Category Archives: secret pot

caramelized pork belly

Thai style pork belly
the urge to have this really rich and powerfully flavoured meat was so intense! (could it be the snowy freezy weather?) that i quick-thawed my reserve pork belly from the freezer by submerging it in cold water, making sure to replenish the water constantly. then i did a quick search for the recipe here at baby rambutan. guess what!
i couldn’t find it.
turns out i have never saved the recipe, and a quick look at one source revealed that the instructions there were so vague that i can’t remember how i ever cooked it. forgetfulness is such an awful curse! *not to mention foodsites that give very blurry directions. grrr.
so i thought, i’d better record it here, now, so that the next time the big craving hits, i have a ready recipe.

“Thai-style” caramelized pork belly, great with garlic-fried rice and pickled vegetables, perfect for snow-bound blustery blizzardy days:

caramelize 1/3 cup sugar then remove from the heat and pour in 1/2 cup fish sauce and 3 cups water. (careful! the sugar will seize up and sizzle and spatter.) return to medium heat then stir until dissolved. let cool until lukewarm.
preheat oven to 350°F.
place pork belly in baking dish. rub with freshly cracked black peppercorns, scatter sliced shallots and crushed cloves of garlic (the amount depends on your taste buds), and pour the fish-sauce syrup on top. cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for about 1 & 1/2 hours or depending on how big the pieces of pork are. check for doneness by pricking with a fork.

pork binagoongan

i had so many memorable treats and meals in Manila and Tagaytay, Cavite…so many that i’m quite overwhelmed with how to describe them here.
i’ll sift through the photos some more…

in all the “cocooning” we did as a family i was not able to spend much time with old friends and new blogmates, regrettably. i will just have to daydream of a return visit, with my kids and husband, under happier circumstances.

now, back in my habitat once more, i am seeking comfort and solace by looking at the photos and videos taken of our “family reunion”… and by cooking pork binagoongan(–pork belly stewed in fermented shrimp paste, vinegar and sugar). i have a stash of pickled green mangoes, that’s why.
pork binagoongan
my sister cooked this dish for me when we were in LA, and she in turn got the recipe from a sympathetic friend. there are probably hundreds of versions out there, but i liked her recipe because it wasn’t too salty. it also comes with a warning: will make you eat too much rice.
(you don’t necessarily have to serve with pickled green mangoes of course. i think pickled hot peppers or pepperoncini, or cucumber salad, would be groovy too.)

“arduous but delicious” as my Auntie would say (when she shared the family bunos recipe)–the recipe involves some advanced prepping.

other porky-salty-spicy combinations…
Chinese binagoongan
pork kim chee

“sizzling hot!”

spicy pork with coconut and chilies
the dish has contentious origins. is it an invention from a Manila restaurant, or an original dish from the Bicol region?
i first heard about it from dorm-mates and work colleagues at the Refugee Center in the bundoks of Bataan–but i never did get a chance to try.
the kids wanted Popeye’s fried chicken but i had a hankering for something different, something spicy, so i dug up several recipes from the web and checked the pantry for what i needed…a couple of fatty pork chops, coconut milk, ground turmeric (in place of fresh), bagoong alamang (fermented shrimp paste), and mounds of sliced fresh green chilies. i don’t dare call it “Bicol Express,” never having tasted the real thing myself. i’ll just say it’s pork with coconut milk, turmeric, bagoong and chili peppers.
it was truly zesty, and made me want to gulp it down with lots of hot jasmine rice and ice cold beer…

not-so-instant sisig

the craving just got too intense, too hot to handle.
i even ordered some from the one and only Pinoy restaurant in…my city? the state? the whole of New England?
it would have been good, except that they put a LOT of minced ginger in their otherwise delicious (and reasonably priced) sisig.
it took too long to pull out the finely minced pieces–don’t get me wrong! i like ginger, i love ginger!–just not in my sisig.
so of course, the only recourse, is to make some myself.
i first had mine, sizzling, at Trellis Restaurant–at the site which used to be my Uncle’s house.

there’s so much fun in the search for ingredients. (???) first you have to find a pork head. barring that, you find pork face/snout. the best sisig i had was in California, Ma-made, with fresh roasted lechon and the creamy pork brain mashed in.
impossible? then find some pork belly and ears to provide that unique crunchy chewy “makunat” texture.
i got lucky and found pork snouts. i just supplemented with a meaty pork belly, and the instant sisig packet,
and my fresh calamansi from California, and bottled labuyo juice,
and fresh chopped red onions. roast parboiled chicken livers stand in for the brains….

