GALI AND RIZ Galicinao have always known there was a better way to roast a pig. They grew up knowing it.
In Filipino families a lechonada , or pig roast, was the natural way to mark birthdays, anniversaries, town fiestas or any other happy occasion. So when they decided to throw a last "big bash" before leaving the home in Lanham where they raised their four children, they roasted a pig. The Galiciano "better way" takes a bit of doing. You begin with a 50-pound pig and 40 pounds of charcoal. Gali gets a dressed pig from a country butcher and hangs it to drain the nght before. The day of the roast, a shallow pit is filled with charcoal, and the pig is mounted on Gali's home-built spit, to be rotated by hand and basted with water and beer for most of the day, until the skin is crackling crisp and the meat succulent. The carved pig is then served with barbecue sauce or a traditional lechon sauce made from the liver. It is enough to make guests exclaim, as did the Chinese boy in Lamb's essay. "O father, the pig, the pig, do come and taste how nice the burnt pig eats!"
Although now it is her definition of party, the first lechonada did not come easily for Riz, who was raised in New York City. She visited her homeland for the first time as a young wife expecting her first child. Her grandmother, who was overjoyed to see her, presented Riz with a baby pig, which she was supposed to raise for the lechonada to celebrate the baptism of the expected baby.
"I was straight from the heart of skyscrapers, and I had to feed the thing," Riz laughed ruefully. "That pig got bigger and bigger and I got more and more scared of it as time went on." She was not unhappy when slaughtering time came.
Luckily, the fact that Riz didn't like raising pigs didn't mean the Galicinaos had to give up roasting them. Over the years they have had several lechonasas for family and friends.
The lechonada has always been the traditional way for clannish Filipinos to gather together extended family and friends to celebrate. But Riz and Gali have raised their children in a typical American suburb where they have had few Filipino contracts. In the absence of an extended family here, the lechonada itself has become a way of teaching Philippine customs and the values. "I've tried to keep them in touch with their culture by maintaining a Philippine style of cooking at home,"Riz said.
The Galicinaos eat rice every day, and rely on traditional recipes from the philippines, recipes which most commonly utilize pork, chicken, seafood and vegetables. Influenced by both Chinese and Spanish cooking, Filipino chefs most often season with vinegar and coarse salt, soy sauce, garlic and bay leaves. At the heart of this cuisine is the lechon . "For us," explains Riz, "the lechonada is really going back to our roots."
At a lechonada , because the pork is rich the other food served is lighter. There are lumpia (Philippine spring rolls), some deep fried, like egg roll, and some served fresh -- a paper thin pastry wrapped around cooked vegetables and meats, and served with sauce similar to duck sauce. Pancit Guisado , or Rice Noodle, is a pasta dish cooked in stock and then sauteed with vegetables. One is most likely to find adobo , the Philippine national dish, on the party table. It is a spicy chicken and pork dish that, accompanied by rice, would make a delightful entree for an ordinary meal. Escabeche , a sweet and sour fish, is another offering that would make a dramatic first course or satisfying entree. End the feast with fresh pineapple, or Puto , a steamed Philippine cake flavored with anise and coconut.
If you're not up to a 50-pound pig, serve pork roast done in your oven with these traditional dishes from the Philippines: ADOBO (6 to 8 servings) 1 broiling chicken with liver, cut in 6 or 8 pieces 1 to 2 pounds pork, with some fat, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 cup vinegar 4 cloves garlic 4 tablespoons soy sauce 2 to 3 bay leaves 1 tablespoon pickling spices 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoons lard or bacon drippings
Put chicken, pork, vinegar and all seasonings in pot. Bring to boil, lower heat cover and simmer until meat is barely tender (about 35 minutes). Remove meat and drain reserving liquid. Saute meat in bacon drippings until well browned in separate pan. Strain liquid and return to pot. Mash or grind cooked chicken liver and add to liquid along with browned meats. Correct seasoning and serve hot with boiled rice. BEL MCGERVEY'S ESCABECHE (6 to 8 servings) 1 medium-sized whole rockfish, sea trout or bluefish with head and tail left on 2 to 3 tablespoons cooking oil 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced 1 cup vinegar Juice from pineapple chunks diluted with 1/4 cup water 1/2 cup brown sugar Salt to taste 2 sliced carrots, 2 stalks celery, 1/2 sliced green pepper and 1 coarsley chopped tomato 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks 1 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Wash fish and pat dry. Salt the fish and let stand 1/2 hour. Fry in cooking oil until just firm and set aside. Add crushed garlic and sliced ginger to vinegar in saucepan; bring to simmer and add in pineapple juice and water mixture, brown sugar and a little salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add carrots and celery, simmer 3 munutes; add green peppers and simmer 2 minutes more (vegetables should be crisp-tender). Add tomatoes and pineapple chunks and thicken with 1 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch moistened in cold water. Carefully move whole fish to platter. Surround with vegetables and fruit and pour sauce over all. If used as a main course, serve with rice. If serving as an appetizer, the sauce recipe should be halved. AIME MONTEIRO'S PANCIT GUISADO (6 to 8 servings) 1 package thick rice noodles or rice sticks (available at oriental groceries) 1/2 pound boiled pork (chicken or shrimp may also be used) 4 carrots sliced 1/4 inch thick 6 stalks celery, sliced 1 medium onion, chopped 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or bouillion 1/4 head of cabbage, coarsely chopped 3 tablespoons soy sauce 4 cloves garlic (optional) Bacon drippings Salt and pepper to taste Lemon slices for garnish
Saute boiled and cubed meat, onion and optional garlic in bacon drippings. Simmer carrots, celery and cabbage in chicken stock and soy sauce for about 7 minutes. Break up rice noodles and submerge in 3 quarts boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and saute in bacon drippings. Add vegetables, stock and meat to rice noodles. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with lemon slices. RIZ'S PUTO (8 servings) 3 cups biscuit mix 1 cup sugar 2 cups milk 3 eggs 1/4 teaspoon anise Grated coconut
Beat first 4 ingredients together.Pour into 2 well-greased 8-inch cake pans. Sprinkle anise on top. To steam the puto as Philippean cooks do you will need a 10-inch frying pan with cover and a small rack or stand (an empty catfood can works well for this). Place rack or stand in middle of frying pan on medium heat atop stove. Pour boiling water about 1 inch deep into frying pan. Set cake pan filled with puto batter on rack. Water should not touch the puto pan. Cover the frying pan with a domed lid which leaves room for the puto to rise. Steam for 20 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Serve with grated coconut on top. This recipe makes enough batter for 2 cakes.