Filipinos love rice. My husband still marvels at the mounds of white rice consumed every time the family gets together for a meal. There really is nothing more filling and satisfying than steamed white rice with a sauced meat dish and some patis on the side.
Apart from the daily steamed staple, rice is also enjoyed in various conconctions, whether it be savoury or sweet. One of my favourite rice dishes is Arroz a la Valenciana or Valenciana, for short. There are also various Latin American versions of this Spanish dish of rice, meat, a tomato base and vegetables but the Filipino interpretation is very much Asian-style with the use of sticky rice, coconut milk and fish sauce.
Valenciana is a dish usuallly made for fiestas in the Philippines- it is truly a special occassion dish, being colourful, rich and very filling. I made this for New Year's Day dinner. I actually hesitated trying to make this as my childhood memories of Valencianas were of perfect creations. Chewy sticky rice, tender meat redolent of rich tomatoes and bay leaves. Those were either made by a great aunt (who used to cook for rich families in Manila) or my late grandfather. Having made this now, the process, I feel is not that complicated but I still have to make this a few times before I get the consistency exactly right. Valencianas are supposed to be crusty on the sides (I remember aunts fighting over the tutong, the blackened, crunchy overcooked bits) and beautifully chewy but moist in the middle.
To further get a Filipino flavour, I searched for banana leaves to line the pots with. The authentic process involves cooking the rice in broth and coconut milk in one pot, stirring until the liquid is absorbed (as in making risotto) and then finishing off the cooking in the pot lined with banana leaves. The fragrance as the rice was steaming in the leaves was beautiful. I also experimented with wrapping individual serves, finished off in the oven instead of the stove top. This is an easier option and the parcels are easier to transport as baon for picnics and can even be thrown on a barbecue for re-heating.
The end result was quite tasty but the rice turned out too soft. I gave in to the temptation to add more water than what was required after seeing that the rice was already quite sticky but still raw in the middle. I did not realise that there was more than enough moisture in the banana leaves to cook the grains to perfection. I have noted this for next time.
I am sharing this at the Lasang Pinoy December edition. The theme being 'Rice to the Challenge', I'm sure Filipino food bloggers worldwide would be in their element. Be sure to check out the round-up by JMom from Cooked from the Heart.
Filipino Style 'Arroz a la Valenciana'
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 c sliced chorizo
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped finely
3 medium very ripe tomatoes, chopped finely
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
6 bay leaves
1.5 kg chicken pieces
2 Tbsp fish sauce
4 potatoes, cut into chunks
2.5 c sticky rice (soaked in water for a couple of hours)
1x400g can coconut milk
1c chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 large red pepper, sliced
1 c green peas
boiled egg for garnish (optional)
Line a pot or deep pan with banana leaves and set aside
Heat oil in a pot and fry the chorizo until brown. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
In the same oil, sautée garlic and onion until browned slightly. Add the chopped tomatoes paprika and bay leaves. Mix around and simmer with the lid on until you get a thick sauce, around 5 minutes.
Add the chicken pieces and fish sauce. Mix around until the chicken pieces are slightly cooked. Add the potato, stir and cover to simmer for around 10 minutes.
Drain the sticky rice and add into the pot. Stir until the grains are well coated in the sauce. Add the coconut milk and stock.
On medium heat, keep on stirring until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, approximately 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cooked chorizo, red pepper and peas then transfer the mix into the banana leaf-lined pot. Further cook on low heat for 30-40minutes until the rice is cooked and very sticky.
If making individual serves, spoon some of the rice onto banana leaves, wrap then tie with twine. Place in a baking tray and cook in a 150deg C oven for 30 minutes.
To serve, garnish with sliced boiled eggs.