In the morning of the day before Mother's Day, my husband and I tried without succeeding in booking a restaurant for us and the kids for a celebratory lunch. All our choices were closed for lunch. The last straw came when my son declared that he didn't feel like eating in a restaurant and sit down for hours over the different courses. I understand that it can be arduous for kids to sit still throughout an entire meal. Usually, they just have enough patience for one course then they start becoming antsy. That's when iPads come in handy.
Usually, we would push to go out but my husband offered to grill our lunch instead. Then we decided to go to the restaurant for dinner and leave the kids with the babysitter. That was the best we could do to cover our plans and make everyone happy. So lunch was hastily planned while my husband took a quick trip to the butcher and and grilled. I, on the other hand, gathered some leftovers from the refrigerator to come up with a fried rice dish to accompany the grilled meat. I was in a Philippine grilling mood that day.
Having not planned anything, the pork belly didn't stay long in the marinade. It wasn't a problem because my family are not into vinegar-marinated food anyway. They were more attracted to the grilled salsicce to put in their panini. I stuck with my grilled Philippine lunch and was really, really happy. In the Philippines, grilling takes effort so it is usually reserved for special occasions and Mother's Day was an occasion to celebrate in our house. Aside from the handcrafted cards that both my kids made in school, the flowers they gathered from our garden (and from our neighbor's), and the booking to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner, Mother's Day had been overwhelming!
A full meal in the Philippines requires rice, meat or fish, and vegetables with a dipping sauce that goes with the food. These are all downed by a glass of water or sweet drinks like sodas, iced tea or fruit juices. Wine is something that I never got around to connect with my food because the acidity of the vinegar which is almost always present in the dishes, kills the taste of the wine. So what was my choice of drink? Cold glasses of lemon iced tea!
The dishes and dipping sauces in the Philippines always have garlic and onions just like some other Asian dishes. When I cook the food at home, I minimize my usage of onions and garlic because the taste and smell tend to stay in mouth for a long time and it distracts my tastebuds when I arrive at the next meal. In my recipes, the garlic and onions are adjusted according to the amount that I use. Add more if you like the food to be tastier. The vinegar dipping sauces in the Philippines would have generous amounts of garlic and onions. As the saying goes, the more, the merrier.
Grilled Pork Belly with Chicken, Asparagus & Harissa Fried Rice
Grilled Pork Belly
- 4 tablespoons vinegar (coconut vinegar or cane vinegar are ideal but white wine and cider vinegar can be used to substitute)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Freshly-cracked pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed (more if you want)
- 500 grams pork belly (about 2 cm. thick)
- Prepare the marinade hours in advance. In a container, mix the vinegar, soy sauce, salt, pepper and sugar. Adjust the taste according to your preference then add the garlic and the pork.
- Leave the pork in the marinade for at least 4 hours or overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator.
- Grill the pork until golden brown right before serving. Serve hot with the rice and dipping sauce.
Chicken, Asparagus & Harissa Fried Rice
- 8 asparagus spears
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons harissa sauce
- 100 grams chicken fillet, julienned (leftover rotiserrie chicken works very well)
- 3 cups cooked white rice
- 3 tablespoons annatto oil (optional) (See recipe below.)
- 1 lime, zest
- 1/2 lime, juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- In a griddle, grill the asparagus until tender then chop.
- On medium fire, in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil, sautè the garlic until golden then add the harissa. Toss for a minute. Discard the garlic.
- Add the chicken. Toss until cooked through then add the asparagus. If using rotisserie chicken, toss for just a minute then add the asparagus.
- Add the rice. If some are clumped together, use a fork to separate them. As you cook the rice, it will soften so don't worry if they seem dry and hard.
- Add the annatto oil if using. If not using, just use extra virgin olive oil.
- When the rice has softened and is evenly coated with oil, add the lime zest, juice and soy sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper. Adjust the taste. Set aside.
Annatto Oiloriginal recipe taken from Panlasang Pinoy
- 1-1/2 tablespoons annatto seeds (can be bought in any Asian store.)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or other kinds of oil)
- Over low - medium heat, in a small saucepan, combine the annatto seeds and oil.
- When bubbles start to form around the annatto seeds, turn off the heat and let the seeds soak in the oil for 1 to 2 minutes (Do not overcook the seeds because it will produce a bitter taste).
- Transfer the annatto oil to a container and strain the seeds. Discard the seeds.
Vinegar Dipping Sauce
- Soy sauce
- Onion, finely chopped
- Garlic, finely chopped or crushed
- Mix all the ingredients and adjust the taste according to your preference.