Tuesday, 19 March 2013

feeling filipino?...

I’m not entirely sure why I got in a Filipino mood this past week. Not so much that I’ve started confusing my f’s as p’s or v’s like b’s, but more likely from watching the Philippine-inspired concept Urbano win Restaurant Wars on Top Chef last week. This episode made reflect on my 2000 Habitat for Humanity trip to the Bicol region in southern Luzon. Unlike the chaos of the 1999 visit (that’s another story), this week-long visit to Naga City was a smaller, more intimate build that allowed time for local sightseeing:  live-radio interview, visit with the mayor, day trip to the Mayon volcano, beach BBQ and, of course, a lesson in Filipino cooking
At its most basic, Filipino cuisine can be considered among the first in fusion food. A taste of the tropics (coconut, peppers, mango) meet  Chinese influences (soy, pork) with Spain adding some of its colonial touch to bring about a culinary cornucopia that is yet to be explored by Western palates. 
A nation of more than 7,100 islands, regional diversity certainly exists in the Philippines. Despite this, there is no question that the national dish is the adobo: a slow-cooked, hearty stew that is defined by a refreshing tartness from a strong  serving of vinegar in the broth.  From my class to my plate, I decided on a beef adobo variation called adobong as follows:
1kg stewing beef                                                           4 cloves garlic, minced                                                  
1 tbsp. fresh-grated ginger                                          1/3 cup vinegar
2 tbsp. oil                                                                        1 small onion, finely chopped                                    
½ cup beef stock                                                            ¼ cup soy sauce
2 bay leaves                                                                     8 peppercorns, crushed
½ tsp. cinnamon

1) Marinade beef in garlic, ginger, and vinegar for at least 1 hour. Remove beef and reserve marinade.
2) In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add beef and fry until all sides are brown to seal in the juices. Remove beef and set aside.
3) Add onions the pot and fry until onions are golden.
4) Add marinade, stock, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil.
5) Add beef, bay leaves, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 hours. The lower and slower you cook it, the better it gets!

As you can see, adobo is meaty and lacking in green veg. To compliment my meal, I made a coconut-simmered spinach side based on a Bicol recipe (highlighted by the use of coconut milk and chilis) for stewing taro leaves:

2 tbsp. oil                                                                          1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced                                                   1 tbsp. fresh-grated ginger
1 can coconut milk                                                          1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili pepper                                                            2 bunches spinach

1) In large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high. Fry  onions, garlic, and ginger and fry until opaque and fragrant.
2) Add coconut milk, salt, and chili pepper. Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil.
3) Add spinach (whole leaves). Cook until leaves are wilted and coconut milk has reduced.

Naturally, both should be served with rice and, as I discovered, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc brings the right balance of powerful flavours and sharp acidity to match these delicious dishes.
As the say in the Philippines: "Von Affetit!"

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