Monday, November 7, 2011

I am cooking again!

I just wanted to announceto the universe that I am cooking again!


A Philippine delicacy  was listed as the number 2 most disgusting food by I recently discovered the article written  in 2007.

I used to eat balut ONLY in the dark and with my eyes closed. This changed when I had a gustatorial epiphany one drunken night in college (alcohol, apparently, is a great tool for reaching life-changing realizations). I ate one under bright lights and with my eyes open. After sucking the succulent juices, I cracked the shell fully open. The feathery duck fetus lay there challenging me to show it how Pinoy I was by biting its head off. And I did so. the triumph of overcoming my fear and disgust of bizarre foods made me more adventurous. Thanks to the balut, I have become a more adventurous foodie.

Here's the entry on Balut from

2. Balut – Duck Fetus
          Balut is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in
          the shell. They are considered delicacies of Asia and especially the Philippines, Cambodia, and
         Vietnam. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack,
         balut are mostly sold by street vendors at night in the regions where they are available. They are
         often served with beer. Michael, from WeirdMeat, describes the experience thus:
After you choose what kind you want, the vendor grabs them piping hot from the basket and passes you a little stool, salt, and a vinegar-onion sauce. You hold the hot egg and flick carefully but forcefully at the top of it with your middle finger. It cracks a bit and you gently remove a small hole from the top, so you can sip the savory broth before removing the whole shell. I agree that the 18-day one is better than the younger ones. You might come across some small chunkies but it’s usually just eaten all the way through, in about 3 mouthful bites. You can see feathers, head, wings, and skeleton forming, but it’s basically an extra-chewy easter egg.
          Fertilized duck eggs are kept warm in the sun and stored in baskets to retain warmth. After nine
         days, the eggs are held to a light to reveal the embryo inside. Approximately eight days later the
         balut are ready to be cooked, sold, and eaten.

To read the full article, please click on HERE.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Documenting a Food Documentary, "Piging Para Kay Pepe" -Part 2

The recipes shared in this blog were cooked during the filming of "Piging Para Kay Pepe", a food documentary produced by GMA Network, hosted by Cesar Montano and directed by Rico Gutierrez.
Since the documentary did not provide the actual recipes, I have taken it upon myself to share them with the foodies interested in traditional Filipino recipes. Here are three more recipes that use only fresh ingredients.

This very common dish was a favorite of Dr, Jose Rizal. In fact, he liked to cook the dish for the boys he "adopted" during his exile in Dapitan and often served it to relatives who visited him there. Being a doctor, he espoused the completeness of the dish and its health benefits. A similar recipe is mentioned in a rare cookbook written by Milagros Enriquez, a promoter of Traditional Tagalog cuisine. She writes that Rizal made his Guinisang Munggo  with ampalaya leaves, mushrooms and a little panutsa (a hardened clam-shaped disc of unrefined cane sugar).
The recipe featured in the documentary is a simpler version passed on to Linda Roque of Laguna by her grandmother.
4 cups of water
1 cup of munggo (mung beans)
1/4 kilo of pork (choose fatty parts), cubed
2 pcs. sibuyas (red onions), peeled and sliced
3 pcs. kamatis (native tomatoes), quartered
6 cloves bawang (garlic)
1 cup hibi (dried baby shrimps)
1 bunch dahon ng sili (chili leaves), separate the leaves from the stalk, use only the leaves
Boil and soften the munggo in 2 cups of water. Set aside.
Saute the pork cubes by boiling it in a little water and letting the fat of pork brown the meat. When the meat has browned, add the bawang, sibuyas and kamatis. When the onion has turned translucent and the tomatoes become tender, add in the munggo. cover the pot and let the thick broth boil. Upon boiling, add the dahon ng sili. Cover for about one minute and serve.

Much confusion comes with the name of this pancit. The southern Tagalog references refer to it as Pancit Langlang, while in Rizal's novel, "El Filibusterismo", he refers to it as Pancit Miki. Apparently, Pancit Langlang is the name accorded to a type of pancit that uses Miki noodles but is cooked with a wider variety of ingredients and has a little bit more sauce.
In most biographies,  the Pancit Miki was mentioned in two occasions: during his stay in Europe as a stident and also during his exile in Dapitan.

