Last week’s column was about middle class heirlooms which are usually kept in the family not because of their monetary cost but because of their sentimental value. I purposely did not include heirloom recipes in that column since we have a lot of happy stories to share on this topic.
Preserving family recipes over generations is akin to keeping love letters from our elders. Our grandparents or parents spent hours and put in a lot of effort to create these treasured family recipes.
Here are Top 10 middle class heirloom recipes that I gathered from my friends. Of course, I did not ask for the actual recipes, but I asked them what was different in the preparation of the meal that was handed from one generation to another.
My relatives and friends would painstakingly endure any traffic to join us during special occasions when my Nanay Mila cooks kare-kare. She only uses beef tripe and innards and even has a distinct supplier in Farmer’s Market in Cubao. Even her bagoong is special that some of our guests said that it is already a meal. We grew up pounding on peanuts for her kare-kare, but thanks to food processors, that is now a thing of the past. My Nanay is now 83 and for the first time, I took over cooking kare-kare last Christmas. I’m proud to say that it is the only one of two recipes that I can cook.
Kare-kare is also an heirloom for Sherrynell Subong-Dayo’s family which also uses peanuts, no to peanut butter.
2. BEEF TAPA
Toteng Tanglao’s father is an expert cook such that his small restaurant in Paranaque is a hub for taxi drivers. His beef tapa is so soft and savory that once tasted, it leaves a spot in your palate. The recipe is highly confidential. For now, Toteng is studying thoroughly his father’s Pata Tim which is another winner.
Cooking is in Edwin Maliwat’s genes. Their family has several treasured – and secret- recipes. He himself has a panciteria that has made a niche market in Bulacan. But of all family recipes, Edwin said he considers their menudo as a family heirloom. They use only fresh tomatoes or calamansi and instead of the usual soy sauce for menudo, they use fish sauce.
4. PORK NILAGA
Dr. Elisa Baroque’s family recipe is pork nilaga slow cooked overnight under charcoal fire. They use old meat which is tastier and delicious. She learned it from her grandfather and is served during Easter Sunday and Christmas.
Ma’am Ella Valencerina’s embutido recipe was from her mother. It is so special that it is only served on special occasions. Due to requests from numerous friends, she now sells it during Christmas but not in commercial bulk. Their embutido has no preservatives but can be stored in the freezer for three months.
6. CHICKEN SOTANGHON SOUP
Very comforting was how Diane Martinez described this family recipe from her grandmother which was always served during New Year. Only one of her aunts could do the soup now.
7. LAOAG PINAKBET
Rolando Acosta can enumerate the steps required to cook pinakbet as taught by his father. Shaken not stirred is one trick to cook the vegetables of pinakbet. The bagoong should be from San Nicolas in Laoag. Strict hygiene is observed so it will not easily spoil.
Bobby Macabeo learned this family recipe from his Ilocano father. He only uses grass-fed goat but if this is not available, his father taught him how to choose prime goat meat innards in the public market. He said Ilocano elders can easily recognize if the goat meat is fresh or not, and this, he learned from years of accompanying his Dad in the market.
Menchie Magno’s empanada is now a business. She inherited the recipe from her mother, now 93 but still making empanada. The dough is made fresh just before baking and it has a secret ingredient. Her mother had a canteen which supported the education of her 14 kids that included Menchie. She really served fantastic food. But of all the food served in the canteen, the empanada was always out of the shelf in just a few hours.
Diana Jean Gabriel remembers fondly the sapin-sapin made by her grandmother which only used real fruits. She said that Susan Roces, the famous actress, always orders five trays of sapin-sapin for her birthday every year. As a kid, she remembers sitting on top of the wet-milled rice wrapped in cloth to dry it.
Heirloom recipes are emotional connections to our elders. These recipes carry these secret ingredients that are priceless: Fondness, devotion and prayer. One can taste these in every bite of the heirloom recipe.