Pocherong Bisaya: A Richer Version of a Classic Filipino Dish

The late great Philippine food writer Doreen G. Fernandez once said that all cuisines had what she called a “basic boil” – which is to say a dish cooked in boiling water in just the right way. In the Philippines, the basic boil is referred to as nilaga which, in Filipino, is really the past tense verb “boiled”.

However, the contents of a nilaga may change the dish’s name. Depending on the kind of meat used, it may become a nilagang baka (boiled beef) or a nilagang baboy (boiled pork) and here, the meat is cooked with a combination of cabbage, Savoy cabbage, potatoes, and Chinese cabbage. This is, essentially, an Asian take on a New England Boiled Dinner sans the salt-cured beef. The addition of a souring agent such as tamarinds (sampaloc) or bilimbi fruit (kamias) turns it into the classic Pinoy comfort food sinigang. Made with chicken, some julienned ginger, green papaya, and either dahong sili (the leaves of the bird’s-eye chili [siling labuyo] plant) or moringa leaves (malunggay), the dish becomes a tinola or, as it’s called in the northern provinces, a lauya. In Muslim Mindanao, fish takes the place of other proteins and the lemongrass-scented dish is referred to as tiyula.

At our house, the nilagang baka that usually appears at our dinner table is what I refer to as the standard version (cabbage, potatoes, the usual stuff). So it was a great surprise the other night when I came home from work and saw another variation of this classic dish: pocherong Bisaya.

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