Pepper's English-Filipino Cheat Sheet: Bahay Kubo Vegetables

This guide breaks down each vegetable mentioned in Bahay Kubo, the popular Filipino children's song.

We all know Bahay Kubo by heart. But actual Bahay Kubo vegetables? Probably not so much.

We made this cheat sheet to help you navigate through the markets with the knowledge that kundol is wintermelon or patani are lima beans. And to show you the different things you can do with these Bahay Kubo vegetables in the kitchen!

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Singkamas (Jicama)

Also known as a Mexican potato, singkamas (jicama) is a root vegetable that looks like a bulb. Think: an onion, but with a similar exterior as ginger; though its skin is easier to peel. It has a crisp, juicy, fresh flavor that’s sort of sweet and nutty. It’s like a cross between a potato and a pear or a carrot and an apple.

Singkamas is usually eaten raw with salt and chilies or served with bagoong or patis on the side as dips. You can also mix it with meat or vegetables to fill into dumplings or savory pastries. Singkamas makes for a good substitution for carrots or daikon radishes.

Talong (Eggplant)

The talong or eggplant we usually see in local markets are long and curved, classified as Solanum melongena. These have a sweet flavor profile than other kinds and are quite meaty in texture.

There are many ways to use talong (eggplant): in ensalada, as torta, in sinigang, etc. You can roast it, pan-fry it, or even grill it for dishes like baba ganoush.

Sigarilyas (Winged Beans)

Sigarilyas or winged beans are four-corned beans with frilly edges; they kind of look like long, thin leaves. Like most beans, they are slightly sweet with a profile that’s similar to asparagus. Sigarilyas are usually cooked alongside other vegetables for pinakbet, or sauteed in gising-gising. You can also simply blanch it to pair with grilled meat or seafood, or coat it in tempura batter then fry.

Mani (Peanuts)

Mani (peanuts, also known as earth nuts) are part of the legume family. There are many ways to consume it, apart from just popping it as is. Raw mani are usually either boiled or deep-fried; the latter method being used to make adobong mani, a garlic-infused appetizer heavily seasoned with salt. It’s also a main component of kare-kare.

Peanuts can also be candied or roasted for sweet dishes (e.g. peanut brittle). Or you can simply use it as a garnish for salads, noodles, and soups.

Sitaw (Long Beans)

Sitaw or long beans are, as its name suggests, long—as in eight to 10 inches long—beans. They taste similar to green beans but have a distinct asparagus-like flavor and chewy texture. Just like other beans, you can saute these with other vegetables or blanch them to serve with roasted food. You can also cook them adobo-style with ground pork or strips of pork belly.

Bataw (Hyacinth Beans)

Bataw or hyacinth beans are purple or green beans that have an earthy, slightly bitter taste (like green beans) when cooked. You can mix it into fried rice or rice pilafs, or prepare it with coconut-based dishes like curry or ginataang bataw.

Hyacinth beans contain cyanogenic glycoside, so be sure to prepare them properly and only eat the recommended amounts.

Patani (Lima Beans)

Patani (lima beans) come in green casings, but the beans themselves are white. (This is why they’re also called white beans.) You’ll often find these in the market either fresh, dried, or canned, depending on the season.

There are many options you can take when preparing lima beans. You can soak then slow-cook them, serving them on toast, or you can boil them to serve in a salad. Patani can also be sauteed with other vegetables to make side dishes such as succotash. White beans can also be pureed or ground into a paste to be used for fillings in flaky pastries or gluten-free doughs.

Kundol (Wax Gourd, Winter Melon, Puting Kalabasa)

Kundol, also known as wax gourd, winter melon, or puting kalabasa, looks like a giant cucumber. It has a grassy but neutral flavor similar to cucumber. Before cooking, its flesh has a watermelon-like texture. It’s used in stir-fries or combined with ground meat to make soup.

Kundol can also be used as a confectionary; it’s commonly cooked in sugar syrup with pandan leaves then rolled in sugar. In some cases, the meat is also used to fill hopia.

