August 26, 2008

Mystery Green Leaf Vegetable

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stir-fry of malabar spinach and wild mushrooms

I bought an unlabeled package of leafy green vegetables and nobody at the Korean grocery knew what it was. I bought it anyway thinking it might be water spinach (kangkong) or sweet potato tops. When I opened the package to wash and prepare the vegetables they didn't look at all like kangkong but resembled crinkly spinach. The leaves are dark green with tender but easy to snap stems. I didn't want to eat something I'm not familiar with so I searched online for a similar leaf vegetable comparing the close-up photo of the leaf and found malabar spinach in no time. There is a red-stemmed variety which looked familiar but I couldn't remember where I've seen them. I proceeded to cook the vegetables sauteing them with some fresh shiitake and dried wild mushrooms seasoned with garlic, ginger, scallion, soy sauce, and salt. When I tried it I knew right away I've eaten it before because of its slightly mucilaginous tongue feel which my daughter said is similar to seaweed. I again went online and looked for the red-stemmed Filipino alugbati and I was right, malabar spinach IS alugbati, although the green-stemmed has crinklier leaves than the red-stemmed. Alugbati is one of my favorite vegetables back in the Philippines. I used to add them to boiled and sauteed mung bean soup as alternative to malunggay (horseradish tree) leaves or simply stir-fried like the dish I prepared today. I still love this vegetable and will buy it regularly.

mystery no more, these are green-stemmed alugbati or malabar spinach


Ruy said...

Wow, Alugbati... That's deep. I think I've heard that word just once or twice when I was a child hanging out in my super cook grandmother's kitchen.;p

TS of eatingclub vancouver said...

Haha, "deep" indeed!

I didn't know malunggay was horseradish tree! We used to have it (the plant) when we were growing up. I believe the leaves were put in soup.

I don't know if I've ever had alugbati.

Anonymous said...

I'm more familiar with the red-stemmed variety which we have here. But I have tasted these green-stemmed ones, available only from specialty farms. These green ones are tastier, with lesser "sticky mouth" feel.

I also didn't know Malunggay is Horseradish tree and that Alugbati is Malabar Spinach. We keep learning something new everyday! :)

Anonymous said...

nice! great find! i will look for it in the asian grocery store near me

Oggi said...

Ruy, I was an herbalist in another life that's why I know about alugbati.:D

TS, I found about horseradish tree from the package of frozen malunggay. We love it in mung bean soup.

Ning, we have to thank google!:)

I also found out the red-stemmed is becoming popular here in the US as an ornamental vine. The people who grow them from seeds or potted plants say they can't stand the slimy tongue feel similar to okra.
Seeds for the both red and green-stemmed are available in many seeds catalog.

raissa said...

I didnt know malunggay was horseradish tree as well. I laugh now when I hear malunggay because our tour guide in Kauai called it "the other Philippine flag" because if theres a malunggay tree in front of a house, best bet is Filipinos live there LOL

I think I may have eaten alugbati before because it looks familiar but I dont think I would buy any unlabeled food. You sure are adventurous LOL

Unknown said...

hi, thanks for dropping by my blog!

ohhh i just tried this one too! it is a bit slimy/waxy when it is cooked, right? normally it is used for dishes with soup base here :)

Chibog in Chief said...

you know oggi i have never tasted an alugbati before LOL

Oggi said...

Raissa, the "other Philippine flag" is so funny.:D
I went back to the grocery and saw that the vegetable packages belong in another bin, na-misplace lang the one I got. Its called móng toi.

Rita, yes, it is slightly slimy and it's usually added to soup in the Philippines.

Dhanggit, my mother also didn't cook alugbati at home. I was already married when a housemaid introduced the vegetable to us and we liked it since.:)

Oggi said...

Paoix, oops, I didn't see your comment.;)
Móng toi is what it's called at the Korean grocery.

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