Heading to the market

As a kid, I used to tag along with my mom whenever she had to go to the market–whether it was the one near our old house in Tondo or all the way in Divisoria (ground zero for bargains in Manila).

During these trips to the market, when I wasn’t pestering my mom on when we would have lunch in Jollibee or when we could go home, I observed how she would expertly haggle with the vendors over prices. A back-and-forth with her suki would ensue, sometimes one would appear insulted at the proposed price, or the other would appear as if she got the short end of the stick, but often a compromise would be reached and my mom would walk away with the item having paid for a discounted price. She did it effortlessly and unfortunately, none of us, her kids, ever acquired the same skill.

To the market!

To the market!

This Sunday morning, my sister and I went with her to Sidcor Market in Centris along EDSA in Quezon City. Under the green and white tents, we watched while our mom haggled her way to some discounts. She wasn’t always successful but when she was, my sister and I couldn’t help but shake our heads and laugh.

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Instead of traveling

Because I’ve mostly been puttering around the apartment whenever I have some free time–obsessing over what stuff we still need in the flat, stuff we don’t really need but want nonetheless, what to clean, what to cook, what to obsess over next–I really don’t get to travel much anymore. That and largely due to the shift in priorities and spending habits. Case in point: the plan to get out of the city for the recent four-day holiday was scratched because there were shelves to put up. (Finally, the boxes were emptied and discarded and we could see our floor!)

But I have been staring at that part of the shelf with my travel books neatly leaning against each other more longingly than necessary. Since I don’t have any trips planned until early next year, I had to find a way to satisfy this niggling wanderlust without going anywhere (or at least anywhere outside Metro Manila). Reading again my stash of AFAR, Travel & Leisure, Smile and other travel or in-flight magazines were not helping.

I like the view outside our window, but sometimes I imagine those beautiful clouds are over some foreign city

A few weekends after we moved, P and I walked to one of the nearby malls to buy a few kitchen items we overlooked and we stumbled upon a regional fair in one of the exhibition halls. For the readers of this blog who are not from the Philippines, the country is made up of 7,100-plus islands, which are clustered into several regions. And for someone who’s been hankering to travel or even write about traveling, a regional fair was sort of like a consolation prize: find and sample what the different regions of the country has to offer in one contained hall.

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Time for champorado, lugaw and mami (and for donations!)

How the road typically looks for the past few days.

It’s been raining for the past few weeks, here in Metro Manila and in many other parts of the country. And it’s not one of those soft drizzle that just leaves the road wet and makes the weather a little cooler; no, it’s mostly heavy, furious downpour that leaves many roads and neighborhoods submerged in flood. (Many families living in low-lying areas or nearby rivers in different parts of the city and nearby provinces have actually evacuated–or asked to evacuate–because of the flooding.)

It is typhoon season and even if there is no storm signal (FYI for non-Filipino readers, the country has three storm signals and if you’re traveling here from June to September early December, best be acquainted with storm warnings here), sometimes the southwest monsoon (yes, I’ve been watching too many weather updates) can bring alarming torrential rain, like today.

It’s best to stay indoors when this happens, but if you must venture out, check flooding and traffic updates here. And should you want to find some little comfort from food, here are a couple of local dishes that should be in your list for good rainy day Pinoy food.

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Getting nostalgic over inihaw na liempo (grilled pork belly)

I’ve always believed that good food can elicit great memories. And there are also times when the reverse is true–memories can trigger a longing for a particular food, the ones you grew up with or spent an inordinate amount of time gorging on at a particular stage in your life. (Say, your instant noodles phase or the time all you kept eating was toast with Cheese Whiz or toast with bacon for breakfast because your roommate gets an endless supply of both. And you were college seniors doing your thesis who had no time to cook but bacon.)

Last Saturday, as a much-needed break from work and writing assignments, P dragged me out of the house to meet up with some of his college friends at our old university’s beloved eating joint. Known by different names–Manang’s, Country Club and Clubhouse–it’s a carinderia within the university, an open-air eatery right next to the basketball and tennis courts. Students and faculty form a long queue even before lunch for the inihaw na liempo (grilled pork belly) and breaded pork chop. There’s also Lechon Kawali (pan-roasted pork), bistek (local version of beef steak), fried chicken, lumpiang togue (mung bean sprouts springroll), lumpiang Shanghai (pork springroll), and number of other pork dishes (we Filipinos love our pork) and a token vegetable dish. I just order the inihaw na liempo every time.

So when I found myself in front of the counter with the same familiar spread of Manang’s, I knew what I wanted.

slouching somewhere

Inihaw na liempo with soy sauce-vinegar on the side, rice, salted egg and tomatoes, and Mountain Dew

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Getting some ginataan

Last month I was craving for a bowl of ginataan. It was rainy, it was cool and a bowl of warm, and creamy sweet ginataan would have been perfect. A few weeks ago though, the temperatures rose and we officially welcomed summer, but I was still craving for this Filipino classic dessert made of gata (coconut milk), sugar, and a variety of fruits and tubers. For such traditional Pinoy dishes beyond adobo, I turn to my mom for help.

As my mom loves to cook and hails from Bicol, a place known for its ample use of coconut milk (not to mention, chilies) in its dishes, it made sense to ask her for help. She made the coconut milk, I rolled the glutinous rice into balls (bilo-bilo), we sliced the saba (plantains), kamote (sweet potato), and gabi (taro). There wasn’t any langka (jackfruit) in the market place and we dispensed with the sago or tapioca pearls. Then we got cooking.

The smell of boiling coconut milk, sugar and all those other ingredients took me back to those summer afternoons in my dad’s hometown in Pampanga, when we would go to my uncle’s house for fiesta, watch the catfish swimming in a shallow container of water before being cooked for lunch, cooks standing over big pots of stews, baskets of tibok-tibok, and my older cousins chatting and making bilo-bilo for the ginataan. You make bilo-bilo by adding water to powdered glutinous rice, mixing them together until they get this soft, sticky texture that you can roll into a ball. My older cousins would do this while the cooks teased if everyone had washed their hands or how the ginataan would be so much tastier with so many little fingers making those small rice balls.

slouching somewhere

Our ginatan halo-halo gets the light purple shade of the kamote (And I still suck at shooting food)

It was always tasty. The coconut milk boils to this thick consistency and sweet smell and my eight-year-old self would only eat the slices of plantains and the mochi-like bilo-bilo and sago. Decades later I’ve learned to love kamote. Gabi, I still only love you in sinigang.

So how to make ginataan: If you’re going to make your own coconut milk, you press the grated meat of one mature coconut (brown husk) with a cup of lukewarm water; set aside this first pressed milk. Then add another cup of lukewarm water to the grated meat, press and you have the thinner second pressed milk. Boil the second pressed milk with 2-3 cups of water. Once it boils, put the slices of taro, let it simmer, followed by the sweet potato. Put the bananas, the bilo-bilo, and the sugar. Pour the first pressed milk and let it cook. Breathe in the smell, fill up a bowl and satisfy a craving. And yes, I still suck at writing recipes. (If you want to follow a more precise ginataan recipe, you can refer here–it includes langka and sago.)