Somehow, the promise of what lies within is almost always overestimated when it comes to quesong puti wrapped in fresh banana leaves. It seems as though the more layers of banana leaves that enrobe the simple, soft, briny white cheese made from carabao’s milk, the more likely you are to get a puny portion of the native delicacy. Gone are the days when 500 gram squares of cheese could be had for a reasonable sum. Knowing all this, I bought three parcels at the market today, for PHP40 each.
Back at home, for breakfast, I fried up one portion of cheese and added some halved grape or cherry tomatoes to the pan and watched it sizzle. I could immediately hear my mom’s voice somewhere out there saying “you have to fry it to kill the cooties…” which just seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? But then again, we have ALWAYS fried it, despite the fact that I have tasted it “unfried,” soft and unctuously simple (an oxymoron) and I never gotten sick or died of hepatitis.
Tucked into a large pan de sal that was still warm (from the bakery on the way back home), this was a really pleasant surprise, what I called my “Pinoy Caprese” if you will. Totally hit the spot. But ever so annoyed by the shrinking portions of cheese within the leaves, I weighed two portions and found out they were just 50 grams of cheese each, or the equivalent of a whopping PHP800 a kilo, the price of decent mozzarella that has traveled across continents to make it to the local grocery or deli! Yes, why is that? Why is a local artisanal product with just one or two middleman from producer to buyer, made with local ingredients, purchased at a market, just as expensive as it’s imported counterpart? Oh well, I’ll just have another sandwich instead of worrying about it too much.