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PHNO TRAVEL & LIFESTYE (FOOD)
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports)

SOL JOSE VANZI's  LIFESTYLE & FOOD PAGE THIS WEEK

FEATURING HER 'TIMPLA'T TIKIM' (Manila Bulletin)
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

FINDING THE BEST LECHON


JULY 14 -SINFULLY GOOD Clockwise from top left: Cebu's lechon belly; interiors of Hukad sa Golden Cowrie Trinoma; Bulalo; and Baked Bantayan scallops SINFULLY GOOD Clockwise from top left: Cebu’s lechon belly; interiors of Hukad sa Golden Cowrie Trinoma; Bulalo; and Baked Bantayan scallops
Buying lechon is one of the trickiest and most difficult tasks, even when budget is not a consideration. First, one decides on the size, which often is determined by the number of guests expected to partake of the feast. Years of experience have led me to the conclusion that it is better to get two mediums than one large, to have more crispy skin and tender cuts. Older hogs tend to have tougher muscles and thicker skin that cook unevenly, and sometimes taste too gamey. On the other hand, piglets that are too young have yet to develop the rich porky flavor that makes lechon the country’s favorite party dish. NO-FAIL ROAST PORK The best lechon, in my opinion, is roast pork belly—the part between the front legs and the hams, or hind legs. It looks like a barrel with no bottom and no lid. Rubbed with seasoning and roasted in an oven, an unstuffed pork belly cooks evenly inside and out because heat is able to circulate evenly in the cavity. READ MORE...

ALSO: What is Filipino food?
[From seasonal insects to Spam, how our history is intertwined
with the dishes on our table]


JULY 10 -All of the above are native Filipino fare from various parts of the Philippines, an archipelagic nation composed of more than 7,000 islands inhabited by hundreds of tribes speaking dozens of distinct languages and dialects.
But the very features that pushed our people toward disunity are credited for keeping intact the culinary traditions of distant towns and villages. IN THE BEGINNING  Archeological diggings provide evidence of pottery from thousands of years ago. Although some were burial jars, many were definitely used for cooking and serving food. That was the start of our long love affair with food preparation. Then, as now, the diets of our ancestors depended solely on what were available in their immediate environs. Thus, those who lived near fresh water lakes and rivers ate vegetables and shoots, freshwater fish such as snake head (dalag), catfish (hito), eel, frogs, snails, and seasonal insects. Surrounded by seas and oceans, early Filipinos thrived on bivalves like oysters, clams and mussels, squid, prawns, crabs, seaweeds, sea mammals. Mountain dwellers survived on fruits, vegetables, and wild game. When typhoon struck, mountain people boiled green bananas from fallen trees and dug up roots and tubers beside streams. Coconut provided most of their needs, from shelter to cooking ingredient. The forests and mountains teemed with wild boar, deer, migratory birds, and smaller mammals, which early Pinoys learned to grill or smoke-dry near a wood fire. The smoke preserved the meat for use on lean days. The smoked meat was easier to transport after most of the liquid dried out. NEIGHBORS, TRADERS Long before the Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish “discovered” Southeast Asia in the 16th century, peoples of the region traded with one another, navigating the seas in wooden boats. They brought porcelain, ceramics, clothing, silk, dried fruits, spices, seeds of vegetables. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Finding the best lechon


SINFULLY GOOD Clockwise from top left: Cebu's lechon belly; interiors of Hukad sa Golden Cowrie Trinoma; Bulalo; and Baked Bantayan scallops SINFULLY GOOD Clockwise from top left: Cebu’s lechon belly; interiors of Hukad sa Golden Cowrie Trinoma; Bulalo; and Baked Bantayan scallops

MANILA, JULY 18, 2016 (MANILA BULLETIN)  by Sol Vanzi July 14, 2016 - Buying lechon is one of the trickiest and most difficult tasks, even when budget is not a consideration.

First, one decides on the size, which often is determined by the number of guests expected to partake of the feast.

Years of experience have led me to the conclusion that it is better to get two mediums than one large, to have more crispy skin and tender cuts. Older hogs tend to have tougher muscles and thicker skin that cook unevenly, and sometimes taste too gamey.

On the other hand, piglets that are too young have yet to develop the rich porky flavor that makes lechon the country’s favorite party dish.

NO-FAIL ROAST PORK


HUKAD CRISPY PATA

The best lechon, in my opinion, is roast pork belly—the part between the front legs and the hams, or hind legs. It looks like a barrel with no bottom and no lid. Rubbed with seasoning and roasted in an oven, an unstuffed pork belly cooks evenly inside and out because heat is able to circulate evenly in the cavity.

