Sotanghon guisado (mung bean glass noodles with pork and vegetables) is one of my Top 5 Pinoy merienda dishes, period. I have always loved it and there are very few versions that I would turn my nose up at completely. There are LOTS of substandard sotanghon guisados out there, but just the sight of a tangle of glass noodles with some bits of pork and vegetables almost always gets my gastric juices flowing. Oddly, I have rarely cooked this dish in the past, as it seemed to be in the repertoire of most home cooks, and I never bothered to learn how to do it well. And now that I think about it, I usually ate it at office, school or other institutional carinderias or neighborhood turo-turoâ€™s rather than in other homes or fine restaurants. As long as the sotanghon guisado hit the table hot in our home, I was there to wolf it down. A few months ago, we attended a merienda at the Legarda Mansion where the food is done by La Cocina de Tita Moning, and I noted then that the sotanghon that was served was superb. In fact, it was highly memorable. Suzette Montinola of La Cocina de Tita Moning read that post was generous enough to share her recipe, which she posted in the comments section of the same write-up. It is La Cocinaâ€™s recipe that I have tried several times and am convinced is one of the best sotanghon guisados around!
Before I even knew what the recipe was, let me explain why I thought the dish was delicious. First of all, rather than being mushy and muddled, the flavors and textures in the La Cocina recipe were very clean, distinct and fresh tasting. That makes a huge difference if you ask me. Most folks throw everything into one pot and let it bubble up until the liquid is absorbed and what you often get is an overcooked mess of one blobby flavor source. Also, most commercial versions stretch the dish by using too many noodles for the â€œlamanâ€ that they add, relying on perhaps an instant pork cube mixture or more dark soy sauce to stretch the starch. I like it chock full of meat and vegetables, and that is the essence of the La Cocina recipe. Also, I like my noodles to be on the damper or wetter side of things, not the dry, bad hair day sotanghon you tend to find in turo-turoâ€™s. Itâ€™s not often you read a recipe for this dish and end up using three different kawalis or pots to get the finished product, as most folks I suspect use only one. At any rate, follow the recipe as it is described and you will hopefully be incredibly surprised by the results.
But before you get started, let me warn you that despite being a really simple recipe, there are several key points you MUST pay attention to or you could have mediocre results. The first key point is the brand of sotanghon noodles you buy. Go for the MOST expensive or best noodles you can get. My mom always used Lung Kow brand noodles and I like them as a result, but I find many other pretenders are AWFUL compared. So donâ€™t get fooled by similar packaging with brand names like LUCKY LUNG KOW (this is terrible) or other names, get the best noodle you can find. I also find packages of unbranded sotanghon I get from my sukis with sources from Chinatown are also delicious. Wrong noodle and you minus 20 points from sotanghon guisado nirvana. Also, when you pre-cook the noodles, do so until only al dente or just cooked, do not get them mushy. I only immerse them in boiling water for seconds (less than a minute) and drain them. I also cut them into medium sized strands to make them easier to eat later. Next, while Ms. Montinola does not specify a type of soy sauce, I suspect most folks used a darker Marca Pina type soy sauce. I like to use a lighter, brighter and fresher tasting Kikkoman instead. And a fresh bottle of Kikkoman is different from one sitting around for a year and highly concentrated (I found this out when I made the dish at the beach with an older bottle of soy sauce). For my version, I used a mandoline to get long thin julienned strips of carrot and sliced the cabbage as thinly as I could with a knife. Donâ€™t scrimp on the veggies, you will see that they add a much needed vibrant yellowish color to the finished dish. Her baking soda trick for vivid color is something I have not done before but I can see why it is useful. I did not use MSG (the only ingredient I omitted). I did add julienned ham (more than called for) and while I garnished with some uncooked ham, I wouldnâ€™t do that againâ€¦ Lastly, you may want to try coloring the noodles with a touch of achuete oil (in case you want color) but I didnâ€™t find that necessary. Garnish with chopped chives or green onions if you want to be ma-arte. Don’t forget to serve with kalamansi. This recipe is totally doable in 90% of the worldâ€™s major cities I would think. It is really very good!