Posted in A Girl at Lunch, Holiday Cuisine, Home Baking, Home Cooking, Restaurant Hopping, The Flavors of Asia, The Pinoy Food Route, This is a Catholic's Blog - DEAL WITH IT, Uncategorized

Feasting on Duck by a Country Road

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In a small shack by the roadside…

“Are you folks going out today?” I yawned to my dad on the morning of Black Saturday. See, we’re the sort of family that stays home during Holy Week: no trips to the beach, active participation during the religious services of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, bantering with each other over the points made by the Dominican friars during the annual broadcast of The Seven Last Words live from the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, and I do my Easter baking on Black Saturday. So, we’re pretty much city-bound (and local community-bound) during Paschaltide.

So it came as a surprise when my father said, “How about duck in Laguna for lunch?”

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Poached and fried till golden…beak and all

Duck is a meat that rarely makes an appearance on most Filipino tables unless you live in Pateros in the northern part of Manila or in the town of Victoria in the southern province of Laguna. For both places, ducks and duck eggs are both a source of nourishment and a long-standing source of income. Balut, that infamous duck embryo delicacy foisted on unsuspecting foreign tourists and squeamish Fil-Am kids, has long been Pateros’ claim to fame; in Victoria, there are roadside stalls that sell live or dressed ducks, as well as balutpenoy (hard-boiled duck eggs), as well as both salt-cured and fresh duck eggs. In the case of the latter, it’s all part of the “One Town, One Product” (OTOP) initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry which encourages self-reliance in rural areas by encouraging MSMEs.

At long-time duck farmer Leo Dator’s humorously named Ang Tindahan ng Itlog ni Kuya (aka Mr Duck), duck lovers can indulge in a menu where duck meat and eggs are everywhere. Seriously: you can get a meal that’s ducky in every way from soup to dessert. Other than that, one can also get organically farmed ducks, duck eggs (fresh and preserved), and other niceties such as those au courant salted-egg potato crisps (made with their own eggs, natch), locally-made noodles, and other snacks native to Laguna province.

The speciality of the house, however, is kinulob na itik. Similar to Indonesian bebek goreng (crisply fried duck), the organically raised duck is first poached to take some of the gaminess off, and then deep-fried till crisp on the outside, tender and savoury within. Richer and more flavourful than the fast-food fried chicken so many Filipinos are fond of (and, really: I can’t see why), a single order is good enough for a group of four – with leftovers, to boot.

 

Sinampalukang Itik – look at all those chilies!

Another must-try dish is the sinampalukang itik or duck cooked sinigang-style in a sour tamarind broth with finely chopped shallots and plenty of fresh finger chilies. It’s quite a change from the usual sinigang: meatier, more robust, somewhat fiery because of the chilies chucked into the pot. It’s a dish that seriously demands to be eaten with plenty of rice – and the rice here is excellent. It may be plain, but it’s deliciously fragrant and the grains are moreishly chewy; it is certainly the perfect foil for the fatty goodness of the duck.

One does NOT say no to this sort of leche flan

There’s halo-halo on the menu for afters, but I would recommend you go out with the same thing you came in with and have a ducky end to the meal with the leche flanThe local take on this sweet favourite comes out denser, heavier, and creamier than the pale yellow examples you get in other parts of the country. Here, as duck yolks are used, the custard is a deeper orange hue and the resulting dish has a chewy, gooey texture that is seriously appealing even to the finickiest of diners. (But, if even this puts you off, you’ve no business eating.)

The tindahan is actually split into two parts: the main restaurant which is a roofed structure open on all sides with tables for dining on, a counter for ordering from, and a kitchen where the magic happens. The other part is the store which sells all things ducky (yes, including live Long Island Pekin ducks – fat and rather charming-tempered ones, really. You’d want to keep one as a pet, but you’d also consider cooking the creature come Christmas this year, so…)

Duck-egg Challah, anyone?

