The windows of our bedrooms face due east so we get the sunrise every day. As much a sunrise as you can get in the middle of the city. Which, actually, has its own special magic…at least to me. Rays of light suddenly bursting into being like so many bright yellow arms reaching around towers of concrete, all at once being reflected and fractured and reflected again, like a beam going through a thousand prisms, against the steel and glass of the stalwart urban sentinels I call my neighbors.
I love the dawn. Even if, despite all my best efforts and intentions, I am still not naturally a morning person. I struggle to wake up, greedily and groggily clinging to the last vestiges of my slumber. I try vainly to develop and internal body clock. To date, much to my frustration, it hasn't kicked in. Perhaps that's why I love having the morning's new light creep through my bedroom shades, its fingers coaxing me out from under the covers.
Dawn, unlike any other time of the day, is filled with such golden promise. Old melancholies fade away and new potential beckons. It is that short, sweet, moment that light has resolutely claimed from darkness, but in which the whisper and allure of dreams still somehow hold subtle sway. In the calm before the clamor of the rest of the world crashes in, you can hear the voices that tell you to believe in what lies in the deepest places of your heart, and in that magic hush anything is possible.
This dish is not something I would typically associate with the dawn, but it is a great comfort food. A hot bowl of this, scooped over a generous serving of rice, can put me in the same calm place.
Munggo with Gata and Kalabasa (mung beans with coconut milk and squash)
- 200 grams munggo (mung beans)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 red onions, peeled, one chopped and one quartered
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- Canola oil (or any other mildly flavored vegetable oil)
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup hibe (small dried shrimp)
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 450 gram wedge of squash, peeled and chopped into about 1-inch cubes (350 grams, cut weight)
- 1 bunch malunggay (moringa), leaves picked (yields about 2 cups leaves)
- 1/2 - 1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
I love munggo. I also love coconut milk. The two together work brilliantly. The coconut milk's silky creaminess is perfect with the munggo's earthiness. The hibe and the fish sauce give it a rounded savory depth that salt would not be able to replicate. If you can't find hibe where you are, just adjust the seasoning with a bit more fish sauce. If you can't find malunggay you can use sweet potato leaves or, failing that, spinach. Between the munggo, malunggay, and the squash, this is not only deliciously comforting, but highly nutritious as well. If I weren't feeding a little one, I also would throw in a couple of green finger chilis (sili pangsigang) to the pot.
I've been working on training my body clock to rise "with the sun". I love those days that I am able to. I sit at my desk, an espresso with steamed milk at my side, its aroma waking my senses up. I raise the shades to let in the new morning. My family is sleeping and the streets below my window have yet to fill with their usual bustle. I hear my dreams whisper to me and, because it is so quiet, I listen in ways I cannot during the rest of the day. And I whisper back.