Time for nostalgia
Time for nostalgia
IN MY BASKET - Lydia D. Castillo (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2018 - 12:00am

Please allow us to share some traditional, albeit secret, tips and techniques which we learned from our elders and still follow today.

We had some stay-at-home days recently and expectedly we thought about the past, specifically about the very busy kitchen the family had in our hometown Biñan, Laguna. We had time for nostalgia, looking back at the food we would always be served by our Tia Bana. Actually, the dishes we now normally prepare for our family are vintage, but to this day they are still very much palatable.

In those days, enhancers were unheard of, except one that was avoided in our kitchen. Please allow us to share some traditional, albeit secret, tips and techniques which we learned from our elders and still follow today.  We can very well say we ate well, the food was naturally flavored and generally healthy.

This recollection was brought about when we hired a new kasambahay, untrained but willing to learn. It is always good when someone is cooperative and has that special sense or instinct to be taught and absorb the teaching. Thus we quickly went active again in the preparation of our meals.

Here are 15  tips (family cooking secrets):

• For meat dishes, including chicken, tenderize before sautéing or proceeding to other cooking steps. Do this in water to cover the meat, and add a stalk each of celery and leeks. They will make the resulting broth more flavorful.

• When sautéing, always cover the casserole after you put the seasoning, whether patis (fish sauce), salt or soy sauce. Let it simmer for a while, maybe two  minutes. That will seal the flavor.

• When cooking with vinegar, after adding it, never stir until it comes to a full boil. Then lower the heat.

• Brown sugar is better than white. It makes for a richer and more colorful sauce.

• When frying fish, do not turn until that side (on the fire) is done or else it will break and look ugly.

• When making bangus relleno, do not include ground meat to the filling. Instead mix the fish meat with cubed potatoes, diced hardboiled eggs and pickle relish.

• Lechon paksiw is never sautéd. Simply add more garlic, vinegar, brown  sugar, peppercorns and water to the sauce, boil, then add the lechon. Continue cooking on lower temperature until meat becomes tender.

• If suffering from high uric acid count, remove the seeds of tomatoes before cooking or making them into salad or dips.

• Make varied dips to enhance flavor. Like put a finger chili in your patis and add sliced tomatoes for a paksiw sawsawan.

• For chicken tinola sawsawan, crush part of a  liver in your patis and add juice of half a calamansi. Perfect!

• When marinating fish in preparation for steaming, add a drop of sesame oil. Likewise in a soy sauce dip. That will give your dish a Chinese-sy aroma and flavor.

• For variety, occasionally change your marinade for Filipino steak to a mix of patis and brown sugar.

• Add bacon bits (available in bottles) to your spaghetti sauce to make it a bit salty.

• If there is left over fish paksiw, drain it and fry, that makes another dish to serve.

• Now, here is a super side dish for nilagang karne which we call La Oya. In the course of cooking the beef, add a saba banana, an eggplant and a sweet potato. When these are done, take them out and mash them. Mix together with vinegar, brown sugar and crushed garlic. Add a little broth and serve with the nilaga.

There you are. These are good to follow. We surely do!  

Cook a delicious Sunday meal.

* * *

E-mail me at lydiadolores34@gmail.com.

LYDIA D. CASTILLO
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