I did not not realize that there were certain dishes I grew up knowing and liking that weren’t really popular as I thought them to be until some friends told me delightedly that those fares were as uncommon as hail falling down in Baguio. Those dishes are hand me down gastronomic delights from my lolas who’ve had the most intense affair with cooking. Off hand, I can think of three dishes that are extremely rich in flavor but are virtually unknowns, these are: calandracas (a one-pot wonder of beef stock, beef cubes, macaroni, potatoes, veggies and chorizos), afritada (nueva ecija style) and another nueva ecijano dish, tinumis.
It’s been sometime last I cooked afritada, Nueva Ecija style. Ah, how I loved hovering in the kitchen when I was a child watching my mom whip up this dish. As you know, the typical afritada uses the regular tomato sauce plus spices to boot. In fact, instant sauces have become too handy that stewing has almost been forgotten. The Nueva Ecijano version does away with using tomato sauce. The glaring difference in the ecijano version is the fact that they make the meat into adobo first before they turn it into afritada. Typically, too, the potatoes you throw into your regular afritada just boils along with the whole dish without giving much flavor. In this version, these tubers are fried to extract the savory taste of it. Indeed, It is ‘labor of intense love’ in its truest meaning because nothing here is instant.
The final product leaves you guessing what ingredients made flavors that left you asking for more. Anyway, to cut to the chase, here goes my recipe, Afritada, Nueva Ecija style!
1 kilo pork pigue, chopped into cubes
4 pcs medium-sized potatoes, quartered
1 medium-sized red bell pepper, julienned
3 cups of water
3/4 cup vinegar
5 cloves of garlic
1 and a half tablespoons patis (fish sauce)
6 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1. Put meat in a pan with 5 cloves of crushed garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar and water. Midway into the cooking, drop in the bay leaf. Simmer on slow fire until meat is turned into adobo. Set aside.
2. Meantime in a small bowl, soak about 3 tablespoons atsuete in a half cup of water.
3. In a separate pan, saute garlic, tomato and onion (in that order). The tomatoes should be stewed until thin in consistency. Put in red bell peppers. Simmer some more then throw in the adobo. Season with patis. Pour in strained atsuete water. Set aside.
4. In another separate pan, fry quartered potatoes until golden brown.
5. Mix in the fried potatoes into the afritada.