Hello Everyone! With only 28 calendar days, February flew by so quickly and it’s already the 3rd day of the 3rd month of 2021! In 13 days it’ll be a year since we (the Philippines) went into Enhanced Community Quarantine because of the global pandemic. Last week we shared our last recipe for local Cambodian delicacies; our second stop on our road to discover the Flavours of Southeast Asia for Amcarmen’s Kitchen. Our next stop for this month is a small Southeast Asian nation that is rarely heard of, a country that only gained its full independence in 2002 – East Timor! After centuries of Portuguese colonization, the state became independent in 1975 before being invaded by Indonesia. The country was finally able to restore its sovereignty in 2002.
This is why East Timorese Cuisine is heavily influenced by other Southeast Asian foods, Indonesian cuisine to be specific, and Portuguese cuisine. Since agriculture is one of the most important sectors in the country, the cuisine uses mainly rice (since its largely homegrown), sweet potatoes, corn, cassava, and taro. To add up to the base of every dish there is usually a vegetable component, also with homegrown products such as black-eyed peas, onions, spinach, and cabbage. Meat such as pork, chicken, goat, and fish are also common in East Timorese dishes.
The first dish that we’re going to tackle for this month is known as Batar Da’an, or in English, Pumpkin, Corn, and Mung Bean Stew. Mung beans are very popular in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia. Though having said that East Timorese cuisine is heavily influenced by other cultures, Batar Da’an is actually one of the few dishes that are authentic to the country. It is a simple, yet hearty and humble vegan dish (gluten-free too!) that is prepared with a combination of diced pumpkin, corn, and mung beans that are sautéed in garlic and onions, seasoned with just salt and pepper. There are also other variations of this dish, where squash is used instead of pumpkin, and kidney beans are used as an alternative to mung beans.
Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on 196 Flavors by Vera and Mike. The original recipe uses water as the base for this stew. I replaced the water with my own homemade vegetable stock to really amplify the flavour of this dish. You may also use store-bought broth if you wish. Also, at the very last minute, I asked my maid to harvest some moringa (malunggay) leaves from our neighbour’s tree to not only add colour to the dish, but also an extra added nutrition!
PREP TIME 10 MINS* | COOKING TIME 20 MINS | SERVES 6
*Allow for 6 hours to overnight to soak the mung beans.
For the vegetable broth
- 6 cups water
- Long Green Chilli
- Dried Rosemary
- Dried Bay Leaves
- Whole Black Peppercorns
Note: When making a basic vegetable broth, you want vegetables with neutral, but savoury flavours. Onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms are the ideal starter vegetables for stock, but feel free to swap any of these for leeks, tomatoes or parsnips. Avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes and turnips will make for a gummy, cloudy vegetable stock. Beets overpower their aromatic counterparts. Zucchini and green beans become bitter when slowly simmered for as long it takes to make this stock.
For the batar da’an
- 600g pumpkin, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 4 & 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
- 3/4 cup dried mung beans, soaked for at least 6 hours to overnight
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Moringa (malunggay) leaves, optional
You can choose to make your vegetable broth the day before to save time when actually cooking the Batar Da’an.
- Vegetable Broth: Combine all the ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down low and leave to slowly simmer for an hour.
If you’re using your broth right away, skip ahead to step 3a.
- When done, turn the heat off and leave to cool down slightly for about half an hour.
- Strain the vegetables and spices from the broth, into a bowl and then:
a) set aside until ready to use, or
b) set aside to cool down completely before transferring into a jar/container to store in the fridge.
- Batar Da’an: Add the coconut oil to a large stockpot over medium-high heat and sauté the minced garlic until golden brown in colour and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Next, add the diced onions and cook until soft, a further 30 to 45 seconds.
- Add the pumpkin chunks and give it a good mix for about a minute and then add in the drained mun beans. Season with a touch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper and cook for about a minute to get some caramelisation happening.
- Pour in the vegetable broth, mix, and then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes.
- In the last 5 minutes, stir in the thawed corn and give it a good mix. At this point, you may taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Turn the heat off after 5 minutes and then serve immediately while hot and enjoy!
Optional: Once the heat is turned off, you may stir in some moringa (malunggay) leaves, or other choice of leafy greens, and let the residual heat cook them.
This dish is traditionally enjoyed as a main course, usually accompanied by rice, but it can also serve as an excellent side dish when paired with other meat or fish dishes.
– Ally xx