You kind of HAVE to find the silver lining, I suppose. With thousands of coconut trees down across the archipelago, at least there is one free source of nutrition and sustenance, the heart of palm. Just a few feet worth of the young trunk at the top end of each coconut tree, yields a few kilos of the most amazing ingredient — ubod or heart of palm.
The recent massive storm Yolanda that ripped through the Visayas forced us to cut down several coconut trees that put people in harm’s way. Did you know that it is technically a criminal offense to cut down a coconut tree? It’s a weird law that dates back to the era of coconut plantations and their importance to national economic health, I gather. But when neighboring lawyers and barangay officials agree that trees have to be sacrificed, we will certainly comply and do the safe thing… So “off with their heads” and we had the most amazing and incredibly FRESH ubod for kitchen use.
Using a benriner or mandoline, julienne the tender parts of the ubod (the outer layers can be quite tough) and set aside. You need to soak the ubod in acidulated water if you are not going to use them right away. Into a pan, I added a bit of vegetable oil (or better, lard), sauteed some garlic and sliced shallots, then added some thinly sliced pork and peeled shrimp cut into smaller pieces. Next add the ubod, stir this around and add a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce or patis, as you prefer. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and some salt, if required. A scant tablespoon of muscovado or brown sugar gave this a very Bacolod or Silay twist (I learned the trick there) and let this cook and the ubod will exude some more liquid. Though if really fresh, as this ubod was, it barely let off any liquid and it cooked to a perfect tender consistency in less than 10 minutes. Test for doneness and shut off the fire and drain and cool in a colander.
At just this point, I reached into the freezer for local lumpia wrapper and was told we didn’t have any. Yipes. Why didn’t I check before I started cooking? Instead, I spied some Vietnamese rice paper for rolls and decided to use that instead. It sounds wonky to some of you, I am sure, but DON’T KNOCK IT till you’ve tried it! They turned out very nicely, thank you. The wrapper was a bit chewy but the flavorful filling enrobed by a cool wrapper made for a very nice fresh ubod spring roll. A vinegar or lime based dip might have put this up a notch, but I ate it with some acharra… :)
Just when we thought we had “discovered” a fusion lumpia by accident, we decided to fry a couple of the lumpia. Didn’t bother with a double-fry, but you know, this turned out utterly delicious! A real surprise slam dunk. Just needed a bit of vinegar to cut the richness of the ubod, or perhaps a sauce with peanuts would have been nice as well.
It’s nice when necessity leads to something new and scrumptuous. Fried and Fresh Ubod Rice Wrapper Lumpia a la Marketman. :)
Note: This post was written a few days ago and scheduled for release today. Marketman is actually right now on the way to Northern Cebu to distribute relief goods. I will not have internet access all day.