The driver in Manila was getting more and more antsy. Reason being that it had been several hours since breakfast, as it was likewise for everyone else on the road. Filipinos tend to be emotional about meals, especially when it's been too long since they ate. It's low blood sugar. Never interfere with a Filipino and food; it leads to very bad things.
We solved the problem by means of rice and skewered barbecue pork with garlic vinegar. Given that I'm a mukang-puti kano, I can do strange things like eating with the driver. Normally it isn't done. One breaks for lunch, and gives the other person time to squirrel-up their own chow.
But there were just two of us, and no one eats alone.
Single eating is just fuel.
There's always something tasty when there are Filipinos about. That's just the way it is. And Filipinos have an incredibly strong urge to eat companionably. The idea of stuffing one's own face and letting someone else go hungry nearby makes them uncomfortable, verging on nausea.
Here! You must eat!
Two and half hours later we needed some bihon.
It was a spontaneous decision.
Based on exposure.
There was an eatery he knew about five miles from where we had started talking about noodles.....
We backtracked from Balintawak to Caloocan. It rained heavily while we were eating, but by the time we finished, it had stopped and the fierce heat had driven all the moisture away. It barely even felt humid, and flies and dust intermingled in the blazing parking lot.
We were glad we had taken a break.
Filipinos eat a lot of rice, and consequently many dishes pack a bit of extra flavour, because the taste will be diluted by the starch. A little more salt (hot climate!), and little more sugar (brings out flavours), and a little more oil. It's still far far healthier than any part of the traditional American diet, and just tastes a heck of a lot better too.
For one thing, vegetables are not inevitably boiled limp and buttered.
That right there should get you rushing off to House of Lumpia!
One fast-food hot dog in downtown San Francisco is less digestible and more dangerous. A hamburger is worse for your heart than a large plate of pancit and inihaw na isda at a carinderia.
Lechon, longanisa, lumpia?
The only problems with the Filipino diet are threefold: too much good stuff to eat, tea is only drunk when someone feels ill, and almost no hotsauce available everywhere!
A TASTE FROM PAMPANGA
Kapampangans are rice cultivators and fishermen, and the province is well-known for culinary creativity. Besides rice, sugar cane, vegetables, and fruits, are plentiful. Pampanga was one of the first Spanish territories in the islands, and also one of the first to revolt. It is part of the Philippine heartland, and well worth visiting.
A dish that frequently shows up when Filipinos get together is stewed oxtail with peanut sauce, which originated in Pampanga. Some recipes are complicated, others fairly simple. But it is quite unlike West-African, Indonesian, and Surinamese peanut sauce dishes, because there is no chili pepper heat.
Instead, the rich and savoury side is stressed.
The meat is simmered in its own broth for a few hours, then peanut butter or finely ground roasted peanuts are added to flavour and thicken the sauce, and subsequently vegetables put into the pot to contribute different textural elements. It is served with rice and fish-paste.
Most versions add achuete for colour, many use banana blossom (puso na saging) or bokchoy (petsay) as one of the vegetables, and several cooks thicken the sauce with fine-ground toasted glutinous rice.
Other meats are also used, not just ox-tail.
Heck, try it with brisket!
Three pounds meat, preferably on the bone.
One bunch of long beans (sitaw).
Three Asian eggplants (talong).
Eight TBS peanut butter.
Four or five cups water.
Half a cup Atsuete water.
Some minced garlic.
Chop the meat into chunks, cut the long beans into two inch lengths, chunk-cut the eggplants. The onion should be simply halved.
Fry the garlic golden, then pour the water into the pot and bring it to a boil. Simmer the meat in the water with the onion added, for about two hours or more; it should be tender and well-cooked.
Remove the meat from broth. Strain the broth and put it back on the stove. Ladle some out and blend with the peanut butter till smooth, pour this into the pot. Put the meat back in and add the Atsuete water.
Add the vegetables and simmer till tender.
Serve with a mound of white rice, a saucer of shrimp paste (bagoong), and quartered limes for squeezing.
If you are me, you might want to fry the shrimp paste first in a little oil. While I love the taste of raw shrimp paste with very green mango, I prefer it cooked with hot food.
And yes, I would also add some chilipaste.
That's just the way I am.
All recipes are subject to modification and variance.
I should mention that I fry the onion in pork fat or clarified animal grease before the adding the garlic or anything else. I just like the extra oomph.
There's rice, remember?
Achuete ('atsuete') is bixa orellana seed, also called achiote and annatto. There are two main ways of incorporating it for colour in your cooking. For achuete water, soak four tablespoons in a half a cup of hot water for an hour, then strain out the solids. The less-favoured method is to seethe it in three times the amount of oil, with some chopped garlic and a dried chili, then let the colour bleed into the oil for a few hours before straining. Either way, it adds only a very minor flavour, but a lovely glowing rust-red orange hue.
By the way, kare kare can also be made with pigs' trotters instead of ox-tail. Or even ribs.
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