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Me so stupid. Host must cook for hero. Most heroes taken.

I’m talking Neanderthal again. But for my pahabol to the Anniversary Edition of Lasang Pinoy: Cooking for Heroes, I’m preparing a smallgasbord (read: a mishmash) of dishes for Apolinario Mabini, staunch anti-imperialist (though I think he pledged allegiance to the Americanos and died a few months later), dreamer of a Malay confederacy and foreign minister to Emilio Aguinaldo’s short-lived cabinet.

What to do. What to do.

If I was already alive at that time I would persuade him to talk to our neighbors and prepare a unified plan of action for independence from the colonists, hire fierce warriors from the Middle East, and establish trade with Japan, and perhaps reconnect with Madre Espana (her pride is wounded after all at the mock battle in Manila Bay). What an unholy alliance to ward off the bullies from the west.

So there, my food selection pictured below are limited: pork omelette (Siam), soy chicken (Singapore-Malaya and China), shoarma (Turkey), squid curry (India, Indo-China), mango kani salad (Japan), pak choi shiitake mushroom stirfry (China and Japan) but I would also love to add some kari noodles and char kway teow (Singapore-Malaya), gado gado salad and cumi cumi madura (Dutch East Indies) and pho (Indo-Chinese Vietnam). For dessert, I would serve pilipit and balicucha (Philippines), haw flakes (China), yema balls (Spanish Philippines), plus pandan cake (Dutch East Indies) and moh let saung (coconut milk and sago from colonial Burma).


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Migration to a new PC is a go…except that I can’t find the right CPU housing for my needs. Off with the technical gobbledygook, but I’ll be posting pictures probably by next week, or the week after next, when I acquire a Pentium 4 with a roomful of memory (you didn’t know the sleepless nights I had to go through Photoshop on a 128MB SDRAM so I can post foodporn, did you?).

One bit of unluck I had is the loss of my PDA’s Hotsync cable, so I can’t post some more while at the office (like free Internet time? Yes, but please, please don’t tell. And if you’re my boss who happens to pass by, the person writing this blog is not me.). Cost of said cable is a day’s salary, which I need to make room in an otherwise tight budget.

I’ll just make a mini-roundup today of anything food-related, and from this point onward, I can’t promise foodporn on every post (“Thank God!” Dial-up users might have to say because I’m a bandwidth hog, fyi.) but please visit anyway anytime.

A tragedy of carabaos. This must be the reason why I am so not into local corned beef, or corned beef per se, for that matter. But even if I knew that what I am eating is carabao beef, it seems incestous. Carabaos are our companions in the ricefields and I can’t bear to eat them.

Hit or miss on cheese. Pinoycook blogged about good kesong puti from UP Los Banos. Must. Go. There. My past experience with this local cheese was flat. First, bought from hawkers in Pansol, only to be disappointed upon return to Manila since a fistsized package yielded air and a matchbox-size of white, but its tang can’t be missed. Bitin. Then from food expos–one from Bohol came in a jar sealed with paraffin, left in the refrigerator for a year since no one would care to taste the unappealing cheese, or the floating pieces of paraffin. Another came from the Philippines’ carabao center, Nueva Ecija, which looked like soft styrofoam cubes on my salad. Said cheese was bought at Market! Market! and left in the fridge for a month as of this writing, in the hope that it would turn rancid from its state of tastelessness.

Vietnam here, Vietnam there. Wifey and I lunched at Pho Bac yesterday, and I reminded myself to check the net if Vietnam already has a McDonald’s outlet. I haven’t made a fruitful search, and landed instead here. Viets will be supplying catfish to McDonald’s for? Beats me, but it gives me an idea what Filet-o-Fish is made of. I used to think it was breaded cardboard.

“The Philippines is not renowned for its cuisine.” Thank Mark Bittman and his book, The Best Recipes in the World for this wonderful introduction to our Chicken Adobo. *Self-introspection mode* Yes we have ourselves partly to blame, with the proliferation of tasteless gook in our canteens. Proof of this is the reluctance of expats in our office to sample local fare at the cafeteria, unless they’re adventurous. It’s even a demeaning remark to say “Pwede ka nang magtayo ng karinderya” when we get a tasteless (pun intended) remark in an effort to match taste with the rising cost of produce, fresh or mostly, otherwise.

But then, I acted the same when I was posted in Shanghai that I slimmed down because I was skipping lunches of Goodyear-grade beef slices on a broth of boiled water with an identity crisis thinking it was chicken noodle soup. Oh well, maybe we just lack a bit of marketing as Tony Abaya would say.

Would Lasang Pinoy 5 include a bookburning event? I’ll make the invitations.

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Lasang Pinoy 4: Rice

(No photos as of this time since the power outlets in our house went kaput last night.)

Even the richest Filipino cannot survive on putanesca alone; to keep him from jumping up from the dining table and murdering the cook, he must be served rice on a fairly regular basis. (Cecile C.A. Balgos, The Tastes That Bind)

I’ve been searching for my personal soul food and though I can invoke several recipes which made me think of an unhurried life, it should be placed in the comfort food category. I think there should be a difference between those two.

The answer came when I imposed a 1-week no-rice lunch diet. It’s not really a correct diet, it’s partially healthy, and it’s not a means to cancel out the All Saints’ Day carbo binge I previously had. I just don’t like canteen food, that’s all.