When Pepe was in Europe, he often asked his brother Paciano to mail him the noodles and he would cook and share the noodles with his roommate. Like any Filipino abroad, the taste of pancit brought Rizal memories of home. 
In Dapitan, his Irish girlfriend, Josephine Bracken, would make Miki noodles from scratch when supplies from his family would run out. 
Josephine Bracken
2 tbsps. lard
2 pcs. sibuyas (onions) peeled and sliced
1 head bawang (garlic), peeled and finely chopped
4 pcs, Chinese sausage, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
250 g. giniling na baboy (ground pork), mix in 1 egg, right before cooking
250 g. tenga ng daga (cloud ear fungus), soaked in water and chopped
250 g. hibi (dried baby shrimp)1/4 cup carrots, julienned
1 cup chicken, boiled, debonedand shredded, set aside the chicken broth
250 g. Sitsaro (snow pea), de-veined
1 bunch Kinchay (coriander)
2 tbsps. sibuyas tagalog (green onion stalks), finely chopped
asin (salt) and/or patis (fish paste) to taste
durog na paminta (ground black pepper) to taste
Saute the bawang, sibuyas and chinese sausage in melted lard. When the sausage has changed color and become tender, add the ground pork. When the pork has browned, add in the hibi, tenga ng daga, and chicken. Add a little patis and pepper to taste. When the last three ingredients become tender, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil and let it the sauce thicken a little. 
When the sauce has thickened, add the noodles. the starchiness of the noodles will help thicken the sauce further. Add the snow peas and the let the noodles cook until al dente (right to the bite). Mix in the kinchay and sibuyas last, just right before serving.
For Filipinos, the pancit also symbolizes long life, which is why it is always served during birthday parties. Ironically,  the hero who liked pancit, Jose Rizal died at an early age of 35.
In accounts from the biography "Lolo Jose", written by Asuncion Lopez Bantug, a descendant of Rizal, it is stated that his last meal conssisted of three hard boiled eggs. the first two, he ate in silence and the third, he left in his prison cell so the rats have something to feast on.
Appropriately, the last dish featured in the documentary had egg as its main ingredient and is an heirloom recipe of the Rizal-Mercados.
The recipe, shared by Cecil Consunji-Navarro, one of Rizal's great granddaughters, is usually served during occasions commemorating the hero. The clan cannot remember, however, who started the tradition.
3/4 kilo Pork fillet (each fillet should be wide enough to wrap and egg)
1/4 cup toyo (soy sauce)
3 pieces calamansi (local lemon)
6 pieces eggs, hard boiled and peeled
6 pieces cooked ham
4 cups water
1/2 cup Cooking oil

Potatoes, shredded thinly
Salt to taste

Marinate the  pork fillet in soy sauce and calamansi for about an hour. Boil the eggs and peel. 
Wrap the boiled egg in cooked ham and the marinated pork fillet. Secure the wrapping with a cotton twine. Boil the wrapped egg for about 45 minutes, or until the meat becomes tender. 
 Pan fry the wrapped egg in hot oil until it turns golden brown. Remove the twine and cut in half.
Shred the potatoes and fry until crispy. Sprinkle with a little salt before forming into a nest big enough to hold an egg.
While the cooking was done in Pasig, the actual piging (feast) was held at Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros, the Walled City that bore witness to most of Rizal's adult life and his heroic death.
That meant that a second batch of food was cooked, for the 13 guests invited to the celebration.In addition, the restaurant assisted the host in preparing the dessert, Halayang Bayabas at Kesong Puti (Sweetened mashed guava served with Carabao Cheese).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Documenting A Food Documentary, "Piging Para Kay Pepe" -Part 1

There are moments when you get a project that comes once in a lifetime. A. and myself were tasked to write the first ever food documentary celebrating the 150th birthday of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.  
It made sense. A birthday party for the ultimate amongst Pinoy heroes and to be hosted by one fine actor who played the hero once, Cesar Montano. At the onset of production work, it was agreed upon by the show's producers and director to make Rizal more accessible, less of the mestizo ilustrado snob we grew up picturing him as.  After all,  a hero is supposed to inspire the common, the pedestrian, the masses. After dying and being deified, strip down a hero and you find a human being who also needs to sleep, eat and do the number two. Surely,  Rizal was not an exception.

 "Show me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are" goes a famous saying. Half a dozen books and countless transcripts of interviews with his living relatives and historians, the menu of Pepe Rizal's life turned out to be as Pinoy as Mang Pandoy's. 
The list of dishes considered for the food documentary
If there is one thing that we Filipinos enjoy most it's eating together. Not just the food, but the act of sharing a meal. So the menu for the documentary consisted of everyday food, shared in common households as mentioned by Rizal in his books and as researched by biographers. Food historians  Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria hand Mikaela Fenix helped put the menu together and shared insights on dining customs during Rizal's time.

