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The fabulous five Filipino foods I am writing about are fish heads, spiky fruits, house plant vegetable soup, bitter melon and pork blood stew. When writing an interesting blog article, I find it necessary to sometimes overgeneralize. Some foreigners may agree with me that some or most or all of these foods are delicious. We all have our own taste. The beauty of the comment section is opinions can be expressed and information added. Anyway, on with the article!
One thing my Filipina wife and I have in common is that both our fathers were fishermen. We ate a lot of fish growing up and we still enjoy eating fish frequently. Dad still shares some of his catch with us. My wife insists on Dad leaving the heads on some of the fish he cleans to give us. As a boy, we did not eat fish with heads attached, but I have found that I agree with my wife that fish cooked with the head have more flavor. Sometimes my wife even makes a stew with just the fish heads. The stew to me is very good. My only complaints are not a lot of meat on the fish head and fish heads are not cheap here about $8 a pound! I always allow my wife to eat the eyes of the fish which she claims are the best part. Ain’t I a peach!
I am not sure why some people don’t like the fish to have the heads on when served for dinner. I like being able to identify what I am eating like in the old days. Now everything is cut up and you can hardly tell what kind of animal paid the ultimate price for your meal. My youngest son does not like seeing the heads. He used to think if the fish still had its head it was still alive. What do you think about eating fish with the heads attached?
The spikey fruits I am talking about are breadfruit, durian, jackfruit, and rambutan. I will confess now that I actually have not eaten durian, yet. Bob Martin says it is great and I take his word on it based on my experience with eating durian’s close relatives jackfruit and breadfruit. I have tried the others and found all of them when ripe delicious. Rambutan is different in that it is small in size, but it is also delicious. They sure do look strange and they may taste a little different than fruits you are used to, but for me, if I wanted everything to be the same I would never have married a lady from the other side of the world with a different culture and different foods.
House Plant Vegetable Soup
We have these plants growing around our house and one day I notice all the leaves are gone. Then at dinner, my wife serves as a side dish this soup with the houseplant leaves in to eat. I eat almost everything my wife presents me without question, so in the pie hole, the soup goes. This soup tastes great. My wife calls it horseradish soup, but it has horseradish, eggplant and ginger root hunks cut up in it. I love the taste and all those vegetables got to be good for the old ticker. Is hemlock a vegetable? Some of my friends who are Americans married to Filipinas saw me eating it and they wanted no part of the soup. I for the life of me am not sure why.
The last two foods on my list are ones I kind of had to work on to get where I enjoy them, but I now feel excitement when they are served. I tried bitter melon the first time it was offered to me. I did not like it. I did not understand why someone would want to expose their taste buds to such a bitter tasting food. The second time if was offered to me by my wife I actually declined to eat bitter melon. The third time it was offered I tried it and I enjoyed it a little and I have come to enjoy it more with each exposure. I guess bitter melon is what I would call an acquired taste.
Pork Blood Stew
Dinuguan, pork blood stew is the one Filipino dish I actually declined trying at first. The first time I saw pork blood stew was at a potluck dinner. To be honest the sight of the dinuguan made me a little nauseous. Dinuguan looks thick dark purple almost black and has an inky texture with bits of pork parts in it. There were plenty of other dishes available that I enjoyed so I passed up on this one.
One day my wife asked if I wanted to try dinuguan. I eat pretty much whatever my love gives me so I gave it a shot. I took a spoonful up with some rice and was pleasantly surprised the dinuguan was delicious. I asked my wife what the crunchy chewy part was and she informed me it was cut up pig ears. I thought those were the best pig ears I have had in my life! Last night, my wife bought some Dinuguan at a Filipino store and I asked about what part of the pig each piece I was eating was. It turns out the crunchy chewy part I like so good is the intestine. Most of the meat in this version was just pork.
Recently at a party, one of my wife’s friends was supposed to bring dinuguan with primarily pig intestines which my wife says is even better than the variety we usually eat, but for some reason, that guest did not show. I was disappointed apparently there are many varieties of pork blood stew served in different provinces. Dinuguan like many of my favorite Filipino foods for me should be eaten with rice or the taste is too powerful.
What about balut, Jay?
I have never tried balut. My wife seems to be uninterested in it. Not all Filipinos eat balut just like not all Southerners eat chitterlings. Honestly to me, balut does not sound appealing. I kind of think of balut as something one eats on a dare when they are drunk. I suspect I will get around to trying balut one day, but if anyone has tried it and wants to offer a review of it please feel free to post it in the comments section. With Filipino food, I find it best to keep your mind and mouth open and sometimes helpful to keep your eyes and nose closed. Bon Appetit!