I was raised in a carnivorous household and I can count by my fingers the number of times we were admonished to eat vegetables. And mind you, vegetables basically meant upo (bottle gourd), kangkong (swamp cabbage), repolyo (cabbage), kalabasa (squash) and sitao (string beans) -- the kid-friendly, better-tasting kind. Yet, even then, in the rare occasions when I did eat these veggies, the servings were in such small bits or mashed and taken with lots of rice, or covered with tocino, or followed up with gulps of water. Drama, suspense, action.
I hated vegetables.
And so it is a big surprise to my mother-- and moreso, to me-- that now, 30+ years after, I am now an avid fan of vegetables. I crave them. I make menus around them. I bring them to potluck parties. I skip restaurants that do not serve them. I make salads out of ampalaya, fill broths with saluyot, even go to Antipolo for bulaklak ng katuray for ensalada. Drama, suspense, action.
I woke up one day loving vegetables.
And so, for the 18th edition of Lasang Pinoy, I am writing about my first-ever attempt at Bulanglang. Bulanglang is an Ilokano dish that contains the stuff vegetable haters' nightmares are made of: saluyot, okra, talbos ng sitao, bulaklak ng kalabasa. Cooking-- and enjoying--this dish is a testament that I've really come full circle. :)
What's In It?
1 medium-sized bangus (milkfish), cut daing-style (butterfly)
2 bunches talbos ng sitao
2 bunches saluyot leaves
2 bunches okra (ladyfingers)
2 bunches squash blossoms
2 bunches string beans
5 to 6 cups water
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup bagoong balayan
Season bangus with 1 teaspoon salt then grill over charcoal until done. Remove from fire and set aside.
Wash vegetables carefully and thoroughly. Cut sitao into 3" segments, okra into halves, crosswise. Remove squash blossoms, sitao tops and saluyot leaves from their stalks. Set aside.
Boil water in a sauce pot over high heat. Add onions and bagoong balayan, let boil for a minute or so. Add in grilled bangus. Let boil for 2 to 3 minutes to allow the flavors of the fish to meld with the broth.
Carefully remove bangus from the pot and transfer to a serving bowl. Add in okra and sitao and let simmer for one and a half minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender.
Add in the rest of the ingredients. Let boil for another minute or until the greens are crisp tender. Remove from fire and serve topped with the grilled bangus.
Read about other veggie recipes posted by Pinoy Foobloggers in the Lasang Pinoy 18 roundup, here.
(Many, many thanks to my ageless, proudly-Ilokana friend Mama Norms who introduced this Bikolana/Tagalog to Bulanglang, and for sharing the recipe. Stay sexy. Mmmwah!)