My mother’s style of cooking adobo, which I and my brother grew up with, is unique to her within the Galay family. For purposes of documentation I’m referring to it as ‘Tetes Adobo’ (my mother, Tess, is called ‘Tetes’ in the family), though she herself calls it ‘adobong tuyo’ (dry adobo).
I always say the recipe is the only effect Martial Law ever had on our family: my mother attributes the recipe to Kris Aquino,who only became a celebrity because her mother emerged as president following the Marcos-Aquino war.
But the recipe is really much older than that. Filipino Adobo’s long, complicated history really goes back to when pork was simply simmered in salt and vinegar and flavoured with basic spices, with soy sauce only later replacing salt. Tetes adobo is thus a very primitive adobo.
Here’s the recipe.
1 kilo pork belly cubes (fatty)
1 ½ head garlic
Crushed black pepper
Cooking oil (vegetable)
Leftover (bahaw) rice (for fried rice)
- Peel the garlic and crush to a fine pulp
- Add pepper, salt, MSG and/or Seasoning to the garlic while on the mortar
- Add vinegar to the mortar, and pour the resulting mixture on the pork cubes.
- Add more vinegar to the mixture by rinsing the mortar with it. Add this (and more vinegar if necessary) until the pork is submerged.
- Allow to marinate for a short while (a few hours)
- Pour mixture on deep frying pan. Put frying pan on fire.
- Cook slowly until the mixture’s liquid evaporates.
- Add cooking oil. This part is optional – cooking oil from this process can be kept to make future frying more delicious.
- Allow to cook until golden brown. Stir constantly to avoid garlic sticking to bottom of pan.
- If not added with cooking oil, cook until oils come out of pork, then until golden brown.
- Take pork and garlic flakes from frying pan. Set oil aside. Adobo, with garlic flakes, are ready to serve
Since this adobo is dry, the crispy garlic crumbs left on the frying pan make a good side dish on their own. The spices sticking to the pan can also be used to make a unique fried rice.
- Add rice to the frying pan after cooking adobo.
- Over fire, scrape garlic that has stuck on the pan off and mix with the rice.
- When rice is sufficiently golden, and no more garlic is on the frying pan, put out fire.
- Serve rice.
Recommended sawsawan and partners:
- Guinamos (fermented fish paste) with kalamansi
- Burong mangga
The Guinamos and kalamansi sawsawan is an innovation of my father, an Ilocano (Ilocanos have a penchant for guinamos). He used this dip to tone down the oiliness of the fatty pork. This fusion of Tagalog and Ilocano cuisine is one of my father’s few contributions to my family’s recipes, and a rare remnant of the days when we used to live in my father’s house. It is an exquisitely nostalgic dish for me.
As a Tagalog family, the Galays have more variations to Sinigang – the quintessential Tagalog sour soup – than is normal. Our Sinigang is also considerably sourer than most other families’ – we often complain that what is Sinigang to others is nilaga to us. My branch of the family in particular has amplified the sourness so much a housemaid once complained she’d get anemia from it (I have no idea where she got that medical prediction).
It’s a relatively easy dish, made even simpler by the invention of instant Sinigang mix in sachets. But among our many varieties of Sinigang, the one with mustasa (mustard leaves) is both the most complex and most sought after. Unlike most Sinigang varieties in which you just boil ingredients together in water, Sinigang sa Mustasa begins with sautéing the pork in the beginning spices (lamas in Cebuano). It is also the only dish in our traditional menu that may use miso paste, although to my dismay we rarely add miso to Sinigang these days.
Here is the recipe.
Sinigang sa Mustasa
Pork cubes (fatty)
Mustasa (mustard leaves)
Sampalok (Tamarind) (or Sinigang mix, or both)
Patis (fish sauce)
(quantity for all ingredients is estimated, you get better at it with more experience)
- Boil sampalok in water until soft. Crush when soft. Strain the sampalok pulp from the resulting broth. Skip this part if using Sinigang mix.
