Monday, August 20, 2007
Pinakbet (or Pakbet)
As much as I love Filipino food, I don't regularly cook it. You see, the thing with Filipino food is, it doesn't taste half as good as it should unless shared with someone else who truly appreciates it. My hubby (bless his heart) is not a big fan. Sharing with him a Filipino dish I enjoyed in childhood does not really evoke the finger-licking memories I love to wallow in from time to time. Never mind, we have more than enough shared memories we've created over wedges of Gruyere, merguez sausages and bottles of Margaux to last our lifetime.
Soooo, when Mum calls a Sunday lunch with the extended family, I rub my hands in glee. A chance to cook a Filipino dish and eat another couple (or 20) other dishes my 'mother tastebuds' will enjoy. My Mum and her sisters are all excellent cooks but I'm never intimidated about making a contribution for these lunches as they are always appreciative of whatever I bring.
Pinakbet (or Pakbet) would have to be up there amongst my all-time favourite Filipino dishes, although ironically, it's made up of vegetables I detested as a child. I have to always remind myself how my taste evolved over time whenever there is a battle at dinner time to make my little daughter eat her greens. Perhaps one day, she will learn to love Pinakbet as much as I do now.
There are numerous versions of Pinakbet I have come across. I do not use bagoong, preferring the less pungent flavour of anchovy (yes, there are things more pungent than anchovies, believe it or not!). Serving the bagoong, instead, as a condiment alongside this dish just gives one leeway on how strong a fish flavour they want with each mouthful.
For an 'extended family size' serve (around 10 adults), you will need:
400g pork spare ribs
300g Jap pumkin, cut into cubes
3 pcs lebanese eggplant (the thin long variety), cut into bite-size pieces
10 pieces baby okra
1 bunch snake beans (sitaw), cut into 4cm pieces
1 medium bitter melon (ampalaya), sliced into bite-size pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced finely
5 very ripe tomatoes, chopped (or 400g tinned chopped tomatoes)
4 anchovies in oil, mashed
1/2 c chopped chicharon (pork crackling, pork scratching)
1/2 c water
fish sauce to taste
6Tbsp cooking oil
Boil the pork pieces until tender. Cut into cubes and then shallow fry until brown. Take the pork out of the frying pan and leave around 3 Tbsp of fat.
Sautee the garlic, onion and tomatoes in the fat until soft. Add the anchovies and cooked pork, let simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the water and pumkin. Cover and let simmer for another 10 minutes.
Add the rest of the vegetables and the chicharon. Season with fish sauce. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft enough for your liking.
Personally, I take the pot off the heat when the vegetables are still firm to the bite. I always like to leave a bit of 'crunch' on my and snake beans and bitter melon.