Three days ago, I was trying to save my three-week old seedlings of balunggay (malunggay in Manila; kalunggay in Bicol) from being buried under the filling material the contractor dumped on our lot. I dug deep wiwth my trowel so as not to cut the main root. I was successful with some but with other seedlings, I saw that my garden tool had severed their roots.
Last night, the image of those balunggay seedlings came back to amuse. Indeed, there was a radish-like veggie (rabanos in Ilonggo) that was found at the base of the seedling’s soft trunk. Now, I somehow understand why the English name for balunggay is horseradish (although I still have to know about that “horse” part).
I first learned about about the English names of a number of Philippine veggies from the books of Doreen Gamboa Fernandez such as Palayok and Tikim. Too bad she’s no longer around to do more research and write about Philippine food and culture.
The balunggay is a staple vegetable in the Ilonggo menu. It is also one of those GLVs (green leafy vegetables) that Ilonggos don’t shell out money for. They have it in their yards. But in the city where people don’t plant much for lack of space, or time or interest, balunggay is sold in the public markets or talipapa (mini-wet markets) for P2.00 per bundle of about 5-10 stalks.
Balunggay figures in laswa (the Ilonggo’s super “south-beachy” recipe of local vegetables in broth) and in sinabawan nga isda (fish sour soup). Our family’s personal favorite–the only veggie viand my 9 year-old son likes–is linatik nga kalabasa with balunggay. This is mashed kalabasa or squash thickened with coconut milk and “leafed” with balunggay.