Mabuhay from the Philippines!
I’m home for my annual vacation, and I couldn’t be happier.
Mabuhay is a traditional Filipino greeting, used to convey cheer and to welcome guests. It means “long live” and it’s also used for praise.
And praise is exactly what I’m doing today. Praise for Filipino food, which I have mentioned before is one of the most under-appreciated cuisines in the world. Filipino food has a mix of Spanish, Chinese, and American influences from years of colonization, adding to the indigenous Malay flavors. It is inherently a hearty cuisine, meant to be slow-cooked, with little fanfare, and savored family-style.
Today, I’m sharing the few Filipino recipes I’ve chronicled on the blog. I don’t cook Filipino food often enough, so these are extra special dishes for me:
Tsokolate (Hot Chocolate) – this is traditionally served during the colder months, but in our household it’s available year round. Thick, grainy, with whispers of foam topping it, tsokolate is one of my favorite treats at home. Made with tablea (chocolate tablets), and tempered with milk and sugar, it is simple and luxurious at the same time. Whisked manually with a batidor (or molinillo, a wooden hot chocolate stirrer), it is a labor of love.
Champorado (Chocolate Rice Pudding) - a simple breakfast dish that is customized to the eater’s taste: with more milk, more sugar, condensed milk, or even salty fish. I remember adding swirls of condensed milk to my champorado, and mixing and mixing until it turns light brown. This is served hot, but when I can practice some self-restraint, I put mine in the fridge first so I can eat it cold, like a dessert.
Filipino Pork and Chicken Adobo – I’ve only had once recipe published in print, and this was published in a big way: as part of Molly O’Neill’s collection of recipes in her book One Big Table. All Filipino families each have their own recipes for adobo. Basically, it is any meat or any combination of meats that is braised and simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, lots of garlic, black peppercorn, and bay leaves. Every family claims that their version is the best. Of course, that cannot be true since my family’s version is the best.
Ginataang Sitaw at Kalabasa (Green Beans and Butternut Squash in Coconut Milk) – if I were to cook a tribute dish for the person who inspired me to learn how to cook, to learn how to wield a big chef’s knife, to chop and fry and simmer, this would be it. My Tita Ine is the best cook I know, and ginataang sitaw at kalabasa is just one of her many specialties. I added tofu squares and spinach to the traditional recipe, but the taste stayed true to what I remember from home.
Mango Ice Box Cake – I often think that the best recipes are the ones that are tied to memories of our loved ones. In this case, the mango ice box cake is tied to precious memories of my two sisters. This is a no-bake, fool-proof recipe and you can easily substitute another fruit instead of mango, but that would be sacrilegious to Filipinos because we Filipinos are mighty proud of our mangoes. Bright yellow, soft, lingeringly sweet, the Philippine mango can evoke the hot summer sun and a cool tropical breeze in one bite. It is sweet, so sweet, that if you close your eyes while eating it, and you let the tender flesh linger in your tongue, and you savor the saccharine juice of the fresh fruit, that you can imagine tasting… paradise.
Pimiento Cheese – it’s got cheese and mayo but don’t think I went all Paula Deen on you! I’ve seen many variations of this recipe (and many variations of the spelling) but I know it best as cheese pimiento, the cheesy, creamy, tangy spread from my childhood.
Beef Salpicao – this has become one of the most popular recipes on my blog, and for good reason. Tender cubes of beef, coated in a buttery garlicky sauce, and sprinkled with golden garlic flakes. I love salpicao over a steaming bowl of rice. To me, it tastes like comfort food at its finest.
And today I’m also giving praise to the man who teaches me the meaning of strength and loyalty, the man who passed on his sweet tooth to me, the man who I consider to be the smartest, most patient, and most hard-working in the whole world: my dad.
Happy birthday, Daddy!
I’m very glad to be home for my dad’s birthday
It’s going to be a little slow over here on the blog for the rest of the month. I’m going to unplug for a couple of weeks and I don’t have any guest bloggers lined up this year. If you want to check out last year’s guest posts, click on the recipes below:
I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season, wherever you may be. I wish you all a wonderful, love-filled celebration with family and friends!