Globalization and the increasing presence of multicultural societies in Australia paved way for the importation of many “tropical vegetables”, especially in the last decade. However, there are still some tropical vegetables that are only sold in Filipino or Asian markets.
Say you relocated to the beautiful land down under and you are planning to cook a romantic Filipino dinner for your Aussie lover. It is important to familiarize yourself with good local substitutes for common Filipino veggies such as this…
There is a variety of English names for Kangkong such as water spinach, water morning-glory, and swamp cabbage. Despite being found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the globe, people are not aware of its exact origin.
Kangkong is one of those leafy greens that I do not mind eating all day! Perhaps it is due to the fact that I adore “Sinigang” (sour soup dish). Sinigang’s star vegetable is Kangkong. Say you are planning to cook this well-loved dish for your Aussie family, head over to the Filipino, Indian, or Asian shops first. If you cannot find it in those places then replace it with Spinach.
Kamote or Sweet Potato was introduced to us by the Spaniards during the colonial period. A Kamote plant produces several tubers that typically differ in size, color, and shape. As a whole, Sweet Potato is a powerhouse of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, fiber, and potassium. Filipinos usually boil it to accompany other dishes or fry it as a snack.
According to Lona Sandon, a Nutrition and Dietetics professional, a good substitute for the Sweet Potato is Butternut Squash (or Butternut Pumpkin in Aussie). Butternut Squash is another excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. It can also mimics its sweetness and rich “starchy” texture.
Most of us are familiar with Labanos (Radish) because it is one of the ingredients in Sinigang and Kilawing Hipon (Spicy Shrimp Ceviche). If Radish is not available in your nearby grocery, you can get Turnip instead.
Turnip or Singkamas is undoubtedly the fastest maturing root crop aside from Radish. It is not even picky with soil and climate. In fact, it can grow to perfection in northern Australia. Turnips are delicious when eaten baked, steamed, cooked or raw.
Our very own Okra is known to many English-speaking countries as Lady’s Fingers. It is very difficult to find an alternative for both the “gloopy” texture and the distinct taste of Okra. However, you can get almost the same texture with Mulukhiyah leaves or Zucchini.
At first Mulukhiyah leaves is bitter. When you boil it, it results to a thick and slimy liquid that is often compared to cooked Okra. It is available in Australia in canned or frozen form in Middle Eastern stores.
When all else fails, you can always turn to the trusty Zucchini.
Dahon Ng Gabi
Gabi or Taro is one of the most common vegetables in the Philippines. A popular recipe for Taro leaves (Dahon ng Gabi) is Laing that hails from the Bicol region. Laing is cooked with other flavorful ingredients such as coconut milk, fermented shrimp or fish bagoong.
The taste of the leaves is acid but cooking or baking it will take the unpleasant taste away. You can replace Taro leaves with Spinach.
Popeye was right, Spinach is an extraordinary veggie!