No sooner had I been reveling in the cool chill of January (if that’s really what you can call the “none-heat” that we enjoy during the Christmas and New Year holidays) than February came in, putting an end to my blissful respite from the heat. Make no mistake, February is not summer…oh no. Summer will start its engines next month and grow steadily stronger and more merciless in April and May. What this is, well, I don’t really know what this is, save for the fact that the temperature is rising and unfailingly turning even the simplest tasks into ordeals of sweaty effort.
And I’ve just started my journey to a planet almost completely covered in sand with hardly any water…perfect timing right? I can simultaneously be literally, and literarily, engulfed in hot climate!
Thankfully, water here is not as costly as it is over there (although we do still have to buy it! If you are Finnish, my envy for the water that comes out from your taps for FREE knows no bounds). So I can enjoy my books with an icy glass of water and be grateful that it is a luxury I can well afford. Along with gorgeous produce…and the wonderful salads that they can become when I am just too seeped-dry to attempt anything else.
Although I am not one to stop cooking my much loved stews and braises “just because it’s hot out” (otherwise I would hardly ever have then), I am not immune to how crippling our heat can become. Many days, especially ones like these when the sun seems to come out with both guns blazing, I am more inclined to put together a salad.
Ensaladang Talbos ng Kamote (Sweet Potato Leaves Salad)
- 100 grams talbos ng kamote (sweet potato leaves), leaves picked
- 1 piece kamatis (native tomato) sliced into thin wedges
- 3 shallots (young native onions/sibuyas), peeled and sliced thinly
- 1/2-inch piece ginger, sliced thinly
- 2-3 teaspoons bagoong alamang (shrimp paste), to taste, depends on how salty/strong your bagoong is
- 1-2 teaspoons vinegar, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
– Steam the talbos ng kamote (leaves and soft stems only) for 3 minutes. Immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water then set aside to drain in a colander.
– Top the drained leaves with the tomato, shallots, ginger, bagoong, vinegar, and pepper. Toss lightly to just combine. Taste and adjust seasoning (you can add more bagoong or vinegar if you’d like it more salty or sour).
– Serves 2 as a side dish.
This is a very simple salad widely made in lots of Filipino homes throughout the country. Talbos ng kamote or kamote tops are the leaves of our native sweet potato plant. You can use them in soups or stews (like munggo guisado), but I love them this way. Steamed lightly and tossed with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste), young native sibuyas (like shallots), kamatis (native tomatoes, not the huge salad ones you get at the supermarket), ginger, and a little drizzling of vinegar, it is a delicious reminder of why I love my native Filipino salads – salty, sour, a little tang from the tomatoes (which never become as sweet as their Western cousins), and the assertive pungency of raw onions. The combination of the steamed greens and the other, uncooked, vegetables results in something that is both crisp and yielding, a quality that a lot of our local salads have – more of which I hope to share with you as this blinding heat continues to descend.
This is heaven on a hot, not-yet-summer, day. It is excellent eaten alongside some fresh fish, which is just what we did. To my neighbors over here…stay cool folks! To those of you still in the midst of winter…please send some ice!