Monday, October 26, 2009

Pork Afritada in Fresh Tomatoes (Sarsiado)

During every major occasion of our family or our clan to be more specific, one of the regular entrées which is highly loved by every family members and guests is the Filipino pork “afritada” or pork stew in tomato sauce with bell pepper, green peas and potatoes. It is among the special dishes serve in every home in the Southern Luzon (Philippines) areas during town fiestas (festivals), special family occasions (weddings, baptisms, birthdays, etc.) and important gatherings (reunions, Christmas, Holy Week Celebrations, etc.). I’m proud to say that our clan’s “afritada”, as it is simply referred to, is so delicious and fit for such special occasions. The rich sauce and distinct taste are sure to delight everyone during the meal.

Whilst “afritada” is not that difficult to prepare, I don’t know why it has never become a regular meal in our family. By regular, I mean to cook it at least once a week as part of the daily meal. It is always reserve for that occasion or affair that is considered special or extraordinary. For the daily course however, we had the type cooked in fresh tomatoes. Sort of like “afritada” as well (if using boneless meat, as meat with ribs is also use for the dish), only less elaborate and using fewer and simpler ingredients.

For whatever reason it is called “sarsiado” in Batangas (Philippines) but quite different and not to be confused with the common “sarciado” dishes which are cook with beaten eggs and tomatoes. Even more strangely, my wife colloquially call it “kinamatisan” (meaning "with tomato") with the pork being cooked in fresh tomatoes although not soupy as oppose to most “kinamatisan” dishes in the Philippines.

To cook the dish, we need 1 kilo of really nice pork. The “kasim” or shoulder part is the best but pork belly or “liempo” is also good. As for me, all I have is mix part from cube pork cut which is always available in Sri Lankan supermarkets. Cut up the meat to small pieces - “afritada” cut. Ok, that’s about 1 inch square and about ¼ inch thick, then washed and drained thoroughly.

Since this is to be stewed in fresh tomatoes, we need about 4 pieces large very fresh ripe tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped. Remember, 4 pieces only. I sometimes get carried away by the gorgeous tomatoes and end up putting more and the resulting dish gets a little overly sour. You don’t want that, trust me. :-)

The other ingredients are as follows: 2 tbsp vegetable oil (you might not need it actually), 4 gloves garlic, peeled and minced, 1 onion, peeled and chopped, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 pc green bell pepper (red should have been better, but I don’t have one), julienned, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp tomato sauce (optional), 2 pcs potato, peeled, halve and cut into ¼ inch thick and 1 small can cooked green peas which I don’t have right now. You will also need about 2 cups of good broth or just water.

Heat a large thick pan (oil is not necessary), put all the meat and cover. Let the meat renders some of its own liquid and fat. Give it a gentle mix and continue simmering on medium heat until the liquid is reduced and it starts to sizzle in its own fat releasing a very aromatic smell. Lightly fry the meat to slightly sear all sides. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan with all the pork bits goodness, heat the oil (if there is enough fat from the meat, you don’t need the oil anymore). Sauté the garlic followed by the onion and then add the tomatoes when the onion is translucent. Continue cooking until the tomatoes are mushy. Return the meat back and add half of the broth. Once boiling, add the soy sauce, tomato sauce (if using) and ground pepper. Simmer on low heat until the meat is pork tender.

Add the remaining ingredients - bell pepper, potatoes and green peas (if using), the remaining broth and adjust the saltiness accordingly to your preference. Continue cooking until the potato is tender and rich sauce is just enough to cover. Transfer in a large bowl and serve.

The dish goes well with steaming rice. Serve it that way and you are assured of a wonderful meal. My kids love this and so am I. c“,)

If you are a little tired of pork “abodo” or “humba”, this is a good alternative. Enjoy!

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