Pork in Tomato Soup
One very Filipino eating trait I notice is the preference for soupy or saucy dishes. Traditionally, each meal had a soup which did not have to be separate from the entrée. The classic sinigang and tinola are good examples. But then we also do not serve dishes in a sequence, like soups and appetisers, salads, mains and so on. That’s a topic for another day.
Soupy and saucy dishes are a flavour contrast to the blandness of rice which is the backbone of every meal. More often than not, the soup or sauce is poured on and mixed with the rice. In Kapampangan we call this ambulâ (halo in Tagalog). At least in our house, this has become so ingrained that when we cook, we deliberately add more liquid just for the panambulâ.
The recipe below is an example of a soupy dish my grandmother cooked very often. I only know it by its Kapampangan name – Lutung Camatis â Babi – literally pork cooked in tomatoes. I am not sure if it has counterparts in other regions. It is a flavourful blend of slow-simmered meat and still-crunchy vegetables. This dish is versatile enough to be adjusted to individual preferences. Some prefer it to be mostly meat. In our family, we are not very avid meat eaters so what we do is to cut the pork into small cubes and add more vegetables. Every now and then, we also use bulig (dalag or mudfish) instead of pork.
I’ve seen a version of this dish which has a lot of beans in it that it’s already similar to the Spanish fabada. The beans we use are similar to lima beans except that they’re flatter and wider. They are called bulé baluga – bulé meaning beans in Kapampangan and baluga referring to the indigenous Aetas who come down from the mountains bringing us the yearly supply. I know that the term is supposedly not politically correct anymore when referring to people but that’s how we’ve always called these beans. I’ve also been told by our visiting Aetas that they’ve always referred to themselves by that name that they don’t feel slighted when hearing it. However, I guess it also depends on which tribe they’re from. Again, I digress.