#30DayWritingChallenge: The best meal of my life.

Day Twenty-Three: The best meal of my life.

It is a common joke among former residents of the Chairless Apartment that whenever we start cooking pasta, it means we are running low on money.

Day 03 - Favorite Place

Normally when we buy groceries, we would include two kilos of dry spaghetti noodles and cans of fried sardines. We also always keep lots of garlic and pepper in the kitchen cupboard.

On days when we have enough money among ourselves, we would eat out or order food delivered to the apartment. If we feel like cooking, we would think of comfort food we miss and prepare them: pork sinigang, kare-kare, menudo, ginisang munggo. Nearly everyone in the house can cook, and we help each other in the kitchen.

On lean days, we bring out the pasta.

The Great Tinapa Hunt adventure of Mandaluyong (and a recipe for tinapa and pesto spaghetti).

Tinapa by Johann Espiritu

Since I will be working on New Year’s Day, I promised the co-workers that I will be bringing some pasta for a little post-New Year celebration. I decided I’ll cook some tinapa pesto spaghetti.

Tinapa is a local preparation of smoked fish, typically using galunggong (scad), and is an typical part of the Filipino poor man’s diet. Not that I am looking down on it: tinapang galunggong has a rich smoky flavor and is great when fried and served with rice, chopped fresh tomatoes and sliced salted eggs.

A few months ago, the occupants of the Chairless Apartment ended up in a restaurant called Lime 88 which served humble street food prepared like haute cuisine. One of the dishes we tried was a smoked fish and pesto pasta that used tinapang galunggong. Lime’s tinapa and pesto spaghetti was very good so we decided to imitate the dish a few weeks later. It was surprisingly easy to prepare.

The day before the New Year, I went out to buy ingredients for the dinner with the housemates that I was preparing. I decided to buy the wet ingredients (meat, veggies, etc) in the local wet market instead of the supermarket so I could get them cheaper. Except that I was not able to find a vendor that sold tinapa.

I actually went out twice and went to two wet markets partly to look for tinapa. All the usual tinapa vendors I see on normal days are missing and were replaced by fruit vendors. It seemed that because tinapa is known to be a poor man’s food, it isn’t likely to be included in holiday dinners and no one was selling it.

It wasn’t a big deal for me yet; the pasta could wait until tomorrow and I could always look get them from a supermarket. The following day (i.e., yesterday), I was shocked to find out that the nearby supermarkets were closed for the New Year. The wet markets I passed looked like deserted ghost towns, with very few vendors opening their shops. None of them were selling smoked fish.

In the end, after going visiting three supermarkets and four wet markets, I decided to alter the pesto recipe.

Tinapa and pesto spaghetti

  • Chop some garlic and flake some tinapang galunggong, carefully removing all fish bone. Two medium-sized tinapa is good for 1/3 kilo of dried spaghetti.
  • Saute the garlic and tinapa flakes in oil. Lower the heat and add some pesto, three or four tablespoons for every 1/3 kilo of spaghetti. Ready-made pesto works fine.
  • Add a little water to the pesto to make the sauce creamier. Add the pre-cooked spaghetti and mix it thoroughly to coat it with the sauce. Season to taste.

I promise I will not write about tinapa again for at least a month.

Image: Tinapa by Johann Espiritu on Flickr

Photo: Rigid bolts and nuts.

Rigid Bolts and Nuts

It’s hard not to snigger while looking at this sign.

Pastry food trip at the Mandaluyong city hall complex.

Even when we’re practically broke last Sunday, Bern and I still found time to explore the food market in the Mandaluyong city hall complex. The city hall always sets up a flea market around Maysilo weeks before Christmas, bringing noisy crowds, gaudy lighting and heavy traffic in the area.

Because we hardly had money left, we were only able to buy a few pastries. Despite the price, they were actually quite good.

The magic siopao dream.

Kawaii siopao, by Oooway

This was a dream I had yesterday afternoon. While walking along a street, I sent a tweet through my phone: I want siopao.

It was around dusk. The street had four lanes without an island, lined with what appeared to be pet shops. Ahead of me was an intersection to what looked like a rotonda. If it weren’t for the lack of island, the place reminded me of Boni Avenue intersecting with Maysilo Street (I could see a structure similar to Mandaluyong’s “Dambana ng mga Ala-ala” in front of me), but with the pet shops of Cartimar thrown in.

There weren’t that many people out walking, there were very few vehicles about. As soon as I sent the tweet, I looked ahead and there by the intersection passed a large car. When it passed, it left a large siopao in the middle of the street.

I ran towards the siopao, looked around if anyone else would pick it up, took it, then walked back to the sidewalk. The siopao was pretty big, with a shiny beige bun, unlike the typical white. It reminded me of the siopao sold in Mr. Poon’s along Quezon Avenue.

I didn’t get to know what the siopao tasted like. I woke up by then and thought, “wow, magic siopao!”

[Image: “Siopao (steam buns)” by Oooway on Flickr.]