Talbos ng Ampalaya / Bitter Gourd Tendrils

Tendrils or young leaves of bitter gourd (talbos ng ampalaya) are not atend1something I have ever purchased before. I have eaten it many times but never really paid attention to it at the market. I never even wondered until recently if the practice of eating young leaves such as tendrils of sweet potatoes (talbos ng kamote) or fiddlehead ferns (pako) or young sampaloc leaves is a “third world thing,” something born out of economic necessity from times when there was simply nothing else to cook in the pot. Who knows, but all of these young growths are very much a part of the Filipino diet today. At the market last week, I noticed an abundance of bitter gourd tendrils (talbos ng ampalaya) probably a result of recent rains. I decided to buy a bunch for PHP10 and decide what to do with it after I got home and photographed it.

Turns out the Philippines is one of the largest consumers of atend2bitter gourd tendrils, even though the plant is actually believed to be native to India. The young tendrils have a tasty and somewhat spicy edge (though not too spicy) and are added to ginisang monggo (mung beans) and eaten boiled with additions such as bagoong or added to soups and other dishes. A dish of mung beans with a some greens is nearly perfect food with lots of protein and vitamins at a really low cost. Paired with rice, this is a complete and nutritious meal. In the West, cooks suggest watercress as a substitute but you won’t get the characteristic texture and distinct flavor of bitter gourd. In some preparations, you can still feel the texture of the young tendril especially the curled ends that are used to clamber onto a trellis or tree as the plant grows. I am curious if you have any recipes or ways of preparing talbos ng ampalaya that you can share with the Marketmanila readers…


26 Responses

  1. We saute some garlic, onions and tomatoes, patis. Add flaked tinapang galunggong. Let it simmer Until the flavors blend and then add the ampalaya tendrils. DO NOT STIR after adding the leaves so that it will not become super bitter. Karen at Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans has posted a similar recipe.

    More prized than the regular tendrils are what the Tagalogs call “culatding” (Pampanguenos call it “culot” according to Karen). These are the tendrils harvested after the ampalaya plant has grown too old to bear fruits. The tendrils are now curlier and the leaves have become smaller.

  2. I have never tried bitter gourd tendrils but apparently young plants and tendrils are the in-thing these days with the Chinese crowd. Sweet potato tendrils taste fantastic and the Malays even consume a lot of tapioca leaves. But one thing I do know, these plants and tendrils are very nutritious and gives us lots of fibre in our diet. And I am going to try bitter gourd tendrils next!

  3. We cook it the same way Maricel does. Except that instead of using tinapa as pansahog, we use canned sardines. And we make it with quite a bit of liquid, so parang soup siya na ang sarap higupin ng sabaw. As soon as the liquid boils, add the ampalaya talbos, cover the pot, then turn off the stove, so it won’t be too bitter. Leave it that way for a few minutes. It tastes really good and very nutritious too. Highly recommended for people with diabetes.

  4. Got a recipe for monggo? I absolutely loved this dish growing up in Manila. Kaso my mom doesn’t know how to cook it, so I’ve only had it a few times since we moved to the US…

  5. Bought a bunch of ampalaya leaves from an Austrian farmer for a visiting pinoy from the Visayan region who cooked them with mongo and kalabasa. For a tagalog like me this is strange but it wasn’t bad. Thanks to Maricel for the recipe. That’s exactly how I remember ampalaya leaves and the culatding being cooked. Culatding? I had to smile as this was the first time after sooo many years that I heard the word again. BTW, the Austrian farmer told me that a pinoy friend gave him the idea to grow exotic plants like sitaw, kalabasa, ampalaya and since then his stall in the market has become very popular among the many Asians who live here.

  6. Like talbos ng ampalaya, freshly harvested corn on the cob are plentiful at this time. No wonder, my mother add this talbos to her guinisang mais. It is a healthy and easy to prepare dish. Saute onion, garlic, shrimps, shrimp stock. Bring to a boil. Add young corn, slice and scrape from the cob, simmer until the corn is cooked. Season with patis and cracked pepper. Lastly, add the talbos ng ampalaya. Immediately turn-off the heat.

  7. I heard that before. I think it’s because of its bitter quality. Don’t know if it’s true though.

  8. we love to cook the ampalaya leaves with pritong bangus..Saute garlic, onions, and tomatoes, add pritong bangus, put water and let it simmer. Add ampalaya leaves lastly. Yummy…………..

  9. diningding ang luto namin na may halong inihaw na galunggung at may bagoong at vitsen.Market man ginutom mo na naman ako

  10. Have you been to the Legaspi Market? I hear it’s almost identical to the Salcedo Market (albeit in a different location, and held on Sundays).

  11. I have passed by the Legaspi market, but I tend to shop on Saturdays so I usually have no more room in the fridge or the budget for another foray on Sundays. One day when I am busy Saturday I will venture to the Legaspi market.

