So, can YOU remember the words to that classic Filipino song, Bahay Kubo? Here are the lyrics to help you along; geez, I forgot how short that song was… And while I think I have featured most of the vegetables in that song, there was one, the last word, linga, that frankly I had no idea what it even was. Until a month or so ago, when I ran across a whole pile of small, dark khaki, sesame seeds at the Bogo market and asked what they called it and they said “lunga” or in tagalog “linga.” Aha! Who would have known? A lot of you, perhaps, but I was clueless. I didn’t even know we grew sesame seeds here. If I had to free associate, unfortunately, if one screamed “sesame seed” I would have screamed back “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, onions, and pickles on a SESAME seed bun.” That’s a Big Mac, to you. Hahaha. Sad.
At any rate, sesame seeds apparently come from a sesame plant which does thrive in provincial gardens, though I suspect there must be some commercial quantities planted somewhere in the Philippines. The seeds have a very high oil content, and are often made into sesame oil, that fragrant oil that is so spectacular in Chinese and Northern Asian cooking. I have a book by Tony Hill called The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices, and he suggests using fresh seeds in a sesame seed brittle, along the lines of a peanut brittle with sesame seeds instead. And here’s a bit of trivia for me, the leaves of the plant that result in sesame seeds do not appear to be edible, but if you see them called for in a recipe, the author probably meant shiso, that wide leaf used often in Japanese sushi plates, also known as perilla. It is sometimes referred to as wild sesame, but it isn’t the same plant that makes the sesame seeds in the photo above… But now that I have found sesame seeds in a relatively obscure provincial market, what do they use it for? I remember as a kid some sweetish desserts that were coated in sesame seeds. And now that I type in a stream of consciousness, I realize that pinasugbo or consilva also has sesame seeds… hmmm, it’s definitely an ingredient that I have overlooked so far. I should have looked a little closer at the garden around our bahay kubo… :)