Sour. Bitter. But good.

Roast Pig Philippines

I have a confession to make. I only watched the first twenty-five minutes of No Reservations – Philippines on Monday. Why? Because I was tired after playing many hours of basketball. Why else? Because I didn’t think the episode was any good. So I shut it off. Went to bed. And awoke the next morning thinking that my review of the episode was never going to happen.

That changed today when I decided to give the episode another shot. You see, I have never seen an episode of No Reservations that I didn’t even want to finish. I have never turned one off and then never resumed playing it later. Never. So, with notebook and pen in hand I rewatched the entire episode to see what I may have missed.

Turns out I was right. Well, about the first twenty-five minutes anyway. The beginning of the Philippines episode was, well, pretty dull. The guy in the beginning, while passionate about his country’s cuisine, wasn’t bringing any thunder (as my friend Gary likes to put it). It wasn’t until he took Tony to a Dampa, a market where you buy fresh ingredients and have the opportunity to have them cooked for you on the spot, that the episode really began to gain some momentum.

After I poured over every detail of this episode, I was able to extract the really great tidbits (in my opinion) that made the last half of the episode very good. Here are a few lists I’ve made as a result of this episode.

Things I must eat

  • I want to “adobo” something. After doing a little research, it turns out that adobo simply means to marinate something. However, in the Philippines, it is meant as a particular kind of marinade – though used as a cooking agent. Confused yet? It is pretty simple. When something is “adobo” in the Philippines it means that it was cooked with soy, garlic, pepper corns, and onion.  I can do that. And I plan on doing it.
  • I must have sisig. You know, the dish that Tony had that was all pig head parts, cooked and then chopped up, and served on a hot plate, sizzling over a little bit of butter to make the underside get nice and crunchy? To me this was the “best dish” of the episode. I don’t know how or where, but I’m going to have sisig.
  • Milk fish. I don’t know why but this fish was instantly added to my “must eat” list. Cooked in vinegar? I’m in.
  • Ox tail. I’ve had ox tail, in my younger years, but it was in a soup and as I recall not all that tasty. I’d love to try it the way they had it prepared in the episode – though very little information was given about this dish. Bummer.
  • Lechon. Roast pig cheek. Need I say more?

There were other foods in this episode that would be worthy of exploring for sure (the coconut milk crab or stuffed crab back come to mind) but I have had these dishes before. And I will someday again. Why isn’t there more than three meals per day? Why do calories exist? I ask myself these questions all the time.

Here is another list that I made during the episode.

Things I’d like to do

  • Buy and eat at a Dampa. I don’t know if any exist in the United States let alone in my rural area of Pennsylvania. But being able to buy fresh meat, fish, and vegetables from a market and then having them cooked for you immediately sounds like something any foodie must do.
  • Cook up some of these Filipino dishes myself. I mentioned that I’m going to adobo something. I’d also like to try my hand at making the stuff crab back and the tomato salad with fried squid. Also the fern salad.
  • I must find a batuan. Tony called it something else (Coloman seed?, no idea. I couldn’t hear him clearly. I think No Reservations needs subtitles or show notes or something.) but it was the small green fruit that was sour in the beginning of the episode. They use it to make their dishes a little bit sour. I’d like to try that.

So even though this episode of No Reservations took thirty minutes to get off the ground, I really enjoyed watching it the second time around. I can’t quite sympathize with Augusto’s cultural identity crisis (well, maybe I can, I am Dutch after all) but I thought it was a good way to explain why Filipino dishes aren’t more prevalent here in the United States. No where near as good as the food porn special, but probably better than my least favorite episode. But that is a post for another time.

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