college days comfort food

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back in my college days, whenever i was home and got hungry in the middle of the night, i would look for leftovers in the fridge and mix everything i find all up in fried rice.  i would also fry a couple of eggs sunny-side-up and open a can of hunt’s pork and beans.  i would arrange it all in a plate for a sumptuous midnight snack.  my mother gets awestruck whenever she sees me doing this.

it might sound unusual but hunt’s pork and beans and fried eggs are comfort food to me.

i remember how my mother would prepare my sunny-side-up eggs with rice.  she’d cut up the eggs in the rice (like a bibimbap, but way, way before it became popular here) then mix it all up with sugar.  yes, sugar.  it becomes a sweet, salty, and creamy meal i enjoyed.  i grew up loving it until i forgot everything about it when i became a teenager.  then fairly recently, about 5 years ago, it all came rushing back.  i tried it again (after more than 40 years) with 3 eggs and a cup of rice, plus 2 tablespoons sugar.  wow!  that was good!  been doing it since.

i miss the old version of hunt’s pork and beans.  the joke going around why it’s called PORK (singular) and beans is because there is literally only one piece of pork fat you’ll find swimming somewhere above the mass of beans and sauce after you pour it on a bowl.  but taking in that melt-in-your-mouth piece of fat is the most satisfying thing about eating hunt’s pork and beans.  the new version is disgusting.  the company replaced the single piece of pork fat with multiple pieces of what-they-made-to-appear-as-meat-but-in-fact-looks-like-mouse-droppings-or-pigeon-pellets in an effort to have ‘more meat’ in the can.  epic fail!  so, hunt’s pork and beans has become less enjoyable as a result, but still nonetheless, my “go to” comfort food.

i cook for my family.  recently i went crazy over steak, always dreaming about cooking steak.  i used to be crazy over pork belly, crispy pata, and pata tim.  and pizza!  but once in a blue moon, i feel too lazy to cook.  today is one such day.

time for some college days comfort food.

 

pata tim

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pata tim or (as i call it) pork leg in dark fragrant sauce is a favourite in our household.  i cook it on birthdays and on other special occasions like when one of our family friends from far, far away pays us a visit.

on this occasion it was my eldest daughter, dea, who now lives far, far away — nah!  just in metro manila — who came and visited.  i use this (pata tim) and sometimes, crispy pata and roast pork belly, to tempt her boyfriend, marco, to drive her all to the way to our home to visit.

today, dec.20, as i edit this article, i learned that in the household of a fil-chi lady friend, pata tim is cooked differently.  my friend, karen tee, told me that in their family, pata tim is cooked without the vegetables (in the recipe below) and the wine.  theirs have hard-boiled eggs instead.

hmm… very interesting… hard-boiled eggs.

i used to cook pata tim also without the vegetables.  the cooking wine also just became a part of my own recipe in later years — discovering that the cooking (rice) wine kind-a blunts the saltiness of the soy sauce, and adds a tangy sweetness to the sauce.

i saw the presentation of pata tim at the mandarin room of the manila hotel where my wife and i once got invited for lunch, and it had carrots and bokchoy.  then, when a couple of friends and i recently ate pata tim at luk foo, along shaw blvd (across lee gardens condominium) it had shitake mushrooms.  this is why i added these vegetables to my recipe — for added flavour and art.

but hard-boiled eggs… never yet.  so i told karen, next time i cook pata tim, i would surprise my family — i would add hard-boiled eggs to the recipe.

here’s what i use:

1 front leg of pork (including knuckles)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup sugar (washed/segunda)
2 Tbsp cooking wine
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
1-2 whole star anise (complete pods)
1 can (284 g) shitake mushrooms
1 medium size carrots (sliced diagonally)
2 bunches bokchoy leaves
1 liter water (for boiling)

boil everything together in water in a wok or a deep casserole, except shitake mushrooms, carrots, and bokchoy leaves — then simmer for 1 hour, in low heat.
sauce should reduce to about 1/2 original quantity.
add shitake, carrots, and bokchoy, and simmer for 5 minutes.

serve and enjoy.