Have you ever wondered what those little leaves that add some texture to your classic bowl of Tinola are? Moringa, also known as malunggay in the Philippines, is intriguingly one of the healthiest parts of your favorite Filipino soup dishes. Dubbed the “miracle vegetable”, the Moringa has antiviral, antidepressant, antifungal and anti-inflamatory properties. It’s been hailed by the World Health Organization for being an affordable health enhancer.
And fun fact: the official logo of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute in the Philippines dons the nutritious malunggay.
What is the Moringa or Malunggay?
This leafy vegetable, also known as Moringa oleifera, comes from a tree that can make 10,000 a year. This is also called the horseradish tree or drumstick tree. Iit is actually very functional and beneficial to have right in your garden. Nearly every part of the Moringa tree is used as an ingredient in traditional herbal medicine, or can be eaten. The Moringa’s roots and flowers actually contain pterygospermin. This has fungicidal and antibiotic effects, and is known for helping cholera patients. And you can even eat these flowers. They also have a wealth of calcium and potassium in them. You can also find the Moringa’s components in the form of powder, leaves and capsules.
What are some of its uses?
The Malunggay tree has also had a very long history in proving its health value. It has been used for traditional Indian medicine since 5,000 years ago. They also usually thrive more in semi-arid, tropical or sub-tropical environments. But Moringa trees can usually be found all over the world because of their efficacy and usefulness. But generally, they are most popular in Asian cuisine.
The seeds, after being ground up, make for a nice addition to a meal in need of some spice. You can also integrate it with a dressing to give a more horseradish-esque flavor. You might also know it for being a great substitute for spinach, as they have a similar texture and taste. Moringa powder retains the health benefits of Moringa. It is something you can use as an alternative for salt and pepper made healthier. Salads can also benefit from a good amount of Moringa leaf and seed pods. These can add both texture and nutritional value to the dish.
Interestingly enough, some of its other applications include being a promising bio-fuel source. Pharmaceutical companies also use it because of its medicinal properties. Moringa has also proven its usefulness for the cosmoceutical industry, which uses all-natural ingredients for cosmetic products. Watchmakers and cosmetics producers also use Ben oil, which comes from the seeds. You can also use it to retain scents in perfume, which makes it very useful to perfume companies.
Health benefits of moringa
It comes as no surprise that the malunggay is known for being a “miracle vegetable“. Studies show that it can help prevent 300 diseases. This is because it contains several vitamins and minerals. A cup of chopped Moringa leaves contains 2 grams of protein. And it can meet 19% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of Vitamin B6. Furthermore, it meets 12% of Vitamin C, 11% of the RDA of Iron and 9% of Vitamin A.
Moringa oleifera is also known for helping with a person’s cholesterol levels. This lessens a person’s risk of having heart disease. The superfood contains several antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid and quercetin. These can help defend the body’s cells from free radicals that can harm one’s DNA and other cell structures.
But its disease-preventing abilities does not stop there, as Malunggay pods can help prevent cancer-forming tumor cells. Additionally, they are beneficial for those suffering from joint pain, rheumatism and arthritis because they can treat symptoms for these. They can also help prevent edema, which is a condition involving the build-up of fluids in body tissues. Because Moringa contains anti-inflamatory properties, they can be very helpful for those who want to protect themselves from edema.
There are benefits towards a person’s mental health in eating dishes with a significant amount of Moringa. Their antidepressant properties help treat mood disorders such as anxiety, fatigue and depression as well.
Why should I try Moringa?
And so if you’re interested in trying a slightly bitter but also sweet leafy superfood that’s sure to boost your mood and your health, give dishes that are abundant in Moringa a try! A great place to start might be the classic Tinolang Manok dish. It’s a Filipino favorite that is both low-cost and tasty in its mild, comforting flavor of home. But if you’ve given that a try, don’t worry! I’ve got some more recipe suggestions for you that make use of the “miracle vegetable”. It is sure to add a yummy, nourishing factor to your meal.
Recipes to try
Sometimes, it’s the simplest dishes that provide the most solace. This Corn and Malunggay Soup recipe is a perfect go-to for when you’re craving something akin to the comfort provided by Chicken soup, but with more health benefits. Whipping out 4 servings of this mild-flavored soup will only take you 30 minutes. And it should be the best food to have after a long day of work. You can also slice up some boneless chicken breast and sauté it to give the dish a bit more flavor. Alongside the malunggay and shredded white corn, the chicken slices will add some more texture and savor to your bowl.
If you’re an avid fan of Filipino food, you’re probably aware of how well the Chicken Tinola already works beautifully as it is. But have you ever thought of switching out that chicken for something a little closer to the sea? Because I’ve got just the thing! It is sure to add a saltwater-esque flavor to your soup. The Tinolang Tahong with Malunggay dish is a very popular tinola variant. And this is no surprise to anyone who’s tried it.
The ginger broth and lemongrass mingle with the taste of the mussels flawlessly. And the malunggay leaves make the dish all the more nutritious. Not unlike the previous recipe, you’ll be making this soup with some ease. It doesn’t involve a lot of steps. and will only take about 25 minutes. It is also best for me with some fried or grilled fish. You can make it a seafood party all together with a great source of protein!
Just like malunggay, you might know sayote for its special appearances in various Filipino soup dishes. And this is a lucky collaboration too because both vegetables are rich in nutrients and chock full of health benefits. Sayote similarly has a great amount of Vitamin C content. This is very helpful in defending the body from radicals causing cancer. It can also be beneficial in keeping bones and teeth strong because of its high Vitamin K content. This dish does it all in working best for your health, while being very tasty in its light, salty flavor.
Moving on to recipes that make for great viands, this Ginataang Alimasag with Malunggay dish is delicious with some rice. It also makes use of a great seafood ingredient, the alimasag. This is a species of crab that gives a somewhat sweet and savory taste to this dish. And it mixes well with the texture of malunggay. And just like most ginataang dishes, the coconut-y flavor makes for a creamy taste you’ll want more and more of. This dish uses various ingredients with great flavor-adding properties. These include chili pepper, fish sauce and coconut milk. But even with all of these flavors at play, the dish makes use of the ingredients harmoniously. And together, they make an exciting, yummy Filipino meal.
This dish and the previous one are similar in utilizing the creamy taste of the coconut milk to integrate with a seafood ingredient. The combination, after all, is known to work extremely well. But the Ginataang Langka with Malunggay and Daing provides some special flavors. You can taste this in how it gracefully adds langka or jackfruit into the mix. You might be wondering how these might taste together. But the jackfruit actually adds a note of fruity sweetness to a dish. And it could benefit from this because of the yummy saltiness of the daing.
Moringa offers such a bounty of vitamins and minerals that trying plenty of recipes that incorporate it will always sound like a great idea. But you might need a couple of tips in cooking it. And this is especially true if it is your first time encountering the leafy superfood. For one, the leaves and seed pods are best when tender. They can be hard to chew and digest if not! Make sure that you cook them through fully by boiling them so you end up eating them at their best.
Also, make sure that if you get your hands on malunggay, you store them in a cool, dry place. Refrigeration could also help your malunggay last longer. But keeping it somewhere away from light and outside the refrigerator would still work.
What about Moringa powder?
As previously mentioned in this article, Moringa powder is also a smart way of incorporating the healthy food into your diet without having to boil the leaves and seed pods. It gives a somewhat nutty flavor to your dish of choice. And it is a great way of adding some mildly savory taste to your recipes. It might also add some green color to your dish. With this, use it in dishes wherein the color won’t be too important.
Let us know in the comments how you like to integrate malunggay into your dishes!