READ MORE...

Unstuffed, a belly lechon develops very crunchy skin that is the color of dark mahogany and a liempo portion that does not become soggy with accumulated drippings and melted fat. Leaving the pork belly unstuffed allows all the exposed portions to roast properly instead of getting steamed.

TO STUFF OR NOT

I can’t understand all the fuss over stuffed lechon. Some vendors of stuffed lechon even promote their wares as if they have just recently invented cooking something inside a roasted animal. Let me throw a wet blanket before you order or make a stuffed roast: it is now widely recommended to cook the stuffing separately for safety reasons.

Cooked inside the roast, stuffing always ends up wet and mushy. Worse, all juices of the roast pork or fowl get absorbed by the stuffing, leaving it too greasy. Once, we found the inside of the belly half-cooked and with dangerous traces of blood.

PORK LOVERS REJOICE


Hukad sa Golden Cowrie Opens First Metro Manila Branch

A Cebu-based restaurant chain has just opened a branch in Metro Manila that is taking all the guesswork out of lechon selection.

Hukad sa Golden Cowry opened with little fanfare at Trinoma recently, introducing the metropolis to a unique menu that has successfully launched 24 branches nationwide.

Pork belly lechon stars with the most popular items on the reasonably-priced menu, along with Crispy Pata, sisig, lechon kawali, and grilled liempo. The servings are all perfect for sharing.

Rare shellfish such as plump scallops from the rich waters around Bantayan in northern Cebu are flown in daily, assuring diners of a steady supply of fresh seafood, including tuna belly, giant squid, plump bangus, and large prawns.

LECHON BY THE KILO


HUKAD PORK BELLY BY THE KILO

Our big group ordered several dishes which we shared family-style. Each one was cooked as we ordered and not ladled from a big common pot in the kitchen.

But the star of our meal was the pork belly lechon, which was not only superlatively delicious but was such a big bargain that we ordered a kilo to take home.

The Hukad staff advised us to take the lechon belly home unchopped to keep the juices intact, and cut it up only before it is served with nothing but pepper-spiked native vinegar.

Hukad at Trinoma was well worth the trip from my Malate comfort zone, but my next lechon feast will be much closer to home.

Opening soon is Hukad’s branch at the Conrad Hotel in Pasay City, right behind SMX. I can hardly wait.


BY SOL VANZI JULY 10, 2016

What is Filipino food?
[From seasonal insects to Spam, how our history is intertwined
with the dishes on our table]

All of the above are native Filipino fare from various parts of the Philippines, an archipelagic nation composed of more than 7,000 islands inhabited by hundreds of tribes speaking dozens of distinct languages and dialects.

But the very features that pushed our people toward disunity are credited for keeping intact the culinary traditions of distant towns and villages.

IN THE BEGINNING

Archeological diggings provide evidence of pottery from thousands of years ago. Although some were burial jars, many were definitely used for cooking and serving food. That was the start of our long love affair with food preparation.

Then, as now, the diets of our ancestors depended solely on what were available in their immediate environs. Thus, those who lived near fresh water lakes and rivers ate vegetables and shoots, freshwater fish such as snake head (dalag), catfish (hito), eel, frogs, snails, and seasonal insects.

Surrounded by seas and oceans, early Filipinos thrived on bivalves like oysters, clams and mussels, squid, prawns, crabs, seaweeds, sea mammals.

Mountain dwellers survived on fruits, vegetables, and wild game. When typhoon struck, mountain people boiled green bananas from fallen trees and dug up roots and tubers beside streams. Coconut provided most of their needs, from shelter to cooking ingredient.

The forests and mountains teemed with wild boar, deer, migratory birds, and smaller mammals, which early Pinoys learned to grill or smoke-dry near a wood fire. The smoke preserved the meat for use on lean days. The smoked meat was easier to transport after most of the liquid dried out.

NEIGHBORS, TRADERS

Long before the Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish “discovered” Southeast Asia in the 16th century, peoples of the region traded with one another, navigating the seas in wooden boats. They brought porcelain, ceramics, clothing, silk, dried fruits, spices, seeds of vegetables.

READ MORE...

Filipinos could not help but be influenced by the visitors, whose curries, spicy dishes, and sati (spicy sauce) are now mainstays in households throughout Mindanao. The visitors introduced spices and dishes cooked in herbs’ leaves, roots, and bark. To this day, public market vendors in Mindanao sell green onion bundles with fresh turmeric roots, basil leaves, and lemongrass, a combination of flavorings not used elsewhere in the country.

