“Pedro Calungsod: Patron for the Filipino Youth” is Fr. Salvador “Buddy” Agualada Jr.’s third book. His first two books are “Stirrings of a Heart in Prayer,” which won him the Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Emerging Author Award in the 2008 Catholic Mass Media Awards, and “Homecoming,” the first book he wrote after returning from Rome, where he took up licentiate studies in Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Aside from being a professor, a theologian and an author, Father Buddy is also an outstanding cook. His specialty is Bicol fare.
My family had the privilege of tasting his food. He prepared laing, kinunot na pagi and ginutaang balaw. Father Buddy’s cuisine, I find, has that distinct provincial quality that, at some point, even the most sophisticated taste buds yearn to come home to.
“I come from a family of cooks,” he says. “And these are dishes we prepared at home when I was a child. My father, mother, two brothers and my sisters also love to cook… We use a lot of coconut milk and sili in Bicol. Majority of our dishes have it. Even if all the dishes contain coconut milk, we serve them together. We make our dinuguan with gata, also lugaw, champorado, kamote tops—all with gata.
“I really started cooking in third year high school, when my sisters and I, who were all studying in Naga City then, far from our home, had to prepare our meals.”
Father Buddy shares his recipes and culinary secrets.
My favorite! Imagine alamang cooked with ground pork, made plump and juicy by the absorption of pure coconut cream. A dish that’s a bit salty, creamy and spicy all in one, and makes my mouth water just thinking about it! If you’re the type to mix aligue with your rice, this is the perfect alternative recipe. So good to eat with inihaw na liempo or anything fried, or even with just plain rice, perhaps one rice cooker-ful!
Combine all ingredients in a wok except alamang.
Once boiling, put alamang in.
Simmer until gata is absorbed and oil begins to come out, mixing from time to time.
Season to taste.
1. Use only pure coconut milk (no water in the process of extracting gata).
2. Be patient, as this takes some time to cook. “When you see oil coming out all over, we know it is already cooked, and cooked well,” says Father Buddy.
Father Buddy’s version is so tasty—dry-looking, but once you eat it, it melts in your mouth and is very creamy, because of the amount of coconut cream the leaves absorb during cooking.
Combine all ingredients in a wok except laing leaves; mix until it boils.
Add leaves, wait 2 minutes then start to bathe the leaves with coconut milk.
Once leaves have absorbed the coconut milk, start mixing to make sure bottom of laing does not burn.
Season to taste.
1. “The secret to making good laing for me, firstly, has to do with the leaves,” says Father Buddy. “I prefer dried leaves than fresh leaves. Dried leaves require more coconut milk to hydrate, so the resulting dish is more flavorful.” Fresh leaves, unlike dried ones, contain sap, which competes with coconut milk, when what you want to do is make the leaves absorb as much coconut cream as they can.
2. The right ratio between the leaves and coconut milk, something you get over time and from experience, is more or less ¼ kilo laing to 10 cups of pure coconut cream.
3. You will have to continue stirring the coconut milk until it boils. If you don’t, it will curdle, producing oil not cream.
The most crucial part is when to put the leaves. If you overstir, the leaves become itchy. From the time you immerse the leaves in the boiling coconut cream, wait 2 minutes then start mixing. When you mix, the proper way is to bathe the leaves with the coconut milk. Ladle the coconut milk and pour it over the leaves.
4. When the leaves have absorbed all the gata, you can now mix.
5. The laing is ready when it has become very creamy and you can see the oil coming out.
‘Kinunot na Pagi’ (Stingray in Coconut Milk)
Kinunot means to shred.
Boil stingray till soft.
Shred the meat.
Combine all the ingredients in a wok, except stingray, malunggay leaves and vinegar.
Stir well and bring to a boil.
Put shredded stingray and vinegar.
Simmer 15-20 minutes, then add malunggay leaves.
Season to taste.
To get a copy of “Pedro Calungsod: Patron for the Filipino Youth” and Father Buddy’s other books, call 9320343-44.