Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Filipino Food I




Happy Feast of Stephen! (Of "Good King Wenceslas" fame...)

In the past couple of days I've been enjoying a cornucopia of culinary delights that I don't often get in the U.S. My thighs feel like blobs and my panniculus has doubled, and yesterday after Christmas lunch I was sure that my lower lungs were in a state of collapse from all the food piled up in my stomach squashing all the air out of my alveoli. We really need to get better Filipino food in the Boston area.

I'm sometimes asked what Filipino food is like, and I find it's a little difficult to describe well. Like the people, it's a mix of Asian and Spanish influences. Just before this trip I made arroz a la cubana, a dish of ground meat, tomatoes, and raisins, with a hint of soy sauce in the seasoning, topped with fried eggs and plantains. Yesterday and today I feasted on delicious calamares en su tinta - squid in its ink - made by my mom's best friend, a Caucasian Filipina whose family is of Basque origin. We have paella here (shown above), but we also have those Asian see-through noodles and our own versions of the spring roll, fried or fresh, which we call lumpia (shown above and below). Then there's adobo, our signature dish made of chicken or pork marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, and bagoong, our deliciously stinky condiment about which I've written before - how to explain that? I've munched on green mangoes and bagoong here like a pregnant woman with cravings - but no, I'm not pregnant, so I don't even have an excuse for the cravings.




I'm sure I've mentioned before that ripe, golden Philippine mangoes are without equal in the world - sweet, succulent, with the consistency of custard rather than being stringy as the fruit is scooped out with a spoon, with no adulteration by that apple-like taste some other mangoes have. Hard to find mangoes like these in New England. I know, I sound like a mango elitist. But it's impossible not to be here.


Something most people find unusual is our purple yam, called ube. It is bright purple both raw and cooked, and as an ice cream looks as yummy as it tastes. Tonight I tried something new to me in world of ice cream: cheddar cheese ice cream. There was also a white sorbet laced with our citrus fruit, the calamansi, which produces a juice and flavor unlike that of any Western citrus fruit. I liked the purple ice cream best.

And speaking of white...while we were at the grocery this afternoon buying the ice cream, I had to take a picture of these signs for aisle 9, just in case people who read my post mentioning skin-whitening products thought I might have been exaggerating:



I could start ranting about the sociopolitical objections these products stir up in me...but I'm too stuffed from dinner and sleepy from jetlag to think lucidly (it's morning in the U.S., but dinner time here in the Philippines). So perhaps another day.

12 comments:

Hilda said...

I just ate lunch, yet all I can say is "yummmm". That all looks good. Wishing you all the best for the Christmas season and your trip back home.

mjrh said...

I am sooooooo jealous. How about ensaymada, the really good melt in your mouth ones.

T. said...

As a matter of fact, my aunt MAKES those melt-in-your-mouth ensaymadas from scratch and sent 5 dozen to our house! I think I'll have to write about those soon, as well as post some more pics...

make mine trauma said...

I have the good fortune to have some very close Filipino friends. I have feasted on lumpia, adobo, pancit, and others. I even make my own mean sinigang, shrimp in coconut milk (don't know the name), and another soup with chicken and elbow macaroni and condensed milk. I love fried bananas and the ube ice cream but my favorite sweet treat is from Goldilocks....that butter cream cake with the melt in your mouth layers of meringue, sansrival I believe is the name. OMG! I could eat the whole thing in one sitting.

T. said...

Sans rival! TOTALLY! It's my absolute favorite Filipino dessert, and wouldn't you know, someone else we know makes an incomparable one from scratch and sent it to our house. If only we had a pinoy bakery or restaurant or food store where I live in the States...

I'm so impressed you can make sinigang! :)

mjrh said...

actually, my mom also makes ensaymada from scratch. I'll have to ask the recipe from her so I can make it. I used to help her out during the days leading up to Christmas when she would make it to give away to our relatives. By the way, since you've been eating Filipino ice cream, have you tried the mais /sweet corn or even the macapuno?

T. said...

Ooooooooh, please include me for your ensaymada baking session. From what I understand, it takes several rounds of heavy-duty kneading to make those!

I've tried the macapuno but not the mais. Everything's so yummy. My favorite is still mocha, though!

mjrh said...

I've never baked it myself but it does entail a lot of kneading and patience(waiting for it to rise). I also want to attempt the sans rival which I also love!!!!!!!!!!!

T. said...

I tried to make sans rival last year and, for the most part, totally bombed. The taste was all there - tasted just like delicious, sweet, nutty, buttery sans rival - but the merengue layers got soggy, then later chewy, instead of keeping that crispness!

Oh well...maybe I'll be inspired to try again...wanna help?

trauma said...

I kind like it when the meringue layers get chewy! I try to make the cake last so long that it usually ends up that way.

mjrh said...

we can try. I have a baker friend who lives near davis square (filipina) and she said that she mastered the sans rival.

T. said...

I certainly hope she can teach us! That, and the ensaymada: those are the two things I wish I could make well.