It’s Foodie Tuesday!
Today is the fiesta in the city where I live — as it is the feast day of the city’s patron saint, St. Augustine. For the past couple of weeks there has been a flurry of activity ongoing and building up to today — parades, fireworks, carnivals, a beauty pageant, food festivals organized by various companies and organizations.
Other cities and towns in the Philippines and in other countries with some Christian influence, particularly Spanish Catholic influence, each have a patron saint and celebrate his or her feast day every year in their own particular way. Before malls and advertising got into fiestas, these celebrations just consisted of a procession, a Mass, and lots and lots of eating. There’d be buffets in individual homes to which friends and neighbors are invited. Though city folks are quite restrained about it these days, there are still places that go all out, where every house is an open house, and anyone can just walk in and eat before proceeding to the next house. Many people scrimp and save for an entire year to have a decent spread come fiesta time.
I have received not one fiesta invitation this year, so I’m just taking the writing of this post as an opportunity to daydream about certain festive dishes. In the more urbanized, globalized areas, one can find a lot of influences from different cuisines around the world, the ones mentioned below are what I would call old school favorites.
Lechon (Roast Pig)
This is a whole pig stuffed with herbs and aromatics and turned and roasted over a spit. It is a glorious reddish brown on the outside, with really crispy skin, and inside it’s moist and juicy, lemongrass-scented flesh. This is so good, it’ll make a convert out of those who shun pork. To those who are already pork lovers, it’s sheer bliss — Anthony Bourdain himself called it the “best pig ever”.
Exotic dishes from unusual animal parts
What some may think belong to a Bizaare Foods episode is typical celebratory fare for those who live in this part of the world. There’s kare-kare (oxtail and tripe stewed in peanut sauce and served with shrimp paste), dinuguan (blood stew), lengua estofado (ox tongue slices in gravy).
The stronger the town or city’s ties with its Spanish colonial past, the higher the probability of finding this dish during a fiesta celebration. It is rice cooked in saffron and stock with chicken pieces, chorizo, peas, and various shellfish.
Basically it’s fresh fish in a gingery, lime-y, spicy, vinaigrette. Different regions have different ways of preparing this, and have versions for ordinary days and for special occasions. The special version uses more “special” fish, such as marlin, swordfish, or tuna. Unlike the rich and heavy foods it normally gets served alongside, kinilaw is fresh, bright, and light.