At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Sunday, May 03, 2015


One of the things you can find in any breakfast place catering to Filipinos is a plate of fried cured meat, served with garlic-fried rice, a fried egg (or two of them), and sliced tomatoes. Plus a small dish of vinegar with sliced garlic, or onion, or siling (hot chilies).
It's hearty food, worth getting up early for. But I am not a breakfast person, so instead of heading down to the final few blocks of Mission Street at the crack of dawn, I will prepare the fundamental ingredient at home to cook for dinner. That being Filipino-style cured meat.

Tapa, sinangag, at itlog; maging "tapsilog".

The tomato is, obviously, assumed.

Tapa is made by marinating meat in soy, vinegar, sugar, and garlic. Then taking it out, shaking off the excess liquid, and frying it till crispy, juicy, fragrant.
Beef is commonly used.

Sinangag (garlic-fried rice) is usually leftover rice jiggled in a hot pan with some garlic and grease till flavoured -- some people like to add a spoonful of stinky shrimp paste as well -- then scooping it out and onto a plate before it starts sticking to the bottom.
Slightly less moist rice is best.

Itlog means egg. And in this context it could mean egg cooked any style, but a fried egg is common.

The vinegar plus garlic or whatever combination caters to the Filipino taste for something sour to add intensity and complexity. A squeeze of kalamansi -- fragrant small green citrus with orange-yellow pulp, like key lime but better -- can be used in lieu of, or in addition to.

Filipinos drink either chocolate or coffee in the morning. Coffee grown in Batangas (kapeng barako) is not much enjoyed outside of the Islands, and the Philippines do not have a strong coffee culture.
Hot chocolate is a bit more traditional.

I prefer my rice plain-steamed, largely avoid cow because the American beef industry is one of the filthiest, nastiest, and most ethically crippled things to come out of Texas (though possibly no worse than their politicians and religious charlatans), and I like some serious coffee during breakfast or dinner; I don't thrive on hot chocolate.

All that, plus the sheer insanity of searching for an open Filipino eatery at the far end of Mission Street after ten o'clock in the evening, explains why instead I do it all at home.

The cured meat can be made in a larger quantity, portions frozen for later use.


For each pound of semi-lean pork:

Four (or five) TBS sugar
Three TBS vinegar
One TBS lime juice
Four TBS soy sauce
Two Tsp. ground pepper
Two Tsp. salt
Ten cloves garlic, bashed a bit

Slice the pork thin. Mix all the other ingredients, place the pork in a bowl, and pour in the marinade. Mix, to ensure that all of the meat is in contact with the marinade, and set it in the refrigerator for two days.
Turn occasionally to ensure even penetration.

Then take it out, pour off the excess liquid, and divide into portions, which can be enfolded in plastic wrap for later use.

To use immediately, heat up some oil or rendered meat fat in the skillet, dump in the meat -- there should be room to spare, do it in batches if cooking for more than one person -- and fry till the pork has darkened along the edges and is starting to crisp.

Serve with a mound of rice, and plenty thick-sliced tomato.
A small saucer of garlic vinegar for zip.
Plus a fried egg.

If you're me, you might want to also have a dish of stewed bittermelon on the side; it's good for you, and darn tasty.

Bittermelon cooked with coconut milk

One bitter melon
Half a cup coconut milk
One shallot, slivered
A little minced ginger
A teaspoon of shrimp paste (bagoong alamang)
A pinch of turmeric

Slice the bittermelon down the center and scoop out the pips and pith. Cut across into thick half rounds, and dump in a bowl. Strew a little salt over, add lukewarm water to cover, and let it sit for twenty minutes to lessen some of the bitterness. Drain, rinse well, drain again.

[Note: you can also put a big fat jalapeño chili sliced and seeded in with the soaking bittermelon; it will be less hot after this treatment, and adds a nice crisp taste.]

Add oil to a pan, sauté the shallot and ginger. Then add the bittermelon and cook briskly over heat.
Add the shrimp paste, stir to mix -- yes, it will smell a bit -- then add the pinch of turmeric and pour in the coconut milk. Turn the heat low and simmer till the coconut milk has been reduced and the oil appears. Let the vegetables frazzle a little bit in this, for extra flavour, then add a splash of water, stir briefly, and slide into a serving bowl.

Cooked cured meat. Rice. Fried egg. Tomatoes. Vegetables cooked sa gata. And a little garlic-vinegar. Life is good.

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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.



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