Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Philippines Are For (Food) Lovers

Those of you who don't personally know me probably do not know that my boyfriend, Noe, is Filipino. Noe was born in the Philippines and came here with his family when he was a kid. He has been back once to visit since then. I've met some of his relatives, including his cousin Hazel when she was here visiting from Cebu. We have a sort of vague plan to go there, maybe in 2010.

So, needless to say, when we saw that Anthony Bourdain was going to the Philippines on last night's episode of his show, No Reservations, we decided to tune in (we would have tuned in anyway - we're Bizarre Foods and No Reservations junkies, but you get the point). Then Noe decided that not only should we watch the episode, but we should make a night of it by cooking a Filipino meal. And by "we" I mean me, who is not the least bit Filipino at all. However, I'm game for anything in the kitchen, so I agreed.

Noe picked pork adobo as his dish of choice. Adobo basically means that the meat of your choosing - most cookbooks have it with chicken, pork, or a combination of both and we saw Bourdain eat shrimp adobo on the show - is simmered in a mixture mostly consisting of vinegar, soy sauce, and TONS of garlic. The dish is simple in the fact that it does not have an overwhelming amount of ingredients (below is a picture of everything I used) or a complicated cooking technique, but it is difficult for an outsider to make and serve to a native Filipino because every part of the Philippines - and probably every family in those parts - has a slightly different variation on how to make it.

Eight ingredients...endless variations!

Noe and I came up with the recipe we decided to use by studying two Filipino cookbooks and then adjusting some of the quantities. In the end, I used about two lbs. of pork (cubed pieces of a roast); maybe a cup of finely chopped onion; a bulb and a half (I told you it was a lot) of peeled, crushed garlic; one cup of soy sauce; two cups of white vinegar; a couple bay leaves, some fresh pepper, and about a tablespoon of salt.

Cubing the meat and chopping the onion.

The way we did this was basically putting the cubed pieces of meat into a large pot (NOT aluminum - you don't want alumninun with all that vinegar), putting the onions and garlic in over the meat, adding the liquid ingredients, then topping off with the bayleaf and the pepper. One cookbook said to stir it at this point; one said not to. Noe and I decided to give it a quick stir just to make sure all the meat and onions/garlic were covered by the liquid and then left it alone while we brought it to a boil. After the liquid reached a boil, we turned down the heat, added the salt, and simmered it for about 30 minutes.

Simmering on the stove for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I heated some oil in a skillet, fished the cubes of pork out of the saucepan with a slotted spoon, and browned them slightly in the oil - just for a few seconds each batch. One of the cookbooks had this listed as an optional step (the other did not include it at all) and Noe said his mom used to do this, so we decided to keep it. We actually browned half the meat and left the other half just simmered so we could compare the two.

Meat after browning.

Noe participated more or less the same way he participates in every meal - plugging in the rice cooker. Noe eats rice with everything, but tonight rice was actually an integral part to the meal. Once the rice was done and the meat was browned, we served it up: rice, topped with meat, drizzled with the cooking liquid. It looked something like this:

Finished product.

This was my first time eating adobo and I really enjoyed it. You wouldn't necessarily think putting three incredibly strong flavors - vinegar, soy sauce, more than an entire bulb of garlic - would result in a harmonious mixture, but it was fantastic. Simmering the meat in the liquid infuses it with flavor, and I love the slightly pickle-y taste the vinegar gives it. And I have never said "no" to garlic.

We sort of cheated - because the new episode of No Reservations featuring the Philippines was not on until 10:00 PM, we watched the rerun of the Spain episode while we ate the adobo (since seeing Vicky Cristina Barcelona on Saturday, I'm a little obsessed with Spain, so this was fine by me). We were rewarded for our wait when the episode finally came on, because Anthony Bourdain focused on Manila and Cebu, which were the two places Noe lived in the Philippines. His family that is still there is in Cebu.

So...pork adobo + good show = very happy Noe. Go me! I can't wait to see what he'll pick for me to try to make next...

Noe gives my first attempt at Filipino cooking a thumbs-up.

1 comment:

Alison said...

What? First you tell me you're not Jewish, then you tell me you're not Filipino? I'm going to stop believing you eventually! :)

What a great idea. Brad and I are Bizarre Foods junkies, but our new favorite show is Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. Although I don't think we'll be cooking any of those delicacies anytime soon...