Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lasang Pinoy 2: Binakol

The 2nd round of Lasang Pinoy is finally here! This month's theme is Cooking Up A Storm and is hosted by the lovely Celia Kusinera of English Patis. We are supposed to blog about food that we associate with the wild typhoons and monsoons that beset our country every rainy season (fyi: we have 2 seasons here, wet and dry, i.e. rainy and, uh, summer). At best, rainy season meant you didn't have to go to school, at worst, it meant total devastation.

I don't really remember a specific food that I ate during the rainy seasons. I do remember though a very specific night, during one raging typhoon, when the heat of this particular soup (both in temperature and in flavor) soothed my soul and warmed my insides.

Things warm and soupy always comfort me during gloomy weather, but this soup is special. Binakol has always been my grandmother's absolute favorite soup and she has it every time she can. No surprise then that it was part of the menu for her 80th birthday party. As 80 is quite a milestone, my family planned a big to-do for her birthday dinner. Turns out that mother nature also planned a big to-do on the same the form of a wild, signal # 2 (that means bad) storm. I remember the rain pelting ferociously on our car window as we drove across town. I thought we were nuts! We were (well, still are actually). The power was out in various parts of the city yet we pressed on. It was my grandmother's 80th birthday after all.

We got to my uncle's house to find a full blown gala dinner: Long buffet table laden with all sorts of food, from roasts to pasta to oysters resting in a huge silver bowl (yes, oysters during typhoon season, I told you we were nuts), fresh coconut shells filled with binakol, eager wait-staff ready to refill your wine glasses, a kesong puti and pan de sal toasting station (!), linen, crystal, china, silver, huge floral centerpieces with candles, the works. Nice? It get's better. This whole event was held...outdoors! Yup. Under a billowy white tent straight out of My Best Friend's Wedding, this affair was set up. A billowy tent with a chandelier. I kid you not. Now the brilliant caterers who arranged everything had the foresight to not only secure the tent firmly to the ground, but also to anchor it to the house. There were moments though when I swore it would just take off as the wind pulled and tugged at it. I felt like I was in the middle of a Guns N Roses video.

Amidst this surreal setting, what I remember most is happy faces of my relatives shouting "Tuloy ang ligaya!", which means "Let the fun/happiness continue!", the love and cameraderie so palpable in the air, the absolute craziness of my family (which is the very thing I love about them) and my unflappable grandma graciously smiling and holding court, a glass of wine in one hand and an oyster in the other...all this as the tempest raged about us, ignored. I happily observed everything from a slightly damp seat, sipping at wickedly hot binakol which warmed my tummy as the scenes around me warmed my heart.

Binakol (aside from being my grandma's favorite soup, which for me is the most important detail to note) is a soup very much like our Tinola (a local chicken soup). It has, however, the addition of lemongrass (giving it some heat to warm yourself during a storm) and fresh coconut meat and coconut water (which adds a touch of sweetness, reminding you that this storm too shall pass). Comfort in a bowl.

Here's the recipe:


- One whole chicken (around 1 kilo), cut up
- 9 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 20 grams fresh ginger, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks, each chunk given 2 firm pounds with a mortar and pestle
- 6-8 stalks tanglad (lemongrass), use only the white part and smash this with the bottom of a heavy glass on your chopping board (don’t use the mortar and pestle, don't know why, be we don't, we like it smashed flat...ok, fine, use it if you don't want to get the glass out)
- Black peppercorns, pounded a bit in the mortar and pestle (I like this better than the pepper mill, at least for this dish)
- 3-4 tablespoons patis (fish sauce), to taste
- One young (unripe) papaya, peeled and chopped (don’t forget to remove the seeds!)
- A bunch of sili leaves (chili leaves)
- The meat from 3 fresh coconuts
- 3 – 3 1/2 cups fresh coconut water
- 6 cups water or rice washing (got the rice washing tip from Market Manila, check out his great post on Binakol! Thanks Market Man, it worked brilliantly!)

Here's what you do:

- Pour patis on your chicken pieces and rub in the crushed peppercorns.
- Sauté the garlic, onions, ginger, and tanglad in some hot oil for a couple of minutes.
- Toss in the chicken (make sure all the patis and pepper goes with it!).
- When the chicken pieces have browned, pour in the water/rice washing.
- Add the young papaya pieces.
- Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer until chicken is tender.
- Add the coconut meat, coconut water, and sili leaves
- Bring to a quick boil once more, immediately lower the heat, and taste to see if it needs more patis (don’t let it cook too much after you add the sili leaves because they cook super fast).

Important: Use fresh coconuts!

Some notes: The first picture shows how I had my binakol on that wild and wonderful eve of my grandma's 80th, inside a fresh coconut shell. I love eating it this way because you can scrape some extra coconut meat from the inside while you have your soup. The second picture is just for you to see more of the soup.

More notes: Invited my grandma over for dinner after I made this batch today. We had a great evening!

