Childhood Favorite…

For some reason, this dish made lots of appearances on our table when I was growing up.  I’ve tried to recreate this dish many times but I was always too lazy to dice the pork, instead using ground pork.  It seemed to never taste the same as my favorite childhood dish.

This time however, I took the time and effort and dice everything.  Wow, it transported me right back to my younger days.  Who knew that the cut of pork mattered?  Perhaps this was what my mother meant when she nagged me endlessly to NOT be lazy!???

Egg Tofu… stir-fried

Remember the egg tofu project a couple of weeks ago?  Well, I made another batch (one for my mom and one for us) and cut the tofu into cubes after it cooled completely.  My goal was to stir-fry the tofu with ground pork to see if it would crumble as well as to check how stir-frying would affect the delicate texture of the tofu.

It was a huge success!  The tofu did not crumble and it stayed soft and delicate!!!!!!  It was soooooo delicious!

And the dish cooked in just a few minutes!

First saute garlic and onions until soft, add about 100 to 150 grams of ground pork.  Stir fry the pork with a teaspoon of oyster sauce.  Halfway to doneness, add the tofu cubes and mix gently.  I didn’t have to add salt to the dish because the tofu was already seasoned nicely.

It was sooo good as topping for steamed rice!

Menudillo with Quail Eggs

The real dish is Menudo, and where I’m from, it is a tomato-based stew of pork and liver.  Usually it also has tomatoes, carrots, raisins, garbanzos, green peas, pimientos and red hotdogs!  It’s definitely not the Mexican menudo, which is with tripe.

My version always skips the peas (which I loathe) and the raisins (which I like on their own but not in cooked food). I always use liverspread instead of actual liver (because while I like the flavor, I do not like the texture!). I also like putting in garbanzos and red hotdogs, but since hubby does not like either of those things, they rarely make an appearance!

When I need to make a big batch in a hurry, I make menudillo, which is kinda like saying mini or baby menudo, which implies using the same recipe but smaller cuts of meat, in this case the meat was ground into mince instead of small cubes.  And, in the interest of saving more time, I shredded the carrots instead of dicing them… and to add ooomph, boiled quail eggs went into the dish!

My recipe…

800 grams lean ground pork

4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet onion, minced
1 small can pork liver spread
4 largish tomatoes, diced
1 to 2 large pimientos, sliced
about 1/2 cup shredded carrots (large shred)
1/2 cup tomato sauce (optional)
3 pieces dried bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika
a pinch or two of crushed chili flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
18 to 24 pieces boiled quail eggs

In a hot pan, sauté the garlic and onion until soft and fragrant.  Add the liverspread and stir fry several seconds.  Add the tomatoes and pimientos. Stir fry several minutes then throw in the pork and stir fry a couple of minutes more. Add the shredded carrots then the tomato sauce, if using. Pour enough water or stock to barely cover the meat. Add seasonings, to taste. Simmer until pork is cooked and sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to a thick paste. Halfway through simmering, put in the boiled quail eggs.

Serve on top of steamed rice!

This dish was made for hubby’s friends so we packed their meal in convenient “lunch boxes”, and added mini cupcakes for their get together!

(The picture of the packed meal is not mine; I grabbed the photo from the social media account of one of the recipients – )

Of course when hubby told me that everyone liked (loved?) this dish, I was happy!!!!

Pork Pata, Osso Buco style

Hubby doesn’t eat beef anymore so once in a while I make a beef dish using pork.  This particular one is Osso Buco but using pork leg.

about 1 kilogram of lean pork leg pieces
1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

7 pieces small Spanish onions
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 big carrot and/or potato, cubed
handful of celery leaves
1 tablespoon cooking wine
1 can diced tomatoes (with juices)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste
2 pcs. bay leaves

Clean the pork leg pieces by rubbing with salt and rinsing then parboiling.  Dry thoroughly with paper towels.  Dredge in seasoned flour mixture. Shake off excess; set aside. Heat butter and oil together until butter melts. Brown the pork leg pieces on each side, around 5 to 8 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Sauté garlic and onions until fragrant in the same pan. Add carrots and/or potatoes and celery leaves. Put the beef shanks back in the pan and mix in the cooking wine and diced tomatoes.  Add enough water or stock to cover everything and throw in the spices.

I always use my magic cooker to cook this dish.  But it can be cooked with a slow cooker as well, or a pressure cooker.

When the mixture boils, I let it simmer about 10 to 15 minutes on the stovetop and then put the pot into the magic cooker.  After 4 hours, I check if the meat is tender.  If it is not, then I place the inner pot on the stove and let it simmer another 15 minutes then it goes back into the magic cooker for another 2 to 4 hours.

To cook in a slow cooker –  Simmer over low for about 4 hours or until meat is tender.

To cook in a pressure cooker –  Pressure cook for about 25 minutes. Wait for pressure to dissipate before opening the pressure cooker.

After the pork is cooked until tender, use tongs to gently transfer the pork leg pieces to a serving dish.

