In the U.S., Filipinos have access to fresh malunggay leaves from their backyards, Filipino/Asian groceries, or farmers markets. But in the winter, malunggay is not readily available or if you can find it in at Seafood City, it is prohibitively expensive. Often we have to wait until the following spring or use substitutes such as spinach when cooking tinola or ginisang munggo. Here is one way to extend the shelf life of malunggay—by drying the leaves and storing them for future use. I do this with the bounty of summer and in the winter months, I have a steady supply of malunggay when I need them, especially to make hot Tinola soup.
YouTube shows various ways of drying malunggay/moringa leaves but this is how I do it. In the past, I used to hang the branches of malunggay in my back porch (away from direct sunlight) and wait 3 days or more for the leaves to dry.
And then I found a faster way to do it. Strip the leaves from the stems and then dry the leaves in a dehydrator – you can buy these at Target or online, but they can run you anywhere from $30 to $120. I have discovered that my car (I call it my $30,000 malunggay dehydrator) makes an excellent dehydrator especially on a hot day. Put the leaves in a cookie sheet lined with paper towel and cover with another layer of paper towel.
You do not want the leaves to have direct sunlight for it will fade the color of the leaves as they dry. Park your car in a sunny or hot location and let the sun do the work. After a day or so, you will have dried malunggay leaves. Pick and remove any stems or yellow leaves.
Place the dried leaves in an airtight container and keep in a cool, dry place. In the winter, when your malunggay plant has gone dormant or is not available at your Asian market, you can grab a handful of the dried leaves and cook it the way you normally would with fresh leaves. The liquid in the cooking broth will rehydrate the leaves.
The latest health craze on the market is Moringa, or malunggay powder and if you go to Amazon.com, you’ll find many vendors selling this at a high premium: $15-$20 for 16 oz.!!!! Why spend that when you can make your own malunggay/moringa powder for a fraction of the cost.
You can process the dried leaves into powder – use a blender or if you have a NutriBullet, use the milling blades and pulverize the leaves into powder. Place the powder in an airtight jar. A teaspoon of the powder is enough to make a big mug of tea.
If you are into healing bone broth, you can add a teaspoon of malunggay powder into a steaming hot cup of bone broth. I just made a big batch of chicken broth, which I divided into six-quart containers and put in the freezer for use as needed. Put a quart of broth in a saucepan, add sliced ginger, onions and garlic. Let it come to a boil and season with patis (fish sauce) and black pepper. Or if you’re in a hurry/lazy, just add 2-3 teaspoons of Tinola mix (watch the sodium content). Add dried or powdered malunggay leaves and you have instant Tinola broth. There’s nothing like sipping hot Tinola broth with malunggay powder (or leaves) to ward away stress and aches of the daily grind.
I’ve seen posts and instructions on using fresh malunggay leaves when making pasta. I decided to use malunggay powder because it gives a more uniform color and is easier to work with. It is a fairly easy process:
• 3 cups flour
• ¼ tsp salt
• 3 tbsp malunggay powder
• 4 eggs
• 3 tbsp olive oil
Place flour, salt and malunggay powder in a mixing bowl and mix together. Make a well at the center of the bowl and add the eggs and oil. Using a fork (I use two chopsticks, it seems to work better), mix all the ingredients until it starts to come together. At this point you can use your (clean) hands to knead the dough – at first it may be sticky but keep kneading and it will soon be smooth and soft. You may need to dust the dough with more flour (but don’t overdo it). After kneading for about 10-15 minutes, flatten the dough into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for about 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes (or more), cut the dough disk into four equal parts. Take one part (cover the other three parts with the plastic wrap to keep it from drying out) and using a pasta maker, start rolling the dough from the widest setting (#1 in most pasta makers). Fold the rolled dough and then roll it out two more times in the same setting. From this point, change the setting to the next number and roll the dough once through each setting. You will notice the dough will get thinner and longer. When you get to the desired thickness, you can decide what you want to make and tailor your pasta accordingly: if you are making lasagna, ravioli, or want to use the pasta for wonton or dumpling wrapper, you can just cut the length of the dough to size; if making linguini or angel hair pasta/pancit, use the appropriate pasta maker setting. You can dry the pasta and cook it later but I like cooking fresh pasta as it does not take long to cook.
I haven’t tried making malunggay pan de sal or malunggay dumplings, and I am excited to try making these. I’ll surely be posting the results in the future. Hope you find this useful and if you have any suggestions or other ways of using Malunggay/Moringa powder, I’d love to hear from you.
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Carol Ojeda-Kimbrough is a long-time community activist involved in political, social and environmental justice causes. After pursuing careers in the private and public sectors, Carol Ojeda-Kimbrough joined the Asian American Studies Program at CSU Fullerton as an Adjunct Professor. In 2016, Carol retired from teaching to spend precious time with her grandchildren and in “cultivating and nurturing” a more creative life. Carol is an avid gardener and enjoys finding ways of preserving the fruits of her labor. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.