I’m lucky to have some good friends. Friends who love food as much as I do, and who come from many diverse backgrounds and cultures. One of those friends is Jen, and for as long as I can recall she’s been telling me about how great Filipino food is, and how I need to try it. “Back in the Philippines” is her favourite catch phrase, and yet somehow I always seem to be conveniently absent when all of these amazing dishes were being served up, aside from a scorching batch of Bicol Express she’d made at a curry night that now seems like eons ago.
So enough teasing… It was time to put up or shut up. The word was put out and the date set, the great Filipino bbq was finally going to happen. House boy Ben busily got the patio ready with furniture and umbrellas for shade, and both Ben and Jen starting to acquire all the things they’d need to make a Filipino feast.
Now I started to realise why it had taken such a long time for this to all come together. Filipinos do not do things by halves. The list of dishes Jen had taken it upon herself to make was a tour de force of all things good and traditional, and it took the better part of a few days for her to prep it all up.
She had a little help though. Ben, in true male style, ably manned the bbq all day, sister Jasmin did her bit and brought along a dessert dish, and Filipino food appreciator Greg tried his hand at a dish of his own.
In the end the list of dishes sounded a little like this (apologies for misspelling or poor descriptions):
- Pinakbet : A kind of vegetable stew with pumpkin, string beans, eggplant, okra, shrimp paste
- (Pancit) Palabok : Noodles covered in an orange coloured sauce (made from fish sauce, corn flour, and a bunch of other things) with prawns and sliced egg and calamansi lime juice
- Kare Kare: Oxtail stew in peanut sauce, eaten with shrimp paste.
- Tilapia : A small fish that gets grilled over coals
- Grilled Liempo : Basically a massive hunk of marinated pork belly grilled on the bbq
- Lechon Kawali : An awesome way of cooking pork belly by boiling it, cooling it, deep frying it, cooling it again, and then deep frying a second time. This results in beautifully tender pork belly on the inside, with a fantastic crunchy exterior. Greg did an amazing job of this, served in pieces with a dipping sauce, it was fantastic
- Brazo de Mercedes : A custard / merengue cake rolled into a log and baked. This didn’t turn out quite how Jasmin wanted, so it ended up being a Lasagne de Mercedes. Still tasted great though :)
- Leche Flan : The ubiquitous Filipino dessert, a decadently rich version of creme caramel.
I did my best at getting into the spirit by making some fairly potent caipirihnia (national drink of Brazil) using calamansi limes (which are small and intense) and a healthy dose of Tanduay Rum. They weren’t quite to everyones taste, but did make a refreshing change from San Miguel beer in terms of authentic Filipino drinks.
To say this bbq was a feast would be a drastic understatement. Jen had even gone to the trouble to make her own shrimp paste (Bagoong) which was served both as the saltiest condiment I’ve ever tried (something any true Filipino will appreciate), and to flavour many of the dishes.
So maybe there is something to Filipino food after all :)