My mother’s watercress soup, the fish congees she would set out for breakfast, even her turmeric fried chicken wings, inappropriate as they are for the bedridden — these all start to haunt me.
So when I found myself mired in a rather sad state recently, it was no surprise that all I suddenly could think about was a dish of pork slices and potatoes — sometimes with peas tossed in — swimming in a sweet and tangy tomato gravy.
Like many of the dishes I grew up with, I had taken this one for granted and never observed its execution. How it had come to be or what it was called, I had never known — it simply appeared about once a week, part of the regular rotation at Chateau Tan.
In my dismal state, I latched onto this dish as something I simply had to have. I believed it would cure me. And after some browsing, I finally learned its name — a Filipino staple called pork giniling …
I grew up with some Filipino flavors in my mother’s kitchen — her helper, like many in Singapore, hailed from the Philippines. Versions of adobo would pop up now and then alongside my mother’s Chinese soups and stir-fries.
How to make giniling? It’s totally easy, it turned out. You dice a bunch of peeled potatoes and carrots and saute that together with ground pork in a heady gravy combining tomato, soy and fish sauce with a few other ingredients. Then, simmer for a while and you’re done. (If you’re going to try this, make a big batch — it tastes even better the next day.)
It may have been the chopping and peeling or even the stir-frying but by the time I sat down to spoon some giniling into my mouth, my mood had already lifted — just a little, not fully.
But that’s fine, really. I’ve already fixated on the next thing I must have to lift my spirits — a bowl of my mother’s daikon-carrot soup. If that doesn’t lick this, I’m not sure what will.
Pork Giniling Recipe
(A very slightly tweaked recipe from Pansalang Pinoy)
- 1 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 1/2 cups potatoes, diced
- 1 cup carrots, diced (optional)
- 1 cup peas (optional)
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 medium-sized onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 cube chicken seasoning
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat cooking oil in a wok over high heat until the oil is glistening and spatters if you toss water droplets into it. Add garlic and sauté until they turn light brown. Then add onions and stir-fry until they soften.
Add ground pork and cook for about five minutes, or until it’s not pink any more. Then add the chicken cube, tomato sauce, water, soy sauce, fish sauce, pepper, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Add carrots, potatoes and peas, stirring so everything is well mixed then simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the carrots and potatoes are cooked through.
Serve immediately over hot rice.