Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Iyasi - The La Paz Batchoy of Batangas

Nippy wind starts blowing in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Torrential rains continue pouring hard over the entire island of Sri Lanka and other South Asian nations. Heavy snow started falling in the UK, Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe. We are experiencing a cooler weather all over the world. Truly, the cool and joyful season of Christmas is almost here. It does not only stir excitement to the Christian world but also brings a chilly feeling deep down to the bones. It makes us stay longer in bed and even longer inside the comfort of our homes.

During such cold season, the family will be delighted if served with steaming hot soupy dish like “tinola” or “sinigang” or “nilaga” during meals. In line with this, I thought of preparing another soup dish, rough recipe of which I learned from the mother of my brother-in-law. It is locally called “iyasi” in some parts of Batangas which is basically a type of “bachoy”, utilizing almost the same “bachoy” ingredients, with just a few twists in the preparation like the addition of chopped coriander or “kinchay” and “misua” or long and thin wheat flour noodles in the end.

As a backgrounder, “bachoy” is the term used to refer to the combination of pork meat composed of some tenderloin (“lomo”) and entrails like spleen (“lapay”), kidney (“bato”), heart (“puso”) and liver (“atay”). It is also the name of a traditional soup cooked using the collective meat ingredients and flavored with lots of ginger and topped with chili tops. If noodles are added and the noodle dish is topped with ground pork crackling or “chicharon”, it is called “la paz bachoy”. Since “iyasi” have “misua” noodles, it can be considered the “la paz batchoy” of Batangas (Philippines); the reason for my post title above.

I usually prepare “iyasi” back home whenever my brother-in-law is present during family occasions. He likes it so much as it is strongly affiliated with his childhood. His mother and grandfather used to cook a large kettle of it during holidays and family gatherings. As for me, I immediately fell in love with the dish on first taste. Later on, it became a big favorite of most male family members and close friends especially during happy hours when we are negotiating an equally favorite bottle of wine or liquor or a case of beer. :-)

While the dish is good for breakfast and late night snack when the atmosphere is cool, it also goes well during main meals of lunch and dinner. It could well stand as the main viand or as accompaniment to other dishes. The distinct combination of flavors of the various meat ingredients as well as that of the earthy spike of the ginger makes this dish really interesting.

I am in a foreign land so “bachoy” as a combination of meats is not available. More so, pork liver, heart and kidney are likewise not easy to come by even in the wet markets. So I have to ingeniously substitute other ingredients with the same texture and taste in order to prepare the dish. For the innards, I purchased 250 grams beef liver, 300 grams chicken liver with heart attached and 250 grams chicken gizzard. The entrails should be washed thoroughly and cut into small and thin strips.

Additionally, I included about 500 grams of pork from cube cuts widely available in groceries here. The meat should be cut into small thin strips as well.

The rest of the ingredients are as follows: 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp margarine, 2 thumb-sized ginger, peeled and cut to strips, 8 gloves garlic, peeled and minced, 1 large onion or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped, 4 tbsp fish sauce or “patis”, 1 large stalk celery chopped, 1 small bundle green onions, chopped, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp salt or to taste and 1 pc “misua” or wheat flour noodle. Additionally, we need about 6 cups or enough amount of broth or hot water to make the soup.

In a large pan or thick casserole, heat the oil and margarine on medium flame. Fry garlic followed by ginger until slightly browned. Add in onions and continue frying until translucent. Dump all the meat and cook until it renders its own liquid. Increase the heat, continue cooking with regular stirring until the liquid is reduced and the meat is basically sizzling in oil. Add the fish sauce and continue sautéing until fragrant. Season it with salt and pepper.

Pour enough broth or hot water to cover and continue simmering until the meat is just tender. Adjust the level of broth and seasonings according to your liking.

Add the green onions and celery, reserving some, and simmer for several minutes more or until the meat is fork tender. Finally, add in the “misua” noodles and simmer more until the noodle is cooked through, about a couple of minutes. Sprinkle the reserved green onion and celery and put the lid back on. It should be ready after a minute more.

Transfer into medium bowls and serve piping hot. Topped with some more minced green onions and served with steamed rice as a main meal or on its own with some bread as a snack. It is best accompanied by a dipping sauce made from “calamansi” + “patis” + chilies.

With the rain continuously pouring outside further bringing the temperature down, we could care less. We have a piping hot soup which has enough flavors to keep our taste buds happy and our body warmth and work-ready. Enjoy! c”,)

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