I nearly missed the First Anniversary Edition of Lasang Pinoy! I happened to visit Stefâ€™s blog, Noodles and Rice, the host of the anniversary issue, and realized I had missed the original deadline a few days ago. I also read in the Whatâ€™s Up Expat Newspaper (delivered free of charge in our village) an article by Mike Mina on the one year anniversary of Lasang Pinoy. At any rate, I decided to rush an entry as I have participated in perhaps 10 or 11 out of the yearâ€™s topics. For the anniversary issue, the topic is â€œa dish or dishes that DEFINES what being Pinoy is all about.â€ Whoa! Is that a major brain teaser or what? Market Manila being a blog not only about Filipino recipes and dishes, but also markets, produce, ingredients, etc., I thought I would broaden the topic and look backwards in the food chainâ€¦to the quintessential ingredients that underpin the vast majority of Pinoy dishes. In many cases, these are ingredients we have adopted from other cuisines, but I figure if weâ€™ve had it for a couple of hundred years it qualifies as a basic component of our native larder. I didnâ€™t do anything special for these photos, I just reached into our pantry, fridge or spice cabinet to pull out many of the ingredients that are essential for cooking something totally Pinoyâ€¦
Rich or poor, foodie or not, there are several key flavorings or ingredients behind many a Pinoy dish. Oddly, the more I look at my photos, I realize the more you can have 80-90% of these ingredients in your pantry in almost any corner of the world. Certainly some of the items are more difficult to stock but with some planning and a little bit of foresight, your “Pinoy pantryâ€ can be pretty complete wherever you are, and from my blog statistics, I realize more than 60% of my readers are based in over 80 different countries around the world.
First let me write about what I had in stock. Every Pinoy kitchen typically stocks some patis or fermented fish sauce. Made through a process that 80-90% of my readers (or city dwellers) havenâ€™t the foggiest idea how to do themselves, it involves fermenting little fish in open cement vats/tubs with tons of sea salt. As the fish ferments, and turns a putrid grey-brown sludge, it is smushed up and the sauce clarified and bottled. There are dozens of types of patis which have their special nuances, but at the very least, a Pinoy kitchen has one bottle of patis in their pantry. Along those lines, some fermented shrimp paste, bagoong alamang, is also a major component of the local taste experience. Various forms of fermenting fish are also used in many parts of the country. A critical ingredient that I think almost 98% of Pinoys globally will recognize instantly even if blindfolded is dried fish or squid or other sea dweller. With the vast majority of our population living on the coast, dried fish is a staple that sustains many families for most of the year.
If the French have their mirepoix, Pinoys have their gisa, so garlic, onions, tomatoes, and ginger are a staple in the Filipino kitchen. Typically you would also find soy sauce, sea salt, peppercorns or ground pepper, laurel or bay leaves and possibly achuete seeds. A terrific vinegar made from sugar cane or coconut would also be a major component of our ingredient arsenal. In our home, chillies are essential, though I realize many a Filipino household does not like spice and would prefer the more often used white sugar, brown sugar or panocha (palm sugar) instead. A critical souring ingredient would have to be our uniquely pinoy kalamansi, though reaching out into the provincial backyard for unripe sampalok (tamarind), kamias or iba, batwan, bayabas, etc. broadens the ingredients list. Finally, the one things I didnâ€™t have handy was some fresh grated coconut, which for many folks around the country, doesnâ€™t require a trip to the market to obtain. If there was one meat that would make it onto the essentials list, it is glorious Filipino pork. It’s fattiness, flavor and presence in so many of our dishes makes this a critical ingredient indeed.
I am certain you can think of many other ingredients that make it to this “essentials” list. If I were to define what being or eating Pinoy was really about and distill it to itâ€™s most basic elements, it would be about our basic ingredientsâ€¦that’s what defines me as being Pinoy from a food perspective. The unique flavor and sharpness of kalamansi juice, the salty tang of patis and pungency of bagoong, the sizzle of fatty pork, this is what takes me home from wherever I happen to be on the planet. Please feel free to leave a comment with an ingredient(s) that you think should make it to this basics list. From that I will build the Marketmanila Pinoy Pantry List. Maraming Salamat. And Happy Anniversary Lasang Pinoy!!!