The hidden wonders of Filipino cuisine

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Helen, over at Grab Your Fork, has a post on the Haldon Street Festival at Lakemba. She writes that on her way home, she grabbed a pack of kutsinta (spelled cuchinta for some reason - is that a marketing thing to make it easier to pronounce?) from an Asian store. As soon as I saw the picture, I thought, "Nooooo!"

I don't have anything against kutsinta makers but, let's face it, pre-packaged kutsinta tastes like rubber. There's nothing worse than anticipating the sweet, soft taste of kutsinta and then gagging on the rubbery texture of the store-bought version. Not to mention that they usually have a really weird aftertaste.

And I thought, If only I knew her, I could have told her that comparing store-bought kutsinta with those we used to get every Christmas from a close friend, or the ones I tasted at the magazine launch earlier this month - and which I intend to order for The Little Man's party - would be like comparing a Freddo with a piece of Valhrona.

What the heck, I'd invite her over to my cousin's birthday on Saturday because her mum makes the best leche flan, one of her family's closest friends makes polvoron, one of my titas is making puto and I'm sure my other tita will be ordering sapin-sapin. I'm hoping someone will order braso de mercedes but if not, I'll settle for halo-halo - even when it's freezing outside.

Oh yeah, and my mum is making the cake. She makes awesome cakes and I'm not just saying that because I like free leftovers. In fact, Mum made my wedding cake, which had three separate pieces, multiple layers, a staircase and a fountain. I kid you not. The cake was so damn tall, it was in the way of practically every attempt at getting a photo of the entire entourage at the table. Still, I was a bit miffed that she refused to make me some swans and latticed panels made of icing sugar whatsies. But she was the mother of the bride so I begrudgingly allowed her to have some sleep before the wedding.

Speaking of cakes, the non-Filipino fiance of one of our family friends has requested that their wedding cake be made of sans rival. OMG, can you imagine that? (Forget the logistics of melting butter for a moment and just imagine...) My brother likes to think he makes excellent sans rival, too. He does, but we don't like to encourage him because he makes a huge mess in the kitchen.

Even excluding dessert, Filipino food has so many delicious offerings - adobo, menudo, sinigang, palabok, kare-kare, our special barbeque sauce (you know what I mean, you can't find that taste anywhere else) and Filipino fried rice. I might slip in some dinuguan without disclosing the ingredients at least until after the first bite. For the ultimate test, I'd plonk down a bowl of burro. Eeew! Only a diehard gastronome (did I just make up that word?) would be able to cast aside the smell to sample the taste.

Or - the thought is making my mouth water - hito (catfish) with tomatoes and rice, eaten with bare hands.

But of course, I didn't say any of these things because I didn't want to come across as stalker girl. *sigh*

I don't know why we're so crappy at marketing our own food. I've seen so many Filipino restaurants come and go over the years. Many of them offer karaoke and are targeted towards other Filipinos. One day, I'd love to see a Filipino restaurant in Newtown or Balmain, rubbing shoulders with other cuisines that have been embraced by mainstream Australian culture.

So to the Filos out there: if you were hosting a dinner party for foodbloggers, what would you serve?

(BTW, I always thought kutsinta had pumpkin in it but none of the recipes online mention it. Am I crazy?)

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