Monday, July 17, 2006

MythBuster . . . Filipino Food Fattening?

Fresh Marungay Leaves. . .

It has been a week since the "greet and meet" with Clotilde and Maxence at the Place Pigalle.

We walked into the smoky bar and found ourselves amongst the friends and fellow bloggers that came to see Clotilde and Maxence. After introducing Ander and myself to her, Clotilde kindly asked, "Where are you from originally?" I answered, "Originally, from the Philippines, but I was raised here in the States." Maxence eyes lit up and began to tell us of his "step-mother" being part Filipino and that they were VERY familiar with Filipino Foods. I was very pleased to hear that. I felt an instant rapport and familiarity. Another blogger, Ch., acknowledged and joined the conversation, nodding her head and stating, "Filipino food is like Japanese food." Somehow, growing up on the Filipino food my Mom and Dad prepared for us did not remind me of Japanese food.

Yet, another C&Z friend, interjected with a strong, "Filipino food is soooooooo fattening." A statement that had me hopping up on the fence. Is Filipino Food Fattening? You see, (I am making only a general observation and of my opinion, no stereotyping here) most Filipino Folk are not FAT. (BTW, I am my Father's daughter and inherited his genes. I'm like the "Little Teapot". So, no, you won't actually see me "hopping on the fence" any time soon. LOL!)

On one side, I find that the "fattening" aspect could be the amount consumed by individual Pinoy. On the other side, perhaps the type of ingredients and methods of cooking will factor into the equation. I would like to explore this conundrum. (Future posts will explore ingredients and methods.) Let's start with volume consumption. My Father would insist on having the "Trinity" on the dining table. That would consist of "fish, pork and beef" or "chicken, pork and beef" or any combination of "3" types of entrées. Side dishes would include vegetables and the staple of "fresh" steamed rice. We would cook the rice either in a huge rice cooker that "ALL" Filipino families had or in a reliable saucepan capable of holding a few cups of cooked rice. Back in the old days, we used to buy 50 Lb. bags of CalRose rice at a time on our monthly expedition to the “Cah-mee-sAH-ree” on the Naval Base. I remember following, in tow, behind my Mother with a second grocery cart as she proceeded to fill the first cart with the essentials; meat, milk, bread, rice, etc. My cart would hold, vegetables, cereals, laundry detergent, etc.

In most recent years, my family has become more nutritionally aware of what we eat. Having lost my Father to complications due to Diabetes, we have modified our food consumption and the use of sugar, salt, fats and carbohydrates. We still have our comfort foods, but use ingredients that are healthier and beneficial. For example, instead of using the CalRose short-grain, starchy rice, we use a long-grain rice, such as, the fragrant Jasmine rice. Sometimes, we’ll indulge with the nutty Brown rice. One of my sisters combines both when serving rice to her family. We don’t eat as much red meat as in the past, and we don’t require the “Trinity” on the table unless it’s a big family celebration to bring on the occasion. We are pleased with what we place on our banquet table. Everything in moderation, of course.

Since we’re “havin’ a heat wave” in the North Bay, we are not inclined to cook much in our little cottage. However, I did spy some fresh “Marungay” leaves at the Asian Mart and thought of my sweet, adoring Mom. She loves this “vegetable” and can’t get enough of it. It is not indigenous to this country and is flown in from Hawaii. My Uncle W, living in Honolulu, sends to my Mom, foiled wrapped packages of branches he cuts from his tree, whenever one of us visits Oahu. We cross our fingers when going through the Ag section of Customs.

My Mom is from the Philippine Province of Ilocos Sur. She grew up in the City of Manila and did not have much experience in the kitchen. She was raised in a privileged home and only concentrated on her studies. Mom didn’t learn to cook until AFTER she married my Dad. This is one of the simple “comfort” dishes I make whenever I’m homesick for my Mom’s cooking. It is called “la uya” in the Ilocos region. I learned it as “Chicken Tinola”. My version did not include Green Papaya, but rather the carrots and potatoes I needed to use up from my veggie-bin. Besides, I didn’t want to drive all the way back to Asia Mart, therefore, conserving the gas that would take me on the 10 mile roundtrip.

Chicken Tinola with Marungay Leaves . . .

Chicken Tinola (Chicken Papaya)


2 tablespoons Cooking Oil
1 small piece Ginger, sliced thin
2 cloves crushed Garlic
2 lbs. Chicken, cut into serving pieces
2 small Green Papayas, cut into chunks
1 cup Water
2 cups Chicken stock
2 cups Marungay Leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste


Sauté ginger and garlic in oil, add onion. Add chicken and allow to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Cover
and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add a little water if necessary to prevent scorching. Add remaining water and chicken stock. Let simmer until chicken is cooked tender. Add papaya. Cook 5 minutes. Add Marungay leaves and cook 2-3 additional minutes. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Yield: 6 servings

Variations: When Green Papaya is unavailable, substitute with Chayote Squash. When Marungay leaves are unavailable, substitute with tender pepper leaves.

NOTE: The Marungay leaves must be picked off the stems and branches. It is a very painstaking chore and only a Darling Husband, like Ander, would endure the hour or so it took for him to strip the leaves off the stems. He has a method. Patience, my friends, is indeed, a virtue when it comes to this dish.

And don't laugh...I have a habit of combining both starches, rice and potatoes on my plate. It's a habit I'm trying to break. Ander is expert at pointing this out to me.

Besides the oil and the chicken fat that provides the "flavor" factor in this dish, would you consider it "Fattening"?. We can always strip the skin off the chicken before cooking to eliminate the fat in the equation, since we are adding chicken stock for additional flavor. How much chicken flavor do you really need in a chicken soup?

Leave a comment, I want to know...


Blogger Sam said...

hello anni. this is sam and im from the phils. i must admit that GENERALLY filipino foods are fattening. considering the amount of oil you use bec most recipes require sauteing ingredients. but as you have pointed out, there are several ways to cut down on the fat w/o really sacrificing flavor. nice to have bumped in on your blog! :)

1:18 AM, July 18, 2006  
Blogger anni said...

Hi, Sam,
Thanks for stopping by and leaving word. Come back often as I plan to continue my exploration of Filipino Cuisine. Salamat!

"komosta gayem, let's eat again"


Anni :-)

2:50 AM, July 18, 2006  
Blogger kuazee said...

wow tinola. thats my favorite!

12:40 AM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger anni said...

Hi, Kuazee!
As the marungay leaves are a bit combersome, I like to use the ampalia leaves more often. When I can't get either leaves, I'll use cabbage.
Green is Green.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anni :-)

12:59 AM, July 30, 2006  

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