One of the things I miss most about home is being able to eat Pinoy food.
I do get samplings of it every now and then during get-togethers with my fellow ex-pat friends, but Filipino feasts are few and far in between. I do know how to cook traditional Pinoy meals, but for reasons I've already explained before, I really, really hate cooking for one. And I'm also not very good at improvising in the kitchen with western ingredients.
But now, thanks to my ex-pat friends (and this is just one more reason why it's a MUST to have fellow Pinoy friends abroad) and by virtue of having my own car, it's no longer a pipe dream to have a taste of home.
A few weeks ago, my friend Michelle took me to an Asian grocery store in a suburb about a 30 minute drive from where I live. It was well worth the drive as I finally got to stock up on my favorite Pinoy comfort foods - Barrio Fiesta bagoong, preserved green mangoes, dried squid, Mang Tomas lechon sauce, and Lucky Me instant pancit canton, just to name a few. And guess what else? Tocino mix!
Tocino has always been my favorite all-day breakfast food - probably in part because of my sweet tooth. Tocino plus a serving of garlic rice and one fried egg with atsara or vinegar on the side is my idea of a great Pinoy meal. It was too hard to resist flirting with the possibility of being able to eat it again - so I bought myself a pack, a half kilo of thinly sliced pork tenderloin, and decided to experiment.
Not that it takes a lot of culinary skill to dump pork in a container, mix in the sugar-food-coloring-and-nitrite concoction, and let it sit overnight to let the pork cure. But I'd tried the same with chicken fillets a few weeks before, and the results were not exactly great, so I was really putting a lot on faith that my new experiment would turn out well.
After an overnight soak, in just fifteen minutes cooking time, I had my picture-perfect pork tocino, which I paired with my trusty microwaved steamed rice. (Unfortunately, I was too hungry and excited to take actually pictures for my blog and just dug in.) And it tasted just like what we had back home. Yes, success!
Next time, I'm definitely splurging calories on the garlic rice and the fried egg. If any of you happen to have family living in Perth who know where to get good atsara to go with my tocino, please let me know - you will be in my "God-bless-you" list for the rest of my life.
Hmmm, living down here has certainly expanded my definition of "life's little joys." At the moment, a plate of home made tocino happens to be one of them.