Saturday, January 2, 2016

Eating My Way Back Home

5:57 AM

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Taho, adobo, and champorado are some of the dishes that we remember from our childhood. 



My mother grew up in Manila, which, if you factor in the traffic, could be considered rather far from our house in Taguig. She’s a family person, so it’s really no surprise that she often misses everything from her parents’ policies to her siblings’ antics to the food of her youth.

I know this because, while the details are more often than not already lost to time, she’d paint broad strokes of memories with her words.

Viands and rice on the dining table after she’d return home from Uni, still there and waiting for her even after everyone else had already fallen asleep. Street food she’d sometimes indulge in after high school. Cakes her mom would make when she was off work.

Sometimes, she’d tell me she wishes that she’d paid more attention to her younger self’s favorites. “Make sure to remember what your favorites were – so you can look for them when you miss them.” she’d tell me. “And trust me – you will miss them.”

This is the realm of comfort food – where the dearness of a dish doesn’t depend on its price or even its taste, but rather what memory they unlock deep within you, on the feeling of security they instill by connecting your present to your past.

I asked some thingamabobs what they considered to be their brand of comfort food, and these are some of their responses!

Champorado

Often paired with sweet evaporated milk or salty tuyo, this surprisingly versatile snack fills up a hungry tummy fast and also satisfies a fervent sweet tooth. Two birds, one stone.

“It used to be a Saturday breakfast item for the family – plus tuyo, though I never really liked mixing my champorado with tuyo then,” Andie says. Champorado’s lasting warmth and innate moreishness makes it a perfect hit for cold, rainy days – so it’s not really a surprise that she would seek it out then...especially now that she lives in Vancouver, what with all its cold and snowy weather!


Taho

Considering the whole TGIF mindset, it’s no surprise that, most of the time, comfort food brings to mind those lazier Saturday mornings.

Take Meg, for example, whose mornings... come to think of it, were not lazy at all. “Every Saturday, when I’d get back from ballet, I’d come home to the taho man. We were one of the only houses that he would stop by every weekend,” she says. “It always made my day, especially because I’d be so tired.”

And how wouldn’t it? With its warm, soft soy, sago, and sweet syrup, taho might not be the most filling (or well, most nutritious) of snacks, but it sure does work as a pretty damned good pick-me-up for sleepy students, stressed-out employees, and tired ballerinas alike.

Sinigang

One of the most prominent soup dishes in Filipino cuisine, sinigang is a common lutong-bahay staple best known for its uniquely sour taste.

Despite this soup’s sourness, PaCho’s memories of it are more on the sweet side. “I used to eat it at my lola’s house, back when my dad still picked me up every weekend,” she recalls. “She made it every time I came over, just for me, and it was my favorite food...until I discovered the wonders of ramen.”


Instant Pancit

Ahh, instant pancit. The classic standby for the days when you’re too busy and/or lazy. When the most effort you’d want to expend on today’s meal can only help you in opening packets and boiling water.

Clar has nothing but good things to say about pancit canton – to be specific, the original-flavored packs without calamansi in them. “I remember asking for pancit canton every time I got home from school when I was about six or seven,” she says. “I loved it so much I would even lick the plate sometimes!”

Adobo

Last but not the least, of course, the quintessential piece de resistance of Filipino cuisine. No one household has the exact same recipe, and when everything’s said and done, you’re always gonna be biased for your own family’s version.

Unsurprisingly, when my mother started teaching me how to cook, this was one of the first recipes I learned. I can’t say that I can cook it with my eyes closed – not yet – but it’s one of my most trusted fail-safes for when we’ve got some meat in the fridge and...not much of anything else. More than that, though, every time I make this dish it reminds me of the satisfaction of my first attempt – the sheer satisfaction that I’d always be able to recreate the flavors of my childhood.

Adobo
makes 3-4 servings
3/4 kilo of pork or chicken (1 kilo if the pieces are particularly bony)
Onions and garlic, for sautéing
Soy sauce
Bay leaf (optional)
Cane vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Get everything in order first - chop the onions into small pieces, and the garlic as well. (Personally I sometimes like leaving the garlic cloves in their skins, so they'd melt into a spreadable consistency I could mix with rice easier, but either way would be fine.)
2. Put some oil into the pot and sauté the onions and garlic at medium heat.
3. Put the meat of your choice into the pot, and turn the pieces over occasionally, until they've turned a nice even color.
4. I can't put any specific measurements for this because it really depends on personal tastes, but in our home it's usually a ratio of 3:1 when it comes to the soy sauce and cane vinegar. After the meat has turned into that nice color I talked about earlier, add the soy sauce first, and stir.
5. Add in the vinegar after a few minutes, then in goes the bay leaf (that is, if you like that in your adobo).
6. The entire cooking process takes around an hour for pork, less than that for chicken. Do a quick taste test right before you're about to turn the stove off, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

This list is in no way comprehensive – different memories and different dishes strike chords in different people, after all. The appeal in comfort food is less dependent on the food part and more on the comfort side of things – because no matter how something tastes, it’s the memory behind it that makes it special to us.

A family’s love, a comfortable routine, and a place we were born in. In this ever-changing world, it’s always nice to have something constant like that to go back to.

Article by Trish
Art by Elle
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Trish is a CPA who keeps taking pictures of her food, and only sometimes decides to upload them on Instagram. Most of the time, she’s inadvertently coming up with different ways to avoid sleeping, which usually involve writing rarepair fanfiction. Has a twitter, @postscriptress, where she usually spoils her own writing and wishes she was trilingual again.

Elle is a 17-year-old aspiring doctor who somehow found herself at art school. She loves rap music and bunnies. She still hasn't grown out of her otaku stage (which started all the way back in elementary school, thank you very much).

2 comments:

  1. Nice post :)

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  2. Wow! Real nice blog post about some eating dishes. I love eating different different dish. Thanks for sharing interesting post.
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