On making monggo guisado (sauteed mung beans with bacon, tomatoes and spinach)

Today’s rainy Friday is best summarized by this song, courtesy of Mac Demarco’s crisp guitar picking while he sings about a lazy day and the people in his home.

Backing up to this post’s title, we made a nice big pot of balatong last night, commonly known amongst Tagalog folks as monggo guisado. A great, pantry-staple friendly dish to whip up for a movie night at home.


Monggo guisado’s roots begin with the word gisa, which is Tagalog for sauté. The argument for what constitutes essential ingredients used in pag-gisa (or the act of sautéing, i.e. gisa as a verb in the present tense) will forever be a point of contention between various Philippine provinces, thanks to the variety of locally grown ingredients found across the Philippine archipelago.

To my mind, being from the southern Tagalog region (encompassing the city of Manila), a truly great gisa starts with the low, slow caramelization of fresh, floral garlic and minced Spanish onions.

The key to making incredibly flavourful monggo guisado begins with understanding the Maillard reaction, or how the careful browning of garlic and onions over consistent heat unlocks a cascade of flavour profiles from two Filipino food staples.

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