Pinoy Spaghetti

Spaghetti Bolognese a la Pinoy

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I am definitely at a lost on making an authentic Pinoy Spaghetti. I haven’t eaten one maybe since 1992 when I was still working in a bank, and a Jollibee Spaghetti (Joy?) was a regular celebration meal whenever there was department head or staff’s birthday; ahhh, the banker’s life in Manila. It was a very affordable treat to some standard, and indeed acceptable to everyone (had my daily lunch in plastic bags). A couple of Magnolia Chocolate and Chocolate Marble Ice Cream bought from the nearest supermarket (lunch break was an hour and many others still had time to catch-up on sleep. Wow!!) was also part of the treat. Anyway I moved up to eating in a cafeteria by the turn of the millennium (luckily, lunch break was still set to an hour).

Back in 2010, when I visited Manila and had a chance to eat at the Philippines’ biggest, and currently undefeated fastfood chain, I ate the Fried Chicken Gravy Combo. That I missed! I missed the crunch and the gravy, and the steamed rice that came with the combo was just a filler. I don’t deep-fry my food and somehow, during that late in the evening when I had it was a heavenly adouring meal for someone starving. Pinoy Spaghetti, in my viewpoint, is a fuzzy and whacked version ( or fusion?) of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce or Spaghetti in Meat Sauce. I had no sense nor idea on how it evolved to be a very sweet tomato sauce.

Coming up with a Pinoy Spaghetti as an answer to KCC’s Challenge for this month is truly a challenge for me. I have been so used to seeing, tasting and discovering Italian Pomodoro here in North America and to some extent, Europe, that I have been totally shunned to the very sweet and very tangy Filipino version. My palate was probably confused too with the origins of the Pinoy Tomato Sauce. I’m inclined towards the classics, and the sweet, tasting tomato sauce doesn’t veer towards that ideal. I needed a jumpstart. I had zero knowledge whatsoever on how to begin this challenge. I was experiencing ‘Spaghetti Pains’ much like the ‘Adobo Pains’ I encounter whenever I am faced on making something that is totally popular, simple to many, and maybe a common knowledge to the ordinary. Where and how to start?

I approached by making the tomato sauce first. That was the main ingredient and from there, everything else followed. It had to be different though. I didn’t like it as plain as I have tasted and tried ages ago, but should be as addictive as Pig’s Ears or Pork Stomach. That was my new target and objective. I went on research mode and discovered several tomato based sauces used in many Tapas. I double checked each one and tweaked the same appropriate to the Filipino Palate. This is Spaghetti in Meat Sauce, Pinoy Style, sadly without the hotdogs or the corned beef, although in some point, I contemplated on putting either. By the end, I knew it wouldn’t work. Both, however, would work as a side dishes.

Olive Oil
Ground Beef
Ground Pork
White Onion, minced
Garlic, minced
Bay leaves

Tomato Sauce:
Chicken Stock
Italian Crushed Tomatoes
Brown Sugar
Cayenne Pepper
Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper
Mexican Oregano
White Onion, Minced
Garlic, Minced

Blend the Chicken Stock, Italian Crushed Tomatoes, Achuete, Brown Sugar, Honey, Cayenne Papper, Cinnamon, Parsley, Mexican Oregano, Salt & Pepper, and the Onion and Garlic. Add more stock or water to achieve consistency.

Brown the Ground Beef and Ground Pork in a sauté pan. Set them on one side of the pan and add in the minced onion and garlic. Dust with flour and pour the blend in the pan. Add the Bayleaves and let it boil to simmer for about an hour or so. Set aside.

Start a pot of salted water for the Spaghetti. In another pan, sauté onion and garlic with olive oil, add the Spaghetti, the meat sauce and a little pasta water. Toss and add the cheese. Drizzle with Olive Oil and Sea Salt (or Patis) before plating and serving. Garnish with finely chopped Parsley.

“Kulinarya Cooking Club was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine.

Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino food as we do.

… the October theme will be… the iconic Filipino-style spaghetti. At one point in our lives, we’ve all tasted it and know what it is, and what it shouldn’t be. It’s probably the only kind of spaghetti in the world that has to be succulently sweet, chock full of goodies like hotdogs, ground beef/pork, mushrooms, even corned beef! Gio, Kyle & Bea

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When I was growing up, my parents and I used to eat out and try different restaurants after celebrating the Sunday Mass. Moreover, during the course of the summer break, I had the opportunity to see some places which, when looking back, I had never realized how lucky I was as a teen to be able to travel. My family and I went to Europe and some parts of the United States, and what I saw along that path of my life inspired me to become a 'Chef.' The 'whites' they wore for me, during those growing-up and finding 'myself' years, portrayed a sort of fascinating and powerful figure in an extremely sophisticated, higly inviting and invigorating work place; and still maintain an unblemished and clean uniform after a very busy service. That picture of a 'Chef' stuck to my head for so many years.

True enough, with meager resources left to spend for the youngest, that dream never happened. Life went on. I went to university and studied an insignificant course, Business Management, and after graduating, I ended up working as a Credit and Financial Analyst in the banking industry in Manila; slugging it out in the corporate arena in Makati. It was the first taste of being called a 'yuppie' and was almost always looking forward to an after-office eating and drinking extravaganza in the expanding and growing Makati Business District; and, of course, the weekend.

Anyway, forging ahead to my life today, that dream as 'Chef' stayed in the back of my mind all the time that when I left the Philippines for Toronto in 2003; and after finally settling down on my own in 2005, I had started studying Professional Culinary Arts Courses in the City College to get that almost long-forgotten 'dream' going again. It was a Continuing Education Course, and more or less, students who have also shifted careers or who were trying to find work (like myself) as a newly landed found ourselves working with pots, knives and fire which I believe and I felt, everyone in class have never, ever touched during their past, professional lives.

Since then, I have been working in and out of different kitchens; flipping eggs and hamburgers, grilling steaks, shoving bread and chicken in a 500'C oven, and almost anything that can be either deep-fried or toasted just to serve hungry, sometimes pesky, customers. I became a 'grease' cook; a short-order cook with no definite place of employment, and definitely not a 'Chef.'

My articles are based on the after-thoughts of my past and present day experiences in this fast-paced, starkling, and sometimes disheveling kitchen environment. I never imagined that a kitchen 'worklife' turned that way as against the 'Ideal' environment I had thought about for years. No regrets. During this journey, I've discovered food which I've never thought I'd be able to taste. I learned to appreciate wine and travel more; now that I have understood the culture of food to society. That was non-existent when I was growing up.

This journey has not ended. I'm still discovering and still learning. It's a tough industry to be in and for what's next or for where I'll finally end up in remain a sordid mystery.

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