Carabao’s milk poured on steaming rice

Breakfast is perhaps the simplest of the day’s meals but just like Joey, this month’s Lasang Pinoy host, it has a very special place in my gut, er, heart. :D My problem though was what to post for Gising na! ALMUSAL! not for a lack of ideas but for having too much!

The traditional Filipino breakfast is quite flexible in that it can consist of the previous day’s leftovers, something cooked especially for the day’s first meal or odds and ends procured from early morning vendors. It has to be ready before people go out to the fields or to the sea. This has been the case for centuries, it is still true at present. Nowadays though, factories and offices can be added to the list of workplaces.

Closer to home, breakfast as I know it consists of a pre-meal and a more substantial plate later. The early pre-meal, around daybreak, is of a hot beverage like salabat, milk, chocolate, tea or coffee, and pandesal, a small crusty roll, or puto (rice bread/pastry). According to the elders, this is just so “micapali ya ing atian” (uminit ang tiyan – warm the stomach). Far from filling, this pre-meal would however be sufficient to get one up and running for the most immediate chores – go to the marketplace, feed the animals, open the store, water the plants or whatever has to be done immediately. Just a bit before mid-morning, when everything has settled, a proper if more leisurely breakfast is eaten.

Breakfast proper is much heavier than the pre-meal and should not be mistaken for the minindal or morning tea taken around 10.00 a.m.. Breakfast has rice of course, fish – usually fried or stewed in vinegar – or meat and eggs. In our family and perhaps for most of the town, the fare that is talked about with fondness is perhaps one of the simplest yet has become a tradition. It is just rice, preferably still steaming from the pot or inangit (fried), a pinch of salt, fresh carabao’s milk* still warm from the beast, poured on the rice and tuyo (dried salted fish – usually herring, shad or sardine) dipped in spicy vinegar. The tuyo is optional. It’s the creamy carabao’s milk that matters.
Words are not enough to express the satisfaction to be had from this meal. It is hot and filling, to say the very least. The rice serves as the canvas on which the full-bodied creaminess of the milk and saltiness of the tuyo or just plain salt is drawn.

If anyone finds this strange, perhaps a deconstruction of the rice, carabao’s milk and fish would prove useful. It is simply carbohydrates and protein and in another form, would be bread, cheese and fish of the western hemisphere. But then there’s the less familiar, arroz con leche.

Oh, did I say this is best eaten with the hands?

damulag kalabaw carabao water buffalo

*Damulag, kalabaw, carabao are the Capampangan, Tagalog and English terms for the Filipino water buffalo (Bubalus carabanesis and Bubalus bubalis Linn.)

P.S. Thank you Joey, for hosting this month’s Lasang Pinoy! This early, my mouth waters at the thought of reading your round-up.

Update (8 March): The round-up for Lasang Pinoy Almusal Edition is now online!

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