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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lasang Pinoy

After being contacted by Karen of The Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans, I decided to do a late entry for Lasang Pinoy. According to the website, Lasang Pinoy is a “food blogging event to promote Filipino food.” Somewhat similar to Is My Blog Burning? where people make food around a certain topic (at least I think that’s how the ISBB thing goes).

This first event was timed to begin on the 22nd anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination and the events that followed. Participants were asked to pick foods that were associated with the years 1982 – 1986. From his imprisionment, to his death, to People Power, this event is to recall the food, people and feelings of the time.

Unfortunately, I was too young to understand what exactly was going on. I was only three when he died, and I don’t remember my parents speaking much about it (but how much can I remember from when I was three?) I do remember looking at pictures of my dad and his yellow shirt and a picture of Ninoy. I wish I knew where that shirt went! I remember vaguely hearing about it on the news, the uprisings and when Corazon became President.

Of course, when you get older, you slowly understand the importance of things. I’ve always thought of myself as a proud Filipino-American. But I really didn’t appreciate being Filipino until I was college bound. You can go to all the Philippine Independence Day parades, hang Filipino flags on your wall, but that doesn’t guarantee you understand what it’s all about. I knew that my mom used to protest back when she was in University, and that she had escaped martial law. What I didn't know was that her first time back home 1998. She went twenty years without going back. I remember one of my family members telling me it was because of her activist past. How crazy.

My entry for Lasag Pinoy will be laing. It falls into the whole notion about not really understanding what it is to be Filipino. Growing up in America does take its toll on cultural identity. I see other filipino-americans around me and they ignore their parent's culture. They don't even identify with being Filipino. My parents did a good job of instilling both American and Filipino cultures in my sister and myself. Looking back, I think it’s the best possible way to raise your kids, and I plan on doing that when I have kids (someday someday someday).

Laing is a new thing for me – I can be extremely picky when it comes to Filipino food. I’ve always stuck to the basics, lumpia and pancit mainly. But I’ve tried other foods and found them to be even better. My dad makes a great tripe soup (don’t remember the name of it, but it’s bitter) but he can’t make it anymore because all my uncle’s have gout. I still can’t eat dinaguan (sp) but maybe one day it’ll happen.

The first time I had laing was about four years ago. I was on assignment out west and my grandmother asked me to get gabi. My aunt went to the market and bought bags of it. She bought so much that I had to leave one of my suitcases at her house so that I could bring these cherished leaves home.

I couldn’t understand what the big deal was with this stuff. I didn't understand a lot of things my family would do. Chalk it up to naivety. Chalk it up to being ignorant. Then I had laing. It was pretty good. It wasn’t a mind altering experience, but it stuck in my head that it was edible. My mom would make it and I would have a little bit, but I would forego it for a steak or some other prized meal. My interest in laing was increased ten fold last winter. I was doing research in the city and every night I would stop by my grandparents house to have dinner and watch some teleserye. My grandma made it almost weekly, whenever I was there.

The last time I had laing was two weeks. My mom was going through the fridge and took out some pork chops that were grilled sometime that week. She picked up collard greens earlier that day and decided that the best use of leftovers would be to make it. I watched how she made it so I could replicate it here back at school. With a few changes. Instead of using pork chops, my mom suggested bacon. She also suggested half the amount of coconut milk (calories calories).

Serves 5-6

2 bunches Collard greens
1 13.5oz. can Coconut milk
¼ - ½ lb. bacon
1 6oz. can tuna
1 large onion
1 medium sized ginger
4-5 cloves garlic
2 tbs. sautéed shrimp paste (ginisang bagoong)
4-5 small chilies
salt, pepper

Chop the stems of the Collard greens and discard. Cut the remaining leaves into bite-sized pieces. Rinse thoroughly to remove any dirt or bugs on the leaves (the batch I bought had many caterpillar like bugs… yeech!) Set aside.

You can buy either pre-sliced bacon or just the big chunks of it. I stayed away from the smoked/flavored bacon because I didn’t want it to be the dominant flavor. Cut up into medium sized pieces. Cook in a pan on medium-high heat until the meat starts to crisp. Roughly chop onion, garlic, and ginger and throw into pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onions become translucent. Add two tablespoons of shrimp paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the tuna, milk, sliced chilies and greens. Cover and let cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and continue cooking until most of the water has evaporated.

that's 1/4 lb. bacon, some ginger and onion
five minutes into cooking

Serve immediately over freshly cooked rice.

I just made it tonight, and I must say, I did a pretty good job. Jager, who has a fear of fish was worried that he wouldn’t like it. After eating, he admitted it was pretty good. He kept calling it a salad for some reason, but I guess I can see why he thought of it like that (even though collard greens aren't a common place in salads)

Jager - The greens go well with the rice, and you can't really taste the tuna. The bacon has a pronounced flavor, and it goes well with the rest of the ingredients. Overall, I like it.


As for my opinion, this dish reminded me of some palak dish. I think it's because of the coconut milk, and leafy greens (except palak uses spinach). The bacon and tuna flavor don’t really come out as much as I had hoped. The coconut milk was the strongest flavor in the dish, but I don’t think of that as a bad thing. Next time, I’ll add the tuna right after cooking the bacon and reduce the coconut milk. I also added some water (to wash out the tuna and coconut milk cans), and I’m thinking it’s not necessary, since the cooking removes the water from the collard greens.

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