The more common way of preparing this simple soup is to add sili leaves to the clams after the heat has been turned off. The pot is covered for a few minutes to allow the sili leaves to wilt before serving. But after I gave birth to my first child, my father would make this soup using malunggay leaves. Whether there is a scientific basis for it or it is simply another old wives’ tale, I am not sure, but my father said malunggay helped with the production of breast milk. He wanted the best for his granddaughter. :)
Malunggay (Moringa oleifera Lamk,) is a tree; both the leaves and the fruits are edible and highly nutritious and has been referred to as nature’s medicine cabinet and a miracle vegetable. The best part is… oh, okay, there are two. First, malunggay is very cheap. PhP 5.00 worth of malunggay is quite enough to cook a soup for four people. Second, malunggay leaves taste good. No bitterness, no hard fibers, no aftertaste.
1/2 kilo of fresh clams (halaan)
8-10 stalks of malunggay
half a head of garlic, peeled and finely minced
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
an onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 tbsps. of vegetable cooking oil
patis for seasoning
Cooking procedure :
If available, buy live clams–the ones that visibly still spurt water. Wash, drain and place in a bowl. Cover with water and let sit in the fridge for several hours to allow the clams to expel sand. Change the water every few hours. From personal experience, they require a longer soaking time than mussels (tahong). When I buy clams early in the morning, I let them soak the entire day and cook them for the evening meal. I have had the unfortunate experience of cooking them after letting them soak for only about three hours and the result was disastrous–there was sand in the broth.
The nice thing about clams is that unlike mussels, you won’t need to do much after soaking them. No “beards” to pull out. Just give them a good washing in clean water, drain and they’re ready to go into the cooking pot.
Prepare the malunggay by removing the leaves from the hard stalk. The easy way to do this is to place the top of the main stalk between your forefinger and your thumb. Slide your fingers down and the smaller stalks to which the leaves are attached will come off. The ones on the top portion are tender enough–you don’t need to pick each leaf one by one. But the stalks at the bottom of the main stalk are not as tender. Locate the top of each, place it between your forefinger and thumb and slide your fingers down like you did with the main stalk.
Heat the cooking oil in a pot. Saute the garlic and ginger together, then add the sliced onion. Pour about 5 cups of water; season with patis. Bring to a boil. Add the clams and allow the water to boil once more. At this point, the clam shells would be open halfway. Add the malunggay leaves, cover and simmer gently for about two minutes.
Serve at once.