How do you write about malunggay leaves when it’s something you’ve eaten all your life and you’ve taken for granted its health benefits? I baked these easy Malunggay -Moringa Muffins with Cheese, a savory side bread to our Filipino meals after the holiday binge—because our palates longed for the salty after all the sweets. I had not baked these in a while and I asked myself why didn’t I do this more often.
Malunggay (say ‘mah-lung-gay‘) also known as moringa has been touted by social media as the next superfood, super hero or the latest trend. You can pick whatever title you want. The thing is malunggay, the vegetable, the tree and its leaves have been around for a while in many Asian countries. Like a lot of vegetables and fruits I’ve mentioned, I grew up with malunggay, from trees my father grew in our backyard. On my regular trips to my home in Tarlac, in the Philippines, I always ask for Malunggay Guisado, the long, slender pods sautéed simply in garlic, onions and tomatoes, flavored with a dash of patis (fish sauce). The salty, stringy vegetable dish is superb with rice and paired with char-grilled fish.
The malunggay leaves on the tree are tiny, round-edged dark green leaves which to me resemble a jade plant. Malunggay trees grow abundantly in tropical countries. In my mom’s recipes, malunggay leaves from our backyard trees in Tarlac were added to Filipino classics like chicken tinola, pinakbet (vegetables with bagoong/shrimp paste), abraw (boiled vegetables), Arroz caldo, sinigang (tamarind stew) or nilaga (boiled meat dishes).
Following what my mom did, I often add malunggay leaves to traditional Filipino dishes I cook for my family in my American kitchen today. When cooked, the tiny, dark green leaves shrivel slightly and have nearly the same texture and simplistic flavors as spinach. Though when my sons were little, serving vegetables was a challenge. Of course, they’re all grown now and have embraced wellness and healthy eating as a way of life. But I digress. My recipe folder has expanded, and I’ve found creative ways to add malunggay to breads, pastries, and even lumpia wrappers.
What is it about moringa or malunggay leaves that have current health articles abuzz about its super powers? Internet sources reveal the malunggay (moringa) leaves, pods, and other parts of the tree are packed with immense nutritional benefits. Health experts cite the leaves as the most nutritious part of the plant, and is a useful source of vitamins, proteins and essential nutrients.
As one who lives in a very suburban part of America, it is tough for me to find fresh malunggay leaves or the pods. Friends in big cities like Chicago or in California have purchased fresh malunggay from large Asian markets. But if you’re like me and can’t find fresh malunggay near you, try the frozen malunggay from the Asian supermarkets. They are labeled ‘horseradish’. Vegetables are vegetables and greens are greens. In any form, malunggay is just as flavorful, wholesome and adds an interesting coarse texture to this muffin mixture. When I was done baking these malunggay muffins, the cheesy aroma lingered around. The muffins were still warm, so I didn’t waste time pairing it with a warm, thick, cream soup and called everyone to the table.
Malunggay - Moringa Muffins with Cheese
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 Teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 227 g. or 1/2 lb. or 8 oz. frozen malunggay moringa or horseradish leaves
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup finely chopped, seeds and white membrane removed red bell pepper
- 1 can 12 fl. oz/ 354 mL evaporated milk evaporated milk
- 1 large piece beaten egg
- 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
- 1/2 cup coarsely crumbled Feta cheese
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour and baking powder. Set aside.
- If using frozen malunggay-moringa leaves, allow for this to thaw and be at room temperature. In a small skillet, over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil. Quickly sauté in garlic, the thawed, previously-frozen malunggay (moringa/horseradish) leaves. Do this for 3 minutes. Do not overcook.
- Transfer the malunggay leaves to a chopping board. Chop into finely minced pieces. Set aside.
- In the large mixing bowl, combine the flour, chopped malunggay, grated sharp cheddar cheese and chopped bell peppers.
- Blend in the milk, melted butter, and egg. Mix ingredients with a large wooden spoon. Batter should be slightly lumpy, so the muffins can rise.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Prepare tiny muffin-sized pans (about 1 ½ inch diameter per muffin). Line with paper liners or grease each muffin tin individually.
- Pour batter into each muffin pan, about 2/3 cup full. Sprinkle each top with about 1/8 teaspoon crumbled feta cheese.
- Bake at 400 F degrees for 12 minutes or till the tip of a knife comes out clean when the muffin is pierced at the top.
- Cook's Comments: If using fresh malunggay or moringa leaves, use 1 cup for this recipe. Follow the rest of the procedure. In the Philippines, if Feta cheese is not available, substitute with Kesong Puti.
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