Monday, November 7, 2011


Paksiw is not adobo. The true Filipino foodie knows the difference. Strictly speaking, the basics of adobo are boiling in salt, vinegar, peppercorns and garlic, then frying to seal in the flavors, then returning the meat to the original liquid. Adobo is usually cooked in a wok that allows the liquid to evaporate and create a thicker consistency. A true adobo does not have soy sauce.

Paksiw on the other hand does not involve any frying and is usually prepared in a stewpot.The best ones are cooked in claypots, though there is no prohibition against that for adobo.

Both however, have the same beginnings. Adobo and paksiw (whether fish or meat) begins in a liquid of vinegar (coconut is best) garlic, pepper corns, bay leaf and some water. Which would probably explain why some people confuse the paksiws that have soy sauce as adobo.

Both are Tagalog dishes, evidently as the use of native coconut vinegar marks a traditional Tagalog dish, as does the use of gata -- though famously shared with the Bicolanos. Which is not to say that there aren't any versions from the other regions, but that is a whole 'nuther article by itself.

A final comparison involves how foreigners see these two dishes. Some Chinese think that paksiw has origins in Chinese cooking, while the French see themselves in adobo. These are statements made by respective ambassadors at various functions. Perhaps it is because soy sauce has its Asian roots, while the method of  lightly frying meat to seal in flavors is a traditional French technique.

Paksiw na pata is a household favorite because it is relatively easy to cook and may be left alone to -- pardon the pun -- stew for a while, while the cook attends to other things, like writing her legal briefs or blogging. Also, pork knuckles are relatively inexpensive and may be bought at cut rates in the market. At any rate, this recipe is my mother's, herself busy with her orthodontic practice when she raised us and remains a favorite everyday dish.

Paksiw na Pata

1 to 1/1/2 k pork knuckles
1 to 1 and 1/2 C vinegar (add as needed)
3 T rock salt
1/2 C water
2 t pepper corns
1 head garlic
2 bay leaves
3 T brown sugar
1/4/ to 1/2 c soy sauce
250 g banana blossoms
oregano powder to taste

Halve the vinegar and water, add half a head of garlic, one bay leaf, half the salt  and half the peppercorns. Add the pork knuckles and bring to a boil in a stew pot. Make sure that the liquid covers the pork knuckles. If it doesn't, proportionately add more vinegar and water. Once boiling, reduce heat and allow to lightly boil in the covered stew pot for about one to two hours. Do not allow the liquid to dry up.

The resulting liquid will be scummy. In a second stewpot, heat up the remaining vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, salt and water. When the pork knuckles have become tender in the original pot, transfer them to the hot second. The first mixture may be thrown away.

When the knuckles are fully cooked, remove from the liquid. Add sugar, oregano powder and soy sauce, adjusting to taste. Return the knuckles into the mixture for another fifteen minutes or until the meat has  imbibed the soy mixture. Add banana blossoms. Turn off the heat after about five minutes. Allow the paksiw to sit for a while before serving.

As with any Filipino dish, everything may be adjusted to taste.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Be our guest

Filipino hospitality is not only a tourism catchword, but a reality. Practices like communal eating means that strangers who happen on any person at mealtime automatically gets invited to eat. And guests are always treated to the best any household can offer. 

When I was young, I heard that in remote areas, one would proudly be served with canned food such as tuna or sardines. The members of the household would serve this delicacy to the guest because it is expensive and considered a rare specialty. Much later, I have discovered that this practice is still true. I had occasion to watch in envy as members of the household "made do" with a freshly killed native chicken stewed in tamarind leaves while I was honored with sardines -- a whole can all just for me. 

The practice of treating travelers or guests with honor goes back to biblical times. Severe punishment would be meted to those who take advantage of a person who is not in his home town. In the middle ages, those who waylaid and robbed the traveler was called a highway man, the precursor perhaps of the expression now of highway robbery. Later they were called brigands and the crime, brigandage. The Philippine Revised Penal Code states:

Art. 306. Who are brigands; Penalty. — When more than three armed persons form a band of robbers for the purpose of committing robbery in the highway, or kidnapping persons for the purpose of extortion or to obtain ransom or for any other purpose to be attained by means of force and violence, they shall be deemed highway robbers or brigands.

