Leeks are related to onions. That is about as definitive as I am going to get as the aleek1source materials I have referred to are incredibly wishy-washy. Scientifically, leeks are referred to as Allium ampeloprasum (wild leek) that preceded the Allium porrum (leeks cultivated in Europe). But they could also be Allium kurrat for the Middle Eastern variety of the same plant. At any rate, leeks have a mild, oniony, sweetish flavor that is superb in several dishes, notably soups and stews. They are not terribly common in Southeast Asia as they do not generally thrive in hot and humid weather. Leeks should be differentiated from scallions which are actually immature onions and have a much stronger or sharper onion flavor. Leeks are one of those cultivated vegetables that have achieved near mammoth proportions in the West – in Australia and North America there are leeks that could double as baseball bats, they are so thick and hefty. In some areas, the base of leeks are covered with sand as they grow to attain a much larger portion of the stem that is white, kind of like the treatment done to white asparagus. This treatment is the reason that purchased leeks often have so much grit and sand and require careful washing to rid them of the dirt.

Leeks in the Philippines are mostly grown in the Mountain Province and vicinity. aleek2The cool weather seems hospitable for growing modest versions of the plant that have small even thin stems but still possess that unique leek flavor. I actually find the small leeks that we grow locally to be more tender than some of the large imported specimens. I suspect that our farmers don’t bother to do the sand trick and therefore we get lots more green than white… There were lots of leeks at the market over the weekend. What to do with them? I use them in a classic Vichyssoise (leek and potato soup) though I prefer it hot rather than cold, love them braised with stock or butter, and they are good as part of stir-fries or mixed vegetable dishes. When buying, look for fresh leaves, firm white sections to the stems and medium sized stems (don’t pick the smallest, avoid the biggest). Leeks are pungent and should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or their odor will permeate the other foods. My recipe for leek and potato soup is up next.

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11 Responses

  1. chopped razor thin, and they’re a perfect topping for a hot steaming bowl of congee or even arroz caldo.

  2. At the risk of incriminating myself, lemme just share that in the book “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, Author Mireille Guiliano vouches for the “magical” properties of leek soup. She says that for anyone who needs to have a jumpstart to their diet can find a boost from the result of drinking leek soup. I’ll type it up tomorrow. Don’t have the book with me now though it’s pretty simple from what I remember. Just get the white part and mince and throw that in a pot of water and let it boil. Strain the leeks just so you’d be left with clear broth. That’s all you’ll take for a weekend (start on Saturday am) and on Sunday night, give yourself some grilled chicken breast and a quasi-salad side dish of the minced green leeks flavored with a splash of lemon and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), salt and pepper to taste.

    I haven’t done this personally because of my marathon training but I sure would want to give my system a good wash down one of these days….

    Marketman — thanks for the lead on choosing medium-sized stems. Never heard of any specific tip on “leek-shopping”. Very helpful. : )

  3. For the longest time my dad would have raw LEEKS dipped in salt and vinegar alongside his dinner. Which I thought was the grossest thing. But of course this is from the same father of mine who would have sweet yellow mangoes with his rice. Might be an Ilonggo thing. Or he just might be weird.

  4. wysgal,
    mangoes with rice is da bomb! tastes great especially if your ulam is adobo that is on the vinegary side. :)

  5. Can’t wait for the leek and potato soup recipe! And thanks for sharing the leeks shopping tips…will keep those in mind.

    Hi Gigi! (At the risk of incriminating myself as well) I have tried the “French Woman” leek soup weekend…boy, did I feel woozy! But I did feel “cleansed” after…

  6. Hello, Joey! So did you shed some pounds? Because if you have then I’m gonna hoard on leeks! Hitting Baguio this weekend!
    Gotta max out on the veg shopping.


  7. Gigi, don’t forget to stock up on ube jam from good shepherd if you like it. The sisters assure me it is all natural. Joey, that recipe sounds to thin for me… Wysgal, your dad’s leek habits are a bit unusual… Carlo, acidboy and hchie you guys sound like connoiseurs!

  8. Hi Marketman! You only it have it for the 1st 1.5 days and then never again, at least that’s the way I did it, hehe :-) You do feel a bit like you are going to faint though, at the end of those 1.5 days…

    Hi Gigi! You only have the leek in the beginning, and then no more, hehe…Did I shed some pounds? Am spending a bundle taking in all my pants :-)

  9. Marketman — On ube jam, I heard that PNKY CAFE — a cafe owned by Pynky Gomez-Magsino of the PNKY furniture line — has better-than-Good Shepherd and Tamtamco’s — ube jam! A fellow foodie was rolling his eyes as he made kwento!

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