Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shifting gears + Gracie Diet + Local Flair: Pork and Corn soup

This blog was a personal blog. Written as a public (the irony is not lost to me, trust me) diary of random thoughts, it contained nothing but personal musings. Sometimes, the posts I put up were read, recently, I've had an upsurge in hits with a reactionary post and a travel-related posts.

But then, I thought: I write, I cook, I'm learning photography, I am passionate about food, so why the heck am I not writing a food blog?

Well, there are many reasons. Firstly, I just don't think I could hack the Huessaff, Marketman or Our Awesome Planet take on food blogs. I don't have that much money to spend and I don't like paying homage to new trendy restos. Secondly, I hate trendy stuff, with a gusto. Thirdly, I was refining my craft in different ways. I never went to culinary school so I lack many of the basics.The list goes on and on, really. Time, effort, blah blah blah.

But now, I want to write more about food and give a focus to this blog. But let me first explain why and how aPISOforyourthoughts is going to go about this whole food blog thing.

A friend and fellow chaser of the Muse asked me to write recipes for the website he's curating. He has a very specific list of ingredients and what can go with what. He says he's tried the diet he wants me to write for, the Gracie Diet and that it worked wonders for him. But that's also because he's resumed his MMA training. I got into a discussion with him as to how what I have in my pantry and what is available to me in the supermarkets and wet markets that I frequent will limit the appeal of the recipes I create, especially for his North American-dominated audience. Which got me thinking. Really, why over extend myself or even be intimidated by the limiting access I have to Western ingredients? Why not do what I always do and adapt recipes to the average Pinoy? Further, why even think about that when I rarely attempt classic Italian or French-inspired dishes?

So here's how I'm going to go about this. This blog will not be your usual Foodie Blog about new restaurants or about new food finds. Though I will write about restos when I feel like it, I'll be focusing more on food I make and food that I grew up with. I plan to do a "Juandering" series, featuring eateries and hole in the wall places that minimum wage earners can enjoy. I will be writing the Grace Diet pieces for my friend, but with a very local flair. But mostly, I'll be sharing recipes and thoughts about the Filipino food and dining culture.

Let's get a few things straight. I have a very healthy amount of knowledge on food and think about it a lot, some even say I obsess about it, over analyzing it, thinking about the science behind it (damn you House M.D and your the sulfur compounds in star anise will enhance the meat flavor shenanigans)... But I am no expert. I did not study it, but I am very much into food history, science and experimentation. I will also try, as much as possible, to only pictures that I take or make myself. But I realize that that is really an impossibility, so I will give due credit when I do cop a picture or get inspiration from a recipe/commercially available dish.

Lastly, let's talk about ingredients. We all know that sourcing Parmigiano Reggiano or good lamb in this country requires money. But if you're anything like me, finding relatively cheap, essential ingredients, or really, even buying a few premium ones, for special dishes, is always something you should consider. One of my first posts will be about basics. Pantry essentials like herbs and spices and my take on them. Basics like how to make a good bagoong alamang or pureeing squash without a ricer or a blender. Skills that one needs to learn, things like that. Also, I don't measure, so parts per and approximations will be the norm here.

So I'll stop rambling now and share my first dish inspired by the Gracie Diet, and one that holds a special place in my heart. I seriously do not know from whom I learned this, but I could never forget the calming and filling feeling this soup gives me.

Ground Pork and Corn soup

What you need:

1/4 kilo lean ground pork
1 medium ear of yellow, Japanese corn
dark fish sauce
sugar to taste
a clove of garlic, finely chopped
a small red or Spanish onion
siling labuyo (bird's eye chili) leaves
a teaspoon of oil (vegetable, canola, olive, whatever you use regularly)

How to do it:

Slice corn kernels off the ear, set aside. You can use canned corn kernels, but I prefer the whole ear one as I can a real corn flavor kick by boiling the spent cob in water and salt, which I use as the broth.

Heat up a small wok or deep dish and add just enough oil to create a film. Lightly brown garlic over medium heat, add ground pork and a dash of fish sauce and saute until brown. Add the corn kernels and corn broth, simmer until cooked, add chili leaves and stir before serving.

Some notes:

Yes, the dish is simple, but I assure you, it's heavy (corn) and tasty (the broth might be simple but the flavors aren't).  If you have it or if you want to expend the effort in peeling it, sibuyas tagalog (shallots) works much better in place of regular onions. As for the hard to find outside the country chili leaves, any soft and strong herb/vegetable (I used Chinese cabbage or pechay, as seen in the picture) like sweet basil or curry leaves (thanks to this helpful thread from for the tip) will do.  I chose this as my first Gracie recipe because of it's simplicity and low fat content. If you can choose the pork and grind it yourself r have it ground by your butcher, do so.
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