May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month! I have a list of several books I’d love for you to read. There are people to learn from and people to learn about. I look forward to taking you to many places, like the San Francisco Manilatown I-Hotel. There are so many things I want to teach you in hopes that you’ll learn about your Filipino heritage. I want you to spend less time searching for acceptance, assimilation, role models, representation, whatever, and just love who you are as an Asian Pacific American (APA).
When it comes to Asian Pacific American history, heritage, and our collective experiences, there is simply too much to unpack. I constantly find myself starting and stopping again. Since you’re still a toddler, let’s just make this the start of many volumes on the subject of our Asian Pacific American heritage.
Today, I want to write this to you through the universal language of food, by way of my Pilipina-American palate. Sharing food is our way of showing love. I hope one day you will love the practice of cooking and sharing food as much as I do with you.
Pulutan | Picking it up
Pulutan is roughly translated as finger food and picking things up. Right now, everything on your plate is like finger food and I’m watching your kamayan (using your hands) method of eating. Eventually you’ll be adept at more traditional dining utensils, and you’ll be picking up so many more skills as you grow each day.
Lesson: As time goes by, whatever challenges you face, I know you’ll continue to learn and pick up new things. I will always be there watching you, guiding you, and cheering you on. Just as I am today.
Alat. Asim. Tamis. Anghang. Lahat kasama. | Salty. Sour. Sweet. Spicy. Everything comes together.
For something salty, you must have something sweet. Or maybe it’ll be sour. Together with your prito (fried/dry) dish, there is a sabaw (soup/wet) dish for each meal. My palate is always searching for balance, and so it goes with life.
Lesson: For every hardship, there will be something sweet to reflect upon. There will always be a combination, and like a meal with a variety of flavors, textures, and colors, it will all come together.
Haluhalo | Mixed Together
The shaved ice dessert haluhalo is a medley of textures and colors. It’s comprised of ice, milk, fruit, jellies and sometimes topped with ice cream. My palate (and now yours) is like haluhalo – an amazing mix of all the flavors I’ve come to love. From your grandma’s cooking, your papa’s introduction of Chinese regional cuisines, and what I’ve discovered through my travels and experiences, I hope you continue to taste all that is out there in the world.
Lesson: The world I want to show you is just as colorful and flavorful as the contents of haluhalo!
Kain na tayo | Let’s eat!
Let’s share food together. Here’s a recipe for adobong manok (Chicken Adobo), the unofficial dish of the Philippines. This is a variation on your lola (grandma) and lolo’s (grandpa’s) version as they taught me. It’s easy, one-pot cooking for a quick weeknight dinner. My contribution to dinner when I was a little girl was to make sure steamed rice was cooked before everyone came home from work.
Adobong Manok | Chicken Adobo
Whole Chicken (cut into pieces) or 4 pieces Thighs and 4 pieces Drumsticks (bone-in)
1 Head of Garlic, chopped
1 Cup White Vinegar (Datu Puti Cane Vinegar, if possible)
½ Cup light soy sauce
½ Cup dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Black Peppercorns
Sugar (optional, to taste)
Tabasco, Sriracha, Chiles or other (optional, to taste)
Add chicken and garlic to pot or dutch oven. Pour vinegar and soy sauce over it, and sprinkle black peppercorns into the mixture. Do not mix or stir. Place on stovetop.
Turn on heat and wait for it to reach a boil. Do not mix or stir.
Turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until chicken has cooked through.
Turn off the heat. Add sugar and heat to taste, a little at a time.
Serve over hot, freshly cooked steamed Jasmine rice.
- Lola reminds us to avoid mixing or stirring during the cooking process, otherwise you’ll ruin it (I once ruined it!). Lola also says to make sure you add flavorings a little at a time – you can always add a little more, but you can’t take it away.
- Lolo likes to add some heat to adobo, which became my favorite way to eat it too.
- Tita (Auntie) loves to have a saba banana to have another sweet element on her plate when she eats adobo.
- Papa likes to make his take on adobo with browned pork belly.