My interest in cooking started when I was around 8 years old. I was always fascinated when my parents were preparing food in the kitchen. It was always so busy, so full of energy. The sounds coming out of the kitchen were riveting, and the smells were complex! I was always nearby and curious.
My parents did not do fancy food; they did fiesta fare, dishes that were staple at fiesta celebrations in the province. They never looked at recipe books. They were recipes learned and improved over time.
Each would have a specialty. My father did the best mandunggada (beef tripe and liver with salted black beans) and arroz caldo. My mother had her sampayna (dinuguan of northern Mindanao), humba, and sweet-and-sour lapu-lapu. These were all constant favorites in family gatherings.
My parents saw my interest in cooking, and all they needed to do was hand me a frying pan and I was hooked. They never handed me a recipe book. All they taught me was: “Smell it. Taste it. Does it taste the way it should?” Or, “Find the balance; it shouldn’t be too salty nor too sour nor too sweet.”
There were no measuring tools: It was all a pinch and a dash. Whenever I asked how much water I should put, their response was always, “Up to you. You can put as much as one pail, or you can put just enough.”
I look back and I just laugh at these lessons. Cooking, for them, was a whole lot of passion and logic, and I guess I inherited that. I cook with passion with a whole lot of love, trying to find that balance in taste. There is nothing I love more than cooking for my family and friends.
When I was already working, I tried my hand at my mother’s humba because I missed it so much. I called her via Facebook Messenger, and all she told me was, of course, a dash and a pinch and just enough water! No recipes, just general directions.
It took me several tries until I got right—it finally turned out like my mother’s humba. It was comfort, it was home.
So, just like from my mom, measurements for this humba recipe are just a general guide. I advise you to taste it and smell it, if it tastes the way that it should taste.
Humba ni Lily
2 lbs pork belly, cut into 1.5- to 2-inch cubes (you can also mix belly and pata to makes the sauce stickier)
1 small can Del Monte pineapple juice, unsweetened
2-3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
¼ c light soy sauce
½ c water
¼ c brown sugar (Add a portion at a time and taste; it should not be too sweet. Use muscovado sugar if available for a darker sauce)
Pinch of salt
Peppercorns, to taste
1 small can black beans, drained and rinsed once
1 pack banana blossoms, (wash and soak in water). Remove in water when ready to cook.
3 dried bay leaves
1 whole head of garlic, optional (I like having a lot of garlic in my humba, gives an additional layer of flavor)
Wash and rinse pork meat and pat dry.
Put the meat in a nonstick skillet and render fat under medium heat. Do this in batches if it does not fit your pan.
Cover as needed since hot oil will splatter. Adjust fire to low. Cook until pork is browned on both sides and fat has been rendered. Be careful not to burn the meat or yourself.
Take out meat from skillet and set aside and put in a cooking pot.
In a small bowl, mix pineapple juice, soy sauce, vinegar, water, salt, sugar and peppercorns. Mixture should be a balance of sweet, sour and salty. (I can hear my mother’s voice: “Mix it and taste it if it tastes like humba sauce.”)
Heat up the pot with meat and put in the mixed sauce. Ensure that the meat is covered with the sauce. Add the bay leaves and garlic. Bring to a boil and lower heat and simmer. Add the black beans and banana blossoms after 30 minutes.
Cook and simmer for another hour or more or until you can slice the fat with a fork and sauce has thickened.
Adjust to taste.
Serve with white rice and enjoy! —CONTRIBUTED
The author is a cybersecurity Asean regional sales manager for the multinational company, BeyondTrust. She often cooks and bakes for her soul mate Lester and their dog Freddie, and their friends.
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