May 16, 2002

Balawbalaw

My links page is up. Please help me check if the links work. I have some mental sketches there too. But for now, my main concern is the recollection of my stomach!

"It is not unusual for kings to be dethroned; and as for our having had the honour to sup with six of them, it is a mere trifle, unworthy of note. What does it matter with whom one sups, so long as the fare is good?"
Martin from Voltaire's Candide


I have always loved Quisao, my province in Rizal, despite all the trifles and crises we have faced there. I particularly like the cuisine there. I like how even the simplest food preparations taste so good. I like how I eat heartily and unhurriedly, sometimes with bare hands. When I was young, we even sat on the bench with a knee up in the same fashion as my grandfather.

The barangay itself was named after food. Quisao was named after kisa, a mixture of rice and corn that served as the standard full meal in times of hardship. With some labor or barter, the sweet kisa would be flavored with some salt or dried fish harvested from Laguna de Bay. When rice was scarce, the farmers would devote the fields to corn. Corn in our parts is usually white and sweet with kernels sticky when cooked, the variety perfect for grilling and thick corn soup.

My cousin, Kuya Rolly (aka Ate Chona), does at least three things best, hair and make-up, gossip and story-telling, and cooking. Or maybe that's five? But I can never really do good math with my mouth full. Especially with what he serves.

For the dinner, he made charbroiled eggplants. The talong was skinned and ground to a sweet, tasty pulp. For added taste, we had the choice of a vinegar preparation or balawbalaw. The vinegar had quartered onions and some sugar.

The balaw-balaw is a sauce and like most condiments in our country, it is in itself, a viand fit for rice. It is made of a small species of shrimp called yapyap ground with boiled rice to make it thick. After it is salted, it is left in a special container for months. Thus it is also called buro in other parts, "buro" being our general term for "pickled." Also, in other parts, they use anchovies.

In Angono, Rizal, there is a restaurant named after it. The Balaw-balaw is a town landmark famed for its mix of strange cuisine (bayawak, snails, and the like) and Angono art. But I love my Quisao balawbalaw more than the Angono variety because it has some coconut milk. That makes it kin to another gata and small shrimp dish, the inulang. But that's sweet stuff for another full article.

The thing I love next to eating is talking about eating. So please forgive, yet again, another long entry. Now, I'm full. Have a hearty meal!