Cook the sauce over low-medium heat and simmer until reduced to desired consistency. Check and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Hubby liked the dish very much!

 

Pork Sinigang sa Batwan

Sinigang is a popular sour soup made with pork, beef, fish or seafood (mostly shrimp).  The usual souring agent is sampalok (tamarind), but other souring agents, such as kamias (bilimbi?), calamansi, even green (unripe) mango, can be used.  I’ve even heard of sinigang using bayabas (guava).

But in my mom’s hometown province, they use batwan!  What is batwan???? Mmmm, there’s a few articles of it online – just type batwan or batuan in Google.

I got lucky when A-te J brought some with her when she came back.

Even luckier when she cooked sinigang with it!!!

How is it used as a souring agent in sinigang?  Well, according to A-te J, just throw 5 to 10 pieces of batwan into the pot with all the other ingredients (half kilo pork, water, tomatoes, etc.) and let it boil until the batwan is soft, then lightly mash the batwan to bring out even more sourness…

We usually start by sautéing ginger and tomatoes then stirfrying (cleaned, rinsed) pork rib pieces.  Broth or water is added, as well as the batwan and gabi (taro) if using.  Let the pot boil and add the veggies as desired (sitaw, kangkong, puso ng saging, labanos, etc.).  When the batwan is soft, mash lightly and stir.  The soup will thicken slightly.  Adjust seasonings as desired.  Serve hot!

Pork, Liver, Peppers and Onions

This is a dish that is especially for hubby.  Why?  Because he really likes liver, bell peppers, and onions!  The pork part is for me, because I don’t eat liver at all, bell peppers scarcely, and onions?  Only when they are “invisible” in the dish!!!

The dish is cooked in the the sequence of its name…

Saute thin slices of pork (usually kasim or shoulder part) until it is almost done.  The liver slices go next (sliced thicker than the pork).  Stirfry several seconds then add the bell pepper pieces.  Swirl the pieces in the pan then add the sliced onions.  It is important that the onion slices stay crisp, and the bell peppers not mushy.  Most important of all, the liver should not be overcooked.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Stewed Pork Leg

My mom has always been “revolutionary”… while all other parents encouraged their kids to eat fatty food (at least as far as my contemporaries have told me) my mom “trained” us by cutting out the fat in pork chops and adobo, trimming the fat from spare ribs and liempo, removing the fat from barbecue… even going as far as having no-skin fried chicken!  Needless to say, we were utterly ignorant of bacon, chicharon, crispy pata (pork leg) and similar stuff!  Our only exposure to “fat” was the yearly lechon at the office party at Christmas!

But my late father had 3 favorite foods – the pancit (noodles) from his hometown (the ones his mom made from scratch), adobo, and stewed pork leg… stewed pork leg which was usually swimming in fat, and hidden from my mom’s sights!

Well then, imagine my surprise when I found a recipe for stewed pork leg in my mom’s recipe files!!!!

Of course I had to make it!!!!  And, of course I bought pork leg slices which were the least fatty that I could find!!!!

Sorry, though, since I do not have my mom’s permission to share her recipes. But, the good news is that this dish is a winner!!! Everyone said so!!!

 

I AM A FILIPINO ADOBO

When I have time to waste, I always go to the bookstore and browse the cookbook section.  It was in one of those moments that I found a cookbook that I could not resist buying.  It was rather expensive, I admit, but after flipping through the pages, I just had to add it to my collection.

The first time I saw the book, it was the digital version.  With the limited browsing facility of Amazon, it did not interest me at all – there are, after all, MANY MANY cookbooks on Philippine food (both local and international) and most of my recipes were given to me by word-of-mouth.  I honestly did not need another one!

But curiosity got the better of me and with the permission of the bookstore personnel, I unwrapped the book and took a deeper look.  And, I swear, there is something about the smell of the pages, as well as the feel of the paper, that has a stronger appeal than the digital version!  In a matter of seconds, I made the decision to fork over the cash!

What I love about this cookbook is that the recipes are very close to what I have been taught (by word-of-mouth) by my mom, our faithful helper (who was with us since I was a child until after I finished schooling (at age 25!), and other elders.  Another thing that I really liked was that the food titles were in Filipino, with an English subtitle.  I’ve seen Filipino cookbooks (by Filipino authors no less!) who write their recipes with English translations, with the original Filipino title relegated to a sub-title, and I felt offended!

Sigh.

Anyway, the first recipe I tried in the book is the Adobong Manok at Baboy (Classic Adobo).  Why?  Well, because it is almost (almost!) the exact recipe my mom dictated to me a couple of decades ago!

While I have several recipes of adobo, depending on who taught me, this is the easiest to remember so I never wrote that recipe down.  All I have to remember is … ONE.

1 cup white vinegar (Datu Puti was what we had), 1 cup soy sauce (the Chinese favorite with the bird logo), 1 whole head of garlic, 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, 1 large bay leaf, 1 kilo of chicken and/or pork, and 1 heaping spoon of guava jelly (though this was optional).  The only other ingredient without a specific measure is the water – basically add enough water to cover everything.  That’s it.

