Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken and Pork Empanada

Folded pastry around meat and veggie stuffing is probably the most accurate definition of my true Filipino comfort food. It is among the simple gastronomic treat that immediately reconnects me with home ……… family, relatives, childhood friends and everything in between. It is an ordinary snack which every bite for me is capable of educing flashes of happy thoughts, retrieving golden memories and subsequent feeling of divine-like contentment. It could somehow serve as a mother’s tender touch or spouse’s caress that provides warmth, consolation, sense of security and peaceful refuge even when you are actually so far away from home. I am referring to the tasty stuffed bread called “empanada”. :-)

Popular in many countries of Latin America, southern part of Europe and South East Asia particularly the Philippines, empanada refers to the stuffed bread or pastry, either baked or fried, made by folding a rich buttery dough or bread patty around the stuffing. The fillings usually composed of varieties of meats, seafood, vegetables or even sweetened fruits. It can be served as a small meal, a starter before a meal, finger foods in parties, dessert after a meal in case of sweet fruits fillings, morsel while watching TV or movies or sporting events and snack at any time of the day.

There are many international variations. In Argentina, their empanadas are often served at parties and festivals. The fillings are mainly chicken or beef spiced with cumin and paprika. In Brazil, they have fried turnovers filled with seasoned ground meat, shredded chicken, cheese, seasoned ground shrimp, hearts of palm and various other fillings. In Jamaica, they have their Jamaican patty that contains various fillings and spices baked inside a flaky shell, often tinted golden yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric. Puerto Rico’s “empanadilla” is a small empanada that uses flour or cassava flour dough and lard. In Spain, empanadas are often made from thin, flexible, but resilient wheat pastry. The variable filling includes tuna, sardines and chorizo in a tomato puree, garlic and onion sauce.

However, the type I will be preparing here is of course the Filipino empanada. It usually contains ground pork or beef or chicken meat or chopped shrimps, diced potato, green peas, chopped onion and raisins in sweetish-buttery dough made from wheat flour or all-purpose flour. The dough can either be doughy or flaky and plain or covered in bread crumbs. The empanada can either be baked or deep fried with the former being my preferred method as it does not involve a degree of oil accumulation to the finish product. The golden brown tasty crust without the hint of fat (from frying) complemented with the sweetish meaty fillings is such a delightful delicacy to me. :-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tinausiang Manok (Chicken Cooked in Salted Yellow Beans)

A colleague-friend is coming over and we want to prepare an unusual viand cum “pulutan” or bites made from chicken I have been wanting to cook for the last several days. Already tired of the usual “adobo”, “afritada”, “caldereta”, fried and even barbecued chicken, we thought of preparing a chicken version of the earthy pork dish called “tinausian”. We believe the unique flavor of the pungent-tasting and sweet-spicy-smelling “tausi” or salted/fermented soy beans would also work well with poultry, especially if complimented with the sweet-sour flavor of fresh plum tomatoes or tomato sauce.

Just as I have already prepared almost all of the required ingredients and ready to sauté, I realized I no longer have “tausi”. :) We are in Sri Lanka and the canned “tausi” that we normally use all came back home from the Philippines. Maybe it is available in any of the several Chinese or Korean stores in the Colombo capital but we are yet to find one. I can no longer back off from doing the dish so I thoroughly scoured the cupboard once again. Right there at the back, I found a familiar “Temple” can but my joy is short-lived because the label says “Salted Yellow Beans” instead of “Salted Black Beans” which refers to “tausi”.

But then I thought it might serve the purpose as well, after all, it is made from beans and also salted. A short research from the internet confirmed it is a very similar seasoning ingredient which can be used for the intended dish and thus I have a green light. I found out later that salted yellow beans, also a type of fermented beans like “tausi”, is called “tauco” in Indonesia where it is popular and commonly used in cooking chicken. With that, it seems I’m on the right track.

The fact that I will be using a different condiment in my “tinausiang manok” made the preparation even more exciting. Apart from the dish itself, the opportunity to learn new preparation using the distinct ingredient opens a new horizon to my limited culinary world; that is, granted I really have one. :-) Like “tausi”, I could imagine salted yellow beans can be applied to many braised meat and seafood dishes as well.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kinunot na Pagi (Spicy Stingray Cooked in Coconut Milk)

Coconut milk in my food! I love it. Coconut milk and chili in my cookery! I like it. Coconut milk, chili and stingray in my meal! You eat it! But, wait a minute. Of course, I’m just kidding with the stingray. It is an astonishing animal so it is very likely that it could also make a wonderful viand. I have at least the Bicol region in the Philippines and probably the whole of Sri Lanka to support that claim. But let me put it straight; in support of WWF, I only refer to those varieties that are not endangered. Let me repeat that. Only those stingrays, and skates for that matter, which thrives in abundance and not currently threatened of extinction.

I may be both an angler and a hunter, but definitely a responsible one. I practice the ideals of nature conservation as I believe the sports I love will also perish, if I will not do my share of protecting wildlife now. I champion WWF you know. I may not have featured their noble conservation works yet but soon I will. Deep in my heart, I believe I should.

I first tasted stingray when I was in a project in Cagayan, Philippines some six years ago. Our friends from NIA in Camalaniogan town treated us to a lunch of exotic delicacies. Among them was a grilled stingray. I would say the taste was not bad but sadly it was not something that delighted my palates as well. The inherent stench or fishy smell of the flat fish was still pronounced on the cooked dish that even with the tasty and spicy soy sauce + “calamansi” dipping sauce, it failed to amuse me.

This could be the redemption of that not so exciting culinary experience as far as stingray as a food item is concerned. It has been quite a while since I last eaten a stingray and I am hopeful that after doing this dish, I will be somehow changed or transformed and will have a better perception and appreciation of stingray as a fine alternative table fare. I am referring to “kinunot na pagi” or stingray cooked in coconut milk and chilies. Being a traditional dish from the Bicol region, “kinunot” is banking on the creamy coconut milk and the spicy chili to deliver that magical taste that made the dishes “laing”, “sinanglay” and “bicol express” extremely popular.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chami Recipe A La Lalaine - The Pride of Lucena, Quezon

When living (or working if you like) abroad, the most common inquiry you will receive from other Filipinos (“kababayan”) you will meet for the first time is the province you came from. It’s but natural of course. It is actually your first question to others as well. The question “From what province are you?” or as casually supplied in the local language “Anong probinsya ka (or mo)?” is the usual start of a usually warm conversation. You may be wondering why I have to mention this when the question is so ordinary, rather insignificant and probably won’t even require some brain processing to know the answer. Well, to most Filipinos it is, but to me it is something that always makes me think and smile.

Most of my childhood friends knew me as a full-blooded “Batangueno”, having spent most of my childhood days and critical formative years in Padre Garcia, Batangas where my father, 5 of my siblings and most of our relatives (from my father’s side) were born. My other friends whom I met during and after college and at the time I’m already working regard me as a true “Tarlaqueno”, having continuously live in Tarlac City, Tarlac with the whole family since I was a 6th grader. But that’s not all. My birth certificate has an important bit of information that will add more to that. I was born in San Antonio, Quezon, the town of my mother, her siblings and most of our relatives from her side making me a legitimate “Quezonian”.

Going back to the question “What province I came from?”, I bet you now have an idea why such a simple query would switch my brain into work mode and almost subsequently elicits a smile on my face. Yes, it may be a little complicated, but I came from all of the above. You could envy me for this. I consider myself as an amalgamation of several groups of awesome people; a Quezonian, a Batangueno and a Tarlaqueno all at the same time. I hailed from three great provinces, all of which I am truly proud of.


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