I love a good coffee table book. I savor the feeling of the glossy pages and the heaviness of the hardbound book in my hands. It’s a visual and tactile feast! They give me joy.
The first time I leafed through the pages of Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa-Dorotan and Remy Dorotan was three years ago. I was perusing the shelves of our city library for just the type of food book. There were many featuring cuisines from France, Spain, Japan but barely anything about the Philippines. So I got very excited when I found this one book that told our culinary stories! Last Christmas, my aunt gave the exact same to our family. Maybe aunts have some sort of ESP.
What I love most about it is the different family recipes the authors gathered from Luzon and Visayas. Being from Mindanao, I was only able to appreciate the diversity of Philippine cuisine when I studied in Quezon City. School trips brought me to different places in the North such as Lucban, Baguio, Pampanga.
Informative and personal, memories of taste are recounted. Native ingredients are reintroduced.
What keeps this book from being truly comprehensive about Philippine Kitchens is the lack of information on Mindanao food. The main focus was Luzon (Ilocos, Zambales, Bicol, Pampanga) and Visayas (Cebu and Bacolod).
Still it is very inspirational. They pose a simple question that garners a multitude of answers worth exploring: What are your food memories?
It is my dream to explore such memories of taste in Mindanao! There will be plenty to unearth and rediscover.
I wrote this with the intention of submitting it to the Doreen Fernandez Food Writing Contest. However, I was unable to finish and ended up editing and submitting it to World Nomad’s Passport and Plate Contest instead. It’s still up on their website along with other entries from all kinds of food lovers around the world. I am re-posting it here:
The magic of midday in a tropical country lies in the raucous rhythm of lunchtime. This recipe brings me back to my university days when people leave the classrooms and rush to hole-in-the-wall eateries to hide from the burning 38C heat. Voices and the clattering of utensils seem louder in the sweltering noon air. For a while, it’s as though students are always coming, and there wouldn’t be enough seats. After the heavy, greasy and meaty lunch, we unconsciously rub our tummies in satisfaction. For me, the last hurrah of this cheap yet enjoyable budget meal would be the saba con yielo. Though irreverently contained in a flimsy plastic cup and scooped with an equally flimsy plastic spoon, this chilled dessert is the perfect noontime refreshment. The boiled banana and tapioca soak in the sweetness of the syrup. Once cooled, the chilled milk is poured and crushed ice unceremoniously plunked in.
At some point, food has been taken to a level where it’s cooked for the emperor with a jaded palate. Yet recipes like this one takes me back to celebrating food’s simplicity. Sweetened saba is ordinary dessert fare in the Philippines. It is local, accessible and affordable. Its simplest version, without the tapioca, ice and milk, is enjoyed by Filipinos both on ordinary days and special occasions. I remember having it in one of my Anthropology field trips to Talim Island, Rizal (a town a few hours away from the country’s’ capital city, Manila). My classmates and I had lunch on one of the bamboo houses on stilts after swimming. Lunch was a feast of steamed rice on banana leaves, fried tilapia piled on a plate, crisp spring rolls, sinigang (sour soup), fresh deep red tomatoes and a bowl of calamansi (our local lemon). I ate to my heart’s content until I was full but not full enough to refuse the dessert: minatamis na saba. I ate it with delight as though it’s through this dessert that one ends a satisfying meal with gratefulness for a truly sweet life.
Temp Brennan once told Booth (in the Bones tv series!) that vegetarians aren’t always necessarily healthy. They can just eat french fries all day. My September challenge was an effort to reduce red meat and increase vegetable intake. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat but I also know how I badly need those leafy greens. Yet as Temp said, the challenge didn’t necessarily make me eat healthy. There were times when my meat-free meal was an orange marmalade sandwich or a bowl of cereal.
While I wasn’t able to record every day I did rediscover some easy-to-cook and meat-free meals to share with you! This is purely an idea giver/ingredients list. Just determine quantities to suit your taste!
- Kimchi Fried Rice:
- saute garlic
- store-bought kimchi
- cooked rice
- season as you like with salt and pepper. Add tofu for something more substantial.
- rice porridge
- Toppings: sliced green scallions, century eggs, toasted crunchy garlic ( which you get by putting garlic in oil over low fire til they get crunchy)
- Seafood Chopsuey
- button mushroom
- canned or fresh baby corn
- seafood of choice (shrimps, mussels and/or squid)
- chopsuey seasoning and or oyster sauce
- season with salt and pepper. Thicken sauce using cornstarch and water
- Garlic Shrimp
- saute garlice in butter
- add shrimp
- Ginataang Gulay
- saute garlic
- any other veggie of choice (eg. string beans, okra etc)
- coconut cream when squash is soft
- Grilled Salmon Head
- salt the cleaned salmon head and shove it in your oven to grill at 350F until the outside is brown and crisp (just keep checking!)
- This is so good, you wished you cooked more. Make sure to salt that fish head good.
- Tuna spread
- tuna from tuna can
- sliced onions and scallions
- salt and pepper
- Kale and Eggs
- saute garlic in sesame oil and olive oil
- then eat with soft or hard boiled eggs!
- Mussels in Broth
- saute onions
- lemon grass
- a bit of white wine (no white wine? no problem. skip it.)
- green onions
- chili leaves or other leafy greens (kale will do)
- season with salt
- Chili Tofu and Eggplant
- brown tofu
- saute garlic
- chili garlic paste (LKK)
|Lugaw! Non-vegetarian with the addition of yummy Chinese chorizo.
|I still tried to make quickie-kimchi
literally. I thought I’d share these photos from my latest grocery shopping trip with my sisters. All photos taken by Astrid from Superboink.