Thursday, May 14, 2009

Luyang Dilaw

background - turmeric rhizomes, foreground - cross-section, in powdered form

This is the ginger I am just starting to get to know well, for I only knew one kind of ginger until about a couple of years ago. I have heard about luyang dilaw in college, when I started making friends with people from all over the country, but did not actually came face to face with it until the family moved to Cavite.

Of course I have been eating it in a blend in the form of powdered curry since I was small, but not as a main ingredient on its own. There is no name in Pangasinan that I am aware of, since it is not prevalently used in the province.

It is more commonly known as dilaw (the Tagalog term for the color yellow) because it turns everything it gets into contact with an attractive lemony yellow. Known in other Filipino languages as kalabaga (Bisaya) and kulyaw (Ilokano), and turmeric the world over, or at least in those places where English is spoken. In other languages its name is the equivalent term for the color yellow.

As the common ginger (Zingiber officinale) is the ginger I know and prevalently use, it is the standard to which I compare other ginger I meet, or did not meet early on in my life. So relatively speaking, luyang dilaw is more peppery than gingery. More earthy. The fresh rhizome smells like wet socks, or wet dog fur at the extreme.

up top, common ginger, bottom, luyang dilaw

It looks exactly like a ginger rhizome, with branching nodes and pale, thin skin, the thick flesh compact. But it looks emaciated when placed beside the common ginger and another variety, galangal. It looks like a pinkie, the cylindrical form more defined, while the latter two are much more thicker than a thumb with a more flattened out shape.

Beneath the thin, pale skin of the turmeric a glimmer of orange shines through. Peeled, the flesh is more porous and not as fibrous, more akin to carrots than ginger. It is a brighter orange than a carrot, though.

I sometimes buy kilos in Cavite to bring home to the elders in Pangasinan as organic pasalubong. It is very much appreciated, because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, and subsequently anti-carcinogenic, properties, as well as its lowering effect on cholesterol levels.

A poultice of the rhizome also purportedly heals skin eczemas and dermatitis. It is boiled and made into tea to ingest its heath benefits, and for its believed potency in expelling intestinal worms.

So far I have been rubbing and marinating roasted chicken and chicken steamed on a bed of salt with pounded pulps of turmeric, mainly for the nice color it imparts, and not for the flavor. The flavor is too subtle to make a difference, anyway, in such dishes.

I try mixing it with our daily kalamansi juice , which gives it a rather unnatural deep yellow color, like we were drinking powdered mango or dalandan juice. And in arroz caldo, with unfavorable outcome.

But I have eaten a nice, aromatic dish of marine catfish steamed in turmeric and lemongrass (alimusan sa dilaw) at an eatery in Iloilo, and bringhe, a delicacy in Pampanga where glutinous rice is seasoned with turmeric, coconut milk, meats and seafood, and wrapped in banana leaves.

Friends from Bulacan tell me luyang dilaw is used in paksiw na isda (fish stewed in vinegar), and there is a festival celebrating the plant (annually in May 2, in Marilao). In Cavite it is used in adobo, where the adobo is stewing meats only in vinegar.

I hope to encounter more Filipino dishes using this spice, so I could incorporate it more in my cooking. Though I’m sure I’ll find it as an ingredient in many cuisines, as it is used extensively the world over. Perhaps I’ll try my hand at drying some rhizomes to pound into powder, especially now that turmeric is in season. Maybe I could even come up with my own curry blend.

Bahay Kubo

Bahay kubo, kahit munti
Ang halaman doon ay sari-sari
Singkamas at talong, sigarillas at mani
Sitaw, bataw, patani

Gundol, patola, upo’t kalabasa
At saka meron pa, labanos, mustasa
Sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya
Sa paligid-ligid ay puno ng linga

Roughly translated as:

Bahay Kubo
Filipino folk song

Nipa hut, even though small
the plants surrounding it are varied and many
turnips and eggplants, winged beans and peanuts
yard-long beans, hyacinth beans, lima beans

wax gourd, sponge gourd, bottle gourd, squash
and then there are more, radish, mustard
onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger
the surrounding spaces filled with sesame

Related Posts
Adobong Malabanos sa Luyang Dilaw
Arroz Caldo sa Luyang Dilaw
Pinaupong Manok sa Asin
Dinilawang Atsara
Dinilawang Alimusan
Turmeric Bloom
Robinson's Tamales


alilay said...

we use dried/powdered luyang dilaw in our atsara, put the powdered dilwa in a katsa and then dipped in the vinegar/sugar solution until you get the desired color.

Kai said...

Oh, so that's why some atsara have that nice, lemony color! Thanks for that info!

Anonymous said...

nice info... kala ko po kasi talaga sa curry lang naisasama turmeric. tanong ko lang po kung may alam kayo na place kung saan makakabili ng turmeric powder wala kasi ako makita dito sa los baños or sa calamba area e. thanks.

-mike, student

Kai said...

Mike, try mo magtanong sa palengke sa mga nagtitinda ng mga spices - durog paminta, suka, toyo, atsuete, gata, etc. Sa mga supermarkets ng SM usually may mga bottled ground turmeric, sa spices/condiments section.

Anonymous said...

alam u po ba na malaki ang natutulong ng luyang dilaw sa katawan ntin mrami na syang health benefits, matagal na din sya ginagamit as ANTI INFLAMMATORY,actually maramipa syang uses talaga and ang mas ok LUYANG DILAW is ung extraction nya kc sa taas ng ORAC VALUE nya. ang maganda pa dito meron mas mas masusing pag aaral... try to search sa fb globaleader laguna... 09163455514

Alemo said...

so that's what its called here in Luzon... luyang dilaw. LOL It's the star ingredient of valenciana and when I moved here in Cavite, my mom regularly sends me powdered "kalawag" for my valencianas. McCormick carries turmeric powder but I find it a bit too expensive and it lacks the turmeric-ish aroma that I want in valenciana.

Kai said...

Oh, it is added to valenciana then? Instead of tomato sauce for the color, I presume? I can imagine it subbing for the pricey saffron....

Unknown said...

I use turmeric powder sa pagsaing ng kanin sprinkled with black pepper powder or olive oil for better absorption of curcumin (Google it). Parang java rice ang labas nya. Neutral ang lasa ng turmeric when boiled with rice.

Nice website by the way.


Anne said...

How much is raw Turmeric in Cavite and which part of Cavite do they have this in bulk? Sa SM po kasi mga tig 100 grams lang tapos medyo mahal.. :( We drink this regularly so we're looking for an alternative place to buy from.

Unknown said...

Try nyo magtanong s,mga indian or thailand stores kc mahalaga s kanila yng spices n yan..

Anonymous said...

ask ko lng po ito po ung tinatawag na "langkawas" sa bicol?


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