The Chinese, whose boat building and navigational expertise allowed for trading extensively throughout several continents, ventured as far north as Luzon. As they did in other countries, the Chinese married local women, started businesses, raised families, and introduced the communities to Chinese food and culinary traditions.

Filipinos learned to make Chinese noodles (pancit), rice soup (congee or lugaw), sweet steamed rice cake (puto), steamed bread (pao), bean-stuffed snacks like hopia, dough-wrapped food (lumpia), roasts (char shu), herbed stew (humba).

SINO-SPANISH ERA

In 1521, Magellan led a fleet of Spanish vessels into the Visayas, marking the beginning of almost four centuries of Spanish rule all over the islands. Life for the natives changed; that means all aspects of their lives, including their names, which were mandated to be Christianized.

Aboard the Spanish ships were cooks and kitchens stocked with ingredients from Mother Spain and from the Spice Islands. Captains and other officers of the ships lived as luxuriously as possible even in trying times. They ate well and have stocks of good wine to drink with their meals. Also eating well were Spanish friars who traveled with each expedition.

The friars left a lasting influence in Filipino cuisine. Establishing parishes in cities and large towns, friars trained Filipino household helpers to prepare Spanish meals several times a day. Today, that legacy remains in places such as Pampanga, Cavite City, Zamboanga, Cebu, and Vigan where dishes of Spanish origin are listed as native.

Chinese-owned retail shops (called sari-sari stores, manned by the foreigners’ Filipino wives, sprouted all over the islands. Soon, Chinese-owned restaurants opened in cities and more progressive towns. In the 19th century, the prominent Chinese restaurants in the city of Manila were popular among rich Filipinos and Spanish businessmen and officials. Their menus were in Spanish, although some of the dishes were of Chinese origin.

HELLO, GOODBYE

The Treaty of Paris in 1898 brought tremendous changes to the Philippines. Spain left the islands; Americans took over. Boatloads of American teachers came to teach the natives how to read and write.

The new colonial masters introduced their food to the islanders: bread, butter, stews, mashed potato, gravy, fruit pies, ice cream. Ingredients came bottled or jarred, in liquid or powder form. After a short period of peace, war broke out and everyone had to make do with whatever scraps the enemy left or threw out. Roasted rice grains were boiled for coffee. Coconut meat was broiled to make kastaniyog, a nickname picked after someone commented that it tasted like chestnuts with one’s eyes closed.

LIBERATION

Although the country looked devastated after the war, everyone was so relieved, especially with the appearance of new products especially developed to feed the GIs fighting overseas; instant coffee and Spam top the list.

The country was flooded with blackmarket PX goods, US products intended to be sold only to US military personnel and their dependents. American peanut butter, chocolate bars, butter, cheese, canned meats, corned beef, bottled fruit juices, whiskey, American cigarettes, salad dressings, mayonnaise, spaghetti.

Soon birthdays were celebrated with spaghetti and blackmarket fries, frozen hot dogs, and hamburgers with US-made Hunts catsup.

INDEPENDENCE, CONVENIENCE

With independence came a movement to make everything in the Philippines. Someone decided to make catsup using the reject export bananas literary being fed to the hogs in Davao. It is a phenomenal success. Banana catsup now outsells tomato catsup everywhere in the Philippines, and is the catsup of choice for a brand of fried chicken and a local hamburger franchise.

As thoroughly modern Filipinas increasingly become career women, fewer housewives and mothers have time to cook, let alone learn how to cook family meals. This problem is solved for many by mixes that make cooking a cinch.

Several companies, some of them foreign, sell mixes that require only the addition of water and meat to produce a meal in minutes. The repertoire in varied: menudo, kare-kare, kaldereta, humba, adobo, mechado, tocino, luto sa gata, sinigang, and Bicol express.

Convenient, yes. But the mixes do not teach anyone how to cook or appreciate the nuances of adding a variety of other ingredients. A world where everyone’s sinigang tastes alike? Heaven forbid!


SOL JOSE VANZI's PHNO PAGE


Photo from Kyle Victor Jose's iPAD
Lifestyle/Food and Arts & Culture columnist of the Manila Daily Bulletin.
Signature title "Timpla't Tikim" EVERY THURSDAY OF THE WEEK.
http://www.mb.com.ph/lifestyle/


Sol in 1997 Photo: PHNO Editor/Travel & Leisure page
http://www.newsflash.org/staff/solvanzi.htm


Photo of Sol and young Kyle Victor Jose in March 2005 at PHNO/QCNet
office in Levitown, Paranaque. Photoshot by Leo Q. Carolino.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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