Saturday, January 2, 2010


For the longest time, we lived up the street from my maternal grandmother. She hailed from Pampanga, a province in the Philippines known for its zest for good food. From my lola, I learned how to eat durian, fried catfish, buro (don't ask what this is), and camaro or sosohong (don't ask either). She taught me how to eat with my hands and peel crabs like my life depended on it. I learned about matching the right sawsawan (dipping sauce) with the right food...vinegar with crushed garlic and black pepper with grilled pork, calamansi and patis with grilled fish, tomatoes with bagoong for fried milkfish, soy sauce with sili for paksiw na isda, ketchup with knorr for fried chicken. There were times when I had 3 or 4 small containers beside my plate just for my sawsawans!

One of my favorite dishes whenever we'd go to her house was sotanghon. I loved that sotanghon so much that I wouldn't eat sotanghon anywhere else. In my mind, nothing ever came close, and nothing still does. My lola has since passed and I have since moved to a different continent. But that sotanghon still remains, in my mind, an elusive ideal that no other sotanghon will approximate.

This version that I made for our New Year's celebration was very good, but it was not, and will never be, my lola's sotanghon.

3-4 pieces chinese sausage, sliced
1 whole chicken
1-2 heads of garlic, minced finely
3 tbsp. annato/atsuete seeds
3 celery stalks
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. peppercorns
1 onion, quartered
300g peeled shimp, chopped or kept whole if they're small
1 cup dried wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced
5 pieces green onions, chopped, white parts separated from green parts
Sotanghon (bean thread noodles)
fish sauce, salt and pepper

1. Place chicken in a stockpot and cover with water.
2. Place onion, celery, bay leaves and peppercorns in pot.
3. Add salt and let simmer for about 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
4. Remove chicken and let it cool.
5. Remove the flesh from the chicken and shred by hand into smallish pieces.
6. Meanwhile, strain the stock and remove excess fat.
7. Set aside both the chicken meat and the stock.

1. Place annato seeds in a cup of oil (yes, that's whole cup).
2. Heat gently until the seeds color the oil. Remove all the seeds and discard.
3. Place garlic in the same oil over medium to high heat and fry until the garlic is just about golden. Be careful not to burn the garlic! Drain and set aside.
4. In the same oil, saute the white parts of the green onion and the chinese sausage until the sausage is fully cooked.
5. Add the shrimp, chicken and mushrooms.
6. Season with fish sauce and pepper to taste.
7. Saute until the mixture is well incorporated and any liquid has evaporated.
8. Drain the oil and set the topping mixture and the oil aside.

1. In a large pan, place about a cup of the topping mixture along with the oil left over from sauteeing. Add about 3 cups of stock and bring to a simmer. Taste the stock and adjust seasoning at this point. This stock will flavor your noodles.
2. Add the noodles and let it absorb the stock.
3. Keep mixing gently, adding half-cupfuls of stock at a time and letting the noodles absorb the liquid. The amount of liquid you use will depend on your noodles.
4. When the noodles are done, set this aside.

1. Place noodles in serving dish.
2. Place toppings on top (where else?!)
3. Garnish with fried garlic and green parts of the green onion.


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