I ended up buying a clutch of fresh duck eggs and a whole kinulob to take away. Duck eggs are an amazing addition to one’s baking arsenal, if I do say so myself. They impart a richer flavour to eggy breads like classic Jewish challah, for one thing. I’ve yet to see what duck eggs can do in cakes or biscuits, but I’ve seen recipes for duck egg pavlovas (whites in the pav, yolks in the custard to pour over it) and as we’re at the start of mango season in these parts…

Oh, and remember that I bought a whole duck for take away: we had that bird for Black Saturday dinner and, yes, there were leftovers. Those definitely didn’t go to waste, of course, because…

Duck curry, yes.

…I went and chucked the lot into a tasty duck curry for Easter Sunday dinner. 🙂

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Posted in Home Cooking, The Flavors of Asia, The Well-read Foodie

In Which the Blogger takes on a Chinese Eggplant Dish…

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So fiddly to make, but definitely worth it

It’s one of those days: the newly-minted freelance writer has just a bare minimum of professional writing to do, the help has gone on her annual fortnight-long vacation out of town; it’s been raining buckets, and one is in a quandary as to what to cook for dinner tonight.

And so…

“I’m heading out to do a cake delivery,” I told my sister yesterday.  “Might head to the supermarket to get some ingredients.  Three-cups chicken okay with you?”

My sister considered this for a bit and said, “No, but could you try cooking stuffed eggplant instead?”

Stuffed eggplant in this case is not the fabled imam bayildi of Arabic cuisine or the melitzanes papoutsakia of Greek cuisine.  No: it’s actually jiān niàng qiézi [煎釀茄子], a type of dimsum served at many restaurants specializing in Cantonese cuisine.

In this case, the slimmer purple Asian eggplants are cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks that are partly split through the middle and filled with a prawn forcemeat.  The stuffed chunks are first fried, then steamed and served with a sauce compounded from garlic, sesame oil, and oyster sauce.  In some recipes, the process is reversed: the stuffed eggplant is first steamed and then fried.  However, the fry-then-steam process works for me, so I stuck to that.

Whichever method you choose, though, the end result is a rich-tasting dish that works better as a main course rather than a dimsum tidbit.  Serve this with a large bowl of steaming hot rice to add scrumptious comfort to cold, stormy evenings.

The recipe I used was adapted from the one featured on The Woks of Life.  But because several family members are allergic to crustaceans, mine features an all-pork filling and uses the more pungent black rather than white pepper; the filling also featured a tablespoon of rendered lard.  Believe me when I say it adds the right amount of punch, loads of flavor, and a much-appreciated richness.

The authors of the original recipe say you can skip stuffing the eggplant all together and use veg stock to make this vegan-friendly.  But, given my general aversion towards vegans, – who, I’m sorry to say, are the biggest hypocrites in both a political and a culinary sense – why mess with a good thing if you don’t have to?  Oh, but feel free to replace the pork with minced white fish or ground chicken; I don’t recommend doing this with beef or lamb, though.

(Oh, and according to my sister, this dish tastes every bit as good cold and eaten for breakfast the day after.)

Stuffed Eggplant

For the Stuffed Eggplant:

  • 4 medium-sized Asian eggplants, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 1/4 kilo ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon rendered lard or bacon fat or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped + additional 2 spring onions, also finely chopped
  • generous dash of black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine or mirin
  • Additional 2 tablespoons lard for frying

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon lard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 chicken or pork bouillon cube
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ground black pepper to taste

Slit the eggplant chunks lengthwise through the middle, but do not cut all the way through.  Just leave enough to form a hinge on one side.  Set aside.

Combine all the remaining ingredients for the stuffing until a rough paste is formed.  Stuff the prepared eggplant with about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of filling per piece.  Chill for at least 10 minutes.

Heat the additional lard in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Fry the chilled eggplant until browned on both sides; place the pieces in a heat-proof bowl that can fit comfortably in a steamer.  Place three cups of water into the lower chamber of a steamer and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Lower heat to a simmer and place the bowl of eggplant chunks in the upper chamber.  Cover and steam for 10-15 minutes.

While the eggplant is cooking, make the sauce.  In a pan over medium heat, saute the minced garlic in 1 tablespoon of lard and the sesame oil until fragrant.  Add the bouillon cube, oyster sauce, and soy sauce.  Cook until the cube has dissolved.  Add the water, stir, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and add the cornstarch slurry; cook until slightly thickened.

