I once went to an Asian food store with my friend Mark to show him some merchandise not carried by his mainstream supermarket. After seeing packages of chicken gizzards, tubs of pig brains, trays of cow tongue, etc., he muttered, “I think I’m losing my lunch.” Many Americans are not exposed to the realities of animal anatomy. Their supermarkets are generally too antiseptic: no fish heads, no large-animal intestines, no pig ears, no body parts considered “yucky.”
To honor Quillan and Angela of http://toemail.wordpress.com, I have written an article which harks back on their theme, yet stays in mine, too.
Three Philippine food items stand out in my mind: barbequed chicken feet called Adidas; the widely-favored pork hock stew, paksiw na pata; and the comforting soup dish, bulalong baka.
Chicken feet as food is not unique to the streets of Manila; they are also featured in the cuisines of other Asian countries such as China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. Some nations in the Carribean, South America, and the Middle East also use them in their dishes. And if you browse a few travel blogs, you will see that some Asian restaurants are getting a toehold (hahaha, my pun!) in European countries and popularizing chicken feet appetizers.
Barbequed chicken feet make for a quick flavorful snack. And here’s why it’s called Adidas in the Philippines: the three stripes on the side of the famed athletic shoes correspond to the three “fingers” on the chicken feet!
Let’s now look at a usual feature of Filipino lunch fare: paksiw na pata ng baboy. Many recipes in the Philippines involve the use of vinegar as marinade or as cooking liquid. One such method is called paksiw. I can’t find the meaning of the word, but it sure reminds me of a pleasant sourness in the sauce; could paksiw be related to asim (sour)? The recipe calls for spices, of course, and the choice depends on regional and personal preferences.
Pata is Spanish for leg. The best portion to use is the pig’s feet, or trotters. It doesn’t take very long to cook, and its gelatinous nature makes for a thick sauce that is so good with steamed rice. Finally, baboy is likely derived from the Indonesian-Malay word babi, pig.
The third “sole” food for today is bulalong baka. The main ingredient is calves’ knuckles, for that is what bulalo means; baka is the Filipinized spelling of the Spanish vaca, cow. Also included in the mix are shanks with meat, marrow bones, and hooves; all these make the soup thick and full of flavor.
Beef parts for bulalo, Marikina City market, May 2014
Vegetable additions vary: cuts of corn on the cob, potatoes, bok choy, and others. Season to taste.
This soupy dish is said to have originated in the southern Luzon province of Batangas, which is famous for farmed-raised cattle. Roadside stands popularized it, and now bulalong baka is common fare in households as well as restaurants all over the country.