Tabada: Monggo Friday

Mayette Q. Tabada

I HAVE a bias against Fridays: in the country, this is the day when monggo (mung bean) soup is only available.

Why Friday? As a commuter, I have learned never to schedule any errand or appointment on a Friday. When I edited for a newspaper, most of the invitations for launches and parties fell on Friday. Mall-wide weekend sales start on a Friday. Workers go home to provinces on Friday. Road traffic peaks on a Friday. Cursing along Edsa is worst on Friday.

On Friday, cafeterias on campus serve monggo soup. Only on Friday.

Why only Friday? The Lenten practice to abstain from meat on Fridays is in keeping with the tradition to witness and share Jesus Christ’s Passion and death on Friday.

Why doesn’t the Friday-only rule also apply to eggplant or squash?

Whether in Cebu or Manila, the race for monggo soup is quick and brief. Once, after the husband and I had monggo soup for lunch, I lined up again to bring some home for dinner, only to see the chafing dish scraped clean of the greenish brown goo.

Then, as if by a miracle, the server came out of the kitchen, saying there was enough left in the pot for a last serving. That night, the single bowl of monggo soup we shared was clammy, scanty and soul-satisfying.

Whether embellished and reinvented in a restaurant or splashed on a chipped bowl at a roadside stall, monggo soup is best shared. The greediest and stingiest operator may serve some watery version that you can either drown in or pan as if sifting for gold instead of mung bean but mongo soup never seems to run out when you are spooning this on rice, catching up with your mealtime companions and telling your own stories.

My unforgettable monggo soup story happened when, in college, I watched one of the hands clamoring for a bowl accidentally drop a five-peso coin into the pot. The seller expertly fished out the coin with the ladle. At least, a bowl of monggo soup then did not require a P20 bill.

Recently, I made my first monggo soup. Given my kitchen incompetence, I turned to the internet and learned that mung bean soup is eaten by many Asians during summer. Monggo has anti-inflammatory properties that protect one from heat stroke and high body temperature.

In the end, I made the soup the way my yaya prepared this for our family and still does. I sautéed garlic, onion and tomato. I added bits of ginger and dried-fish leftovers. I counted five heads and hoped the petrified brains and ossified eyes added extra flavor.

Last, I added the tiny beans, shedding off their green jackets and revealing creamy flesh after a night of soaking. And yes, we had my monggo soup on a Friday.