Remove the cooked eggplant from the steamer and pour any juices in the bowl into the sauce; stir well.  Put the eggplant in a serving dish, drizzle with the sauce; scatter over the remaining spring onions.

Serves 6.

Posted in Home Baking, Home Cooking, Uncategorized

In Which There is a Pizza for a Weeknight Dinner…

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The “Before” Shot

I don’t work full-time anymore.  These days, I work as a consultant for the corporate governance advocacy I was working full-time for about a month ago.  It’s a healthier set-up, really: I don’t have to weather through the increasingly chaotic traffic of the Greater Manila Area five days a week and I don’t have to be cooped up in an office for the greater part of my day.

It is a schedule that has improved my health: I sleep better now and I am able to keep my stress down to a tolerable level.  Also: it’s given me more time to work on my poetry, the novel that has remained stalled for weeks, as well as cooking and baking.

The last one has led to a greater amount of experimentation in the kitchen: not just for special occasions or weekend dinners, but for weekday meals, as well.  And so, this pizza…

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The “After” Shot

The crust for this is different from the schiacciata base I normally make from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess recipe which calls for baking the pizza at a high temperature first, then lowering the temp for the last two thirds of cooking.  This recipe is a much simpler one from Penny Stephens‘s What’s Cooking: Italian.  Less flour is involved and you only need to cook it at a constant, middling temperature.  The resulting crust is pleasantly crispy at the edges, deliciously fluffy and chewy within.

The topping I used features two ingredients with a smoky flavor profile: tinapang bangus (hot-smoked milkfish) and char-grilled eggplant.  The meaty smoked milkfish acts as a foil to the sharp yet sweet tomato sauce I used as a base and the eggplant adds a welcome, somewhat bittersweet nuance that was quite satisfying.

I also added olives for a salty zing and capers because they go so well with fish.  You can skip the capers, if you like.  But please keep them in; I insist: they make this already interesting dish more appealing.

This makes for a light but satisfying meal, particularly if served with a good soup (from scratch, mind you; the additional effort is worth it) or a crisp, fresh salad.

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Serve with a good soup made from scratch

Tinapizza

For the Crust:

  • 350 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 250mL water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet (7g) instant/fast-acting yeast

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup cooked and flaked tinapang bangus or any hot-smoked fish
  • 1 medium-sized Asian eggplant, peeled
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 a chicken or fish bouillon cube
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning or 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil and oregano
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup additional grated cheese (mild Cheddar or mozzarella)
  • 2 tablespoons water

Heat the water and 1 tablespoon olive oil on HIGH in the microwave for about 45 seconds.  Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the water and oil.  Mix well.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough for 10 – 12 minutes until it forms a smooth ball, dusting with more flour from time to time.  Cover with a clean dishtowel and leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place for an hour.

Grease a lipped cookie sheet; set aside.

Grill the eggplant or cook in a large, ungreased frying pan until charred, blistered, and tender all over.  Allow to cool for a few minutes, then chop coarsely.

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Saute the sliced onion until softened.  Add the garlic and cook until the garlic has browned a little at the edges.  Add the herbs and cook till fragrant.  Add the bouillon, cook till it has dissolved, then add the eggplant and tomato sauce.  Thin the sauce a little with the water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about ten minutes; add the brown sugar and stir until it has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool for fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees / Gas Mark 6.

Punch down the risen dough and press into the prepared cookie sheet.  Cover and leave to rest for ten to fifteen minutes.  Uncover the dough and evenly spread over the sauce.  Evenly scatter over the smoked fish, olives, and – if using – capers.  Evenly scatter over the cheeses.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Turn the oven off at the end of baking time but leave the pizza inside for an additional ten minutes.  Remove from oven and slice into sticks.

Serves 8.

Posted in Home Cooking, Sweets for the Sweet, The Joy of Snacks

In Which One Gussies Up Her Toast…

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Not quite Shibuya Toast, but every bit as good…possibly better

Shibuya Toast is a dessert commonly found in Japanese or Korean cafe franchises.  It is, in essence, what it is: toast slathered with sweet toppings.  However, the toast in question is definitely not the same toast you scarf down for breakfast.  Au contraire, what these establishments do is grab a hunk of bread – say a quarter of an unsliced loaf – chuck it into the oven to crisp up, then load it up with syrups and conserves and goodness knows what else.

