My mama told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It was the day’s pacesetter, filling up the body with it’s much needed energy to get through the challenges ahead. She made sure that we never left the house without a good hearty plate of breakfast. My mama trained us well that I grew up to be a certified breakfast lover.
But as I started the working life at 22 years of age, sadly, breakfast somehow slipped out of my daily routine. I wake up, take a shower, dress up and rush to the office with no breakfast every single day. It’s a shame, but how can someone shake off a 22-year old habit? Sadly, it is possible. The same way it is easy to shake off my heritage here in Dubai…
Spending all my life, practically 30-years of it, in the Philippines and being around Filipinos every single second of the day, I find myself overwhelmed with the multitude of races here. You have the Arabs: Emiratis, Egyptians, Bahrainians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians and more (sorry if I missed out on any specific race. Pardon my geography and history knowledge); Europeans: British, French, Irish, German, Scottish, Italians, Spanish, Russians, and more, South Asians: Indians and Pakistanis, East Asians: Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, Southeast Asians: Indonesians, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Thais, Singaporeans, and, of course, Filipinos. It is quite amazing that despite the distance of the UAE from the Philippines, Filipinos are estimated 500,000 strong in this 8.9Million population. (Anybody care to share more accurate and up-to-date figures?) So there are literally Filipinos in every corner.
Though most Filipinos (I would like to think) are here for respectable work to help support their families back home, there are other Filipinos who manage to earn our nationality quite a reputation. Not a good one at that. I’ve heard countless shameful stories that I wished I wasn’t a Filipino in this country. I would often hear that warm Filipino greeting: “Kabayan (compatriot)!”, but sometimes I cannot help but wish I could just disappear into thin air with shame. This sentiment is not unique because there are other Filipinos who have denied being Filipino (more privileged ones who possess a foreign passport) and other Filipinos who wish they could change their passports to another more globally respected nationality. I must admit that I also share this sentiment. I just wish that I could shed off my being Filipino and take on a new nationality instead. I can take on this discussion on a separate thread if you please.
But, at the end of the day, being Filipino is something I can never deny. Though I am often mistaken as Chinese or sometimes even Japanese by some people here in Dubai, I am Filipino in heritage: born to Filipino parents, baptized with a Filipino name, bred in the Philippines and possess a Philippine passport. My Filipino-ness runs through my very veins in every fibre of my being. And this opportunity to live in Dubai is a chance to realize the importance of my Filipino heritage, to first and foremost, accept it. I can’t say that I am proud if I can’t accept it right?
Despite the many criticisms about our country’s economy, political system and culture, the Philippines is still my beloved home and there are a good sprinkle of reasons to be proud of our country.
Like the Filipino breakfast that made it to the list of the world’s best breakfasts. An important meal that I surely will never, ever forget. The Filipino breakfast is surely a great way to wake up to a now cooler Dubai winter morning…Well, to be honest, it is a damn great way to wake up to anywhere in the world for a Filipino like me.
Let’s start off with the starches.
Filipino breakfast isn’t complete without a cup of Sinangag (Garlic Fried Rice). I love the way my mama makes Sinangag (Well, who doesn’t love her mother’s cooking anyway?!?) It is day or two old rice tossed in a pan with oil and garlic. The mom magic behind this is when she smushes the rice with a sprinkle of sea salt onto the hot pan creating a crispy paella like crust. The rice soaks up all the garlicky flavors, a perfect pungent smell to wake your senses up in everyday lazy mornings.
Though we are not a bread eating race (A Filipino meal is not considered a meal if without rice.), we do enjoy our mornings with pandesal (Filipino bread roll). My mom buys our pandesal stash at our favorite neighborhood bakery, then throws it into the oven toaster to get a nice toasty crunch on the top. Break it in half to inhale the buttery and yeasty steam, while the crumbs tumble down onto your lap. Traditionally, the pandesal is dunked into a cup of hot coffee. But I prefer mine stuffed with any of the following: butter (that melts like liquid gold as it hits the hot pandesal) or quesong puti (Filipino white cheese). I heard that there are bakeries that sell pandesal in Dubai. Care to share where exactly? I must get my pandesal fix some time soon.