Art. 307. Aiding and abetting a band of brigands. — Any person knowingly and in any manner aiding, abetting or protecting a band of brigands as described in the next preceding article, or giving them information of the movements of the police or other peace officers of the Government (or of the forces of the United States Army), when the latter are acting in aid of the Government, or acquiring or receiving the property taken by such brigands shall be punished by prision correccional in its medium period to prision mayor in its minimum period.
It shall be presumed that the person performing any of the acts provided in this article has performed them knowingly, unless the contrary is proven.

At any rate, canned goods being the epitome of gustatory delights for those in the mountains, in my visits there, I have taken to giving these as gifts, wonderfully wrapped in cellophane and sitting serenely in baskets. In my next visit I plan to bring the ingredients and cook pork and beans for them. Fortunately, I found this recipe online. It tastes great. 


 Ingredients :
 1 lb. dried pea or marrow beans
 6 c. water
 1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed dried hot
    peppers or dash of cayenne pepper
 Onion, sliced
 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
 1 bay leaf, crumbled
 1 lb. lean salt pork, in 1 piece
 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
 1/4 c. catsup
 1/4 c. molasses
 1 tsp. dry mustard
 1 tsp. salt
 1/8 tsp. black pepper
 1/4 c. minced onion
 1/4 c. brown sugar

 Preparation :
1.  Pick over and wash beans.  Put in large kettle and add water.  Bring to
 boiling.  Boil hard for 2 minutes.  Let stand covered 1 hour on

2.  Add hot pepper, onion, garlic, bay leaf and pork.  

3. Bring to boiling again.  Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour or until
 tender but not mushy.  Drain, reserving liquid.  Skim off fat.  

4.To 1 cup liquid, add Worcestershire sauce, catsup, molasses,
 mustard, salt, black pepper and minced onion, mixing well.  

5.  Put beans in 2 quart shallow baking dish.  Pour in the 1 cup liquid and
 seasoning mixture.  

6.  Remove any rind on pork.  Cut in to 8 or more slices.  Arrange on top of beans.  
Sprinkle with brown sugar.
7.  Bake uncovered at 400 degrees about 1 1/4 hours, adding more
 liquid if necessary, until pork and beans are glazed and nicely

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rice for the Resurrection

It almost seems as if the Holy Week penitential traditions have been replaced by pilgrimages to places of leisure., like the Passion being turned on its ear. Arguably, however, my parents would have thought that Holy Week trips with us kids WERE penitential traditions, since my brother and sisters could not conduct a conversation in less than ear shattering decibel levels within the confines of our Mitsubishi Galant. . 

My childhood Holy Weeks were unalterably spent at home in Cubao. On Holy Monday, Lola would be host to the Pabasa (the Lenten reading of the Passion of Christ) and my Lolo's relatives would come in several jeeploads from Cabuyao, Laguna. Somehow, Lola would manage to produce enough chairs for up to about forty relatives -- mostly elderly females. 

The singing would begin at about six o'clock, with about twenty or so participants. There would be no break, even for lunch, as it should conclude no later than five in the afternoon so that my various aunts, lolas, distant cousins and assorted relatives could make the trip back to Laguna by early evening. Instead, the singers would take turns, efficiently and discretely handling the changes without missing either beat or tone, nor making it appear that there has been any change in participants. 

Come to think of it, when I was a kid looking at them, I would get confused identifying whose hand I should bring to my forehead, in the traditional greeting for the elderly. The lolas all looked alike to me. Many would be dressed in the maroon and cord garb of the devotees of the Black Nazarene. 
In fact, the figure before which these women would sing, was a small antique replica of the same dark, suffering Christ that brings hordes of devotees to Quiapo. This same figure sits on my mother's altar with the cross removed from the shoulder and gently laid on the ground, in a nod to the belief that having a cross-bearing Christ in the home would be to invite similar suffering, that one would be also a bearer of heavy burdens. 

For merienda, Lola would serve pospas, a rice porridge with chicken and seasoned heavily with ginger. What follows is not my lola's traditional recipe, but my hurried one, when I want to approximate the gingery, garlicky memories of my childhood.


1/2 chicken chopped into cubes with the bone in
1 head of garlic, half of which is peeled and pounded, the other half chopped finely and fried until crisp
2 inches yellow ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped 
1 cup malagkit rice
chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the chicken in water enough to cover. Add salt and pepper. When the chicken is cooked, reserve the broth. Sautee peeled and pounded garlic and ginger and add chicken. Add the broth. When boiling add rice. When rice is nearly done, add turmeric, which gives the porridge its yellow color. When the rice is done, serve topped with scallions and fried garlic. Serve with fish sauce and kalamansi (Philippine lemon).