For this reason, I’ve never been inclined to order it.  For all that I’m for decadent desserts, turning your toast into a groaning behemoth of massive, sugary proportions is just overkill.

For the same reason, I prefer a little more constraint to my dessert toast.  I don’t want a hunk of bread; a somewhat thicker-cut sandwich slice works enough for me.  I don’t need all the bells and whistles of Nutella, matcha syrup, chocolate ganache, and gobs of sweetened adzuki bean.

Truth be told, all I need is a generous schmear of good peanut butter thickly slathered over the bread and a drizzle of wild honey.  Five minutes in the toaster gives the peanut butter a richer flavor and renders the honey crisp like thin, wispy shards of properly made caramel.  I finish it off with a scoop of plain, honest-to-goodness vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of more honey.  Easier to eat, no need to share; a divinely decadent dessert for one given elegant restraint.

Posted in Home Cooking, The Flavors of Asia, The Grocery Shop-a-holic, The Well-read Foodie, Uncategorized

In Which One’s Bossam Turned Out Pretty Awesome…

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Pork, soybean paste, ginger, honey…

It all started with a recipe from American Iron Chef Judy Joo featured in an old issue of Where Women Cook Magazine.  The pictures were certainly tempting: a whole slab of roasted pork belly slathered in a rich, thick sauce bundled into an iceberg lettuce leaf with some rice and kimchi.  Mouthwatering would have to be an understatement here.

The dish in question was a roasted pork belly bossam, a modern spin on a traditional Korean specialty.  Bossam (보쌈) is a dish commonly served in autumn, just as families are preparing a fresh batch of kimchi from the year’s vegetable harvest or, as the period is called in Korea, at gimjang time.  It is also a drinking-man’s dish, as it is usually featured as an anju, or one of a set of dishes made to accompany soju or other alcoholic beverages.

In a traditional bossam, a whole slab of pork belly is simmered down with ginger and other spices to remove the gaminess of the meat.  The boiled pork is allowed to cool, then cut into thin slices that could be wrapped with  kimchi and other condiments in a lettuce leaf and eaten like a hand-roll.

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Kimchi, pork belly, and rice with furikake

Judy Joo’s spin on the dish is twice-cooked: the pork boiled till super-tender in a miso and garlic broth, then slathered with a second miso paste – this time with ginger and honey – before roasting.  The end result is a meltingly tender slab of pork with a subtle, nutty taste of soybeans and a hint of spice.

When I decided to cook the dish recently, I realized that I would do well to grab a tub of doenjang or Korean soybean paste (Korean miso, if you will).  Doenjang has a coarser texture than the more common white and red Japanese soybean pastes with nubbins of crushed soybean that impart an almost peanutty nuance.  Here, it is used to season the pork in two ways: first as the base of the simmering solution, then as part of the marinade rubbed onto the meat before the second phase of cooking.

One thing I had to change was the cut of meat.  I still used pork belly, but – as seen here – I had to use pork belly ribs as these were what I had on hand at the time.  Also, I didn’t bother roasting: we found that grilling the pork on a smoking-hot grill pan with some dark sesame oil works just fine.

The result: very tender pork that falls apart as you prod it with a fork with a subtly sweet and nutty taste and aroma that goes very well with spicy kimchi and just-cooked rice.

Grilled Pork Belly Bossam

  • 1-1/2 kilos pork belly ribs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

For the broth:

  • 2 tablespoons doenjang
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch of ginger, sliced but unpeeled
  • 1 onion, cut into eighths

For the grill rub:

  • 2 tablespoons doenjang
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon kochujang or sriracha hot sauce

Place the pork and the broth ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Allow the pork and broth to cool completely.  Remove the pork and reserve the broth for other dishes.

Combine all the ingredients for the rub and smear generously over the pork.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight to improve the flavor.

Heat the sesame oil in a grill pan over medium heat.  Add the marinated pork and cook for about 10 minutes, turning at the halfway mark.  Serve with rice and kimchi.

