Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sugpo sa Aligue at Gata (Prawns in Crab Fat and Coconut Milk)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the cost of things vis a vis their actual value. That’s what happens I suppose when you become a grown-up with a mortgage...suddenly all expenditures are brought into sharp focus, to be examined and audited conscientiously. Do we really need this? Can this wait? Will my soul suffer irreparable damage if I do not purchase this immediately?

This is especially relevant with the fast approaching holidays. I don’t know how it is where you are, but over here as soon as the –ber (SeptemBER…) months hit the carols start playing at the malls and every store has something bright and shiny to lure you away from your hard earned money. The gift giving here can get a bit over the top, with Christmas lists a kilometer long and gifts to be gotten for every single person you know and some you don’t...forcing many into purchases of mass "generic gifts".

In addition to this, little C’s 1st birthday is coming up (how time flies!), and although I am beyond excited to celebrate my cherry bomb’s first year on Earth, local tradition dictates a big-splash first birthday party. I’m talking party planners, mascots, caterers, shows. And, of course, a professionally designed birthday cake.

Now, I know it sounds like I’m turning all bah-humbug on you but hear me out. As far as Christmas goes, I sometimes feel like it’s turned into a merry-go-round of generic gifts and consumer gimmicks – where’s the meaning? It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year and I’m stressed because of things that technically should not matter in the grander scheme of things – is that not more than a little ridiculous? I certainly don’t want to be cynical about Christmas (or cynical in general)…particularly when I have a little one with whom I want to share the magic.

And don’t even get me started on the 1st birthday celebrations. I have already decided to eschew tradition and have a small gathering. At one year old little C will not remember all the hoopla and, I am pretty sure, will enjoy a small gathering of doting family all bent on entertaining her, as much as, or even more than, a gaggle of mascots (which if she is anything like her mother will only serve to freak her out).

So, although it is not the New Years yet, I have decided to make a few resolutions. Simplify. Lessen the expense and increase the meaning. That is going to be my motto for 2011…heck, this is going to be my motto starting right now. A Christmas with less worry about parties and gifts, and more meaningful moments instead. A first birthday with just close family and homemade decorations and lots of love. Finally cleaning out our home of all the “stuff” that we’ve accumulated that is no longer useful. Oh, and two credit cards on the chopping block. And that’s just for starters ;)

Anyway, what does all this have to do with prawns in crab fat? Nothing really, except for the fact that the prawns were a gift from my father-in-law which I stretched over three meals, managing a little savings in our market shopping :)

Sugpo sa Aligue at Gata (Prawns in Crab Fat and Coconut Milk)

  • 500-600 grams prawns or shrimp, whiskers trimmed but otherwise unpeeled
  • A couple of glugs canola oil (or any vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass, white parts only (save the green parts for stuffing a roast chicken)
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2-3 siling mahaba (green finger chilis), sliced
  • 3/4 - 1 cup aligue (crab fat)
  • 250 ml or 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1-2 tablespoon fish sauce (to taste)
  • The juice of half a lemon or 2-3 kalamansi

- Heat oil in a wok or skillet or pot that is big enough to accommodate all your prawns (in either 1 or 2 layers, no more than that). When the oil is hot add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and onion. Sautee until onion is soft and translucent.
- When onion is soft add the chilis and aligue. Cook, stirring often, until the aligue softens and oil separates.
- Add the coconut milk and continue to cook until it all melds together. Add fish sauce and lemon/kalamansi juice to taste.
- Lay the prawns in the pan; give it a shake to coat with sauce, cover, and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Check your prawns and remove from the heat as soon as they are all bright orange.
- Serves 3. Or 2 plus 1 serving for lunch the next day :)

You want a good balance of saltiness from the fish sauce, and just the right touch of acid from the kalamansi/lemon to cut through the richness of the crab fat and coconut milk, so make sure to taste and adjust. This is not the type of dish you want to eat every day as crab fat is not exactly the healthiest of food. It is fabulously rich and savory though and, in my book, absolutely fine for every once in a while :)

It may look like this dish is at odds with my new resolutions…and that may well be the case. But it’s also a reminder that despite my goals to simplify my life (saving money, reducing stress, and adding meaning in the process) there will still be times to indulge. I am not wagging a finger at big spenders – by all means, if you’ve earned it; you have certainly earned the right to spend it. These goals, and the reasons behind them, are solely mine and apply to my life and where I am at this point. I am not going the whole hog here either, forsaking all material things for an ultimately Spartan lifestyle. Only just pared down enough to be mindful of excess that could very well be avoided. But mindful as well of moments when a little well-thought-out indulgence is in order :)

My, my. I sure have tripped the light philosophical today. I won’t bore you with my ponderings for much longer. If you too would like to simplify this coming year (or have been doing it already) I would love to hear your suggestions!


Anh said...

