Sol Jose Vanzi: MAN'S OLDEST KITCHEN TOOL 

 At a time when the food processor is king of cooking prep, the almires proves it can still be relevant. As in most Tagalog towns, every kitchen in our barrio Pulanglupa had an almires (mortar and pestle). The best were made of rough stone; the cheaper models were fashioned from large tree trunks, most often the trunks of hard sampalok (tamarind) trees. My grandmother used her stone almires regularly to crush the heads and shells of shrimp and small crabs (collectively called pakot) to extract juices used to flavor our daily ginisang gulay. OLDIE BUT GOODIE A collection of almires from various countries During special occasions such as fiestas, the almires was indispensible in mashing grilled pork liver and day-old bread to make pebre, the sauce for lechon. Birthdays and family gatherings kept the almires busy grinding toasted rice and peanuts for kare-kare. Meriendas of pancit palabok used the almires to crush chicharon (pork crackling). When grandma died, she left me everything in her kitchen, but passed on the stone almires to her youngest daughter, a Chicago-based surgeon whose US-raised children have shown a keen interest in the cuisine of their motherland. * READ MORE...

ALSO by Sol Vanzi: Feasting Safely On Street Food  

Fish balls, squid balls and kikiam: the holy trinity of skewered bliss sold at every busy street corner over the metropolis Street food is conquering the world. The tidbits once abhorred by jetsetters and fashionistas as trash and junk now dominate the TV Food Network’s prime shows hosted by acclaimed chefs from food capitals all over the planet. Street food reflects the culture and lifestyle of a city and its people, and is often inexpensive and easy to prepare using the barest kitchen implements. In my travels overseas, I seek out street food and rely on them for adventure and survival. Among the most memorable are takoyaki in Osaka, wonton soup in Kowloon, thick ful soup in Cairo, crunchy falafel in Amman, smokey grilled lamb innards in Athens, cheese and olives in Mainz, tiny grilled langonisa in Mactan, empanada in Batac. You get the picture: food that’s handmade, cheap, tasty and could be consumed without cutlery. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Diary of a Maranao princess in Manila 

Growing up, I was often asked if I was a Maranao princess. According to my uncle Usopay Hamdag Cadar, who knows more about our family history, my maternal grandmother Damo’ao was a high queen or Bai-a-Labi of Bayang, Lanao del Sur. My maternal grandfather is also of royal blood and a Sulutan a Romapunut sa Gapa-o-Balindong or moderator sultan of
Gapa-o-Balindong. At present, my father Abdulrauf “Alexander” P. Mama-o sits as the national chairman of Moriatao Diwan, which is among the royalty of Lanao province antedating colonial period in the Philippines. 30My Uncle Usopay once pointed out, “When ruling titles such as ‘sultan’ and ‘queen’ are used in reference to a Maranao, it would be a mistake to think in the same way as the Sultan of Brunei who is powerful and ‘filthy rich’ or the Queen of England who is similarly powerful and wealthy.” Uncle said there are three basic social classes of Maranaos: the ruling/royal class, the supporting class, and the servant class. But whether you’re a princess or a servant, being a Muslim in a predominantly Catholic country and non-Muslim cities is tough. THE WILL TO PRAY * READ MORE...


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Man’s oldest kitchen tool


A collection of almires from various countries (Image by Kyle Victor Jose)

MANILA, JULY 28, 2014
(BULLETIN) by Sol Vanzi - At a time when the food processor is king of cooking prep, the almires proves it can still be relevant.

As in most Tagalog towns, every kitchen in our barrio Pulanglupa had an almires (mortar and pestle). The best were made of rough stone; the cheaper models were fashioned from large tree trunks, most often the trunks of hard sampalok (tamarind) trees.

My grandmother used her stone almires regularly to crush the heads and shells of shrimp and small crabs (collectively called pakot) to extract juices used to flavor our daily ginisang gulay.

