This post is my contribution to the Second “Lasang Pinoy” Food Bloggers Event. For a round up or summary of all entries, kindly visit English Patis in a few days time. Please also take the time to do the rounds of Filipino food bloggers around the world who have posted their food memories of cooking and eating during the typhoon season.
My earliest memories of typhoons and storms are strewn with images of low lying, fast moving dark clouds, violently swaying trees, loud gusts of whirling air moving in and out of our family bungalow, thigh-deep floods on the streets, black-outs (where the heck did the term brown-outs come from?), news received over battery operated radios, hoarding of sugar, rice and de lata (vienna sausage, pork & beans and corned beef) and, of course, Signal Number Two and that brilliant early morning PAGASA advice that classes in elementary school had been suspended! Yahoo! Pull out those raincoats, make those styrofaoam rafts to float down the canal outside the gate, watch TV and see the images of nature unleashing its fury, usually somewhere else on the Philippine archipelago. Typhoons for the most part struck somewhere else. Considering that the Philippines experiences an average of 19 storms a year, many of them mostly out at sea, it takes a confluence of factors to have a really powerful typhoon pass right smack on top of your childhood home.
November 19, 1970 was the first time I recall in vivid detail one of these powerful storms. That was the day Typhoon Yoling made a direct hit on Metro Manila. With maximum recorded winds at 200 kph, it was perhaps the strongest storm to make a direct hit on the city of Manila since 1945, when records were first kept, until today 60 years later. Apparently the eye of the storm passed directly over Antipolo while it crossed the city and it obliterated the house of an Uncle that lived on the mountainside in Beverly Hills. His entire wall of floor to ceiling glass jalousies which earlier provided a spectacular view of the City of Manila in the valley or plains below had turned into deadly weapons arsenal as the jalousies started breaking away and like ninja stars sheared anything animate or inanimate in their path. Closer to home in Quezon City, the roofs on the homes of two neighbors completely lifted off their rafters and landed many meters away. Electricity was out for several weeks and the damage all around memorable. We had no school until Christmas break that year if I recall correctly.
In the midst of even the worst typhoons, families had to eat. I recall several meals consumed by candlelight. If things were really bad, we had de lata, hence my penchant for eating corned beef with sautÃ©ed onions together with pork & beans. Must have lots of tomato ketchup too. My wife thinks I am weird that I combine the two types of canned goods on one plate, but I explained that in our house, if we had to go de lata, then we had corned beef or spam or Vienna sausage AND pork & beans as the vegetable equivalent. Failing cans as a source of food, we had dried fish such as danggit or tuyo with scrambled egg and rice, lots of vinegar please. This was disaster comfort food. Otherwise, typhoon or the rainy season generally meant nice hot soups as the ultimate comfort food. As a special treat, my mom used to make ginataang halo-halo to have on a wet, cool and stormy afternoon. I have posted several recipes of things that I would have eaten during a storm, so I had to wrack my brains for something special to post today. Instead of doing something from the past, I have decided to focus on typhoon comfort food for the futureâ€¦ here is my simple recipe for Sinigang na Bangus sa Bayabas or Milkfish in Guava Broth.
I never made this dish until last week and I was stunned by its simplicity, flavor, familiarity and comfort. Thanks to my readers Ann and Vicky who gave suggestions on how to make it. I never consulted a cookbook, I just winged it and below are the results of that experimentation. It should be said that this sinigang should be the essence of the rainy season, because many years ago, before powdered sampaloc or tamarind mixes, the main flavoring ingredients during the rainy season were the tail end summer guavas, perhaps iba/kamias or kalamansi which are all in season. There was no sampaloc at this time (except tendrils of the sampaloc tree or very young sampaloc pods towards September/October), and therefore no sinigang na sampaloc during the heart of the typhoon season from June to August was possible until the last few decades due to powdered mixes.
Purchase ripe â€œnativeâ€ pungent guavas and wash well. Remove the seeds and pulp and place this in a separate bowl. Cut up the guavas (about Â½ kilo or more) and throw into soup pot with water and some chopped onion (and some tomatoes if you like) and let boil for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place the seeds and pulp in some cheesecloth and add to the boiling water for additional flavor – I did this to extract maximum flavor essence; omit this step if you think it is frivolous and you donâ€™t have cheesecloth handy. This is my â€œguava pulp and seed bouquetâ€ as I like to call it. Once cooked and guava is tender, take about half of the guava and place it in a blender together with a cup of cooking liquid. Blitz this in the blender until pureed. Return this puree to the boiling soup. This will make the broth cloudy and substantial, rather than clear as some people prefer it. Add salt (generously) and some patis and a little ground white pepper. Cook a few more minutes and taste for seasoning. If you use too many unripe guavas, it will taste a bit aphud or astringent…
Finally, add any vegetables such as green beans and siling mahaba or chilli peppers that need a few minutes to cook. Add large slices of bangus fillet (no bones would be ideal) and let this cook for just 2-3 minutes. Add kangkong or water spinach and just cook say 1 minute and serve piping hot with lots of steamed rice. Serve either ginisang bagoong (sauteed shrimp paste) as a side dish or just a sawsawan of patis (fish sauce) and kalamansi. I love this soup. It is now on our all-time Pinoy favorites list posted on the refrigerator. Perfect in the eye of a storm. Enjoy!