Serves 6.

Posted in Home Cooking, The Well-read Foodie

In Which Breakfast is Inspired by an Indonesian Snack…

Here's a notion...
Here’s a notion…

Pancakes are the sort of breakfast you have when you want to take things easy and you aren’t exactly in any hurry.  For most Filipinos, it is a taste of luxury – and an accessible luxury at that.  For this reason, Pancake House remains one of the country’s favorite restaurants – and continues to be so despite the entry of foreign franchises such as IHOP and Slappy Cakes.  And for those who can’t be bothered to leave home to satisfy a pancake fix,  instant pancake mixes are a dime a dozen and are all dead-easy to use..

However, even the fluffiest, most golden pancakes tend to lose their appeal if that’s all people get for the most part.  Variety being the spice of life, there are as many variations on pancakes as there are ways to tell a joke.  These days, aside from the usual buttermilk and chocolate variants, you can get matcha-infused flapjacks, pancakes studded with chocolate chips, banana-walnut cakes, and even pancakes made with cake mixes to yield flavors like red velvet or even birthday cake with sprinkles.

Today’s recipe, however, is different.  Rather than appropriating the flavors of the West, I decided to play up tastes taken from our neighbors in the Southeast Asian region.  In this case, I decided to make pancakes from scratch inspired by an Indonesian snack: murtabak.

Consume with coffee
Consume with coffee

A popular halal street snack in many Muslim countries, a murtabak is a cross between a crepe and a turnover in that it consists of flour-based pancakes folded over a sweet or savory filling.  For the most part, these are usually savory things and are usually filled with beef or lamb mince before being doused with curry, gravy, or a soy-vinegar dip.

My recipe was inspired a specific variety of the dish commonly eaten in Indonesia called murtabak manis.  For this dish, the pancake batter is sweetened and flavored with either vanilla or almond extract.  The resulting griddle cakes are then filled with a mixture of chocolate, cheese, and crushed roasted peanuts before being folded over and handed to eager customers.

This recipe gets its basic form from Nigella Lawson‘s recipe for American breakfast pancakes.  However, once you’ve added the grated chocolate and cheese, you get something totally different from a standard-issue Yankee johnny-cake.  Not too sweet and intriguingly savory at the same time, these come into their own sandwiched with lashings of peanut butter and finished off with a drizzle of honey (not syrup).

Murtabak is normally eaten as a snack in the afternoons, but I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t have these for breakfast.  😉

Murtabak Breakfast Pancakes

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (preferably muscovado sugar)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 30mL corn or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 300mL milk
  • 225 grams all-purpose flour
  • 25 grams grated dark chocolate
  • 15 – 20 grams grated Parmesan or Edam cheese
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • peanut butter and honey, to serve

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients save for the chocolate and cheese.  Whisk together the oil, milk, vanilla, and eggs.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture.  Beat very well until a smooth, creamy appearance is achieved.  Add the chocolate and cheese and mix until well combined.

Heat a griddle or a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add just enough butter to grease the surface.  Add batter by 1/4 cup-increments and cook for about a minute on each side; immediately transfer to a serving dish.

To serve, allow four pancakes per person (they won’t be very big, really).  Spread one cake with peanut butter and top with another; continue spreading until you have a stack four cakes high.  Drizzle over with honey.

Serves 4.

 

Posted in Home Cooking, The Flavors of Asia

In Which We Talk About Lechon

Bring on the PIG!
Bring on the PIG!

It is a dish that borders on the medieval in the sense that it calls to mind the whole roasted beasts that were part of a lord’s banquet table.  It is, likewise, a touch of the baroque in that it has become the symbol of pure, glorious, gluttonous indulgence.  A whole pig spit-roasted for hours over coals; the fat dripping into the fire and sending up smoke that permeates and flavours the meat; the skin cooks to a deep mahogany colour and shatters crunchily with a sharp tap of a knife.

This is lechon, a true staple of festive tables in the Northern and Central Philippines.

