Okay, so the weather is still scary. It feels darn strange to say that since typhoons and storms are a way of life in this country and I’ve lived here all my life. But given the worse-than-usual experiences during the last couple of years, Ketsana and Washi just to name two, it’s hard not to get a bit paranoid when strong rains and winds refuse to abate. One of the windows of my study fell off earlier. Unhinged, literally, because of the strong winds. I should have kept it shut but it gets stuffy with all the windows closed, so…
Anyway, rains and winds notwithstanding, everyone still has to eat. For Speedy and me, it was a light-on-meat, heavy-on-vegetables and strong-on-flavors late lunch. This dish was pretty much adapted from the sambal kangkong that we had over the weekend. Flavored with traditional Southeast Asian aromatics like lemongrass, ginger and chilis, it really breathes new life to the run-of-the-mill ginisang togue (sautéed mung bean sprouts) that seems to be in the repertoire of every Filipino cook.
- 100 grams pork belly sliced thinly then cut into thin, thin strips no more than a quarter of an inch wide
- 1 large red onion peeled and diced
- 6 cloves garlic crushed and peeled
- 1 stalk lemongrass finely minced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 heaping tablespoon sambal oelek (or use 2 to 3 finely chopped bird’s eye chilis)
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- patis (fish sauce) to taste
- 2 cups mung bean sprouts rinsed and drained
- 1 carrot peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 large handful a large handful of spinach leaves
Heat a wok or frying pan. Lightly brush with oil. Add the pork and cook over high heat, stirring often, until lightly browned. Add about a teaspoonful of patis and a quarter cup of water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about ten minutes. If the pork has been cut really small, that’s all the time it’ll need to cook thoroughly.
Meanwhile, grind the onion, garlic and lemongrass to a paste (I used a food processor).
Uncover the pan. If there is still liquid in it, turn up the heat and continue cooking until quite dry.
Pour in the rest of the vegetable oil.
Add the onion-garlic-lemongrass paste, grated ginger, tamarind paste, shrimp paste, sugar, sambal oelek (or chilis, if that’s what you’re using) and about a teaspoonful of patis. Cook gently over medium heat until the mixture separates from the oil. At this point, the mixture — including the pork — would have turned a deep brown.
Add the carrot sticks to the pan. Cook, stirring often, for a minute.
Add the spinach and mung bean sprouts. Cook, tossing continuously, for another minute or just until the spinach is wilted and the mung bean sprouts soften a bit. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
Serve the spicy mung bean sprouts at once.