musa dagh malanga soup

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.

ingredients

1)
1 c dried chick peas
1 lb lamb shoulder or stew meat
1 t salt
1/8 t black pepper
1 bay leaf
water to cover
2)
2 lb malangas
1 lemon, juice from
? t salt (to taste)
water to cover
3)
1/2 - 1 c yogurt (thin - thick)
1 egg, beaten
2 T tomato paste
1 T sweet red pepper paste (optional)
2 c water
1/2 lemon, juice from
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t red pepper

instructions

  1. Soak the dried chick peas overnight in water. When ready to make the soup, drain.
  2. Bring the meat to a boil and then drain and rinse to eliminate the scum which forms.
  3. Put the meat and chick peas in the pressure cooker with the group 1 spices and just cover with water. Bring to a boil, remove the scum which forms on the surface, close and cook at full steam 10 minutes. Allow to cool down until pressure releases and remove contents temporarily to another pot.
  4. Meanwhile peel the malangas and cut into roughly 1 inch by 1 inch by 1/2 inch irregular chunks, rotating around the malanga twisting the knife as you cut into it to snap off pieces one at a time.
  5. Then cover with water, add juice of 1 lemon and some salt, and let sit.
  6. Beat the yogurt and egg in a small bowl until very smooth [adding a well beaten egg to the yogurt helps prevent it from separating when boiled], pour it into the pressure cooker and add the remaining group 3 ingredients, mixing until smooth.
  7. Add the drained malanga pieces and just enough water to cover the malanga.
  8. Bring to a boil uncovered to prevent yogurt separation, then cover and cook 10 minutes at full steam. Allow to cool down until pressure releases. Malanga should be firm and not mushy.
  9. Open the pressure cooker and add the meat and chick peas and heat 5 minutes uncovered.
  10. Remove from heat and serve.

notes

  1. When the day finally came for Isgouhi to do the malanga soup class in our kitchen (you never get it right until you do it yourself in your own environment), we had forgotten to soak the chick peas overnite. In fact we didn't even have any on hand since we always kept taking them to her kitchen for her to use. So we had to make a special early morning trip to the market. Apparently only 7 hours of soaking are sufficient. And since the malanga bob found [Philly 69th St Pathmark] was so big [a foot long but we forgot to weigh it: see the super-tuber photo], the double recipe we made wouldn't fit back in the pressure cooker simultaneously at the last step, so the final boil was done in our 12 qt pasta pot. Leftover city.
  2. More info about malangas, including photos, is available.
  3. Reviewing the recipe later with the cook's other daughter led to more revisions, so we decided to do a second class again in our own kitchen. Every time this recipe is executed, there are changes in procedure! Isgouhi used 2 pressure cookers to speed up things (this is not one of the changes we mean), but we revised for the 1 pot approach. Maybe one day this process will converge. Putting Mediterranean mom cooks into reproducible recipe format is not an easy task.

ps (taro root!)

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.

pps (goulougoos?)

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!

The malangas.htm: 13-jan-2010 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]