A few days ago, I thought of having a simple soup that should have clean-tasting broth, filling for the tummy and loaded with greens and other vegetables. I’ve been trying to lessen rice in my diet, and yet I don’t want my carbohydrate consumption insufficient since I am breastfeeding, and I need lots of good calories.
Where I come from, we call the All-Veggie, Anything-You-Can Fill the Pot Veggie Soup - Utan Bisaya. It is a Cebuano term which loosely means vegetable soup cooked the Bisaya way, usually with added dried fish, fried fish, malunggay, alugbati, squash, lemongrass, okra…anything that is from the backyard vegetable patch or whatever is sitting on the kitchen table.
My people in the South call it utan pinobre, the poor man’s soup. I grew up with our house help usually adding a dash or “tak-tak” of the infamous vetsin that makes anything taste extra delicious, even the poor man’s soup was not spared. It’s obvious many people still add these things, although now they have taken on new forms and names.
But let’s have none of the nasty “tak-tak” vetsin. A little bit of research will tell you what’s bad about it. There are many ways to make a simple vegetable soup savoury and delicious.
Lucia, Mela & Martine were playing in the yard before lunch, picking the last of the flowers that's survived the summer heat, and got curious why we added saba banana in the soup. They are used to having it fried or boiled. Wouldn’t it be weird to the taste? I told them that it adds a nice, subtle sweet flavour to the broth.
On another note, talking about soup, I had a very funny experience one time ordering a vegan soup for a vegan guest, in a non-vegan restaurant. To say that it was a vegan disaster was an understatement. It was a scene out of a comedy show.
A very special friend from Manila visited me and my family, and she happened to be strictly vegan. But throughout her vacation, she was able to sustain herself by eating vegetarian meals, as an exception to her daily rule. We planned to go to dinner and thought the Italian restaurant should do. It was getting late, and there was no more time to look for good Indian food. I don't know why but at this fairly good Italian restaurant everything went wrong that night… from the wilted salad greens, to the most ridiculous vegetable soup. My vegan friend ordered minestrone, and requested only not to add salt, not to add meat/butter, just to be sure. The soup came and behold - the little bowl only had pieces of broccoli florets, swimming in a pale broth. A bit miffed, I asked for the manager and inquired that perhaps they made a mistake.
The lady manager with the air of a Marquesa defended the wee soup and told me that’s how they do it in Italy.
“Yes Mam, I‘ve lived a long time in Italy and that’s how they prepare it.”
I turned to my vegan friend. I thought both our eye balls popped out… I thought I heard the slap bass of Seinfeld. However, we are peaceful people, and yes we gave the manager a slight nod to be done with it. Sensing our disappointment she offered to improve the minestrone, and it came back with a bit more mushy zuchinni, tomatoes, and a tomatoey-reddish broth. My friend endured the “delightfu”l minestrone. In my mind, why do we go through the inanities of a restaurant when you can make a good utan bisaya at home?
This Banana-Malunggay soup is very simple. A light chicken & vegetable broth without the vetsin. Also, it’s anything but anaemic of vegetables, there are more good veggies floating in this soup!
You can make this anytime, and you can even bring it to work.
This can be your ready to eat soup in a jar.
500ml drinking water
about 50g or 100g chicken meat
2 small stalks of Lemongrass, wash and pound the leaves and root part using a mortar and pestle to release its aromatic oils, fold or coil the leaves, tie up into a small bundle
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
1 inch fresh, mashed ginger
1 medium sized ripe tomato, cut in half or slice to small pieces
1 tsp pure coconut oil
1/2 cup fresh malunggay-moringa leaves only
2 medium sized potatoes quartered
3 medium sized mid-ripe saba banana, thick circle slices
1/2 of medium sized carrot, thick circle slices
1/4 of a medium sized cabbage
Make the chicken broth: sauté the garlic, mashed ginger and tomatoes in 1 tsp pure coconut oil, until it becomes fragrant; add the pieces of chicken meat, sauté slightly; add water and the lemongrass bundle, let it simmer for sometime until the flavors come together.
Adding the fruit/vegetables: add the potatoes first, when almost cooked through, add the carrots, then the saba bananas, make sure you don’t over cook the bananas that it becomes mushy, let the flavours mix, simmer for about 3-5 minutes, add salt to taste, then add the sliced cabbage and last the malunggay leaves.
Enjoy your healthy soup!
No anaemic minestrone, please!
Can you imagine "that" conversation between Matutina and Dolphy? Or Brosia and her Amo? Pen Medina, please write it, lots of love here from your fan!
Now I’m thinking of making more variations of the Utan Bisaya!
Keep you posted!