One thing invariably happens when I find myself wading through illness — yes, it’s a cliche, but visions of the home cooking of my girlhood start invading my few conscious thoughts.
My mother’s watercress soup, the fish congees she would set out for breakfast, even her turmeric fried chicken wings, inappropriate as they are for the bedridden — these all start to haunt me.
So when I found myself mired in a rather sad state recently, it was no surprise that all I suddenly could think about was a dish of pork slices and potatoes — sometimes with peas tossed in — swimming in a sweet and tangy tomato gravy.
In my dismal state, I latched onto this dish as something I simply had to have. I believed it would cure me. And after some browsing, I finally learned its name — a Filipino staple called pork giniling …
As we were hunched over the stove, embroiled in some recent kitchen experiment, my Singapore family’s maid Erlinda noted in passing that it’d been almost two years since she’d eaten her own home-made adobo.
Two years? This seemed like an interminably long time for a Filipina not to be enjoying her national dish, cooked by her own hand.
My mother doesn’t stock vinegar in the kitchen, she explained, which instantly makes brewing a pot of the vinegary pork or chicken stew impossible. And the soy sauce that we Chinese use happens to be just a little too sweet for real adobo, it turns out.
Now, being a massive lover of the stuff, I immediately decided that Erlinda’s adobo drought needed to end. (This had nothing to do, of course, with the fact that my mouth often starts to water the moment I hear the word “adobo.”)
So, with some instructions from Erlinda on what she needed for her adobo, off we went.
It’s hard not to be leery of restaurants that try to please too many palates.
When dishes as disparate as bibimbap, goat curry and wild boar pizza pop up on a menu that’s supposed to have a distinct Filipino bent, you get the distinct feeling that something’s got to give. Korean and Filipino dishes, after all, can be complex undertakings.
At Purple Yam, the new Filipino/pan-Asian restaurant in Ditmas Park by Chef Romy Dorotan (who shuttered his well-regarded Cendrillon in Manhattan earlier this year), the menu is that varied. But there’s a lot to like about Dorotan’s food so far.
Well, as long as you stick to the Filipino dishes.