  12. Have you tried eating young mango leaves, the newly sprouted ones that are still soft. We make this into a salad.Wash it well add onion and tomatoes. Good with grilled fish.Tastes like the mango fruit itself.Have eaten this in Pampanga in my cousins house.Just make sure that the tree is not sprayed with any insecticides.

  13. Belle that sounds absolutely interesting. No, I have never tasted young mango leaves. Will have to try that one day. Don’t they have a sap? How young do they have to be?

  14. I just love eating ampalaya (bitter gourd/melon), so I’ll share with you how I prepare my ampalaya leaves.
    First, I saute garlic, onions and tomatoes in a little oil.
    Then I add either ground meat of pork/beef or some shrimps.
    Then I’ll add the mung beans (soaked overnight, seed covers removed [optional]). Add salt and pepper to taste, or drop a bouillion cube. Let boil then bring to a simmer. Add the cleaned ampalaya leaves and it’s better if you’ll include some baby ampalaya fruits hanging with the vine. Simmer. Best to eat while still warm. If you don’t have ampalaya leaves you could use sweet potato tops(talbos ng kamote), Malunggay leaves or young leaves of the tree named Lumbay.

  15. my wife is growing Talbos ng Kamote in our backyard in Sydney Australia, and I am looking for recipes, We have been married seventeen years and this is the first time I have eated this lovely vegetable

  16. we need investigatory project about ampalaya as an alternative insectiside. Any suggestion???

  17. Recipe for Monggo..
    Asar nga ako sa mga cafeteria, anemic sa sahog ang ginisang monggo nila, e paborito ko pa naman

    So for ginisang munggo, here’s what I do:
    1. soak monggo overnight, then simmer while preparing the other ingredients, until it’s very soft and the soup is frothy
    2. saute garlic, onions, lots of tomatoes, and add bagoong to taste.. I use patis kasi fish is healthier than shrimp. Or I shred dried fish – the labahita works well, di na kailangan ng ibang pang-alat…
    3. Add the moggo into the saute…
    4. Just before serving, add the sangkatutak na talbos ng ampalaya..
    5. Decorate with crushed ready-made chicharon, or chinicharong baboy, or something I tried recently – thinly sliced longganisa to taste… Or the crispy shrimps you can buy ready-to-eat.. Or thinly sliced lechong kawali, or bagnet….

  18. I make ampalaya tops salad this way: blanch the ampalaya leaves; make a dressing of coconut vinegar, a little sugar and salt; toss in some sliced tomatoes and chopped onion. This is good for you if you’re anemic.

    My parents showed me how to eat young mango leaves this way: place about half a teaspoon of cooked burong isda on one end of a leaf. Roll up the leaf. Enjoy!

  19. i love to cook .i had another version of cooking this talbos ng ampalaya or what we usually called as dahon ng ampalaya..u can prepare this as a side dish for any fried pork or fried chicken .. this is the way i used to cooked them.. i prepare some egg slighty beaten with salt and some pepper then some mixtures of cornstarch and flour..dipping the ampalaya leaves to the mixtures of egg and flour.. ..and i fried it after my pork or fried chicken.. best serve.. with soysauce and calamansi with some chilis on it as a dipping sauce..

  20. hi to everyone. have you tried crispy ampalaya(the native ones – they call it amplayang ilokano “realy bitter”)?.
    here’s how to prepare it… thinly slice 3 to 4 pcs. amplaya fruit crosswise(round w/o cutting it length wise(of course you have to wash the ampalaya before slicing), sprinkle iodised salt to taste, heat 2 cups of oil in a wok then deep fried the sliced ampalaya till golden brown & crispy (like banana fritters)& serve without covering so as to stay crispy. this crispy ampalaya can be eaten with rice together with your prepared “ulam” like chicken curry, adobo, ginisang munggo & other “ulam”. i am fond of cooking & i have tasted this dish at 1 of the indian restaurant here in Malaysia. Happy cooking & enjoy your meal.I will share another dish on how to prepare crispy dahon ng ampalaya next time.Byeeeeeee.

  21. making it into a salad is just as good. Blanch the leaves, squeeze the water out. dice some tomatoes and onions. As for the salting agent, you can use bagoong balayan or alamang. Patis can also be used if you like. Eat it with your fried foods. It’s good.

    Or you can also saute it with mushrooms and tomatoes, bagoong alamang and tinapa.

  22. from mac B.

    young ampalaya leaves also use to substitute sayote or chilli leaves in tinolang manok! yummy specially when you add sotanghon in the tinola recipe.

  23. young ampalaya leaves also use to substitute sayote or chilli leaves in tinolang manok! yummy specially when you add sotanghon in the tinola recipe.

  24. I have ampalaya in my garden here in Slovenia… they dont know this vegetables and they dont eat it… but when a mixed it with ginisang munggo..they like it now.



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