Lifestyle

Cook this: Laing with flowers — greens stewed in coconut milk — from Filipinx


‘Now this is luxury,’ says chef Angela Dimayuga

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Our cookbook of the week is Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora by Angela Dimiyuga and Ligaya Mishan. Over the next two days, we’ll feature another recipe from the book and an interview with one of the authors.

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To try another recipe from the book, check out: Bistek (seared rib eye with lemon and onions).

Use your choice of greens for Angela Dimayuga’s stunning vegetable dish. Stewing them in full-fat coconut milk “adds this luscious quality,” she says.

Collards, black kale (a.k.a. cavolo nero; dinosaur, lacinato or dinosaur kale) and Swiss chard are all excellent choices for her laing with flowers. But if you can find squash or sweet potato leaves, or tropical greens such as taro — which would be the green of choice in the Bicol Region of the Philippines, where laing originated — or cassava leaves, even better.

“If you have access to green markets or farmers’ markets, you can get these special greens seasonally, or just use what you can get,” says Dimayuga.

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“For me in New York, an evergreen green that I want to eat is black kale. And you can kind of get that year-round anywhere.”

Instead of adding the typical pork or shrimp to her laing, Dimayuga keeps it vegan. But the dish goes well with the richly seasoned meats she features in Filipinx, or a simple roast chicken.

“If you’re just roasting a chicken on a weeknight, this would be a really great accompaniment next to all those beautiful chicken drippings,” she says.

Dimayuga adds optional layers to the dish, “to make it feel extra special,” including latik (crunchy coconut-milk curds; recipe follows), which is usually used for desserts and pastries in the Philippines, and edible flowers.

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“I love feeding people flowers,” says Dimayuga. “Some of them have some great flavour. Like sunflower petals — if you can get them — taste like sunflower seeds. So just thinking about something that’s easy to put together and then making something that can feel celebratory for the loved one you’re cooking for.”

Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora by Angela Dimiyuga and Ligaya Mishan
Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora by Angela Dimiyuga and Ligaya Mishan. Photo by ABRAMS

LAING WITH FLOWERS

LAH • eeng
Taro Leaves Stewed in Coconut Milk, with Toasted Coconut-Milk Curds

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 small onion, cut in half then lengthwise into 1/4-inch (6 mm) slices
5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 (1-inch/2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 whole fresh chili, such as serrano, cayenne, or red Fresno
1 cup (240 mL) unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk
Fish sauce
1 lb (455 g) your choice of greens (taro or cassava leaves, collards, or black kale), tough stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
Squash blossoms or edible flowers (optional)
2 tbsp Latik (recipe follows; optional)
Bagoong (fermented shrimp paste; optional)

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Step 1

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high. Add the coconut oil, red chili flakes, onion, garlic, ginger, and chili, and cook while stirring for about 3 minutes.

Step 2

Add the coconut milk and fish sauce, stir, then add the greens and combine. Stew for about 20 minutes, stirring intermittently, until the greens are cooked through, darkened in colour and tender (taste to be sure!), and the coconut milk has thickened and turned glossy but still pools at the bottom of the pan, like a loose gravy.

Step 3

Transfer to a platter. If using the optional garnishes, fold in the squash blossoms or scatter the edible flowers and latik on top. Serve right away, with a side of bagoong, or refrigerate for up to 4 days and reheat.

Serves: 3 or 4

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Latik from Filipinx
Latik, crunchy coconut-milk curds, from Filipinx. Photo by Alex Lau

LATIK

lah • TEEK
Crunchy Coconut-Milk Curds

2 cans (13 1/2 oz/400 mL each) unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream

Step 1

In a small non-stick saucepan, bring the coconut milk up to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to medium low.

Step 2

Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to 2 hours, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. As the coconut milk reduces, you’ll observe something exciting happening every 15 to 30 minutes, signalling a new phase in the cooking process. First, as the coconut milk evaporates, it starts to separate into curds and coconut oil. The colour shifts to a light gold, then large bubbles appear, shading into a caramel-coloured foam.

Step 3

At this point, you won’t be able to see the curds at the bottom of the pot. As the bubbles shrink and continue to darken, stir to break up the curds. When the bubbles die down, the curds become visible again.

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Step 4

Once the curds are deep brown, pour the pan’s contents into a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Save the coconut oil in the bowl for future use, storing it in a covered jar or bottle with a screw-top cap at room temperature; it should last for a few months.

Step 5

Tip the crunchy curds from the sieve onto a paper towel to drain and dry. This is latik. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for a few days until ready to use. If the latik gets a bit soft due to humidity, just pop it into the oven at 325°F (165°C) until it dries out again.

Makes: from 1/4 to 3/4 cup (25 to 108 g) latik and from 3 to 10 tbsp (40 to 150 mL) toasted coconut oil, depending on the brand of coconut milk or coconut cream

Recipes and images excerpted from Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora by Angela Dimiyuga and Ligaya Mishan. Text copyright © 2021 Angela Dimiyuga. Photographs copyright © 2021 Alex Lau. Used by permission of Abrams, an imprint of ABRAMS.

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