and the cravings have been satiated.
for now.
now where’s that sizzling platter?

pork belly cooked with kim chee

i saw many versions of this in the blogs that i regularly visit and it sure made my mouth water at the mere thought: pork belly! kim chee!

so on a day when my appetite seemed to be blah and in need of invigorating, and i couldn’t think of what to cook, this dish came to mind, a very simple dish with explosive flavors. just make sure you have a cold drink nearby.

cut pork belly into two inch strips. season with salt and pepper.

heat a flat bottomed skillet and add vegetable oil. brown the pork belly all over and set aside on a paper towel lined platter. skim off excess fat then add crushed garlic and scallions. add pork belly pieces, kim chee, a splash each of sesame oil and rice wine. i also added about a tablespoon of fermented fish paste (bagoong isda or padek). add enough water to cover, put on the lid, and let simmer until pork is tender.

pour over a huge mound of hot white rice and garnish with more kim chee, if you dare.

a secret pot

i was always skulking around in our kitchen, lifting lids and sniffing pots even as a very small child. the cook-of-the-moment (my mom was a very meticulous employer, so we had quite a succession of cook-nanny-helpers) was always shooing me away. i almost always found a little pot of mysterious stews, my mom’s personal stash of pinakbet, dinengdeng, bulanglang, which was not served with our dinner–just for her. i think it was because she knew we wouldn’t eat it but she had to have some.
now i have my own secret pot: those dishes i know the husband and kids won’t want but i must have. this is one of them…

pork with black pepper, garlic, and fish sauce,a Cambodian recipe which i learned from tv’s Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, back in the days when i had the firstborn son. and had to sit a lot while nursing him…
this is a very spicy and hearty fishy dish. add more or less peppers as you wish. (sometimes i add sliced fresh green long sili right before removing from heat.)

crush 3 large cloves of garlic with 1/2 tbsp. of peppercorns. saute in hot peanut oil. add 3/4 lb. pork butt, cut into cubes and about 1/3 cup of smashed cilantro roots or stems. stir fry until pork is browned. add 4 or more, according to taste, dried red chilies. add 2-3 tbsps. of Vietnamese fish sauce and turn down heat to simmer. cook until pork is tender, adding 1/4 cup of water at a time if it dries out too quickly. serve with sprigs of cilantro and a squeeze of lime. and hot jasmine rice.

…and i will offer the kittens a bite now and then so it won’t have to be my secret pot anymore (husband doesn’t eat cilantro!).

Chinese-Filipino Binagoongan (pork cooked in shrimp sauce)

My Lola called it “sunok,” and she felt it very often during her stay in upstate New York.
It is the feeling of a tired palate, when applied to appetites, when one feels no gumption to test a new recipe for the same old tired ingredients, when one’s tastebuds are hankering for new adventures. Lola also used to say “nakakasuya,” suya meaning almost nauseating, sickening, when she referred to dishes rich in cream or spice.
So this dish came to be, an offshoot of a dish husband and I used to have in a favorite Chinese restaurant, sizzling platter of squid in shrimp sauce. I bought a bottle of “fine shrimp sauce” and found a recipe for pork which I’ve since revised and tweaked through the years. Guaranteed to spark a dull lull in your tastebuds, when you need a tasty hit of something sharp and strong. (This is not for the timid.)
First you need to find these cross-cut pork spareribs, which are sold in long thin pieces or chopped up. They are often served in tiny bowls at dimsum, steamed in black bean sauce. I like them with shrimp sauce.

Marinate in rice wine and black pepper, at least half an hour.

Add thinly sliced red or green hot peppers, 1 big knob of ginger, sliced, half a head of garlic, crushed. Grind black peppercorns and sprinkle sea salt over the meat. Add 1 stalk of green onions, julienned, green and white parts. Mix in well, 1 (or more, according to taste) tbsp. of Chinese shrimp sauce (Lee Kum Kee or Koon Chun) and 1 tsp. of rice wine, and set over steamer. (Have on hand boiling water in a separate pot to add to the steamer as necessary). Steam until pork is tender and almost falling off the bone, about 1 hour and 15 minutes or more. Add boiling water as necessary.

(Light a scented candle now.) Serve over hot steamed rice. Guaranteed to drive “sunok” blues away.