12 April 2009

Bean Love

Soaking for planting.

I've been pretty much obsessed with beans for more than a month now. Since arriving from Sagada with some in a sack, I've been diving into what old and meager literature exists about the Mountain Province people and their deep relationship with beans.

Sprouted itab or lima beans, with their mottled skin off.

And it seems that the Igorot from Bontoc, at some given point, had beans as his most preferred food (followed by rice, corn, millet, then camote or sweet potato). According to Jenks in 1904:
The Bontoc man has three varieties of beans. One is called ka'-lap; the kernel is small, being only one-fifth of an inch long. Usually it is pale green in color, though a few are black; both have an exterior white germ. I'-tab is about one-third of an inch long. It is both gray and black in color, and has a long exterior white germ. The third variety is black with an exterior white germ. It is called ba-la'-tong, and is about one-fourth of an inch in length.
From this article and talks with Sagada folk, I have determined the following about the above description. Kalap is the tiny yellow rice bean or what some Tagalogs know as tapilan. Itab is patani or sabatche to us and lima bean in English. Balatong is mungo or the ubiquitous mung bean.

Kalap or rice beans. They grow much like mung beans and have a similar flavor.

These days, eating habits up north have definitely changed, but you still see a few kinds of beans in the public markets. While beans were common and preferred in the past, I didn't eat a single dish in Sagada containing them (but then again, many of them serve Western food due to tourism) except for streetside halo-halo's sweetened assorted beans. It made me wonder about the real food of these upland people, how the mountain sib-fan (stewed beans commonly eaten with rice) would taste, seasoned liberally with fog and whatnot.

Dried kardis or kadyos.

Aside from the beans mentioned above, there was also an abundance of dried kardis (kadyos or pigeon pea), kidney bean (the local name escapes me), a kind of beautiful pinto bean, and Baguio bean seeds (obviously, I was not able to coax some local names out of the vendors).

Kidney beans with a speckled sheen.

Supposedly the seeds of the Baguio bean, I've used it in cooking bacalao.

Very pretty and smooth pinto-ish beans. Uncertain about what it really is.

There is very little documentation I've come across about this plant that used to be such a huge part of Igorot life. Moreover, the plants are given sweeping classifications, often according to their "green" form (sitaw or pole beans are one and the same thing in most markets, no matter how different their seeds look). I've always marveled at the small distinctions between the mung and sitaw beans I buy in the nearby market (where the latter are sold mostly for planting greens as well as for sweetening), and I'm excited to have barely scratched the surface of the upland dried-bean-based culture. I'll surely be back in the Moutain Province poking my head around for local recipes and varieties.

In the meantime, I've been cooking the beans as an improvisation of sib-fan, as well as sauteeing them and making seafood dishes for my seafood-eating family, like the bacalao with Baguio beans below:

Basque-style bacalao, but added white beans and local Indian almond nuts.

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