What can I say? I’ve been MIA for more than a month. Some of you knew I went home to the Philippines, while some of you emailed me wondering if I had turned my back on blogging. The truth is, when you stop blogging for a couple of weeks because someone still had dial-up internet connection at his home (yes, I’m looking at you bro), you kinda lose your blogging mojo.;)
So what have I been up to? Can’t say it was all food-related, although you can all be assured that there had been a lot of eating specially of the deep fried pork belly and lechon macau variety – gah! I do hesitate to have my cholesterol checked right now.
I got into the Filipino teleserya craze. Well, not really. Just one particular series. But at least I kinda know who is who in Philippine cinema and television now and at least won’t be told by my nieces and nephews "Naku tita, Aga Mulach is so last decade!" No TFC (The Filipino Channel) for me yet though.
I got hooked on frozen yoghurt. Somehow it tastes healthier than ice cream.
I got to look a live duck in the eye before it met its maker (that experience was traumatic…I’ll be honest I couldn’t bring myself to eat the duck dish after that).
I tried boxing. And I mean 12 rounds in the ring with a trainer in the same gym that Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao trained in for his fight against Cotto.
I ate bibingka, puto bungbong, ensaymada, and had hot chocolate batirol galore.
I got to join a marathon, ran the 5k segment and now know who coach Rio is.
And now I’m getting ahead of myself.
So where exactly is home? Home is Baguio city. The city of pines. The summer capital of the Philippines, because the weather is simply gorgeous even when the rest of the country is under an oppressive tropical heat wave. It’s a city high up in the mountains.
Unfortunately, the Baguio of my youth is no more. The city has become congested with people, cars and smoke-belching jeepneys and taxis. But remnants of its charm somehow manages to surface when rush hour is over and when the cool breeze descends it makes you reach for a light coat and stay cozy.
And I do have fond memories of the Baguio market. My Ah-ngin (grandma) used to take me with her when she did her daily marketing runs for the restaurant. I always thought the wet market was "icky" but now with a new found understanding of food and cooking, I wished I had paid more attention to her – maybe she was trying to teach me something, I was just too stubborn to listen then.
So when my brother asked me if I wanted to visit the market, I jumped on the chance to come face to face with the source of my food. Sometimes you need to get out of the comfortable trappings of the supermarket and experience the dying trade (apparent in most industrialized countries) of the wet market.
You really can’t get fish any fresher
I think for the first few days in the Philippines I wanted shrimp at every meal. There is this small variety called the "jumping shrimp" . They taste best when they are still alive …and well … "jumping" right before you cook them. If I heard my aunt right, you throw them into the pot and make sure to put the lid on it if you don’t want these crustaceans leaping at ya.
However if you are out of luck and the market is out of them you still have a wide variety to choose from…
I didn’t have a lot of luck taking pictures in the meat section because the lighting was off but I did manage to catch this. I did a double take when I passed this guy…
Outside there are also lots of breakfast sausages called longanisa. They taste so good dipped in vinegar and accompanied by garlic fried rice.
And some street food that simply makes my mouth water.
Times like this is when I wish I had a second stomach.
Anyway, Baguio is also known for its strawberries. This is the Japanese variety called Shoga.
And since Baguio neighbors Trinidad, known as the "salad bowl" of the Philippines, the produce is unparalleled.
So it’s time to head back to the kitchen.
Uhm…it’s not a home kitchen. Ever seen a vat of tofu frying?
The burners here are super-high, watch-out don’t burn your eyebrows BTU.
So you can make bilao (trays) like this…
Here’s my sister-in-law making short work of the the green onions. Yes, that is a sack of carrots in the back. The kitchen is really small considering all the orders that come through, I was afraid to drop my camera in a wok of hot oil.
And of course, I’d like to introduce you all to my mom – 80 and still cooking!
That’s all for now! I have to sift through more pictures. (Most of the wonderful shots above, the first fish picture and most of the produce were taken by my brother. Thanks Mark!)