The major difference is that in my mom’s version, there is no marinating the meat.  Just put everything in a pot (kaserola) and simmer until the meat is soft and tender (depending on the pork cubes, it could be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour).  That’s it.

Oh, there is another difference… we usually add hard boiled eggs midway!

Yum. Yum. Yum!!!

 

 

Homemade Char Siew

Char Siew, or Chinese BBQ Pork, also known as Asado locally, is one of my childhood favorites.  There was this place in Chinatown where my mom used to buy char siew – it was the best in town!

These days it is not easy to find good char siew,  It seems like just every Chinese restaurant has its version and it is not necessarily a good one… but there is one place I found, a virtual hole-in-a-wall place relatively near, where the char siew is good enough.  They have good lechon macao (known as roast pork) also.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to make a homemade one and this one seems to be the best – and guess what?  It is not even roasted!

I found the recipe online from a lady who calls herself a “Domestic Goddess Wannabe“.  Her recipe and instructions are very clear, and I followed her recipe exactly!

(well, except that my pork shoulder marinated for about 4 to 5 days!  although I had intended to marinate only for a night, and scheduled the char siew for lunch the next day, something came up and I didn’t have the opportunity to cook it until about 5 days later!)

Verdict?

Success!  Hubby likes it!  It is moist and perfect!

Success!  I like it!  It is easy to make!!!!!

 

Sabaw Itim

When my brothers and I were kids, we called this dish “Sabaw Itim”, literally Black Soup.  To our very young minds, we called it as we saw it – soup because it was so liquid-y and black because it was so dark in color.

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It’s actually chicken braised in soy sauce with mushrooms and boiled eggs.

It was a real favorite and we had it at least once a month!  In those days, the dish was so much more soupier (after all we all wanted the soup/sauce on our rice!) and the chicken pieces were various cuts from 1 whole chicken.  These days, chicken is available by specific parts, and boneless, no less!  My favorite part?  boneless, skinless chicken thigh!

The recipe:

about 600 to 700 grams of boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 pieces)

Marinade:

2 to 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed
a small thumb of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
2 to 3 pieces large bay leaves, crumbled
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1/4 cup light soy sauce
dash of shao xing wine
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

150 grams small fresh shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces
(or 60 grams dried shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces)
4 to 6 pieces boiled eggs

1/2 to 1 cup water (or mushroom soaking liquid, chicken stock)

Mix marinade ingredients together; set aside for a while.

Clean the chicken pieces and slice each piece into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the size desired (remember that meat shrinks upon cooking so adjust accordingly).

Pour marinade over chicken and let stand for about 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, if using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water until softened; drain but keep the soaking liquid.  Cut the stems off the mushrooms (fresh or dried ones). Rinse lightly to remove dirt and grime, if there is any.

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When we were younger, this dish was cooked on the stove-top in a clay pot; it was soupier too. The way I make this dish now is with the magic cooker and with a lot less liquid.

The traditional way:

Smash some more garlic and saute them over low fire until lightly browned and deliciously fragrant! Then dump the chicken pieces and all marinade into the pot. Throw the rehydrated mushrooms in too (IF using fresh mushrooms, add them after 15 minutes of simmering.) Add enough liquid to barely cover the chicken pieces; mix to combine everything. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer until done, about 30 minutes or so, depending on the size of chicken pieces (smaller pieces cook faster). Top up with more liquid if the sauce is reduced too much OR if a soupier dish is desired. About 5 minutes before putting off the stove fire, add the boiled eggs. Adjust seasonings to desired taste. Off fire, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!

The magic cooker way:

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Just dump the chicken pieces and marinade into the inner pot. Throw in mushrooms and boiled eggs, too. Add 1/2 cup of liquid; mix gently to combine everything (and not mutilate the eggs). Adjust seasonings. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer for 10 minutes (start counting when liquid starts bubbling). Place inner pot inside the outer chamber of the magic cooker. Leave for 30 to 45 minutes. Just before serving, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!

DISH VARIATIONS – Use firm tofu instead of mushrooms, or use a variety of fresh mushrooms – shitake, button, Korean king oyster, straw, etc.

Or, use pork cubes or ribs instead of chicken.

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PERSONAL NOTES –

The soaking liquid of the dried mushrooms is very flavorful, but some find it too strong, in which case use only 1/4 of the soaking liquid and 1/4 cup or more of water or stock. Or omit the soaking liquid altogether.

If using dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid, the sauce of the dish will have a stronger, more pronounced flavor. If using fresh mushrooms, the dish has a more subtle, delicate flavor. It’s delicious either way. Using different kinds of fresh mushrooms gives more dimension to the dish.

The original recipe (from my mom’s files) has 1/2 tablespoon sugar as an ingredient in the marinade but I’ve always skipped it. Also, dark (and salty) soy sauce was traditionally used but I’m happy with my light soya sauce (and hubby is ok with it as well) which is less salty and does not impart a dark brown (almost black) color.