To conclude: Nothing cures the rainy day blues like a whole lotta love, a good sense of the insane, and a hot bowl of soup :)

Tagged with:


JMom said...

Oh my gosh, that soup looks yummy, especially in that coconut bowl! See now, I just learned another new dish. I had heard of tinola before but not binakol. Thanks for posting this, ChichaJo!

dexiejane said...

great presentation. i'm impressed. I never heard of this dish, thanks for posting it :)

Marketmanila said...

I like the serving bowl! Gotta do that sometime soon! Yum.

stef said...

joey, what a wonderful post! it sure warmed *my* heart as i read it. i LOVE binakol, and try to make it every now and then. only thing is we're usually limited here to frozen coconut juice and meat, and usually the juice is sweetened (! overly so!) so it doesn't come out exactly right. your presentation is awesome, and that story about your gramma and family? perfect.

Kai said...

What a grand dame, your lola! Is she the abo or the abuelita?
Great presentation, as usual.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Jmom! Thanks for your nice comments...the coconut bowl not only looks nice it tastes good too! :)

Hi Dexie! Thanks! This is like Tinola dressed up and ready to part-teh :)

Hi Market Man! The coconut bowl offers both form (it's cute!) and function (you can eat the insides and I think that adds something special). The other bowl is part of a set handed down to my mom from her aunt. Thanks again for the rice washing tip! :)

Hi Stef! Thanks so much for such warm comments! Hmmm, yeah, the frozen stuff won't work as well, especially if the coconut juice is sweetened (zoiks!)...maybe you can try diluting the juice a bit with stock?

Thanks Kai! Actually she is neither. She is my grandma on my mother's side (abo's daughter), while abuelita is on my father's side. And she doesn't cook. At all. But she sure is one grand dame :) Cool as a cucumber and stubbornly independent :)

Lori said...

Joey! You've reminded me of just how much I love this soup and how LONG it's been since I last had it. Gotta. have. some. now.

tattum said...

I love that photo! the presentation is superb, how exotic for me! I'm sure your grandma love it. those typhoons you talked about are scary, and I am talking from the devastion of the "sequia" (drought) in Spain...justo lo contrario. Besos!!

celia kusinera said...

I have to admit I haven't had this even back in Pinas though I've heard a lot about it. So it's tinola with buko! Sounds very yummy.
My, your presentation is really great! Thanks for coming up with a great entry, Joey. :)

mike mina said...

hi joey . . . great recipe and presentation! been looking for this recipe for almost a month now and there you go . . . perfect! someone promised me some fresh young coconuts this weekend and will try this one out . . . btw, thanks for visiting my blog . . .

ChichaJo said...

Hi Lori! Glad you liked the post :) Yup, it's yummy and really hits the spot :)

Hi Tattum! Thanks for your nice comment :) Isn't it funny how we find different things exotic because we are on different points in the globe? What do I find exotic? Berries! Haha :) I hope the sequia hasn't affected you!

Hi Celia! Thanks for being a great host! The tanglad and buko really transforms this soup into something quite wonderfully zingy :)

Hi Mike! Thanks for dropping by too! I'm glad I was able to help, and what timing that you will be getting fresh coconuts soon!

ting-aling said...

Oh, you are so good in presentations. That's what I will remember you for. You've got a very artistic camera (hahaha)

Paz said...

What a wonderful celebration it sounds like you had for your grandmother, in spite of the storm.

The Binakol sounds really good. I like the ingredients, but I'm wonder where I can get the fresh coconut meat. Hmmm...

Glad to read that you recently had a nice time with your grandma! ;-)


Midge said...

Loved the way you used the coconut shell for a soup bowl, Joey. Binakol's just lovely during the rainy season.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ting! Thanks a lot! :) I try my best ;)

Hi Paz! There must be some place you can get it in NYC? I wouldn't know though...Love hanging with my Grandma, she is really a cool lady :)

Hi Midge! Thanks! It is a great rainy season and healing :)

drstel said...

i have "waaah" a bit because i don't have a fresh young buko within a few thousand miles...but i'll try to make this with frozen. it won't be as good for sure. thank you for this joey!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Stel! You're welcome! I am sure you can tweak to a pretty good approximation :)

thess said...

great presentation, joey! looks so gooooood!!

i've never tasted binakol yet & you got me curious,

a chance though I'll never have it here..difficult to find 'em fresh coco meat :-(

ChichaJo said...

Hi Thess! Thanks! Well, at least you have stroop and H&M, heehee :)

lani said...

Hi, Joey! Nice presentation.

I tried cooking binakol once and forgot the recipe already. Thank you for reminding me (he,he,he).

ChichaJo said...

Hi Lani! Thanks! Glad I could be of service :)

Karen said...

Oh, late very late I am!

As usual, a wonderful presentation and write-up Joey. Next time you say you don't know much about Filipino food I'll pinch your ears. ;-)

Oh and yes, your grandmother(s) stories are so heartwarming.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Karen! Thanks a lot! Hehe, I guess I do know a litte :) Just want to learn more! :)