A is for Adobo

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rainy day comfort food

Days before I come back home to visit my parents, my dad usually asks me what I want to eat when I get there. Inevitably, I always tell him the same thing: Some kind of roasted pork and freshly made mungo.

(Or is it mongo?)

However you spell it, this thick and hearty soup (don't call it a "stoup," please) sticks to your ribs and reminds me of home.

The weather here has turned; fall is here, and I have a couple of hours to kill before leaving for my show. What better way to spend a lazy Sunday morning than to make a hot, steaming pot of mungo?

Making this is much easier than I thought, but you'll definitely have to go out of your way to buy some of the authentic, Filipino ingredients. Keep it real; it's worth it.

One 12 to 14-oz. bag of mung beans, washed and drained
1/4-lb. side of pork, sliced
1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined*
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 small onion, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
Salted shrimp paste (bagoong)
2 packages frozen bitter melon (ampalaya) leaves

In a soup pot, pour enough water (about 2") over the mung beans. Bring to a boil. Cover, and simmer until beans are cooked and water is more or less evaporated. Press about 1/2 of the cooked beans along the side of the pot to bust them open. This will help thicken the final mixture. Set aside.

In another soup pot, brown the pork in about 2 tsp. oil over medium heat. Once brown, throw in the chopped garlic and sautée until golden brown. Add onions and sautée until translucent.

Add one tbsp. bagoong and stir. Then add tomatoes. Stir. Add about 1/2 cup of water to deglaze the pan and simmer until the meat is slightly tender. Add shrimp. Cover.

When the shrimp is cooked, add mung beans from other pot to this one and stir.

Check for seasoning. It shouldn't be too salty, and you should be able to the combination of pork and shrimp.

Add water to your desired consistency. I like mine thick, but it's all really up to you.

Add ampalaya leaves to pot and simmer.

Serve over rice if desired. Me? I like it straight up. No, I'm not on Atkins.

*For this particular batch, I didn't add any shrimp because I couldn't be bothered to do all the prep work. However, if you do use shrimp, try to keep the orange stuff in the shrimp head; that's where a lot of the flavor is.


Friday, September 14, 2007


Mom celebrated her 63rd birthday this past weekend. In addition to inviting everyone she knew to her party, she also made sure everyone had enough to eat, plus go back for seconds, thirds ... fifths.

Since it was a special occasion, and that there would be many mouths to feed, she made sure that her party included that filipino party staple, a whole, spit-roasted pig, lovingly called lechon.

As a child, the image of a whole pig with an apple in its mouth, lying on the table along with typical party fare such as lumpia and pancit, was more unappetizing than anything else.

As an adult, I rarely eat lechon at parties. By the time I get to it, it's already cold, picked over, and everyone's already taken the best parts --- namely, the skin.

Now, don't get me wrong; crunchy, oven-baked (or fried) pig skin is good eatin'. There's nothing I like better than a hot, salty, crispy pork belly. (Wood Tavern in Oakland does it really well, but that's another post.) But I don't think most people pay attention to the sauce that traditionally goes with lechon. It's hard to explain; it's thick, rich, and at once both sweet and sour. It's a meat-based sauce --- okay, liver based --- probably one of the best things to happen to offal.

And my mom makes it the best.

So what's in it, really? Well, I'm not ready to share the details of mom's recipe with you guys just yet. Maybe one day.

And now, dinner: