Recipe #47: CHOP SUEY

Is chop suey Chinese? American? Nobody seems to know the answer.

Based on the name alone, chop suey (literally means assorted pieces) is most likely of Chinese origin or created by Chinese-American immigrants. Bits and pieces of leftover meat and vegetables are mixed together and stir-fried to avoid wastage, accidentally creating an iconic and versatile Asian dish.

Not to cause confusion, the American chop suey is not the same as the Asian chop suey — not even closely similar. The former is an American pasta dish which is influenced by Italian-American flavor. The name, however, was borrowed from China because it is sometimes prepared using a hodgepodge of meat and vegetables.

Asian countries, such as Thailand and India, have their own versions of chop suey. Some are sweet, some are spicy. In Indonesia, it’s called can cai which is quite similar to the Filipino version. The Filipino chop suey itself has so many ways to prepare. My lola’s version, called vianda (probably has a Spanish influence), contains chorizo de bilbao or Chinese chorizo which adds a lovely aromatic sweetness into the sauce.

Chop Suey Recipe

Chop Suey can be served as a main or as a side to your meat dishes. In Filipino fiestas and other special occasions, chop suey is served to add variety in a usually meat-centric buffet table. Enjoy it with steamed rice, or stir-fry it with your favorite noodles, such as canton or bihon, to make a beautifully delicious chow mein or pancit.

In this recipe, I’m using chicken meat, but you can also use thinly sliced pork, beef, or seafood. Shrimp is highly preferred. Some recipes may also call for tripes or chicken liver. Hard-boiled quail eggs are kids’ favorite. Go vegan by removing the meat or by replacing it with tofu or mushroom, minus the oyster sauce.

Aside from the ones listed below, there are other kinds of vegetables that you may or may not add, such as bell pepper, bean sprouts, patola (luffa), upo (bottle gourd), and green beans. The choice of vegetables is all up to you.

Ready? Warm up your wok and grab the recipe below:

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Recipe #43: BANANA TURON (Valencia)

Last Sunday, my father and I prepared the perfect merienda for the family — Banana Turon. Actually, it was my mother who asked us to cook Turon to be sold outside our house as an afternoon street snack alongside my sister’s Halo-halo. But I discovered some vanilla and ube ice creams in the freezer, so I think the family practically ate half of the Turons that we made.

Turon is a sweet roll of saba banana and jackfruit (langka) coated with caramelized sugar and enclosed in lumpia wrapper. In my native town Malabon, it is locally known as Valencia, and the Turon the we have always known has a munggo filling instead of banana. It is usually served as an afternoon snack, although some posh Filipino restaurants serve it as a dessert “a la mode” which sometimes comes with an unreasonable price tag.

Banana Turon Recipe

Most of the ingredients of Turon are actually inexpensive. Saba bananas are cheap and nutritious. You can buy jackfruit flesh in tingi (small portions). In fact, we sell one piece of Turon for only P15. However, preparation can be hard labor, especially if you’re not used to rolling and wrapping and keeping everything neat and tidy.

Before you start cooking, here’s a few notes in buying the fruit ingredients: make sure the saba bananas are ripe, possibly with black spots on the skin, soft to the touch, but not mushy; jackfruit flesh must be golden yellow and sweet smelling. Using unripe fruits may result to a gummy bite which is not very appetizing.

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Recipe #41: GINATAANG HALO-HALO (ALFAJOR)

Ginataang Halo-Halo is another favorite Filipino merienda or minandal which is usually served as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. In my hometown, this delectable dish is popularly known as Alfajor. A warm bowl of this sweet delicacy can be enjoyed at a nearby carenderia, usually being served along side lugaw and other kakanin.

Root crops are the key ingredients of Ginataang Halo-Halo which easily fill your stomach and give you enough energy for a day’s work. Saba bananas and ripe jackfruit add an extra sweetness, and the sago and glutinous rice balls (bilo-bilo) provide a chewy texture.

Just an additional note, I personally find it challenging to prepare Ginataang Halo-Halo because I get allergic reaction while peeling taro roots (gabi). It gives me an itch that lasts for several days. Gabi is naturally toxic when raw, but its toxicity diminishes when cooked. What I do is I wear a plastic bag or hand gloves whenever I prepare the root crop. So, take extra precautionary measures as you might also experience the same discomfort.

Meanwhile, the glutinous rice (malagkit) dough is the same ingredient that we use in making Palitaw. Check out my Palitaw recipe to learn how to make the dough at home. When you shape it into small balls, it is locally known as bilo-bilo, which perhaps came from the Tagalog word bilog which means round in shape.

Just like many of Filipino dishes, Ginataang Halo-Halo can be prepared without one or two of the ingredients especially when they are not available in the place where you live. Check out Filipino stores in your area for canned varieties if you can’t find fresh produce.

Ginataang Halo-Halo

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