Monday, June 21, 2010

Mung Bean Soup (Monggo Guisado)

Filipinos are not big on pulses. By that I mean dried beans are not that prominent in Philippine gastronomy. We prefer to use legumes/beans fresh rather than dried. But one common pulse dish that is found all over the country is Monggo Guisado (Mung Bean Soup). Different regions have different versions, of course, and this is mine.

Before we move further I think I need to explain what guisa/gisa/guisado is. It is the Filipino cooking style of sauteing garlic, onion, and/or tomato in oil to form the base of a lot of its dishes. I say "and/or tomato" as it is sometimes not required. Ginger, lemongrass, and chillies are also added to vary the base but most if not 100% of the time garlic and onions are present.

I couldn't help but compare this with the Subcontinent's dal/dahl/dhal. The name refers to both the pulse (dried lentils, peas or beans) and the cooked pulse dish which has very similar qualities to the monggo guisado. With that in mind I use the Indian cooking technique called chaunk or tarka (please follow the link for a detailed explanation) to differentiate my version from the rest. It's more for convenience rather than radical innovation on my part that is why I chose to do it this way.

Mung bean is tough and needs to be boiled in water before it can be used. rather than taking out another large pot to cook my soup I keep the softened mung bean in its original pot and make my Pinoy version of the tarka (sauteed garlic, onion and tomato) in a small frying pan instead. I then pour it in the same pot to simmer for a few more minutes.

I add some home made chicharon and chilli leaves as final touches to this much loved soup.

Monggo Guisado (Mung Bean Soup)

1/2 cup dried mung beans
2 cups water (to soften the beans)
Chicken stock
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 onion chopped
1 tomato chopped
1/2 cup minced meat (chicken or pork) or prawns
Chilli leaves (or some spinach)
Chicharon (pork crackling)
A bit of oil for sauteing
Fish sauce or sea salt to taste

1. Begin by boiling the mung beans in water until they're soft. Add more water as needed.
2. Once you're happy with the softness of the beans add just enough chicken stock to the soup consistency you prefer. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer while you prepare your tarka.
3. If you're using meat brown it in some oil then set aside.
4. Otherwise, start preparing your Pinoy tarka by heating up a bit of oil in a small pan. saute the garlic until golden brown.
5. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent.
6. Add the tomatoes and cook until virtually all the moisture has disappeared.
7. Add the pre-cooked meat or the prawns and cook for another minute or so.
8. Pour the mixture in the pot of the softened mung bean. Simmer for another five minutes. Adjust the taste using fish sauce or salt.
9. Add the chilli leaves and the chicharon.
10. Serve hot with some adobo/fried fish and steamed rice.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Braised Beef Brisket (Beef Pares/Chinese Adobo)

We've never cooked this at home when I was growing up. I assumed as a young boy that this was difficult to make. It was a special dish we could only get at Chinese restaurants. It tasted delicious and exotic I was very sure my convictions were nothing but correct. I was wrong, of course, and I'm glad I was...

What I did not realise about this dish is the fact that it has long been "Filipinised." It has an unmistakably Chinese origin but Filipinos have adopted it as their own. "Pares" (literally means "pair") eateries found all over Manila pair this rich beef stew with either rice or noodles for a satisfying meal any time of the day.

Some affectionately refer to this as Chinese adobo. It is easy to see why. It looks like adobo but a slight whiff of this dish tells you it is anything but. What sets it apart is the use of spices not commonly found in Filipino cuisine. Star anise is literally the star here. Leave it out and you'll be left with nothing but chunks of bland boiled beef.

One other very important consideration when cooking this is the right cut of meat. Beef brisket braises the best, I find. But you could probably get away with any highly marbled cut of beef. So, if you feel queasy at the thought of "fat" just do a stir fry. This is why it also makes for the perfect winter meal.

Braised Beef Brisket (Beef Pares/Chinese Adobo)

2kg beef brisket cut in large chunks
1 cup light soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
6 garlic cloves
6 slices ginger
4 stalks spring onion
3 tbsp Chinese wine
3-4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Black pepper corns
A bit of oil for sauteing

1. Blanch the beef in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large pot heat up a bit of oil. Saute the ginger, spring onion and garlic for about a minute.
3. Add the meat in the pot and fry for a few minutes.
4. Add the sugar, soy sauce, wine and all the spices. Add water just enough to cover the meat and bring to the boil.
5. Simmer for an hour or so or until the meat is tender.
6. Serve hot with some greens and steamed rice.