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?
I love kangkong, or water spinach as its English given name.
Kangkong is a green leafy aquatic vegetables which is rich in vitamins and nutrients. They have a long slender leaves attached to a hollow tube stem which is crunchy or there is 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 dyke in the middle of your rice field when we were still living in Marag.
Kangkong can grow rather vigorously and needed a good trim to prevent them overpowering the water surface. Good thing they are so delicious.
I remember going into the waist-high water in our field to gather the kangkong sprout. I almost had a near panic attack after a carabao leech decided to attached itself to my stomach. It took ages to remove it and it seems the more you pull at it the longer it gets. That still gives me 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 as were as blanch and made into a salad.
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 in their garden to give us cuttings. The neighbours were so good to us that they would allow us to turn their once beautiful shrubs hedging 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 dries 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.
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.
I really find it very sad that tilapias have been having a bad press lately when in natural fact, they are one of the best tasting fish there is.
They are also very versatile, they can be cooked with just a bit of ginger and a few tablespoons of vinegar or can be fried, and be made into fish balls, etc.
Whilst growing up in Marag, where we had a farm, tilapias used to grow naturally along the dykes that run in between our rice-field.
At lunch time we would go and catch them by hand or with the help of a rattan woven like a net. After cleanign and de-scaling the fish, the would then be pushed into a bamboo skewer and set over an open fire to grill.
We then have a delicious lunch with boiled rice. We also have a home-made sauce made from small amount of water, a dash of salt and a few siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili).
Lauya is an Ilocano (people from Northern Luzon in the Philippines) dish, which is much loved by our family.
It used to be a special treat as meat was rather a seldom ingredient to our family meals whilst still living in Marag, Luna, Kalinga-Apayao in the 70s.
We kept pigs, geese, ducks and chicken, but they were more like well loved pets rather than the ‘fatted calf’ for feasting or everyday food.
There were no markets either. You planted what you would eat or go foraging in the forest, go fishing in the nearest river. lake or lagoon for subsistence.
We lived on a healthier diet of fish, shrimp, prawns, bisukol (escargot) and vegetables.
Although once in a while, my father would come home with wild boar or wild deer after going hunting at night with his brothers or friends, it was a tradition or accepted etiquette to share the meat to your friends, neighbours and relatives and therefore, not a great deal was left for the family.
I supposed it was only right as there was no working refrigeration then. To preserve the meat, it had to be salted and dried like tapas. It can then be stored and then fried when needed. I did not really like them much as they were so tough, I might as well be trying to gnaw a leather shoe.
What I did enjoy is a dish called lauya. The meat, which usually come from wild boar (baboy damo in Tagalog language or alingo in Ilocano) was so delicious. The meat is boiled for at least a couple of hours until the meat is coming of the bones and the sweet, fat marrows can be sucked out from the bones. This brings back happy childhood memory.
The lauya process of cooking can be applied to most meat.
With spices, you can sweat out flu and cold.
Lauya is a good recipe for cheaper cuts of beef.
Recipe follows below:
3 lbs beef shank (bone-in), cut into serving pieces
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and crushed (the amount is according to your taste; I love spicy lauya so I tend to add sliced ginger from a big chunk)
1tsp whole black peppers
1 small green cabbage, halved and cored
1 bok choy
Fish sauce or salt to taste
Method of Preparation:
Put beef in a big pot and cover with water. Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
Skim off the scum on the surface.
Add the ginger, garlic, onion and whole peppercorns (black pepper).
Reduce the heat and cover the pot and leave to simmer for at least two hours or until the meat is tender. Check on the meat once in a while to ensure that it has not boiled dry. Add more water if necessary. Remember this dish is soupy, the soup will be so heavenly.
Increase the heat a little and then add the potatoes or any other vegetable you fancy, even plantain; cook for 10 minutes.
Add cabbage and bok choy or pechay and cook for another 5 minutes.
Season with more salt or by adding fish sauce, if using.
Serve with freshly boiled rice or if several types of vegetables, like carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams have been added, this soup can be a one dish meal.
If eating it with boiled rice, a little dish of fish sauce generously drizzled with calamansi or lemon is a delicious side.
Aren’t these trees beautiful? Aren’t we lucky we have them?
We should look after them, the best we can.
Let’s say NO to deforestation; No to illegal logging!
Coconuts in the mountain, photo by PH Morton
Do you know?
There are people who are scared of the thought and sight of trees and forests.
Some have pathological fear.
I do understand this in some ways. When I was very young, I tagged along with my father to go to our farm. As he was doing some farm and field chores, he told me to sit under the shade of a big Narra tree.
Anyway, it was so quiet that day, all I can hear was the occasional sound of wind brushing through leaves of trees around me.
As I looked up, I suddenly got very frightened of the many coconut trees. I felt they were looking at me. For some reason, I felt rather claustrophobic surrounded by trees. How strange was that – being claustrophobic in the open?!!!
Probably there is another word similar to claustrophobic but that is how it felt. Luckily the experience was a one off. I love trees, I love forests as well. Hiking in forested area is fun, though they can appear rather mysterious.
Did you know?
Fear of trees and forest are very real, in fact, there are some official phobia terms allotted to them.
Dendrophobia is fear of trees. It comes from two Greek words, Dendro for tree and phobia, of course, is fear. Xylophobia is the fear of wooden objects or woods. Xylo is a Greek word for wood and phobia as before is fear.
Hylophobia is the fear of woods or wooden material as well. Hylo comes from the Greek word for forest.