A journey home…

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.

freshfish

You really can’t get fish any fresher
bangus
than this…
fishgutting
They could gut it for you too, no problem.

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…

prawns
Prawns are big shrimps called "Sugpo"

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…

bullhead
Beef Cheeks

Outside there are also lots of breakfast sausages called longanisa. They taste so good dipped in vinegar and accompanied by garlic fried rice.

longanisa
longanisa

And some street food that simply makes my mouth water.

streetvending
Lotsa freshly grilled  food!
lechonvendor
Lechon – roasted pig with crispy skin!

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.

strawberry
Shoga strawberry

And since Baguio neighbors Trinidad, known as the "salad bowl" of the Philippines, the produce is unparalleled.

ampalaya
Bitter melons – my mortal enemy as a child
sitaw
Sitaw – long beans
peppers
Peppers
mushrooms
Mushrooms
gabi
Gabi- not sure what it is called in English

So it’s time to head back to the kitchen.

Uhm…it’s not a home kitchen. Ever seen a vat of tofu frying?

fryingtofu
Tokwa

The burners here are super-high, watch-out don’t burn your eyebrows BTU.

highbtu
Now that’s the breath of a wok!

So you can make bilao (trays) like this…

bilao

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.

lunchprep
Sis-in-law trying to sneak in some personal cooking
steamedfish
Half-steamed fish prepped for final cooking

And of course, I’d like to introduce you all to my mom – 80 and still cooking!

mommy
Mommy dearest ;)

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!)

27 thoughts on “A journey home…

  1. Great to have you back here! Thanks for sharing your holiday photos…it was nice to have a little glimpse of your Philippine life :) I am totally wishing for some Baguio weather right about now!

  2. posts like these make me really wish I can go back to Manila. I still remember vacations in Baguio during the summer to escape the city heat and taking back wild strawberry jam.
    Awesome pics, they all look good (even the cow’s head!) & that longanisa reminded me of those bead curtains, I’d like one in my kitchen!

  3. What a delicious colorful story…love the pic of the shogas–they are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing :-)

  4. Welcome back to the blogging world – I know how challenging it can be to rev the engines again, but slowly, surely :)

    Your trip really made me miss the Singapore of my youth too. And that lechon. Be still my heart.

  5. My last trip to Baguio saddened me with the rampant urban decay, but at least the untouched mountains are still good :/
    Love the market shots :) Gabi in English is Taro.

  6. I’m so glad you’re back – but can’t wait to hear more about your adventures. I love visiting markets anywhere, and your photos are delicious – you get such a sense of the life of a place from the market. And, how nice to see a photo of your mom! Welcome back, Veron!

  7. Thanks everyone! I thought I’d showcase the famous Baguio wet market first.
    Manggy – Ay oo nga pala gabi is taro! I don’t cook with it that’s why I keep forgetting but I really should be more familiar with root vegetables.
    T.W. – still going through the pictures. I will showcase some of my good eats in Baguio, Manila and Hong Kong.

  8. Boy am I glad to “see” you Veron. Welcome back to the blogging world.

    I do so appreciate you giving us a “taste” of the food at the market. Glorious!!! Your mom looks absolutely adorable. Thank you so much for sharing…

  9. When I read posts like this – I end up missing home a lot! Thanks for bringing me back – even for a few minutes. Your Mom is adorable!

  10. Hi. I came across your blog while surfing for pastries and dessert recipies. Your pictures are gorgeous and you have a knack at making food look good on photographs! I’ve been following your blog for a while and thought I’d drop a note saying, welcome back!

  11. Wow Veron! All of these sound exciting. I’m glad you had a wonderful time visiting the Philippines. I specially like the picture of longganisa. It looks like a giant necklace – nothing compared to the mardi gras accesories :) I showed it to Valerie and she couldn’It believe it. She’s a big fan of longganisa. Oh, the food. I miss all of them. Will wait for more pictures. Welcome back!

  12. Your post really made me miss phils. I haven’t been back sine 96. The cow on the table kinda scared me. I don’t think I’ll be eating beef cheeks for a while.

  13. It’s a shame in the west so many markets have closed and everything is now pre packed in plastic boxes. Although the picture of the poor cow’s head can put some people off I think it is wrong to try and hide the idea of where our food comes from.

    How come no dogs try to make off with those sausages or are they afraid to venture into the market for fear of ending up on the chopping block?

  14. Thanks everyone. Re: cowhead pic, hubby couldn’t believe I posted it but it’s there and it’s a fact of life. That’s your food source.
    Jing – I like the bead curtain look of the longanisa too.
    John, now that you mentioned it, I did not see any stray dogs, you could have a point there. ;)

  15. Most people called “gabi” as taro in North America – that includes Canada. Both the bigger and smaller ones are available in the Asian markets. Incidentally, my wife used diced taro in cooking coconut milk and sago dessert,

    Happy cooking (and eating too)
    Tan

  16. Hi tita….just read ur blog….we really miss you here it’s so much fun having you around here…sharing gossips and secrets….hehe! But above all it is simply rewarding to be in your presence…..Lots of love from your nephews and nieces here! See you soon tita veron!
    BTW I love your blog!

  17. Chester – I had so much fun too, specially our puyatan sa kaka- kwento together with Cheryl. Can’t wait to see you all again!

  18. Hey Veron – welcome back.

    I am so glad that you went home and hope it was a great trip for you. I looooooove Asian wet market, and I go to wet market almost every morning whenever I am home in Penang. It’s so great. The ingredient we get here in supermarket is really such a shame compared to the freshness at wet market. I wish there is wet market here. Oh well.

    Not sure when was the last time you were home, but I can’t stand not being home for more than 6 months. I am too Asian. LOL.

    Again, welcome back. :)

  19. Nice photos. Ididn’t know you’re from Baguio City. It’s sad that Baguio has lost a little bit of its charm. And wow, your mom is 80 years old and still cooking. :)

  20. The picture of the fishes with visible gills really caught my attention. Lovely shot.
    And those sausages.. they look like bead curtains to me… how lovely.

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