Last Sunday, my father and I prepared the perfect merienda for the family — Banana Turon. Actually, it was my mother who asked us to cook Turon to be sold outside our house as an afternoon street snack alongside my sister’s Halo-halo. But I discovered some vanilla and ube ice creams in the freezer, so I think the family practically ate half of the Turons that we made.
Turon is a sweet roll of saba banana and jackfruit (langka) coated with caramelized sugar and enclosed in lumpia wrapper. In my native town Malabon, it is locally known as Valencia, and the Turon the we have always known has a munggo filling instead of banana. It is usually served as an afternoon snack, although some posh Filipino restaurants serve it as a dessert “a la mode” which sometimes comes with an unreasonable price tag.
Most of the ingredients of Turon are actually inexpensive. Saba bananas are cheap and nutritious. You can buy jackfruit flesh in tingi (small portions). In fact, we sell one piece of Turon for only P15. However, preparation can be hard labor, especially if you’re not used to rolling and wrapping and keeping everything neat and tidy.
Before you start cooking, here’s a few notes in buying the fruit ingredients: make sure the saba bananas are ripe, possibly with black spots on the skin, soft to the touch, but not mushy; jackfruit flesh must be golden yellow and sweet smelling. Using unripe fruits may result to a gummy bite which is not very appetizing.
So, I’ve been staying at home for the past six days, nursing a flu (and a cold and a cough). My body finally gave up on me. I haven’t been sick for years now and I thought it can still take all the stress. I’m blaming everything on the weather; 34 degrees C (about 93.2 degrees F) of glorious summer heat practically envelopes the entire Metro Manila. And it’s still getting hotter!
There’s no comfort in being sick especially during the hot season. The rainy season is more merciful; you can easily find pleasure with a bowl of warm soup or a serving of porridge or a cup of hot something. In this weather, they might be a bit hard to appreciate. But, I still wanted my bowl of soup, so, I came down to a decision and gathered all my strength to get up and prepare my favorite comfort food — Ginisang Munggo.
I love Ginisang Munggo. I used to not like it when I was a child for reasons that I don’t remember, then I started liking it when I was growing up. Ginisang Munggo is pure pleasure in a bowl. Although technically it’s a soup, most Pinoys would eat it with rice. It’s the perfect partner for your fried dishes, especially fish. Ginisang Munggo is usually served every Friday (if you know why, let me know by leaving a comment below!), but I’d eat it any day of the week anyway!
There are many ways to prepare Ginisang Munggo. If you can buy chicharon with laman (pork cracklings), you can use that instead of rendering pork meat. You can also make it vegan or vegetarian friendly by removing the pork and/or shrimp altogether and use tofu instead. For the leafy ingredient, I personally prefer malunggay (moringa or horseradish tree) because it’s packed with nutrients. The thickness of the soup depends on your desired consistency; just add more water and adjust the seasoning.
Note: If you have a high level of uric acid, this dish may not be for you. I’m looking at you, Larry.
Ginataang Halo-Halo is another favorite Filipino merienda or minandal which is usually served as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. In my hometown, this delectable dish is popularly known as Alfajor. A warm bowl of this sweet delicacy can be enjoyed at a nearby carenderia, usually being served along side lugaw and other kakanin.
Root crops are the key ingredients of Ginataang Halo-Halo which easily fill your stomach and give you enough energy for a day’s work. Saba bananas and ripe jackfruit add an extra sweetness, and the sago and glutinous rice balls (bilo-bilo) provide a chewy texture.
Just an additional note, I personally find it challenging to prepare Ginataang Halo-Halo because I get allergic reaction while peeling taro roots (gabi). It gives me an itch that lasts for several days. Gabi is naturally toxic when raw, but its toxicity diminishes when cooked. What I do is I wear a plastic bag or hand gloves whenever I prepare the root crop. So, take extra precautionary measures as you might also experience the same discomfort.
Meanwhile, the glutinous rice (malagkit) dough is the same ingredient that we use in making Palitaw. Check out my Palitaw recipe to learn how to make the dough at home. When you shape it into small balls, it is locally known as bilo-bilo, which perhaps came from the Tagalog word bilog which means round in shape.
Just like many of Filipino dishes, Ginataang Halo-Halo can be prepared without one or two of the ingredients especially when they are not available in the place where you live. Check out Filipino stores in your area for canned varieties if you can’t find fresh produce.