After our mom passed away, my siblings now yearn for the food she prepared at home. We long for her lauya (pork stew with local vegetables), paired with any vegetable cooked in coconut milk, long pepper and lada (siling labuyo in Bicol). Lada is our small local chilli pepper that packs a lot of heat. These are our gastronomic equivalent of a warm blanket on stormy nights, our parent’s hugs and kisses, and our childhood memories.
Comfort food is emotional and subjective. It evokes a memory of love and warmth. It is usually connected with one’s favourite childhood dish or a positive association with a person, place or time. It is usually craved when tired, stressed, or lonely.
Let me share the comfort foods of my family and friends (and myself), and most importantly, where you can find them.
1. Bicol Express. The famous Bicol Express in its most authentic form. Long peppers (siling berde or siling mahaba) and pork slices cooked in coconut milk and pink shrimp paste. Camalig, Albay. (Feature image above).
2. Inulukan. Pinangat with river crabs (ulok in Bicol means river crab – not in Cebuano) and coconut meat filling. Camalig, Albay
3. Laing. The rich and creamy dish is made of dried taro leaves, pork slices, siling haba (for an extra kick, add the Philippine bird chili or siling labuyo) cooked in coconut milk and pink shrimp paste. Camalig, Albay
4. Kandinga. This dish is made of cubed pork heart and lungs, siling labuyo and vinegar. It is served with fresh indian onion rings. It is a favorite pulutan for lambanog (local coconut wine) drinkers. Camalig, Albay
5. My family’s favorite place: Small Talk Café’s Bicol pizza (photo), crispy tilapia, callos, pork chop, etc. They serve pizza with pinangat or Bicol express. Old Albay, Legazpi City.
6. Dear Manok’s Grilled Chicken. Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.
7. Crispy Pata. Deep fried pig knuckles served with a soy-vinegar and siling labuyo dip. Via Mare, UP Diliman, Quezon City
8. Kalkag Rice. Iloilo’s favorite, kalkag means sundried baby shrimps. It is perfect as a topping on fried rice. Via Mare, UP Diliman, Quezon City
9. Sinigang na Tiyan ng Bangus. Milkfish belly, mustard green, eggplant and long peppers in tamarind sour broth. Via Mare, UP Diliman, Quezon City
10. Pinakbet. Assorted vegetables in shrimp paste or fish sauce. Via Mare, UP Diliman, Quezon City