Last of the starches, but definitely not the least, is the chocolatey champorado (choclate rice porridge). I kid you not. Read my words: Chocolate rice porridge. Champorado is a warm bowl of sweet chocolate love, especially cozy during extra cool tropical mornings in the rainy season or in the latter -ber months. I love mine with a zing of saltiness topped with spicy tuyo (dried salted herring) or beef tapa (cured beef).
Since I already ratted off some of the breakfast meats, let’s begin the meaty Filipino breakfast journey. Let us tackle the land lubbers first.
The tasty meat-in-tube-form featured in the World’s Best Breakfasts is the longganisa (Filipino sausage). This is my ultimate favorite Filipino breakfast meat EVER. Fatty ground pork seasoned with loads of garlic and other secret spices (which vary from province to province) stuffed in pork intestine casing, fried crispy then dipped in vinegar (which also varies from province to province! I love it with one or two crushed red chilies for added kick!). There are sweeter variants of the longganisa, but my favorite longganisa variants are the garlicky ones from the provinces of Lucban, Quezon, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Alaminos, Pangasinan, Baguio, Mountain Province and Imus, Cavite.
Next we have, the beef tapa (cured beef): tenderloin beef tips marinated in soy sauce, loads of garlic (Again! I gotta have that!), a sprinkle of sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper, Tapa is a match made in heaven with a cup of sinangag and an overeasy egg, a heavenly breakfast combination we call silogs (sinangag + itlog / egg). So Tapa + Sinangag + Itlog = Tapsilog. Ya dig the food math here? So longganisa + Sinangag + Itlog = Longsilog. Cool right?
Last of the land lubbing yummies is the Pork Tocino (sweet cured pork). We skip the garlic this time around. The fatty pork (Please do not remove any of the fat. I beg you.) is cured in sugar, salt, saltpeter, and achuete (annatto seeds) for color, then panfried. I prefer mine more caramelized, slightly burnt (especially the fatty ends) with sinangag and sunny side up egg. Let’s do the Filipino breakfast math again: Tocino + Sinangag + Itlog = Tosilog!
Now we leave land and take a dive into the sea. I’m not much of a seafood person, but I do love spicy tuyo (salted dried herring) fillets for breakfast. Traditionally, we fry the whole tuyo, sending that unique Pinoy aroma which fills the entire neighborhood. Consider yourself warned because fried tuyo can SMELL. It is perfume for us Filipinos, but for other races, uhhh…not really. Our apartment even posted a not-so-friendly reminder against frying dried fish!
Are we the only race with smelly food? Is it even our fault that the building’s ventilation system is that bad?!? What the heck!
Good thing that I prefer the tuyo in a bottle, tuyo fillets swimming in spicy vinegary olive oil. But don’t you throw away that oil my dears, make sure you drizzle a tablespoon or two on a cup of white rice. It’s the cherry on top of your fishy “cake”!
And now we have to wash everything down with a drink. I do just have glasses of cold water with my Filipino breakfast, but you just have to have a cup of Tsokolate (Hot Chocolate) to finish off the entire meal. How different is the Tsokolate from other hot chocolates? Instead of a smooth, creamy and silky finish, the Filipino tsokolate is thick but frothy with a gritty texture and nutty after-taste. A cup is good enough to warm you up for a fresh start to the new day ahead.
How exactly can I forget such an UH-MAZING brekkie right!?!? Just thinking about it makes me miss home a wee bit more 🙁
Thanks Ma for reminding me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Being around 7,000 KM away from home, it is a reminder of my roots. I wake up each morning and know that I am Filipino, no matter what…even if someday, one day I would eventually end up changing passports. Yes seriously. Will you help me change my mind?
Delirious about delicious,
P.S. This post was so difficult for me to write. It took me more than a week to finish it! Ahhh…the struggles of coming out Pinoy! Is it too long a post or what?
P.P.S. Check out the other foodstuff favorites of mine here:
- Top Chef TV Show
- Chili Con Carne
- Spanish Sardines
- Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy
- Taho in a cup
- Pipino Vegetarian Restaurant
- Arroz ala Cubana
- Aling Rita’s Isaw stall
- Milk Tea