Way before I discovered and tried kale, goji berries, maca powder, and hemp seeds, I was munching on these tiny, green leaves called Moringa or in Tagalog “Malunggay“. I fondly recall the name Malunggay because that’s what my aunts would call my mom -her name is Malou so hence the nickname, “Malou-nggay“.
Growing up in the Philippines, I used to take Moringa for granted as just another leafy green accompanying the main meat ingredient on the plate. Little did I know Malunggay is potent with nutrients such as Vitamin A, B, and C, protein, calcium, and eight of the essential amino acids. Moringa is praised for benefits such as mental awareness and healthy skin. Nowadays, superfoods are the latest craze so lo and behold Moringa re-introduces itself with a much stronger reputation.
In the Philippines, you could now spot all kinds of Moringa products from herbal teas, to Moringa-infused pan de sal bread, to vitamin supplements. I saw this first hand from my trip to the Philippines a year and a half ago. You name it and you could bet it has Moringa in it. But why wouldn’t Filipinos just skip the supplements and eat the fresh Moringa plant itself especially when the plant grows there abundantly? I have no clue.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I could still access fresh Moringa. I think they are imported from Hawaii. I would spot Moringa sold at Asian grocery stores at $2.99 a pound. I know, expensive! Still, I think it’s wise to spend my money on nutritious food so in the end, it’s not a waste of money at all. Hopefully I could find my way into growing my own Moringa plant.
So how do you prepare and eat Moringa? First, you have to thoroughly wash it. When cooking with it, remove the leaves from the stem. Only the leaves are desired. The stems are not poisonous or toxic or anything like that, they’re just too tough to chew because they don’t break down easily. You could put Moringa leaves in soups, stews, even in smoothies. Moringa leaves have a mild earthy flavor when cooked, sometimes I couldn’t taste them at all.
Filipinos traditionally put Moringa in a dish called “Tinola“, a savory soup with chicken, rice washing, and vegetables such as Moringa, string beans, and papaya. I veganize it by using vegetable broth and mushrooms. You could find the recipe for it here. Tinola is best enjoyed with a side of rice (as most Filipino dishes are).
If you couldn’t find fresh Moringa leaves, you could get dry powdered versions at health stores, specialty stores, and online. The powdered versions are great in smoothies.
Just add a teaspoon or two of Moringa powder and blend away. I’ve tried making a Moringa smoothie with 1/4 cup of raw almonds, 1 banana, 1 apple, and a teaspoon of maca powder.
Of course you could also try fresh Moringa leaves in smoothies. Just add one cup of fresh Moringa leaves along with the same portion of fruits and vegetables you would usually use in your smoothie recipe.
Take heed though that raw Moringa leaves have a more earthy flavor than cooked ones. Feel free to add sweeteners like dates. For me, bananas and apples did the job of adding sweetness but I know some people may still want to make their smoothies sweeter.
I did try making a Moringa smoothie with coconut water and pineapple and the combo was not good. The flavor was a bit off. I think it’s best to stick with apples, bananas, almonds, and the like, instead of going with a tropical flair.
Have you tried Moringa before? In what dishes have you tried it with?