OLDIE BUT GOODIE

During special occasions such as fiestas, the almires was indispensible in mashing grilled pork liver and day-old bread to make pebre, the sauce for lechon. Birthdays and family gatherings kept the almires busy grinding toasted rice and peanuts for kare-kare. Meriendas of pancit palabok used the almires to crush chicharon (pork crackling).

When grandma died, she left me everything in her kitchen, but passed on the stone almires to her youngest daughter, a Chicago-based surgeon whose US-raised children have shown a keen interest in the cuisine of their motherland.

Long Search Ends

I continued to make do with a wooden almires. A marble set from Romblon proved too smooth while a brass antique from Europe was too difficult to clean after each use.

For 50 long years, I searched and scrounged in vain for a rough stone almires just like my grandma’s. Early this month, my search finally ended in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur.

There, along the Maharlika Highway, south of the municipality of Santa Maria, artisans using primitive tools carve rough mortar-and-pestle sets out of stone quarried from the mountains.

The self-taught San Esteban natives fashion all types of products from solid rock: one-of-a-kind Japanese garden lamps, lawn steps, and water fountains, which attract motorists and city landscape artists to the town’s simple roadside stalls. And there, after a half century of searching, I found an almires set handcarved from rough stone.

Oldest Kitchen Tool

The mortar-and-pestle is considered by archeologists and historians as one of man’s oldest kitchen tools.

The Encyclopedia Britannica describes it as the first means known for grinding grain. Today, the mortar-and-pestle is found in all corners of the world, where it is an essential tool in producing delicacies native to each culture. Greek skordalia and French aioli are garlic spreads pounded to perfection.

The Italians love pesto sauce from garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and fresh basil. Middle Easterners have hummus, tahini, and baba ghanouj from chickpeas, sesame seeds, and roasted eggplants.

Southeast Asians mash chili-hot sambals as base for many recipes. Thais pound green papaya into a refreshing salad.

Almires in Recipes

To make pebre (lechon sauce), first broil fresh pork liver slices over very hot coals until surfaces are scorched.

Cool them and then cut into small pieces. Pound them in an almires with plenty of fresh garlic.

Stir into the boiling pot of lechon pieces that have been boiled until tender and gelatinous.

Thicken with ground day-old bread or bread crumbs. Season with black pepper, salt, and brown sugar to taste.

The whole dish is lechon paksiw; the plain gravy without pork pieces could be served separately as pebre.


PAKSIW NA LECHON WITH PEBRE.   KARE-KARE --GOOGLE IMAGES

For kare-kare, toast powdered rice or whole grain rice in an oven or an unoiled frying pan.

Do the same with dried unsalted peanuts. Grind separately in an almires until fine.

Add to boiled meat parts—pork or beef hocks, tail, and head— that have been sautéed in onion and garlic.

Stir frequently to avoid lumps. Color by mashing atsuete seeds in water.

Strain and throw away the seeds, using only the colored liquid.

by Sol 2 years ago:

Feasting Safely On Street Food By: Sol Vanzi Manila Bulletin Published: March 14, 2013


Street food in Manila, Philippines: Street food is very common in the Philippines. It can be found in any road around the country, that is why Filipinos are very fond with it. It’s an important part of the Filipino culture. Street food is a ready-to-eat food or drink sold at the streets or other public place, such as a market or fair, by a hawker or vendor, often from a portable stall. Foreigners shouldn’t miss to try and taste the best-tasting street food in the Philippines during their visit. Street food is a favorite merienda and pasttime of all Filipinos wherever they go. It is easy to eat and very affordable. For a small price, one can have merienda packed with food on a stick and some refreshing drinks.

Fish balls, squid balls and kikiam: the holy trinity of skewered bliss sold at every busy street corner over the metropolis Photo from: www.wikipedia.org (Celine Marie Castañeda)

Street food is conquering the world. The tidbits once abhorred by jetsetters and fashionistas as trash and junk now dominate the TV Food Network’s prime shows hosted by acclaimed chefs from food capitals all over the planet.

