Sometimes happiness is as simple as being able to buy a handful of baég (about 50 grams at Php10) to put in a pot of pakbet (pinakbet), or mix in a stew of balatóng (munggo, mung beans) sauteed with chopped, ripe tomatoes. It becomes a joy, really, because the tree, or more appropriately the woody, high-growing shrub, bears only seasonally these light-green, textured, long spindly flowers that turn into a vegetable for us Northerners (Ilocanos and Pangasinenses).
The shrub does not benefit from any blossom-inducing chemical spray since it is not much known outside of the Ilocos region, although I've heard it proliferates even in the Batangas area, where they eat it as a vegetable, too. But it is well that it is kept organic, since I'm well aware how access to fresh, unadulterated produce can be a pricey privilege in this time and place.
Baég (Allaeanthus luzonicus) is endemic to the Philippines, also known as alokon or himbabao in Ilocano. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C, and contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron. It is mixed in the Ilocano dish inabrao, or a vegetable stew of tomatoes, sitaw (string beans) and patani (fresh lima beans), flavored by pieces of grilled pork. In Pangasinan it is called baég, with the requisite Pangasinan guttural ę that all Filipinos outside of the province find so hard to pronounce (it is like the e in brother, or the second e in eagle - easy, right?).
Baég makes any dish more aromatic, but only subtly so. It adds texture, and additional roughage, to any vegetable dish that is sinágsagán (having as base stock seasoned with the salted, fermented fish paste bagóong). When cooked it turns vibrant green, soft and a bit slick. It can be had by itself, sauteed with shrimps, or in some places with bisukol or kuhol, snails, cooked in gata or coconut cream (definitely not in the Ilocos region).
In Pangasinan it is most commonly cooked with pakbet, a mix of okra, eggplants, tomatoes, palya (ampalaya, bitter gourd/melon), all put together in a boiling pot of sinágsagán and agát (luya, ginger). The pakbet shown here (photo above) also contains cubes of kamote (sweet potato), also a common practice and to which I have some objections, but I allow it because of the kamote's beneficial contents (vitamin A, calcium, soluble fiber and resistant starch), especially for kids.
It is now the season for baég. My cup runneth over.
Baeg with Moringa Pods