October 3, 2009

miswa & munggo (Filipino soups)

I spent most of this past week worried and sad as I read the latest news and watched news videos from the Philippines. I have family and friends in Marikina City, one of the places in Metro Manila hit with the worst flooding ever seen and was left badly damaged by heavy rains caused by tropical depression Ketsana (Ondoy in the Philippines). What happened was shocking and depressing for many who were left homeless and suffering the loss of many lives. This calamity made history and will never be forgotten. Our family home wasn't spared. There was about 2 feet of water inside my brother's house on the ground floor of our two story home. The flood rose to about 3 feet in the garage. My father's shop, now maintained by my brother, was at an even lower level, so all the old machineries were underwater. The floodwaters receded the next day in Marikina but other towns remain flooded as of this time. We're still thankful that my family and friends are all doing fine. We all realize that what they experienced was nothing compared to the ordeal that others went through.

Many people around the world and in relief distribution centers around Manila are now reaching out to those in need of food, shelter and clothing. When it comes to food that would be perfect for a huge group of people who are hungry, homeless and spending some rough times in relocation centers, there are two comforting Filipino soups which came to my mind. I'm sure these kind of food will bring them the sustenance and nourishment they need as they all try to move on and get back to their normal lives.
Miswa or misua, is a type of very fine Chinese vermicelli made from flour, commonly used in this miswa soup (shown above). It's also used in almondigas, a pork meatball soup version. Chicken broth or water flavored with chicken bouillon may be used for the soup. Sautee minced garlic, sliced onions and tomatoes in a little oil for a few minutes before adding the broth or water. Season with salt and pepper. We also like to flavor this with fish sauce instead of salt. Let it boil then reduce the heat. While the broth is simmering, break the eggs one at a time directly into the simmering water. Lastly, add the miswa then turn off the heat. Miswa cooks fast and must not be overcooked. Another version of this is to just cook some hard-boiled eggs, peel them and set them aside. They can then just be added to the soup at serving time. Garnish with sliced green onions and serve steaming hot.
There are different varieties of mung beans but these green ones (pictured below) are primarily used in this soup we call munggo in the Philippines (shown above). Traditionally made with pork or smoked fish called tinapa (my favorite version) and bitter gourd leaves, this is one of the most nutritious Filipino soups. When I made this recently, I used pork hocks for flavor then I substituted chopped spinach leaves for the bitter gourd leaves. Start off by rinsing the green mung beans then simmer them in plenty of water until tender. Set aside. In another pot, brown the pork hocks in a small amout of oil. Add the minced garlic, chopped onions and tomatoes next. Pour in the cooked mung beans and add more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Fish sauce may also replace the salt. Simmer gently for a few minutes then add the chopped spinach. Simmer for a few minutes more making sure to add more water if needed. Garnish with more chopped tomatoes before serving.

close up shot of the green mung beans before cooking

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