Source material: The Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson.