From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Memories of Manila

I had a dream last night about my Mom’s family, and a lot of that dream took place in the Philippines, more specifically, Manila.  There, in the tropical climate, (in my dream) we indulged on I-don’t-remember-what foods, battled with roaches the size of small dogs, and rode the Jeepney around town.  Amusingly enough, this dream was probably based on some semblance of reality, as I remember that we went to the Philippines when I was in second grade because my Grandfather had died.  I vaguely remember the flight over, long that it was, stopping over in Tokyo, then spending some time in Hong Kong, where we had dinner at PoPo’s (That’s what we called our Grandmother) restaurant.  Sadly, for some bizarre reason, I was not feeling well and ended up sleeping on the red booth while my Mom and Sister got to eat with her.  I also remember feeling, at one point,  that I was on the top of the world, because we went to a restaurant that was on the rooftop of a hotel that looked out over the city.  I remember the sparkling blue pool that the other kids were splashing around in, wishing I could join them.

Huge were the roaches, and colorful were the jeepneys, and good was the food.  It was in Manila that I got my first exposure to red bean paste, and to this day, I am still a huge fan. 

Sadly, I have not been afforded the opportunity to return to that side of the world, although it is currently on my bucket list.  Thankfully, I have been able to find wonderful restaurants in California that offer the same delicious food that I got to taste in Manila.  My favorite food items from the Philippines have to include Halo Halo, lumpia, and Pancit Palabok.  (yumm… drooling just thinking about it right now…)

Thanks to some of my Filipino co-workers in the Bay Area knowing where to find these tasty meals, I was rarely deprived my regular craving of both.  At my favorite, House of Sisig in Daly City, as you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted by yards of deli display cases where you can see the food simmering in its own juices

Halo-halo is a dessert like dish that is served as a mixture of shaved ice and condensed milk, to which is added sweetened beans, tapioca, sweet potatoes, sweet crushed rice and sweet corn.  It often came with fruits and ice cream on top.  This dessert is considered an amalgam of cultures in the Philippines, as the ingredients come from a wide variety of influences, many of which were introduced by cultures far outside the Philippines itself. 

Lumpia is similar to the Chinese Spring Roll, and it is offered as a fried appetizer or fresh side dish.  The most popular is Lumpia Shanghai, filled with ground pork, onion, carrots and spices, with an egg to bind the mixture together.  It is often served with a sweet red bean paste, or sliced bananas as a dessert offering.  The beauty of lumpia is the ease with which even the common cook can make it at home, in its variety of forms. 

Pancit Palabok is a noodle dish that is often smothered with shrimp sauce and topped with shrimp, fried pork rind, fish flakes, egg and green onions.  It is a dish that I remember seeing often at our potlucks as it is easy to make and delicious to eat. 

The Longanisa Hamonado is also a tasty treat, even though it is just a long word for fried sausage.  It is avaiIable in a breakfast sausage as well... sufficiently greasy to not need butter... I used to over-indulge on Longanisa with steamed rice…mmm… the memories…

I have been told that there are a couple of good Filipino Restaurants here in San Antonio, and I guess I am going to have to try them out, because, thanks to my dream, and now my memories, I am craving the assault on my senses.  I want to hear the dull roar of background noise as I walk into a restaurant filled with content diners.  I want to taste the crispy noodles, savor the sweetness of the halo-halo, and dip some lumpia into a sweet chili sauce…

Until then, Good Eating, Friends...

Lumpia Shanghai
Makes about 50 lumpia/spring rolls

1 package Lumpia wrappers (25 sheets)
2 pounds ground pork
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Using a serrated knife, cut the square lumpia wrappers in half so that you have two stacks of rectangular wrappers. Place a damp paper towel over the wrappers to keep them from drying out as you work.
Combine the pork, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, eggs, and black pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, or a rubber spatula, mix the filling well so that the seasonings are evenly distributed.
Place one of the rectangular wrappers vertically on your work surface with the short edge facing you. Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling on the wrapper about half an inch from the edge closest to you. Grasp the bottom edge of the wrapper and roll it up and over the filling, continuing to roll until 2 inches of wrapper remain.
Dip two fingers into a bowl of water, then moisten the last 2 inches of wrapper with your fingers. Finish rolling the lumpia, then rest it on its seam. Continue rolling with the rest of the filling and lumpia wrappers.
At this point, you can freeze your rolled lumpia if you wish by placing them in freezer bags and then into your freezer.
To cook the lumpia, fill a large frying pan with about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Gently place the lumpia into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes total (if frying frozen lumpia, it will take 1 to 2 minutes longer).
Place the fried lumpia on paper towels and serve immediately with sweet and sour sauce
You can also add finely minced raw shrimp to the pork mixture if you’d like. Also, instead of ground pork, you can use ground beef, or even ground turkey if you’re watching your girlish figure.

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