Street food reflects the culture and lifestyle of a city and its people, and is often inexpensive and easy to prepare using the barest kitchen implements. In my travels overseas, I seek out street food and rely on them for adventure and survival.

Among the most memorable are takoyaki in Osaka, wonton soup in Kowloon, thick ful soup in Cairo, crunchy falafel in Amman, smokey grilled lamb innards in Athens, cheese and olives in Mainz, tiny grilled langonisa in Mactan, empanada in Batac. You get the picture: food that’s handmade, cheap, tasty and could be consumed without cutlery.

BEWARE OF FOOD-BORNE AILMENTS -- Despite all those years of enjoyable foraging through the sidewalks of many continents, I shirk at the thought of eating street food in Metro Manila, where most food vendors handle their goods with bare hands and keep raw and undercooked food unrefrigerated for hours, The heat, the humidity, the flying and crawling insects, the air filled with germs and bacteria – all frightened me enough to make my kids swear they’ll never patronize a sidewalk stall.

HOME-COOKED BANGKETA FARE -- Not wanting my kids to miss out on delicious food, we eventually found a way around that over-protective precaution. My children grew up eating street food quite often, yet they never once got food poisoning or stomach ailments from this indulgence. The secret? They only ate street food at home, never in the streets.

A TRIO OF BALLS -- Our first home venture involved fish balls, squid balls and kikiam, the holy trinity of skewered bliss sold straight from their hot deep fryers at virtually every busy street corner and school gate all over the metropolis.

These are sold chilled or frozen at public markets and supermarkets, in ¼ kilo, ½ kilo and 1 kilo packs, and do not have to be thawed before cooking. They can go straight from the chiller to the fryer.

START WITH COLD OIL – Contrary to western cooking methods, fish balls should never be dropped into very hot oil or they will never expand. The extremely hot oil will immediately cause a hard crust to form on the surface of the balls, preventing the air bubbles trapped inside from expanding and making the balls bigger and lighter.

Place the cold balls in the warm or cold oil over low heat, cook slowly to let the oil heat up gradually. Patience is key. The heat may be turned up to brown the surface once the balls have expanded to their maximum size.

Before frying the second batch of balls, allow the oil to cool down a bit before starting the process all over again.

SECRET’S IN THE SAUCE – All fish ball vendors have their secret sawsawan, or dipping sauces, which often come in pairs: one red and sweet, the other is brown with a tangy spiciness. Both sauces are thick, the better for them to stick to each ball.

Fish balls have become so mainstream that bottled fish ball sauces are now sold at supermarkets alongside oyster sauce and catsup. However, it is cheaper and more rewarding to make your own sauce with ingredients already in your shelves.

For the red sauce, the main ingredient is banana catsup, which will provide the thickness, color, light chili heat and some sweetness. Add chopped onions and minced garlic and thin with water, beer or any soft drink. Taste and adjust seasonings.

For the brown sauce, start by dissolving brown sugar in a little water in a pan over low heat. Keep stirring until dissolved and watch to prevent scorching. Add a packet of chicken powder or a bouillon cube, one crushed red hot pepper, black pepper, crushed garlic and chopped onion. Stir in some soy sauce and a tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in water to thicken the sauce. Lastly, add vinegar to taste. Adjust thickness by adding more water or cornstarch mixture.

BE AUTHENTIC – The small oval paper trays used by sidewalk vendors to serve fish balls are sold at supermarkets and at small stores in public markets. They are cheap as short bamboo barbecue skewers are used to spear and eat the balls with.

My children and their friends used to get a kick out of eating fish balls with all works in our very own home. We’ve also served them at family gatherings, birthdays and other festive occasions.

LUMPIANG SHANGHAI – The supermarkets have taken the guesswork out of making Lumpiang Shanghai; they now offer freshly mixed ground pork, carrots, kinchay, spices and binding all ready to be stuffed into lumpia wrappers and fried.