And so in between bites of a pastrami sandwich I felt an unexplainable lightness, that sometimes translates itself into hunger come dinner time, I realized that I am born with it and would never part with it–rice. This is my soul food.

In all its colors, shapes and sizes, Oryza sativa is the ultimate soul food for me. Like a blank slate it absorbs the flavor of ulam (viand…ever wonder why there isn’t an English term for anything paired with rice?). It creates the balance to the strong flavors of spices. And in leaner times, with salt or soy sauce, it provided for a full tummy, or at least an illusion of it. Like the soul, one cannot live without rice.

In my childhood, I was taught to treat rice with sanctity (probably, but that was my impression before but now I realized my parents are bent on avoiding wastage). Spilled rice, whether cooked or uncooked, should be returned to the vessel or the plate, nothing should go directly to the garbage bin. Even if cooked rice dropped on dirt, it should still be returned to the plate or the banana leaf, to hell with hygiene. Logic escapes me why dirty rice should be returned to the plate even if it won’t be eaten at all, even if the garbage bin is just a few steps away, but I’ve learned to respect rice.

Before I moved out to adult independence, there was never a time we bought rice from the market, because we have farmlands of our own. It has been part of my allowance even when I was just a student. In pre-employment negotiations there is a rice allowance in the benefits list. Goes to show that rice is always good as cash in this side of the world.

We don’t have rice gods like those found in Igorot nations, but there is appreciation, solemnity and reverence attributed to this grain. Probably because my ancestors have been growing rice since the beginning of time, and that we will continue to do so for ages to come.

Some useful rice links:
Rice on wikipedia link
Marketmanila on rice link
Rice-based cookie recipes (surf to other links for suman and cakes) link

Technorati tag: Lasang Pinoy 4

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The reason why the waistline has been way past the tape after spending All Soul’s Day in Baler. Unlike most bloggers I don’t go to the gym anymore.

The secret behind the very tasty sauce of this dish is the use of the broth after steaming (technically it’s not steaming, but boiling the crabs in about a cup of water) the alimasag until it changes color, to milk out the grated coconuts. Alternatively, one can use canned coconut milk and mix some of the broth into the former.

Fiddlehead ferns should be used the day they are picked, which, for the city dweller is quite unfortunate, as they blacken easily when not used within the day. Other vegetables which can be used are sitao and squash, eggplants or banana hearts.

PS. I just found out that the difference between alimasag and alimango is that the former has speckled shells and the latter is very much black.

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Katti (Kat-ti)

Baler Food 1

And so Fire Water Husband is partly back, still acclimatizing back to work. The family’s gone to Baler, Aurora for All Souls’ Day and we were supposed to be back to Laguna by the second of November. Tough luck, since our van can’t make it to the steep roads of Pantabangan when rains rendered the tracks muddy in time for our drive back to Manila.

Katti (or is it kat-ti?) is a snail found off the coasts of Baler. They are boiled and spiked with calamansi (calamondin). Picked fresh and sold for ten pesos a handful, sipping its broth is like tasting the waters of the Pacific. Like a little kid shouting his lungs out on his first time to Baler Bay and his father dunked his head first into the water, sand and salt becoming part of his system even if he strayed far from it.

I’ve searched the web for katti’s scientific name, and I was stalled. Not really affiliated with the Ophiodermella family, but its colorings look like the snakeskin snail, but perhaps related to the heavy turban (called buting in Baler), thus the name Turbo crassus (or was it marmarostoma? I’m not infallible, you see).

The known way to eat the dainty katti is to pick the meat with a safety pin, and remove the hard “tongue” before putting it into your mouth. I did it the butong pakwan way, that is, to pile a heap of katti meat on my plate before spooning it.

Who said only the French liked snails?

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Work mounts up because we’re in for a long weekend, ergo my internet engineers will be on holiday too (j/k!). I’ll be offline most of the time during the first week of November.

Until then. I’ll figure out ways to come up with bandwidth-friendly posts for you while presenting foodporn the way I want them to.

I also signed in for NaNoWriMo. What am I getting meself into?

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Stef invited me to join Lasang Pinoy 3, hosted by Kai with Streetfood as this month’s theme. The beaucon question is: “If you were a Pinoy streetfood, what would you be?”

I’m quite predictable on this one, yes, I will be food found on the streets of Ilocos, particularly at the plaza of Vigan. I am an Ilocos empanada. I don’t look orange at all, but my mind is always bursting with ideas. The true Ilocos empanada, THE empanada to end all empanadas, including Sandy Daza’s anemic version, consists of a matrix of sauteed vegetables and a piece of longganiza and topped with one whole egg before packing everything up in a wrapper made of flour.

My mouth is watering as I type this, because the best Ilocos empanada can be had in Ilocos alone, and not in other locales, not even in Manila. Even in the searing heat of a March sun in Vigan, sinking my teeth into warm empanadas (and a cake of okoy as you can see in the picture) soaked in cane vinegar gives a different high. I could marry empanadas if possible.

We tried shipping them back to the metro and reheat them but to no avail, as what you can do with chicken empanadas at Empanada Royale. You can take Ilocos out of the empanada, but you can’t take an empanada out of Ilocos.

Something that leaves me with ambivalence if I am to become an expat in the near future.

*I could also be the helmet (barbecued chicken heads) which you see in the thumbnails, animal heads are probably the tastiest parts. Slightly gross. I’ll stick with being an Ilocos empanada.

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