As I mentioned in my earlier blog (O (Old) Christmas Tree) about Christmas decorations and how we get them from storage in our loft/attics etc at the beginning of each Christmas season. We check the plugs and fuses of our old Christmas lights and see how many bulbs still work. I think the oldest lights I have are over 40 years old and we drape them around our 45-year-old Christmas tree I had when growing up.
Last Christmas when we were in the Philippines visiting our family, we saw amazing Christmas decorations and lights almost everywhere. We bought back from halfway around the globe, one particular Christmas decoration which is popular in the Philippines. It is called a paról.
A paról is a star-shaped or star patterned lantern, the shape representing the Star of Bethlehem that guided The Three Kings to the birthplace and manger of Jesus. A paról can come in various sizes and designs/patterns as long as it is a five-pointed star shape and can be illuminated. They are traditionally made out bamboo and paper. Nowadays they can be constructed from materials such as plastic, glass, thick strong polythene & light metal strips They are illuminated by candles or electric light bulbs. paróls are traditional to Filipinos at Christmas as the Christmas tree is to us. Modern electric/battery powered paróls can produce colourful complex patterns like some of our home Christmas lights.
Back when we were little children in Marag, Philippines, pako became a staple diet. It was in our dinner table at least once a week. We ate a lot of it so much that we kids 🙂 should have grown into goats 🙂 or hated it after a while. But I have always a vibrant and positive memory of pako.
Gathering pako is an adventure for us youngster. We had to roam a dense growth of greens at the mouth of a forest and try to pick the young furling sprouts of pako. Thank goodness they grow profusely together and therefore picking them one by one was not much of a chore.
Pako can be prepared in plenty of ways, it can be blanched and made into a salad, it can be left fresh as it is as a salad as well or cook and added into various kind of inabraw, an Ilocano way of cooking.
Below is another pako salad recipe.
1 large bunch pako (fern)
2 salted eggs or hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tbsp patis (fish sauce)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
sprinkling of salt to taste
Method of Preparation:
prepare the pako by removing any tough stalk.
Bring a large pot of boiling water. Blanch the pako by quickly dipping them into the hot water. Leave for a minute and drain.
Arranged the pako on a serving platter.
Put the tomatoes and onion on top then garnish with the slices of salted eggs.
Make a typical Filipino dressing by mixing the vinegar, fish sauce, black pepper, sugar and a very little salt. Stir it in thoroughly for the granules to dissolve.
I used to be obsessed with this board game when I was a little girl.
For whatever reason my mother used to discourage us playing sungka. She was really adamant that we should not play it. I think I heard her say that it was a game of the dead or something. She made it sound like there was something sinister about it.
But I’ve always had a mind of my own, and the more I was told ‘NO’ the more I had to do it; it was like a red rag to a bull to me, a fascination of the forbidden. 🙂 I was a tad naughty! LOL
Probably that was the reason I loved playing sungka. I used to ask a neighbour, Lagring, who was a year or two younger than me to play sungka. We did not bother with the wooden board; at my instigation we would just dig little holes similar to those in the wooden board on the ground under our mango tree. We would then gather little stones and away we play for what seems like hours. 🙂
My mother always knew what I was up to as I would come home with dirty hands and even dirtier finger nails. And of course those little holes which suddenly appeared all over our backyard! 🙂
In the end, knowing that I would not really listen, she just gave up on her embargo against sungka. Funnily enough as soon as the ban was lifted I moved on to another obsession, Jack’s Stone! 🙂
By the way the photo above was taken at late president Ferdinand Marcos childhood residence in Batac, Ilocos Norte. It seemed President Marcos used to play sungka as well. 🙂
I remember when we were still children, my mother would serve us rice with some viand of vegetables and fish and this recipe of salty tomatoes. I would watch her not bothering with a knife to slice the juicy ripe tomatoes. With dexterity she you would pull a tomato apart with just one hand and it was the loveliest memory of delicious childhood.
I have to say that when I first came to the UK, the tomatoes did not taste like the Philippine tomatoes. They looked the same but the UK ones are bland.
It was some few years later that Sainsburys started selling flavoursome tomatoes. It tasted slightly like the good tomatoes of the Philippines. But why has a tomato has to be flavoursome to taste like the real thing?
Kangkong is a green leafy aquatic vegetable which is rich in vitamins and nutrients.
They have long slender leaves attached to a hollow tubular stem which is crunchy or there is a bite to it. Yummy
They usually grow in anything watery plot, in fields, swamp, lakes, river or even in bogs.
I remember that they grew near a dike in the middle of our rice field when we were still living in Marag.
Kangkong can grow rather vigorously and needed a good trim to prevent them from overpowering the water surface. Good thing they are so edible and delicious.
I remember going into the waist-high water in our field to gather the kangkong sprouts. I almost had a near panic attack after a carabao leech decided to attach itself to my stomach. It took ages to remove it and it seems the more you pull at it the longer its body gets, truly elastic. That still gives me the nightmare to date.
My father did smoke whenever he plowed the field. He would use the burning ember of the cigarette to unhook any pesky leech.
