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.

THE MENU 
 "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.
THE KITCHEN AND THE COOKS
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).
***
TINOLANG MANOK
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.
Ingredients:
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.
***

SINIGANG NA AYUNGIN SA KAMIAS
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.
Ingredients:
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

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