Sunday, August 16, 2009

Malungay and Grilled Tuna, A Meal Full of Nutrients

Having eaten a lot of meat over the weekdays made us crave for a vegetables and fish meal on a restful Sunday. A colleague from the northern Philippines volunteered to prepare a popular vegetable dish in their place made from stewing “malungay” (moringa) fruits , tomato and sweet potato in “bagoong” (a Philippine condiment made from small fish that have been salted, cured and fermented for several weeks). I also like the dish and immediately thought that grilled juvenile tuna is the perfect accompaniment to create a wonderful meal that’s not only delicious but also nutritious.

“Malungay” (Moringa Tree) is dubbed as a "miracle tree" due to scientific findings that its leaves provides the most nutritious bio-food on earth. It is said to contain four times the calcium and twice the protein of milk, seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the vitamin A (beta-carotene) of carrots, thrice the potassium in bananas, three times the iron content in spinach, with a full complement of minerals and all the amino acids of meat. The fruit is also nutritious with its seeds used to treat many illnesses.

It is a common knowledge that tuna fish is a nutrient-dense food. It is an excellent source of high quality protein and rich in a variety of important nutrients including the minerals selenium, magnesium, and potassium; the B vitamins niacin, B1 and B6; and perhaps most important, the beneficial omega-3 essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are so named because they are essential for our health but cannot be made by the body; they must therefore be obtained from foods. And tuna happens to be a rich source of that omega-3 essential fat.

To prepare the “malungay” dish you will need about 800 gram of young “malungay” fruits, peeled and cut to about 3 inches long pieces, about 4 large tomatoes roughly chopped, 3 large pieces of sweet potatoes (“kamote”) peeled and sliced and about ¼ cup “bagoong”.

While the “malungay” leaves is eaten all over the Philippines, its fruit is not consumed as vegetable except probably in the northern regions of the Island of Luzon and a prized dish in the provinces of Ilocos, Pangasinan, Tarlac and Pampanga.

On a heavy casserole pour about 6 cups of water and let it boil on medium heat. Add the chopped tomatoes and sliced sweet potatoes and let it boil again. Continue stewing on low heat until the sweet potatoes are cooked. Add the “malungay” fruits and the “bagoong” and continue stewing.

When the sweet potato turns very soft and the liquid starts to slightly thicken, your malungay dish is ready.

For the grilled fish, we need 2 pcs (about 1½ kilograms) juvenile yellow fin tuna, thoroughly cleaned and gutted, one small onion, peeled and sliced and some rock salt. After cleaning the fish, fill the belly cavity in with the sliced onion then make a long incision on both sides and season lightly with rock salt.

Grill on charcoal until thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes each side.

With a dipping sauce made from calamansi or lemon juice, soy sauce and some minced onion and tomato, your grilled fish and “malungay’ dish make a very healthy meal but requires a lot of steamed rice. It’s OK, no diet on Sundays, right? c“,)

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