The tale of the boneless bangus

This is what I ate for dinner: a plate filled with daing na bangus, pickled bamboo shoots and rice. My aunt in Jersey will drool over my humble plate when she sees it (together with shots of boiled kamote drizzled with bagoong and kalamansi, and ginisang sayote). Well, anything Filipino I know she will drool over.

Back to daing na bangus (translated roughly as dried milkfish). We've plenty of bangus here in the North and the best kind is the boneless (actually, deboned) which is aplenty in Pangasinan.

I love it. I have an aversion of anything fried but this one's an exception as well as fried chicken simply rubbed with salt. And oh yes, as long as I don't have to eat it everyday, just like this one time in Manila (another story).

A couple of weeks ago, we went beach resort hopping. I discovered that at this time of the year only foreign tourists litter most of the beaches. We checked into this beach resort not far from my folks' house. At the deserted resort, we hobnobbed with a German family, two American women and three Korean boys. We were in turn mistaken as sunburnt Koreans girls. That was until we dug into our free breakfast plate of daing na bangus.

The Europeans, and probably the rest of the foreign entourage, weren't happy with the offered breakfast plate. They eyed, they sniffed, they scowled and eventually dismissed the plate, then ask for the menu. I asked myself, while diligently digging into my own plate, whether it was wise for the resort to offer daing na bangus when it expected continental customers in July. But then again, what did the foreigners expect when they were in foreign soil? If I'm in a foreign land I'd dare myself eat risotto off the menu even if I don't like it. Kudos for this beach resort for serving daing na bangus to foreigners and not being apologetic about it.


The pursuit for the perfect adobo

I have yet to cook adobo for friends in full force. But, yes, I make good chicken adobo that's been popular with friends.

But I haven't been cooking for quite a long time. The devotion to cooking (adobo particularly) stemmed out of my homesickness for everything home-cooked as I was away in college for years. Eating at fast-food joint at first sounded metropolitan, but it was an unhealthy, expensive fad that lost it's glitter all too soon. On those days I and my housemates were fiscally challenged, we tried the turo-turo: low-cost, homecooked, but nevertheless unsatisfactory, and probably unsanitary, food.

It made me miss my mom's home-cooked food even more, especially adobo which was (still is one of) my all-time favorite food (until I started leaning towards vegetables). I noticed from the carinderias and restaurants and homes that I have been to that adobo wasn't quite the same as the adobo I knew. There were too many variations of adobo to suit my liking: sometimes the adobo meat and the spices that go with it (usually garlic and onions) were fried, resulting in a sauce that was bitter and oily; sometimes the meat was boiled rather than stewed that the dish ended up watery and tasteless.

So, for a while I had to make do with whatever I had in my refrigerator since I was at the mercy of my mother's food rations, which came all the way from the province. She'd make adobo, dinuguan, igado and other cooked food, seal and pack them in plastic containers, then sending them to me via bus to Manila. I'd pick the box full of goodies, shove the contents in the refrigerator, then reheat the dish I was in the mood to eat. Ahh that's sweet eating, until the ration's gone.

At the end, I was bent to test my culinary skills.

Frying pork chops and hotdogs was easy, even cooking tinola was a breeze; but adobo, it took me a while before I finally ended up with my perfect recipe. I had several attempts before I discovered that meat should be cooked at low fire; that adobo's best if chicken; that water has to be at a minimum (that's why it's adobo, it's supposed to be stewed); that garlic is everything; and that adobo need not be fried.