There are those who say that it was the Spaniards who brought the dish to the islands, a variation of the cochinillo [roast suckling pig] that appeared as the main course for feast days.  The term itself – lechon – is derived from leche or milk as piglets were the animal of choice for cooking.  Others, however, claim that this pork roast is a purely Asian thing and was probably brought to the Philippines by the Chinese or by Balinese traders in the pre-Hispanic era.  Of course, indigenous peoples such as the Ifugaos of the Mountain Provinces and the Aetas of Pampanga will beg to differ, whole roasted pigs being part of their culinary heritage since time immemorial.

We ate all the skin; now for the meat...
We ate all the skin; now for the meat…

While there are many origin stories regarding lechon, it is a point of mutual agreement among Filipinos that a proper roast pig should be spitted on a bamboo pole and cooked long and slow over either an open fire or a pit filled with super-heated charcoal.  The points of contention, however, include what to baste the pig with, what to marinate it in or with, and even whether or not to stuff it.

In northern provinces, the body cavity of the cleaned and trimmed pig is simply rubbed through with rock salt, perhaps a sprinkle of freshly-cracked black pepper; a few dry bay laurel leaves tucked here and there.  This results in mildly-flavoured meat, its natural sweetness coming to the fore.  The tender pork is served with a sweetish sauce compounded from pork liver, brown sugar, and vinegar.

Those from the Visayas region, like my late maternal grandmother who always ordered lechon from her hometown of Tacloban in Leyte province, prefer flavourings that are a little more robust.  The standard Visayan marinade includes salt, chopped white onions, black pepper, and fragrant lemongrass.  The Waray people of Leyte add pandan [screwpine] to this exotic bouquet garni stuffed into the body cavity for a temptingly floral fragrance; sometimes, ginger takes pride of place to remove any residual gaminess from the pork and garlic is thrown in for additional savour.  Warays also prefer to eat their lechon with a side of char-roasted taro instead of rice; they also dip the meat into a mix of soy sauce and native vinegar.  In Cebu, on the other hand, tamarind leaves are added to the bouquet garni to add a mild and pleasant hint of tartness to the meat and some lechoneros add sliced green chilies for heat.

Now, regardless of which part of the country you’re from, the first thing that gets eaten off a lechon is the crispy crackling skin  Unfortunately, in many cases, that’s pretty much all that is eaten off the pig at the actual feast.  All the leftover meat is carved up, put into plastic containers and divided amongst relatives to take home.  Which brings us to the conundrum of what to do with leftover lechon…

Got lechon? Chuck it into your sinigang!
Got lechon? Chuck it into your sinigang!

The standard-issue course of action following a feast with a whole lechon is to transform all the leftover meat into paksiw na lechon.  In this “throw everything into the pot and mix” dish, leftover lechon is hacked up into bite-sized portions and cooked down till meltingly tender in a sauce made from the liver sauce (sarsa) that came with the pig, vinegar, brown sugar, whole peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves.  Sweet and delectable, pretty much like a Southeast Asian version of pulled pork, it goes down a treat over rice.  The paksiw technique works best with the milder-flavoured Luzon-style lechon, though Waray lechon also works well.

Inventive housewives in Central Luzon, on the other hand, mince up all the leftover pork and crackling, toss it with vinegar, onions, and chilies to make a shortcut sisig served on smoking-hot cast-iron platters.  I also know people who shred leftover lechon and stir it into char siu sauce for stuffing into char siu bao [siopao] or for stir-fries.

Recently, a relative pointed us in the direction of sinigang na lechon.  This combines lechon with tamarind-soured sinigang – always a classic Filipino comfort food; Filipino expatriates are known to burst into tears at the faintest whiff of the tamarind-scented broth – for a dish that takes the “love food, hate waste” ethos to another level.  Here, the bashed-up pork is simmered down in a clear broth soured with tamarind paste (or, who are we kidding?  An instant supermarket-bought mix will do!) with fresh green veg.  The smoky taste and umami richness of the pork balances the acidic taste and character of the soup and the finished dish is a delight when either ladled over steaming-hot rice or simply savoured from an individual bowl.  That said, Visayan lechon with all its herbaceous and spicy flavour notes would work best for this dish.

So what’s your family’s lechon story and how do you deal with the leftovers?  🙂