Growing up, our family spent all our Holy Weeks in Agoo, La Union. I recall Holy Saturdays by the Paratong coastline in Barangay Sta. Rita, with a sea of people having a grand time.
Many clutched on to huge, black rubber salbabida, waiting for the next big wave to drift them along; others preferred cooling down under the trees or nipa sheds, enjoying ice candy and halo-halo sold by vendors.
Lunch was served in a number of ways—from picnic baskets or straight off the grill. I remember seeing makeshift grillers, with grates suspended over neatly piled rock formations.
It’s Holy Week again and while we enjoy outdoor grilling in the summer, we simply cannot live without our inihaw na baboy or chicken barbecue throughout the year.
With the clamor to care for the environment, people have been trying to find alternatives to real charcoal. We can no longer put the environment at risk just to satisfy our cravings. Feeling it’s my duty to do my fair share, I made a complete shift from charcoal to Magic Uling, and I’m very, very happy!
To begin with, I no longer have to keep adding charcoal every few minutes. I can start the coals way in advance and not be afraid of the briquettes turning to ashes before my guests arrive. Magic Uling makes grilling so easy. They are so consistently made, the heat it emits is steady; once fully ignited, it lasts approximately two hours per tube. And since it gives off even, high heat, you need not use a lot of it. A little goes a long way.
Once I’m done grilling, I simply dump them in a bowl of water and leave out to dry to be reused.
A couple of factors convinced Lorenzo Rivera of MLR International Resources to start making magic uling: “When LPG prices shot up to almost a thousand pesos per 12-kilo cylinder; the need for greener energy; and making better use of what is supposed to be waste material, coconut shell powder.
Added Lorenzo: “The coconut is indeed the tree of life with so many uses—oil, vinegar, vodka, tuba, broomsticks, weaving material, etc… Our briquette is made from the coconut shell charcoal powder. Because of its high density, it gives off higher heat properties.
“When we introduced magic uling to industrial users, they were so happy with the results. In a grill test they conducted, they saved 15 percent on the cost of charcoal. Magic Uling burns longer with higher temperature; you need less briquettes than wood charcoal.
“We have two kinds of uling, one is the round briquette, primarily used for cooking. It is a whole solid piece, 300 grams approximately, and can cook a meal for a family of four.”
Lorenzo shares with us his grill recipes. He says they are very simple but nonetheless delicious!
Grilled Oyster Mushroom
Procedure: Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on mushrooms and season it with salt and pepper. Wrap in banana leaves, making little parcels. Grill until banana leaves are slightly wilted, around 3-4 minutes.
A fish that we like grilling is pugot (triggerfish). We clean the fish, leaving the scales on, leaving the apa (fish fat). The apa melts in the grilling process, partially, leaving the fish moist and juicy. We rub the fish with soy sauce, kalamansi and ginger by the gills. For a fish that weighs a kilo, we grill the fish seven minutes on one side and five minutes on the other. Distance of the charcoal is approximately two inches from the grill grate.
Chicken with Tanglad
The secret to this dish is that the chicken must be the native variety, dumalaga (young spring chicken, not completely mature), and freshly slaughtered.
Clean the chicken, rub all over with salt and pepper, and rub cavity, too. Then stuff the cavity full with lemongrass.
We grill it two ways: If you like the skin to be crisp, grill directly for 15-20 minutes, rotating the chicken every five minutes. If you want it juicy, wrap the chicken in banana leaves and grill, also for 15-20 minutes, rotating the chicken every five minutes.
I would like to thank my friend Ellen Ong for this discovery. She gave me a pack of magic uling a year and a half ago to try it. And now I am hooked!
Magic Uling is distributed by Manila Wax Commercial, tel. 7822286