At various times culminating in World War I, the Armenians had some serious problems with the Turks. The Turks say the same about the Armenians, but the bodies on the ground and in the rivers were usually Armenian. One community Musa Dagh was lucky enough to have a nearby coastal mountain with an easily defended access path that enabled them to hold out till a rescuing French Navy ship arrived on the sea side. The French later resettled many of them in a little town called Anjar in the Bekaa valley of Lebanon (not the town in Kansas, geographic center of the continental United States), where they were able to continue making their widely unknown but fabulous malanga chick pea soup, a Musa Dagh tradition that might otherwise have vanished except for that mountain and some hardheaded Armenians. Some of whom, thanks to another ugly Middle Eastern conflict, ended up as dr bob's inlaws in America (the United States of). So that you too can now enjoy this wonderful dish. Provided you have some Puerto Ricans around. They seem to be the only Americans who actually know what a malanga is and provide the food distribution system with a target market demand.
What is a malanga?
A big hairy brown root vegetable with a white interior, used like a potato in Puerto Rican cuisine, though resembling a coconut more than a tuber. And brought to upscale continental Americans (Lebanon, KA, remember) by the 90's "Nuevo Latino" cuisine, news of which filtered down to the dr bob cooking team in the food section of the local paper, complete with a poor quality color photo of the super tuber. Apparently from what our local clan malanga forager says, there are a number of imposter malangas to be found at the only local malanga supplier, so some skill is required in the hunt.
The Arabic word is "elaas", while the Armenian word is "goulougas". If you are lucky, enough humans from one of these three ethnic groups live near you to make malangas appear somewhere in your food distribution system. Usually in the winter season when this soup really hits the spot.
Isgouhi makes it happen for us.
Looks like the joke is on us. The name "taro root" does not seem to be in use in the supermarkets that market malangas to us, so barkev naturally thought that malanga was the word used here for the "true malangas" that he recognized from the Middle East, but it later became clear from a more diligent internet search that barkev's true malangas are really taro root, which is found and used in all parts of the world [taro = taro root = dasheen = coco = cocoyam = eddo = Japanese potato = baddo = elephant's ear = old cocoyam = sato-imo, according to The Cook's Thesaurus], although unknown to the American public at large. But taro root doesn't make a nice alliteration (repeated first letter words) or rhyme like the name of the soup that we have used for years, so we'll just leave it be.
Goulougas, goulogoos? Trying to spell in English Armenian words spoken orally by my in-laws is not easy, there are always variations in the choices made by different Armenian sources. Somehow we came across an Armenian food website The Armenian Kitchen which talked about a new Musa Dagh cookbook called The Recipes of Musa Dagh -- an Armenian cookbook in a dialect of its own by Alberta, Anna and Louisa Magzanian (sisters) so of course we ordered it immediately. Meanwhile we noticed that the Armenian Kitchen website did not have the goulougas soup recipe. How could such a delicious recipe from such a small community be omitted? Well, the Musa Dagh villages were seven, and this came from one of them, but not the one from which the website ancestors came from. We emailed the website and got an immediate reply from Robyn Kalajian, the woman behind it who then started asking around about this omission and found a similar recipe was in the cookbook we ordered and which quickly arrived. Like all such recipes, it is a variation on the same theme. Meanwhile another Musa Dagh cookbook not available on Amazon but only directly from its author turns out not to have the recipe, but its author says he should have put it in since it is one of his favorites [Jack Hachigian: Secrets From an Armenian Kitchen]. All of this came out in an email exchange and then in a blog at the website. Sharing made possible only of the internet age we now live inh!