The papait (mollugo oppositifolia) is popular among bitter-loving Ilokanos who has the distinct and rather unique taste preference for something bitter--the more bitter, the better, which translates to the Ilokano's fondness for the "native" paria (the "Ilocos" variety: round [or oblongish] and smallish) or for the more exotic wild bittermelons or balang a paria or paria ti bakir/bantay. And yes, to our love of the authentic Ilokano goat/cow/carabao pinapaitan, or kappukan and imbaliktad, flavored with the animal intestinal bile called "pespes" (literally squeezed undigested weed in the beast's stomach; also "papait" in some places). Bitterness defines authentic Ilokano meat dishes as well as vegetable preparation, notably pinakbet with the Ilocos paria. Or dinengdeng with paria tops. Or freshly picked paria fruit simply roasted over hot embers, sliced thin and tossed in bugguong and kamatis slices and young lasona. Or even the kilawen a paria, raw and deliciously bitter.
And comes the even bitter papait that stands to its name of its bittery appeal and simpleness. Papait is great with pinablad (boiled ) balatong or other beans. And papait is even greater as it is, as a salad, simply blanched, and garnished with bugguong and kamatis.
I prepared my papait almost expressly (quickie). I blanched it in boiling water for a minute or less. You should never overcook it. One way of blanching leafy greens is to wash and soak and partially rinse the leaves in tap water then put it in an empty kaserola or pan over high fire. Let just the water that clinged to the leaves blanch the whole thing. Then after a few seconds, put off fire/flame and immediately transfer the blanched leaves in a bowl and toss it with your garnishes. This is also perfect for camote tops to avoid the darkening of the leaves/stems.
And here's my simple papait salad with bugguong and tomato slices:
This is heavenly, sweetishly bitter, so delicious, so appetizing with steaming rice, especially if you partner it with grilled or fried fish or meat:
(Originally blogged June 5, 2009)