- Sauté minced garlic, onion, and tomatoes with oil
- Add patis
- Add pork cubes. Simmer until the meat releases juices.
- Add sampalok broth /Sinigang mix with water and simmer until meat becomes tender.
- Add mustasa stalks. Simmer until these stalks soften.
- Season with salt and seasoning to taste.
- Add mustasa leaves and kulikot shortly before turning fire off.
Traditional sawsawan and partner
- Patis with kulikot (the kulikot from the dish)
- Any fried fish
While the Galays have a wide array of buro (pickle) recipes, making buro out of mustasa (mustard leaves) is unique to my branch of the family, as my mother cooked it more often than her siblings and my grandmother does not remember cooking it. Over time my aunts and uncle would learn to love the dish too.
Part of the reason why this is a distinctly Galay-David dish is the fact that my mother’s original source of burong mustasa in Kidapawan was the father of her friend, tita Elaine Palo, who sold vegetables in Kidapawan’s Mega Market. The Palos are a Kapampangan family, making this dish one of the many cultural influences on our mostly Tagalog family cuisine. When tita Elaine’s father died, my mother lost her only source of the stuff. So with what little descriptions of the process she can remember and with a lot of help from the internet, she successfully tried her hand at making buro. Today she is the only member of the family, and probably one of the few from Kidapawan, who can make burong mustasa.
Here is how she makes the stuff.
Mustasa (mustard leaves)
- Wash mustasa leaves and separate each leaf stalk. Optional: Dry leaves under the sun briefly
- Rub each leaf with salt
- Arrange leaves carefully inside a clean, empty bottle
- (Optional: Add crushed garlic)
- Fill the bottle with rice wash (My mother’s innovation: boil glutinous rice and drain liquid. Allow this liquid to cool down before pouring it into the bottle instead of rice wash)
- Allow the leaves to pickle to desired duration (3 days to 2 weeks)
- Take the pickled mustasa leaves out of the bottle and drain.
- Wash the leaves thoroughly and squeeze to prevent it from being too salty
- Chop the pickled leaves into small pieces
- On a hot frying pan, sauté garlic, onion, and tomatoes on cooking oil
- Add the chopped pickled leaves on the sautéed mixture. Leave on heat for a while
- Add beaten egg on the mixture just before turning the fire off. Mix thoroughly to coat the mixture in egg.
- Add salt and seasoning to taste
Traditional sawsawan and partners
This is a very versatile side dish with no usual sawsawan, so it works well with almost any other dish. But usually we eat it with the following dishes:
- Any fried fish
- Tinapa (smoked fish)
- Daing na bangus
One of our most simple but delicious recipes is Daing na bangus.
Going back all the way to at least my great-grandmother, this way of cooking milk fish is a very familiar and nostalgic taste for us Galays.
‘Daing‘ usually refers to dried fish split in half along the back in a ‘butterfly’ cut (‘pinikas nga bulad‘ or ‘halved dried’ in Cebuano). But for us the term refers instead to this marinated deep-fried fish. While many kinds of fish are made into daing bulad, our daing is only traditionally made using bangus (although my mother has innovated with Tilapia).
The marinade used for daing is versatile – we call it ‘daing marinade’ because it was originally for bangus, but it has since been used for other dishes. It can be used for chicken, pork chops, or other fish.
It is so tasty one whole bangus usually takes over a week to finish – a little bit can be eaten with so much rice. For milk fish one often thinks it is the fatty stomach part which tastes best, but this isn’t necessarily the case for daing: the stomach area is buttery, but the head is chewy, and the extremities are crispy, and the meat itself is silky and tasty – this is making me hungry.
Here’s the recipe!
- 1 whole bangus (milk fish)
- Soy sauce
- Crushed black pepper
- 1/2 clove crushed garlic
(Quantity of some ingredients is estimated and depends on the size of bangus)
- Gut the bangus and split open along the stomach. Make sure the scales are not removed.
- Make the daing marinade: mix vinegar, soy sauce, kalamansi extract, crushed pepper, crushed garlic, salt, and seasoning in a plastic container big and wide enough to fit the whole butterflied bangus.