Patola (Ribbed Gourd, Sponge Gourd)

Patola (ribbed gourd or sponge gourd) is similar to kundol in both flavor and texture. However, patola has ridges along its length, making it distinct in look. It can be sauteed and mixed in almondigas, a comforting and hearty soup made of misua and meatballs, often paired with rice.

Upo (Bottle Gourd)

Upo (bottle gourd) is another gourd that’s easy to mistake for kundol, except this onei has a spongy interior which is removed along with its seeds. It’s a common ingredient in Indian and Chinese dishes, and can be sauteed, stewed, deep-fried, or pureed.

Kalabasa (Squash)

Kalabasa or squash is a versatile ingredient beloved for its sweet flavor. You can saute it, mash it, roast it, puree it or deep-fry it. It can be used to make gnocchi, fresh pasta, or even bread! You can serve it as a side dish (e.g. with steak) or as a mix-in for salads.

Some popular local squash-based dishes included ginataang kalabasa and okoy (squash fritters).

Labanos (Radish)

Eaten raw, labanos (radish) is crispy, spicy, and zesty. It’s great to pickle or ferment or sliced thinly to add to salads. When cooked, labanos becomes sweeter and milder. It’s a main component in dishes like sinigang and bopis.

Aside from savory applications, labanos can also be used to make desserts such as radish cake.

Mustasa (Mustard Greens)

Mustasa or mustard greens are peppery, bitter leafy greens similar to kale and cabbage. You can use it in salads mixed with lettuce and dressed with vinaigrette. That said you’ll need a bunch of things to combat its pungent flavor; onions, garlic, bacon, ham, lemons, and aged cheeses work well with mustasa.

Mustard greens, if not being used for salads, are usually sauteed. But you can also ferment, pickle, puree, or cream them, as you would spinach.

Sibuyas (Onions)

Sibuyas (onions) are one of the most used vegetables in the kitchen. There are three main types: red, yellow, and white.

Red onions are best served raw or pickled because of their mild and sweet flavor. Its deep purple color also makes it great to use to add color to otherwise dull dishes (e.g. leafy salads). When roasted or grilled, red onions stay intact and don’t turn jammy or mushy.

Yellow onions are what’s recommended to use when you need caramelized onions for burgers, dips, jams, etc. When in contact with heat, yellow onions release a natural sugar that helps with its caramelization.

White onions are great to add to salads or sandwiches because of their crispy and mildly sweet flavor, making them suitable eaten raw.

Kamatis (Tomato)

Kamatis or tomatoes are acidic, savory, and sweet. They can be eaten raw, pureed, sauteed, stewed, or roasted. They’re available year-round and can adapt to hot climates like ours. They’re also one of the most important ingredients in the kitchen.

Tomatoes go well with almost anything. That said they’re best paired with herbs, red meat, cheeses, and starchy products like pasta and bread.

Bawang (Garlic)

Right up there on the ranking of most important ingredients, bawang or garlic is an essential aromatic used in most savory dishes. It’s an all-around ingredient that can be eaten raw, roasted, sauteed, and fried. You can also add it to marinades, soups, broths, sauces, dressings, and more. It has a strong, pungent flavor when eaten raw, but turns milder and sweeter when roasted.

Luya (Ginger)

Luya or ginger is a fibrous, mildly spicy aromatic abundant in Asian countries. It’s often used as an aromatic alongside garlic. But it can also be a flavor of its own, distinct in dishes such as tinola or Hainanese chicken.

This vegetable isn’t limited to savory dishes, though. It can be infused in sweet confectionaries such as biscuits and breads, or it can be extracted and dried for beverages such as tea and cocktails.

Linga (Sesame Plant)

Linga (or sesame plant) is a vegetable whose both body and seeds are edible. It’s nutty and earthy, making it an ideal pair with both sweet and savory dishes. The seeds are mainly used for garnish or pureed to make dips such as hummus.

One of the most popular local uses for linga is for buchi, a deep-fried glutinous rice ball filled with red bean and coated in sesame seeds. There are black and white sesame seeds and some confectionaries use both.

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