Unfamiliarity never deters us when shopping at ethnic markets ... which means we left our local Southeast Asian grocery with a bag full of "Malongai" and lots of questions. We have never used this green before and are hoping to find some cooking suggestions among our readers.
We did some research and discovered that these are leaves from the Moringa oleifera tree; Malongai or Malunggay is the Tagalog name. In addition to the Philippines, this native Himalayan plant is also cultivated in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Central and South America, and Africa. It's fast-growing, drought-tolerant, and touted as a "miracle tree" due to its high nutritional value and multiple other uses, including everything from water purification to biodiesel.
But how does it taste? We tried the small, dark green leaves raw and they were lemony and peppery. Apparently it can be cooked like spinach or dried and used as an herb or tea. Nutritionally, it is high in calcium, potassium, iron, and Vitamins A and C. Various other parts of the Moringa plant are also edible; Kathryn encountered the seed pods, or Drumstick Malunggay, at a farmers' market last year.
We found some interesting recipes for Moringa leaves and would love more advice from anyone familiar with this green!
• Corn with Malunggay Leaves, from Earth News
• Munaga Aaku Charu (Drumstick Leaves Soup), from Sailu's Food-Indian Food
• Ginataang Malunggay, from Filipino Vegetarian Recipe
• Moringa Leaf Sauce and Fresh Moringa Leaf, Beans and Meat, from Moringa Farms
• Spiced Drumstick Leaves, from Asia Society
(Image: Emily Ho)