- It is traditional to leave the crushed garlic unpeeled, with the skin mixed in.
- Marinade bangus in the mixture. The duration depends on taste – from overnight to up to one week (traditionally it is only marinated overnight, marinating it for longer is an innovation of my mother). The longer it is marinated, the more flavourful – but also the sourer and ‘itchier’ – it will be. It will also be softer (and will fall apart easier), and the bones will be easier to eat.
- After marinating to desired duration, drain and set aside for a while away from marinade. This is to make sure the fish is not too soggy before frying.
- Before frying, coat lightly with flour to avoid sticking in the pan. (My mother’s innovation)
- Deep fry until golden.
- Serve with rice.
Traditional sawsawan and partners:
- Tomato, water, and salt
- Ginisang petchay (another recipe!)
- Sayote ‘fire cubes’ (My mother’s own recipe, only my branch of the family is used to this)
- Any vegetable dish
It is also not unusual to eat it with rice without any sides.
My mother’s family, the Galays, are one of Kidapawan’s Tagalog families, so we are among the families which give the city the Tagalog component of its diverse domestic culture. But I think what makes us stand apart from the other Tagalog families is our large array of home recipes.
My grandmother, who hails from Pasay, grew up in a house that was constantly cooking, and so her children and grandchildren too have a more than average fascination for food (it is a wonder, really, that none of us are obese). Most of us know how to cook (I’m not included, but I eat a lot so I still count). Galays are gourmands if not gourmets.
This means that a substantial part of what makes us Tagalog is our food. Authentic Tagalog home cooking recipes, most of them unique in Mindanao, and some divergent from the current common recipes in Luzon, fill our daily tables.
I have started gathering all the Galay Recipes before they are lost to oblivion (as is usually the case with anything to do with culture in our country), and my grandmother and mother are both cooperating to even revive some long lost dishes.
And I have decided to share some of them here as I gather them over the years!
For this post, Batchoy!
To most Filipinos, ‘Batchoy’ is a noodle dish, swimming in clear broth, topped with pork shreds, offal, and chicharon pork cracklings, and garnished with leeks and a raw egg. This type of Batchoy is more correctly termed ‘La Paz Batchoy,’ and is originally an Ilonggo recipe.
Batchoy for the Galays, however, is an almost completely different species. It has the comfort of steaming hot soup, yes, but it has no noodles. Instead, what makes it distinct is that it has pig’s blood, coagulated during the cooking process. While La Paz Batchoy can be found in any merienda joint, our Batchoy is served for lunch or dinner and can only be found in homes. The smell of this Batchoy filling the noon air in our ancestral house in baranggay Lanao evokes so much nostalgia for us.
Here is the recipe:
Diced pork belly (fatty)
Dahon sili (chili pepper leaves)
Kulikot chili peppers
Fresh pig’s blood
(Quantities are estimated)
1. Sautee garlic, onion, and ginger in oil.
2. Add patis.
3. Add diced pork. Allow to simmer until juices come out.
4. Add a bit of water. Simmer further until meat is tender.
5. Add pig’s blood, at a ratio in which it will be less than the water.
6. Add salt, MSG, and/or Magic Sarap to taste.
7. When the blood has curdled in the soup, add kulikot and dahon sili. Kulikot can be added earlier to make the dish spicier/give it more fragrance.
8. Turn off fire shortly after to keep the dahon sili fresh.
9. Serve with rice.
A distinct characteristic of our home cooking is how we rarely eat anything alone or with just rice. Almost every dish has its traditional partner on the table, whether it be a simple sawsawan (dip) or another dish. Without this partner(s), the dish feels incomplete. Actual partners may vary among different branches in our family, but some are more established than others.
Recommended sawsawan and partners for Batchoy:
Patis and kulikot (using the kulikot in the dish)
Traditionally served with Dinuguan (another Galay recipe!)
Sinugbang Haluan (grilled mudfish)
Any fried fish