To stretch the budget and make more lumpia from a small amount of filling, we sometimes add panko (Japanese bread crumbs), mashed or grated potatoes, chopped or shredded leftover meats and an extra beaten egg as binder. Serve with fish ball sauces.

MEXICAN LUMPIA – Using the same supermarket mix, we make Mexican-style appetizers by adding mashed cooked kidney beans, hot chili peppers and grated cheese. We serve fried Mexican lumpia with a topping of fresh salsa (chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro seasoned with lemon juice and Tabasco) and a mound of fresh avocado slices.

FILE FROM PANORAMA

Diary of a Maranao princess in Manila MANILA BULLETIN, PANORAMA July 27, 2014

How do Muslims live in a country where they are a minority? This is the story of one.



Growing up, I was often asked if I was a Maranao princess. According to my uncle Usopay Hamdag Cadar, who knows more about our family history, my maternal grandmother Damo’ao was a high queen or Bai-a-Labi of Bayang, Lanao del Sur. My maternal grandfather is also of royal blood and a Sulutan a Romapunut sa Gapa-o-Balindong or moderator sultan of Gapa-o-Balindong. At present, my father Abdulrauf “Alexander” P. Mama-o sits as the national chairman of Moriatao Diwan, which is among the royalty of Lanao province antedating colonial period in the Philippines.

30My Uncle Usopay once pointed out, “When ruling titles such as ‘sultan’ and ‘queen’ are used in reference to a Maranao, it would be a mistake to think in the same way as the Sultan of Brunei who is powerful and ‘filthy rich’ or the Queen of England who is similarly powerful and wealthy.”

Uncle said there are three basic social classes of Maranaos: the ruling/royal class, the supporting class, and the servant class. But whether you’re a princess or a servant, being a Muslim in a predominantly Catholic country and non-Muslim cities is tough.

THE WILL TO PRAY

* One of the five pillars of Islam or the foundations of Muslim life is to pray five times a day. The obligatory prayers are fajr (dawn to sunrise), zuhr (noon time), asr (mid-afternoon), maghrib (after sunset until dusk), and isha (dusk until dawn). When I was in school, from elementary to college, praying five times a day was very difficult.

Having no Muslim peers throughout my growing up years and having no prayer area in schools did not make it easy to pray at noontime, and it was all the more impossible to pray in the mid-afternoon when there was class. I did pledge to myself that after graduating, I would devote more time to praying. Sadly, I got caught in the same traps of going with the flow. In my first two jobs, I was drowned with work and, yes, I had no Muslim workmates and no prayer area in the workplace.

Alhamdulillah (thanks be to Allah), I now work for a Muslim company doing socio-economic projects for Filipino Muslims. We pause from our work when it is time to pray, prostrate, and feed our souls. How fulfilling it is when I complete the five prayers in a day! It’s a priceless achievement. Fortunately, my elder colleagues have inspired me to strive to pray and make no excuses. Wherever they may be—whether at a restaurant or at the mall—they would look for an area to pray. Smartphones come in handy now with apps for Muslims such as Adhan (call to prayer) and digital compass to find the qibla (direction to Mecca that should be faced when Muslims pray).

VEIL OF PRIDE

Wearing hijab was also a challenge. Hijab is a veil that covers the head, ears, neck, and chest. It is worn by a Muslim woman beyond the age of puberty in the presence of adult males outside of her immediate family. I put on a veil when I was in fourth year high school. It was not even the real hijab, just a veil pinned and covering my neck. Everybody at school thought I was engaged. I had to explain over and over that since I was already a teen, I must start dressing modestly to protect my chastity. During my first semester in college, I started wearing my veil “on and off.”The rest of my college years, I ceased to wear it at all.