The final menu included:
Tinolang Manok
Sinigang na Ayungin sa Kamias
Guinisang Munggo
Pancit Miki
Egg's nest or Huevo Morconito* 
Whole Guava preserve with Kesong Puti

*A generically named Rizal family heirloom recipe, aptly renamed for the documentary.
For me, there were two interesting aspects of making the food documentary-- finding the right kitchen to cook the turn-of-the century dishes and the people who knew how to make them.

We shot most of the cooking portions of the special in Pasig City, in a house called Bahay na Tisa
The kitchen had an old-world feel to it, as if women in baro't saya would walk in carrying baskets of fresh produce. There were copper pots and pans, a firewood-fueled kalan (stove) and a banggerahan (a small extension, usually over the sink for storing or hanging some kitchen utensils). 

Three former teachers from Calamba, Laguna, Rizal's hometown, prepared the kaluto ng bayan (heritage dishes) picked for the birthday celebration menu: Edith Agbulos (Tinolang Manok), Norma Castro (Sinigang na Ayungin sa Kamias) and Linda Roque (Guinisang Munggo).
Joining them in the kitchen were Kampampangan Chef Atching Lilian Borromeo (Pancit Miki) and Rizal's great granddaughter, Cecil Consunji- Navarro (Egg's Nest or Huevo Morconito).
This dish was mentioned in one of the most controversial scenes in "Noli Me Tangere" where Dominican friars who were guests at the dinner in honor of the protagonist, Crisostomo Ibarra, were served the bony parts of chicken, an insult during Rizal's time. He made use of a simple dish to point out his disrespect towards the priests running the Church in his beloved country.

Another interesting story related to this dish was that Rizal, as a young boy, had witnessed the beheading of a chicken and was traumatized. Supposedly, he did not eat chicken for many years. Documents do show that he eventually got over the trauma. When he lived in Dapitan, he learned how to butcher poultry and pigs.
2 tbsps. lard (can be purchased from wet markets or ask your local baker for some rations)
1 piece pulang sibuyas (red onion), sliced
6 cloves bawang (garlic), peeled and crushed
1 medium piece of luya (ginger), peeled, sliced and crushed
1 whole manok tagalog (native chicken), dressed and cut into single serve pieces
2 cups chicken broth (you can pre-boil the chicken for about 20 minutes in medium fire, drain)
patis (fish paste) to taste
1 piece siling haba (long green chili)
1 medium unripe papaya, peeled and cubed (sayote is an alternative)
1/4 kilo kalabasa (squash), peeled and cubed
1 bunch dahon ng sili (chili leaves)
Sautee the garlic, onions and ginger in the lard. When the flesh of the onion has turned translucent, add the chicken and brown lightly. Add the chicken broth and fish paste. Bring to a boil (or until the chicken becomes tender). Add the papaya and squash. When these become tender, add the siling haba and the dahon ng sili. Bring to a boil and serve piping hot.
This recipe was passed on to Edith Agbulos by her grandmother who lived in Calamba during Rizal's time.

His most famous novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, were filled with descriptions of Tagalog dishes of his time, One of the most curious was the Sinigang na Ayungin sa Kamias. Modern diners are familiar with sinigang sa sampalok (soup using a sour tamarind base) and it is rare to find someone who can point out an ayungin  fish on sight for it is a vanishing species found only in Laguna de Bay.
12-15 pcs. kamias (Cucumber tree fruit)
2 pcs. sibuyas (red onions), peeled and sliced
3 pcs. kamatis (native tomatoes), quartered
6 cloves bawang (garlic)
1 kilo ayungin, gutted and washed ( silver perch)
2 cups hugas bigas (water used for washing rice)

1 bunch kangkong (swamp cabbage), separate the leaves from the stalk, use the leaves only
1 piece siling haba (long green chili)
salt to taste
Boil the two cups of hugas bigas. Upon boiling, add a pinch of salt then add the kamias, kamatis, sibuyas and bawang. Before the advent of instant mixes,  the hugas bigas was a common ingredient to give broths more body.
When the solid ingredients become tender, take out of the boiling water and mash. Return the mashed ingredients to the boiling broth before adding the fish and remaining ingredients. When the fish changes color and becomes tender, it's ready to serve.

End of Part 1