Having a little one around, in particular one that seems to be, for the moment at least (fingers and toes resolutely crossed), enjoying the discovery of new foods, turns my thoughts to my own childhood food memories. And, inevitably, to thoughts of recreating them for her.
Without even realizing, I have already started, as my childhood favorites have become adult favorites as well. Monggo guisado. Pancakes. Egg salad. Pineapple Upside-down cake. Soft boiled eggs. Oatmeal. Carbonara. Croquetas. All have found their way, in some form or iteration, into this blog.
Other dishes are in my mind’s pipeline as well. To be practiced, perfected, and chronicled here...and one day be served lovingly to little C, in the hopes that they, not only nourish her, but also live in the place where she keeps all her good memories. My mom’s arroz caldo, that she fed me every time I was sick. Her sopa seca, cocido, and carne frita. Her “Royal Apahap”, proudly adapted from her well-worn copy of Nora Daza’s cookbook. My grand-aunt’s apple pie. My great grandmother’s, and my grandmother’s, dulce de leche (which we lovingly referred to as “toffee condensada”). My grandmother’s pancit molo.
There is also this – the ubiquitous chicken curry of my childhood.
Filipino-style Chicken Curry
- Canola oil
- 700 grams – 1 kg chicken pieces (4 leg quarters, drumstick and thigh separated, or your own favorite parts)
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2 potatoes (about 300-350 grams total weight), peeled and cubed
- 1 big carrot or 2 smaller ones (about 200-250 grams total weight), peeled and cubed
- 300 grams kamote tops (sweet potato leaves), leaves picked
- 3-4 tablespoons curry powder (depending on how strong your curry powder is)
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 4 eggs
- 4 strips bacon
- 1/3 cup raisins
- Heat a pot over medium high heat. Once hot, add a few glugs of oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot add the chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides, no need to cook through, and set aside.
- Remove most of the oil from the pot but leave about spoonful in. Make sure the oil is still hot then add the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the potato and the carrot and toss. Add the chicken back in the pot, sprinkle everything with the curry powder, and mix until everything is moist and coated in the curry.
- Add the coconut milk to the pot. Stir then add the salt. Stir again and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the chicken and all the vegetables are soft. Make sure to check your pot occasionally during the cooking time, and give it a couple of stirs, to make sure your chicken doesn’t stick or your curry doesn’t scorch. At 30 minute mark, add the kamote tops to the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- While you curry is cooking, hard boil the eggs, peel, chop finely, and set aside. Fry your bacon crispy, drain on paper towels, chop/crush to bits. Place raisins, chopped egg, and bacon bits in separate bowls. These are your toppings.
- Serve curry with steaming white rice, toppings, and chutney.
Quirkily referred to Pinoy-style (or Filipino-style) chicken curry, this was a staple in many a childhood table, at least for my generation (and possibly before). I have no clue if it has anything at all to do with Indian curry. I don’t actually know if there is anything distinctly Filipino about it either. It usually has strips of red pepper as well, but I didn’t have any on hand. The addition of kamote tops (sweet potato leaves) is mine as I thought the curry would do well with the addition of some greens. It is served, customarily, with chopped up hard-boiled egg, bacon bits, raisins, and chutney.
As I grew up, I left this dish at the wayside in favor of the more intense, authentic Indian curries and the vibrantly flavored Thai curries. This was a relic, a kitschy leftover from the time when we used “curry powder”...a time when I was foolishly ignorant of such things as cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, cloves, coriander, turmeric, and how they could be put together in so many exciting ways.
I don’t know what urged me to try my hand at it – a sudden craving, a big jar of curry powder that my mum-in-law brought back for me from a trip to Singapore, or simply a new mum’s wistfulness to recreate the tastes of her childhood for her own child. Whatever the case, I am glad I did. The simple taste of this curry brought satisfaction in our tummies and smiles on our lips.
It seems like I have some catching up to do when it comes to trying my hand at my childhood favorites…but it is a task I am looking forward to it with relish!