I remember harvesting eggplant, ampalaya (bitter gourd), okra, and tomatoes. Not to mention kangkong, talbos ng kamote, sili, saluyot at malunggay. Yup, my dad kept a vegetable garden in our backyard when we were kids. That must be the reason why my siblings and I never had qualms about eating vegetables; we were fed fresh veggies direct from the garden.
I remember the 1st veggie dishes I ever tried cooking were the very Pinoy sauteed vegetable dishes ginisang repolyo, sitaw, petchay (sauteed cabbage, string beans, bok choi) and the likes, then pinakbet and chop suey. I overcooked ‘em most of the time but nobody ever complained.
About A Dish, a Recipe that changed your foodie life
… it is pinakbet or pakbet. I love my dad’s version and as a young kid it’s one of the first dishes I cooked. How it affected my foodie life is a real biggie. First and foremost it is a melange of vegetables and spices – okra, squash, yard-long beans, aubergine, bittergourd, tomatoes, green chili, garlic and onions (the list can still go on). Sure the Ilocano way (well at least my 1st memories of pakbet) is to cook the veggies until shriveled but cooking the dish itself makes one understand each vegetable’s characteristics, when one isn’t scrumptious when overcooked, or that garlic has to be fried until brownish and aromatic, or that yard-long beans are better when crunchy. Pakbet has opened a new door for me and I eventually experimented with other vegetable recipes.Iska Says on The Butterfly Effect
I remember asking my dad between sobs why I couldn’t help but cry every time I slice onions. Oh I don’t remember what he said but he told me to wash the onions before slicing and to hold my breath while doing it. Bakit nga ba nakakaiyak? Here’s why.
I remember how I’d throw up every time I try to eat okra. Though we were never tricked or bribed into eating vegetables, we had our share of hated ones. Okra used to be my kryptonite; my bro would never touch saluyot and my sis cringed at the thought of having ampalaya for lunch. But I fell in love with okra eventually. My love affair with the lady fingers (along with, uhmm, a lot of other things) started only a decade ago in Brunei.
I remember pretending to like saluyot to please my parents. Like the slimy okra, I hated it so much. I still do, I swear.
I remember I was so much in love with ampalaya. It wasn’t love at first bite but how amused was I to see the horror on my sister’s face while I feasted on my favorite ampalaya con carne.
Funny how time flies. Now it’s my son’s turn to say “Oh my gulay! Gulay na naman!” as sauteed veggies and stir-fry recipes save our tummies when I have so little time for cooking during busy days. Lucky me, my son do love veggies especially the leafy ones. If not, making him understand the importance of eating vegetables can be a true parenting challenge. (The photo to your right shows him with broccoli and caulli flower stir-fry.)
So let me share a variation of Ampalaya con Carne. Back home, pork has always been the meat we add to this dish though it does taste better with beef. Another way is Chinese-style, a stir-fry with ginger and with cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Here is a stir-fry recipe that is lasang pinoy with tomatoes. With regards to the bitterness, I no longer follow the roll-the-ampalaya-on-salt thingy anymore. My sister’s tip (actually, from her house-help who apparently had ampalaya almost everyday): just drop the slices into the pan and simmer without stirring. Oh you’d be surprised how well it works!
1/4 kilo lean pork, cut into strips
ampalaya, cut length-wise, de-seed, then cut diagonally into strips
5-6 tbsp of crushed garlic
1 large onion, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tsp corn starch
salt and pepper
Combine 5 tbsp of soy sauce, a little salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the pork strips to coat and marinate for 30 minutes or more. In another bowl, mix 1/2 cup of water with a pinch of salt, a dash of pepper, cornstarch and about 3 tbsp of soy sauce. Mix well and set aside.
Heat oil in a pan over medium to high heat. Throw in the pork strips and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add little oil to the pan and heat again. Stir-fry garlic until aromatic. Add in the onion and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are mashed and juicy. Pour 1/2 cup of water and bring to boil. Adjust the taste with salt if necessary. Add the ampalaya slices and simmer without stirring until crisp-tender. Do not overcook. Scoop out the ampalaya slices and arranged in a platter. Return the cooked pork plus the reserved marinade mixture to the pan. Mix thoroughly and cook for about 30 seconds or until the sauce thickens. Pour over the ampalaya slices. Serve hot.