Oops, back to kangkong, they are delicious in sinigang recipes as well as blanched and made into a salad with lots of chopped tomatoes and shallots with a good dash of fish sauce.
The above plant grows profusely in the Philippines, where the photo was taken. It is apparently called punctatum of the croton family.
As a young girl, still living in Marag, my sister and I would go to our neighbours, who grew the plants would willingly let us loose into their garden and getting cuttings. The neighbours were so good to us that they would allow us to turn their once beautiful shrubs hedging in their yards into stringy sorry sight of bald shrubs as if a ravenous swarm of locusts had been. 🙂 🙂 🙂
With our treasure of twigs of beautiful narrow verdant green leaves speckled with golden dust, we would dash home and plant these twigs in our front yard. We would religiously water our new plant for at least a few days and then we forget as by then we moved on to another hobby. Some of the twigs would live and some dry up and shrivelled under the punishing sun.
I must say that they do make a lovely hedge. Their bright leaves have golden dusting and they are just beautiful under the sun, gusty winds or rain and typhoon.
The trinity for sauteeing in the Philippines is the combination of garlic, onion and tomatoes. With these three ingredients many a food are cooked to perfection and one of these recipes, also a great favourite is marrow with minced beef.
Having said that, in this recipe minced beef can be substituted with minced pork, minced lamb, minced chicken or oven minced turkey. But I prefer beef or pork 🙂
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 large tomato, chopped
1 onion, peeled & chopped
500 g minced beef
I large marrow or two large courgettes, peeled, inner sack of seeds removed, then sliced as per photo above
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp fish sauce or 1 tsp salt
Using a wok or a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic and onion and stir fry for a minute.
Then add the tomato and sauté for a further 3 minutes until tomato had softened.
Stir in the minced beef and cook until it has browned.
Mix in the in the marrow slices, then add the water.
Add the fish sauce.
Turn down the heat slightly and leave to simmer for five minutes.
Check the seasoning. Add more fish sauce or salt if required.
Escargot in Coconut Milk, Photo by Rosie Reyes-Barrera
Ginataang Kuhol (Escargot in Coconut Milk)
I love and miss eating snails! That doesn’t sound right! That sounded too full-on with too much yucky factor 🙂 . I think I would call it with the more exotic French word for snail, escargot, instead.
When I was a young girl living in Marag, we used to eat a lot of escargots, which are called bisukol in Ilocano `(and kuhol in Tagalog).
My memories of bisukol (escargot) is deeply embedded into my happy family nostalgia. Eating these little critters bring back memories of strong family bonding.
In our province of Marag in Kalinga-Apayao, Philippines, dining with bisukol involves both hand and arms actions. To prepare the bisukol, prior to cooking, get a fairly heavy ladle or metal spoon and tap to break the bottom of each snail. This will allow the snail flesh to come out easily. And the most fun way of eating a bisukol is to pick one up with your right hand ensuring that the snail opening is facing down onto your plate, then banging your right wrist into your slightly extended left wrist a la Psy Gangnam Style (the horsey bit) until the snail meat comes out and drops on your plate. It was very satisfying watching everyone doing the arm action at the dining table. LOL
In the West, every paraphernalia seems to be available for most food, exotic or otherwise. Like with escargot, when eaten in fine restaurant, you will get a snail tong (like the ones with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman) and a two-prong snail fork.
Snail fork or arms action, escargot is exotically delicious! Below is a very satisfying recipe.
2 lbs escargot (kuhol)
3 cups coconut milk
1 onion, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tablespoon ginger, cut into fine strips
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp shrimp paste (1½ tbsp fish sauce)
2 green long chilli pepper
Kangkong leaves (Swamp cabbage/ water spinach), cut and trimmed into manageable size for comfortable dining 😉
Salt & pepper to taste
Tap each of the snails’ bottom to break, then wash the escargot thoroughly, removing all the grits. Did you know if you live in the UK, those pesky snails in your garden are edible. According to Gordon Ramsey, intrepid gourmets can go to the garden to gather up the snails. As an added bonus, these wild garden snails taste far better than those which are farmed. However you cannot just put garden snails directly to the pot and eat them. There are steps to be taken first for health, taste and safety reasons. First leave the snails watered but without food for two days to get rid of any toxin they might have ingested. On the third day, give them carrots; watch their droppings. If they start to poop orange substance, wash them again and put them in a sealed container into your fridge. when they are soporific, they are ready to cook. Thank goodness you can get snails, which have been purged and ready to cook.
Heat up the cooking oil in a large pan or better yet a wok (kawali),
Saute the garlic, onion and ginger.
Drop in the escargots followed by the coconut milk.
Bring to a boil and then lower down the heat and continue to simmer until the coconut milk turns slightly creamy.
Stir in the shrimp paste or fish sauce.
Add the Long chilli peppers and Kangkong ( water spinach) and simmer for 5 minutes.
Check and adjust the seasoning by adding more fish sauce or salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with freshly boiled or steamed rice. Arm wrestle your way to a delicious escargot. It is fun.