When I applied for work, I had no veil in my resume photo. My bosses were surprised when I wore a veil on my first day. I just thought that it would be a great pride to fashion my identity as a Muslim and a Maranao working at a prestigious company. More than that, it was a choice and a way of praising God, Creator of all the good things. I wore the veil throughout my stay in the company. In fact, during my latter months with them, I wore the proper hijab.

“Why are you in full combat gear?” my colleague asked. Some do see the covering of Muslim women as a form of oppression. But for me, it was liberation. Nowadays, more and more Muslim women are wearing proper hijab fashionably with textiles coming from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim countries.

FINDING HALAL

Filipino Muslims, however, are still struggling to cope with another basic Muslim cultural facet: eating full halal diet. Halal means “lawful in Islam.” It does not only pertain to food but it’s a lifestyle including the halal means of living and earning, halal relationship, and so on. Haram,on the other hand, means “forbidden in Islam.”

Pork is the most popular haram food. But besides pig, Muslims are not allowed to eat dogs, snakes, monkeys, and other carnivorous animals with claws and fangs such as lions, tigers, and bears, as well as birds of prey with claws like eagles and vultures, and animals that live both on land and in water such as frogs, and crocodiles.

Halal slaughtering entails the pronouncement Bismillah (In the Name of Allah) invoked immediately before the slaughter of each animal. The slaughtering tool should be sharp and should sever the trachea, esophagus, and main arteries and veins of the neck region.

In Metro Manila, only few halal meat shops can be found. My mother buys from Quiapo and brings it home in Pasig. There is also an upscale halal meat shop in Makati. In the market, only few products bear the halal logo. Nonetheless, there is still no halal certifying body in the country recognized as credible in the national and global arena.

Muslims, however, still hope that national halal guidelines will be standardized. Senator Cynthia A. Villar, the chairperson of Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, filed Senate Bill 312 or the Philippine Halal Act that seeks to establish the Philippine Halal Accreditation and Regulatory Board (PHARB). The absence of a trustworthy halal food industry affects the tourism in the Philippines. Millions of Muslim tourists opt to go to Malaysia for instance and other Muslim countries where halal restaurants and halal food supplies are the norm.

Despite all the daily challenges faced by Muslim minorities in the Philippines, I am still grateful that I live here in the Philippines and not in other countries where Muslims suffer religious discrimination. In some parts of China, Muslims are forbidden to do fasting. In Sri Lanka, Muslims are being massacred by Buddhist extremists. In Central Africa, thousands of Muslims are being killed by Christian militias. And in this Holy Month of Ramadan, I share the call to our Muslim and non-Muslim brothers and sisters, “You don’t need to be a Muslim to stand up for Gaza. You just need to be human.”

Nesreen Cadar Abdulrauf is a young Filipino Muslim journalist. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications from the University of the Philippines (UP) in Cebu City. For more than three years, she was a writer-producer of “24 Oras,” the leading and multi-awarded newscast of GMA Network, Inc. She is the editor-in-chief of The Ummah Philippines, the first Islamic business magazine in the country. Nesreen advocates for peace journalism and fair coverage and reporting about Muslims.

FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM

• Shahadah. Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;

•Salat. Establishment of the five daily prayers;

•Sawm. Self-purification through fasting;

•Zakat. Concern for and almsgiving to the needy; and

•Hajj. The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able

SOL JOSE VANZI'S CORNER
LIFESTYLE COLUMNIST OF THE MANILA DAILY BULLETIN & PANORAMA
'TIMPLA'T TIKIM'


Sol's profile avatar at Manila Bulletin
Lifestyle/Food

http://www.mb.com.ph/author/sol-vanzi/
Panorama
http://www2.mb.com.ph/a-fil-am-love-story/


1997 Photo: EDITOR -Philippine Headline News Online (PHNO) http://www.newsflash.org/staff/solvanzi.htm


2005 Photo: PHNO Travel & Leisure
http://www.newsflash.org/tlframe.htm


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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