Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Humble “Humba”, Another Filipino Favourite

“Humba”, even if it’s a favourite to many Filipinos, is not as popular as the Philippine “Adobo” or “Bistek” (Beef Steak) when it comes to international food scene. Seemingly “Humba” remains modest and humble over the years and does not readily resonate if one will mention Filipino foods to non-Filipino chef.

I can still remember, a very close family friend Dens at one time, though quite long ago, asked me about cooking “Humba” which I have not tried yet during that time. Apparently he also likes the dish just like most of the Filipinos including me. Now that I am moderately successful in cooking this dish (at least the type from Visayan region) several times with positive feedbacks from friends who tried it, I think it’s about time to make a post of this another favourite dish. I want to share this to all but most especially to my friend Dens. I really love this dish as, much as he does.

Dens’ wife Zelda is a wonderful cook so he is used to eating excellently prepared foods. Her specialty as far as I remember includes sumptuous “Kare-Kare”, very tasty “Kilawin” and amazing whole/half fried chicken (which remains delicious even after 3 days covered in foil) amongst those I have tasted. They were all done outstandingly and repeat requests from friends during gatherings just keep coming in. She may have also prepared “Humba” superbly but I still want to share my “Humba” recipe I developed here in Sri Lanka.

The best type of pork for this dish is knuckle (“pata”) or belly (“liempo’) but since both cuts are quite difficult to find here in our area of resident, I have to settle for the cube pork which composed of mixtures of several parts cut in cubes. Since most of us here, especially those from Cebu and Bohol, like the skin part of the pork in this dish, I added some pork skin our cook had removed and collected from previous pork dishes needing lean meat.
All in all we need around 1 ½ kl of pork cut into bite sizes, thoroughly washed and drained. Heat a large thick pan (oil is not necessary), put all the meat and cover. Let the meat renders some of its own juice and fat. Give it a gentle mix and continue simmering on high heat until the liquid is reduced and it starts to sizzle in its own fat releasing its aroma.

Meanwhile prepare all the other ingredients. We need 1 whole garlic, peeled and minced, ½ cup palm sugar or “Kithul” jaggery (you can use the Philippine “panotsa”/“panocha” or just brown sugar), 1 pack banana blossom, 1 can or about 4 tbsp salted black beans, drained, 6 tbsp vinegar, 6 tbsp soy sauce, 6 tbsp shaoxing wine (I use red wine), 2 pcs star anise, 1 cup broth, 2 pcs bay leaves and 1 tsp cracked pepper. I already mixed the liquid ingredients and added some of the spices.
Add the minced garlic to the sizzling meat in the pan. Followed by the salted black beans and continue sautéing. If you can smell a wonderful aroma at this point you are in for a good treat. If not, start praying. :-)

Add the mixed liquid ingredients with bay leaves, pepper and star anise. Then slowly place the “Kithul” jaggery or “panocha” on top and cover. Let it boil then continue simmering on low heat. I usually simmer meat on a very low heat. It prevents from rapidly draining the liquid necessitating addition of water. It you can tenderise the meat without adding water it will be better. Though there is no harm in adding some as required.

When the meat is pork tender and the skin is gelatine-like, mix gently to evenly coat the meat with the sauce. Let it simmer for another minute. At this point you have to drain the excess oil from the sauce. Pour the sauce in a cup and spoon out the oil from the surface. Take out as much oil as you can. Don’t be surprised to get about 1 cup of oil.

Return the sauce back to the meat and continue simmering. You might want to adjust the level of sauce by adding ¼ to ½ cup of water depending on how saucy you like it. If you can smell an even better aroma at this point then you are assured of a fine dish. If not, just serve it to people who love you. They won’t complain and even praise you. c“,)

Finish it off by adding the banana blossom and another minute of simmering.

Your humble “Humba” is ready. Bring out that steaming rice, some cold cola drinks and be prepared to have about 3,000++, ok make that 4,000++ calorie intake from this meal. Oh come on, we did not cook “Humba” to diet.

No matter how humble this dish is, it is fitted for a King and can make you feel like one after indulging. The reason why my friend Dens and me LOVE it. c“,)

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