This week, I am sharing my new discoveries: scrumptious lechong tupa and a rum cake made from Bukidnon butter. And to prepare you for the holidays, I’m including an easy ham recipe that I made during my “Christmas Breakfast” cooking lesson.
Excellent ‘lechong baka/tupa’
Agapito Opulencia Jr. and his siblings took over the business of their parents, Agapito Opulencia Sr. and his wife Victoria—an enterprise that began with roasted calves which eventually expanded to other variants such as lamb, goat, pork and turkey.
I sampled—devoured was more like it—the lechong tupa, which was excellent. I enjoy the intrinsic flavor of lamb, but this one had none of that. It was pristine and tasted like roasted calf.
Ka Itong uses the same lechong baka marinade on the lechong tupa, which had fall-off-the-bone goodness in every bite. What I found special was how the meat, the layers of fat, the cartilage and tendons all melted in the mouth.
This lechong tupa had the character of stewed meat in taste and texture. Every part that I took a piece from was tasty and tender. The skin was intensely flavored, with a charred smokiness and a delightful chewy bite.
Amazingly, when I asked Ka Itong the secret to their business, he said that, other than the special process of preparing the lechon, it is their valued relationship as siblings—working together to honor the legacy, the business and the secret recipe of their parents.
It’s a holiday must-try. Beef or lamb, this is one of the best lechon I have tried. I have my dear friends Jeffrey and Jenny Co to thank for this discovery.
Ka Itong, tel. 09196363204 and 09176030274
There are many rum cakes in the market. The best will depend on your personal preference.
It took Rhea Castro-Sycip a year to develop her own take—12 months of work tweaking and retesting before she was convinced she had a finished product worthy to offer.
Her creation is a golden butter cake made from free-range eggs and artisan butter from Bukidnon. The rum used for the sauce, she said, is from a local manufacturer who makes premium rum in small batches.
Sycip’s interpretation of this all-time favorite liquor cake has a light crumb and a fine, subtle finish. It is packaged in an impressive wooden box. The cake is available in two variants—plain original and nut crumble.
Make your own ham
As an early Christmas treat, I’m sharing an easy-to-make ham recipe. I hope you try this at home. After all, Christmas without ham is not the same, and homemade ham makes the holiday season even merrier. This has “the days of yore” character, delicious and comforting specially with hot pan de sal.
1.5 k pork shoulder (I like it with a layer of fat), skinless
1/3 c sugar
½ c salt
¼ c honey
1 tbsp curing salt
4 c ice cold water
With a fork, gently prick the pork shoulder all over. Combine ingredients and mix well.
Put pork in a large ziplock bag and pour the curing solution. Make sure the pork is submerged in the solution and kept in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
If desired, mix the curing ingredients and, with a syringe, inject it one inch apart all over the pork. Put the pork in a ziplock bag and pour the remaining curing solution. Let cure for five days in the refrigerator. (No need to prick pork if you inject the meat with curing solution.)
Tie pork with kitchen twine to hold its shape.
To cook the ham:
2 c unsweetened pineapple juice
½ c brown sugar
1 can San Miguel Pale Pilsen
¼ c honey
2 pc star anise
2 pc bay leaves
2 pc cloves
1 tsp whole peppercorns
Water, just enough to submerge the meat
1 pork cube
After five days, wash the meat. In a pot, combine pineapple juice, sugar, beer, aromatics, pork cube, water.
Add pork and cook over low heat. Turn ham every hour until tender.
Put the ham on a tray. Reserve remaining liquid. Sprinkle fat side of the ham generously with brown sugar.
Firmly pat brown sugar down for it to stick to the ham. Torch to caramelize.
Sauce: To the remaining cooking liquid (there should be about 2 cups, if not, add water), add 3/4 to 1 cup brown sugar and simmer until thick.
Revisiting a once-fave Japan resto