Hmmm… Humba!
Elena Peña (The Freeman) - February 8, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — It’s Red-Braised Pork, all right – but Filipinos call it Humba. And even if it’s lined up along with other Red-Braised Pork varieties from everywhere, Filipinos would still be able to distinguish their Humba. This particular pork dish has become very Filipino such that every region in the country would have its own version.

Many old families have their heirloom Humba recipes. Grandama’s Humba may be a bit sweeter than Mom’s, which is delectably tangy. One Humba may be chewy, while the other “gosh, melts in your mouth!”

The Humba is, for sure, not a Filipino exclusive. There’s, for example, a Shanghai version called Hongshao Rou that’s very closely similar. And yet if the Humba is not a Filipino original either – which is most likely – the local cooks have tweaked it to their hearts’ desire for it to have become their own.

And even among the Filipino varieties of the Humba, there are noticeable taste differences. A popular favorite among local foodies is the Visayan version, called Humba Bisaya. Here’s the recipe:

Humba Bisaya


2 kilos of Pork, belly part

1 cup Soy Sauce

3 heads of Garlic, diced

2 cups Brown Sugar

1 cup salted Black Beans, washed and drained

2 tbsp Tomato Paste 

1 cup Cooking Oil

Peppercorns, crushed

Laurel leaves

Black Pepper




•Cut the pork belly into cube-sizes, wash and drain, and then put about 1 to 2 tbsp of salt and mix well with the pork. Set aside for about 15 minutes.

•Put the pork pieces into a wok, and then add in a cup of water and cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer in medium heat, stirring once in a while.

•When the water has boiled down and the natural oil of the pork starts to come out, add a cup of cooking oil into the wok to fry the pork until it’s brown. (Caution:  At this point in the cooking, the pork may start to splatter when stirred to cook evenly!) When done, take it out the browned pork from the wok and set aside. 

•Bring the wok up to heat again and then throw in your garlic and sauté. Then turn the heat down to minimum, and then put in the brown sugar to mix with the oil until it melts and caramelizes, and then put in the soy sauce and keep stirring until the saucy liquid is well incorporated and the caramelized sugar starts to break up. (A cup of hot water may be added at this point and brought up to a slow boil.)

•Add the laurel leaves, peppercorn and tomato paste and keep stirring. Then add back the pork pieces and let boil for about 5 minutes, making sure that none sticks to the pan (as it might get burned).

•Add about a liter of water and cover the pan, and let simmer on low fire for about an hour or until the meat is tender enough, stirring once in a while.

•Throw in the salted beans, and then check the taste – saltiness and sweetness – and adjust if necessary by adding salt or sugar or water if necessary.

When the humba is of the right taste and tenderness, transfer to a bowl for serving. Pair it with freshly cooked white rice. Enjoy.

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