Three of my must-have items when I go to Tessa’s store, the closest Filipino store in my area, are the sardines, bagoong na isda (fish paste) and chicharon (pork cracklings). These three items remind me of how simple my life was while growing in Manila.
When I was a kid, I remember having bagoong na isda mixed with cooking oil put in a plate full of steamed rice. That’s already my lunch or dinner. I thought it was delicious. I would just use my bare hands when eating. Later in life, I realized that we were so poor when we had that food on our dining table. It has no nutritional value. Maybe carbohydrates from rice, iron from the fish paste and fat from the cooking oil.
Same goes with sardines. I am the oldest among my siblings. There was a time wherein I would cook sardines for us. I would sautee garlic, onions, tomatoes and a can of sardines. Once heated, I would put some water, salt and pepper, and some talbos ng kamote (sweet potato tops). It’s a delicious meal too specially if you have lots of steamed rice. This is also how I would describe most families in the Philippines who have limited income living in a small house. They squeeze tight together in a small house like a can of sardines.
Chicharon is the skin of the pork after it has been seasoned and deep fried. It’s crispy and delicious specially when dipped in vinegar. It can be a snack or an appetizer.
These are some of the foods that I miss from my country that resonates simplicity of life, dreaming big, working hard and hoping for the best to happen.
In relation to the previous blog, another example of a food that is not being wasted in the Philippines is the fish head.
One time, my spouse and I decided to grill fresh fishes at the back porch. He did set up the charcoal grill and I did put the gutted and scaled fishes on the grill. When the fishes were all cooked, he could not eat his fish because he thinks it is looking at him. Isn’t that funny??? So I just cut the fish heads and threw them away.
I remember, when my father cooks sinigang na bangus, I even suck the eyes of the fish. It tastes good!
Not just my spouse, but even our neighbors do not eat fish heads. I mentioned this one time to our land lady and she almost threw up. LOL
And that is why I only see fish fillets in the grocery. Hmmm.
Twenty minutes ago, these fishes were alive. They were still moving while I was scaling them. They are fresh! You can’t beat that!
Our $20 charcoal grill from Walmart.
I was not born with golden or silver spoon. I am not King Midas who can turn anything I touch into gold. I am not the cloud which has a silver lining. haha. I was born in the province of Pangasinan, moved to San Andres, Manila at the age of 3 with the hope that someday we could have good- paying jobs. At that time when we were still kids, we did not even think that finishing our studies is a way to get good- paying jobs because my parents did not have college education.
I share the same principle with most of the Filipinos who live humbly to not to waste anything. An example is the chicken. When we go to the wet market to buy chicken, we don’t buy the popular parts of the chicken, e.g. breast, leg, thigh parts. We buy the chicken feet or the “adidas”, chicken liver, gizzards and heart and make a delicious lunch or dinner out of it.
Most people here in the US, if not all, do not eat these parts of the chicken. These chicken parts are the food for their pets. For me, this is one of my favorites because it only costs $1- $2 in the grocery. The usual price of lunch or dinner here is $10. I will just cook steamed rice to pair up with my chicken (feet, liver, gizzards and heart) in adobo and I am gonna be good baby!
Kain tayo! Mangan tila! Let’s eat!
Uncooked chicken livers
Chicken liver adobo with rice!
Uncooked chicken paws/ adidas
Uncooked chicken gizzards