Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Filipino Cooking with Yasmin Newman

Knowing little about Filipino food, sometime ago I purchased a Filipino cookbook "7000 Islands- A Food Portrait of the Philippines". Like with all SBS publications I was not disappointed. The book itself is a personal account a one woman's journey to reconnect with the food she grew up with, her Filipino mother cooking food from her homeland here in Australia. It is quite nostalgic with the author Yasmin Newman telling stories from her childhood which was interwoven with this wonderful cuisine. As you would expect from a modern cookbook it is beautifully photographed and is as much a cultural journey as it is a food journey.

I guess before this cookbook I was under the assumption that Filipino food may bear some resemblance to cuisines in the South East Asian region. Possibly incorporating the fresh herbs of Vietnam or the complex spicy chilli based curries of Thailand. I was completely wrong. It is far more a fusion with the Spanish cuisine bought to the country during the Spanish occupation in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The first dishes we cooked from the book were the Adobo's. Adobo being the national dish of the Philippines it seemed a good place to start.  We made both Lamb and Chicken Adobo for a dinner party we hosted and it went down a treat. The tender juicy meat is infused through a slow cooking process with flavours of garlic, ginger, soy, bay leaves, onion and chilli.  The dish has quite an unusual tangy flavour due to the use of vinegar and I find that unique tang is what makes it so morish.  I have made these dishes a number of times since as they are easy to make, hearty and a crowd pleaser.

Since mastering the Adobo and as much as I just wanted to keep making it over and over as it is one of those dishes you would put in your readily used repotoire I decided we needed to expand our Filipino horizons. I chose a recipe called Binagoongang Baboy, partly lured by the exotic name and partly by the fact the main ingredient is Pork Belly. I love the fact that the name is so foreign, I mentioned to a Filipino colleague that I was making this dish and she immediately knew I was making pork in fish sauce. If I were to give it a literal translation I would say I am making twice cooked pork belly in a tomato and fish sauce.


The beauty of SBS cookbooks is you can also find all their recipes on their fantastic website. So you can see the full recipe right here.

So the first round of cooking the pork belly requires it to be par-boiled and I will give you a tip. Keep the remaining liquid after you have reserved the 250mls required for the rest of the dish, pop it in the fridge and you have an amazing stock to use for other dishes. In the same week I used this stock to cook up a Balinese Bumbu spiced pork dish as well as a Thai Yellow Curry (not a particularly traditional technique to use a pork stock but tasty none the less).

As you see from the recipe you then deep fry the pork belly and add it to a sauce of caramelised tomatoes and shrimp paste. I am still not sure we found the correct shrimp paste. It seems from the recipe description the Filipino shrimp paste is different to the more solid block version you use in Thai cooking so we hunted down a jar that was a wet, lumpy, stinky, blobby paste. Hopefully we got it right and if anyone out there knows more about the correct Filipino shrimp paste and where to get it do drop me a line.

The final result was delish. It did have that odd fishy overtone that a western palate at first wants to reject but after a few mouthfuls it is actually really tasty. The crispy pork belly was divine and the caramelised tomatoes really harked back to that Spanish influence in the cuisine.

I really encourage you to cook this dish. It was not time consuming at all and really highlights how the Filipino cuisine is so unique and stands on it's own amongst what many just like to call "Asian Food" it is proof that food cannot be defined as simply "Asian".


Cost:2/5 Ease:3/5 Time:4/5 Taste:2/5
Originally posted on Tuesday, 9 December 2014 by

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