I hear you, Jo.
I’m also in the process of reflecting and changing my lifestyle – simpler, more meaningful and perhaps more mobile. It’s been so long already that I find myself settled in one place… *sigh*
Anyway, I am very interested in this dish. Heard of the crab fat before, but haven’t come across it yet.

Mom-Friday said...

I agree with your resolutions! I remembered I have this book "Simplify Your Life" and I think I need to browse through it again after reading your post :)
Happy party planning for your precious C! Just thought I'd share with you this recent post :)
What makes a fun-tabulous kiddie party?
Thanks for sharing, I LOVE THIS DISH! Aligue is one of my "heart-stopping" faves + crabs and prawns! Here's mine on pasta:
Sauce express: Aligue & Pesto

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

I totally understand what you mean about Christmas. It can become meaningless in all the chaos and present overload! At least you've got your goals/resolutions worked out for the coming new year. And by the way, what a great and interesting recipe. Thanks for sharing with us.

JamS said...

How weird is it that I was just thinking of that the other night too! I wanted to move somewhere in Pangasinan, close to Our Lady of Manaoag- a small town and thought of how nice it would be to live life simply and modestly, no pretentions.

Anyway, that's a far cry from L.A. Although, I must say that the one thing I brought back last month from the Phils was a jar of good taba ng talangka!!! I made it with skrimps ('',) too and gata... Mmmmm...

Trissa said...

I remember my nephew's first birthday - we slaved in the kitchen for DAYS - was it worth it? Yes, he doesn't remember a thing but we did a lot of mother-daughter-sister bonding then. It was certainly memorable for us! :) Would I do it again? Probably not! LOL! The sugpo sa aligue takes me back to Manila - thanks for sharing - it looks good.

Paula said...

I absolutely love ths combo!

have a nice time,

Vivienne said...

i do find myself reflecting on what i spend on and finding areas to cut down...and thats before i even have a mortgage lol. i jus tmoved to a new place as well...and have been telling myself...just buy what i need, not want! lol
yummy crab...the coconut milk combo sounds delish!

Quay Po Cooks said...

I will die for this dish! I want to try this recipe for sure!

Stepford Mum said...

Yum Yum Yum. I miss you, Jo, and I totally agree that massive 1st birthday parties are nothing but a waste of money. We just invited Little A's little friends over to play and held it at an indoor play area because it was a rainy day. Tinies really will appreciate fewer guests and those they know well, otherwise they will just get overwhelmed and likely not enjoy themselves.

Vicki said...

Just stumbled on your blog from another friend's blog. I love your photos and the recipes you share. I agree with your Christmas philosophy, a timely reminder as we get into the season. I hope you don't mind me mentioning that I have a little giveaway on my blog right now--the Assumption HS79 Cookbook, Pearl Edition. It's a meaningful gift with a good cause. Will be back often. Thanks for sharing your recipes! -Marivic

chef_d said...

All my favorite ingredients in one dish! Delicious!
I agree with simplifying things, it makes us focus on what's really important when all the frills are gone :)

stephen said...

Looks like you have a lot of yummy stuff on here. :)

Midge said...

I'm always trying to simplify things, but every time I try to do so - THINGS ACTUALLY GET MORE COMPLICATED! So, really, I just try to leave things be.

(And sugpo sa aligue - ! So delish!)

Shalum said...

Good for you. Planning a small first birthday party is not only sweet and meaningful, but I think your baby will appreciate it more. No confusing and noisy people, and everyone will have a better time. I hope you'll have fun with the planning. Sounds exciting, actually. Ditto for Christmas which has been reduced to a big circus of empty merriment and lavishness.

Good luck and I love the new motto. I hope to adopt it too, if you don't mind. ;)

bella said...

this sounds really good!Iam only nine and i love food and I think this looks really good my other friends would say this is gross! lol

The Viva La Vida Mamas said...

First, I have to try that dish! Cooking lessons for the kitchen-impaired please, Jo!
Super agree about the first birthday party. I stalled for five years! haha.
I love watching little ones on Christmas morning. After all those presents have been opened.. check out what they love the most. Bubble wrap, tissue, torn wrappers and the ribbons!
And that kinda puts everything in perspective.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I’m looking to make some changes in my own eating habits, so I appreciate your insight a lot! Thank you. I recently stumbled upon this blog like I did yours and I thought your readers may appreciate it: http://burisonthecouch.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/food-for-thought/

I’ve started to look for their stuff more regularly and I think I’m going to add your blog to my list as well. Thanks for the post!


millet said...

love this post! i totally agree, your little one will not remember any of her first birthday bash, and there are lots of other ways to make it meaningful other than a huge to-do. and yes, Simplify happens to be my mantra, too!

TS of eatingclub vancouver said...

I'm with you regarding over-the-top children's parties.

But then again, I don't have children... so maybe I'll be guilty of that transgression if I do!


Sally - My Custard Pie said...

You are right. First birthday (and second for that matter) is for you to celebrate. Go and eat chips in the park. Watch his joy as he sees the single candle on the cake lit.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anh! I know…you have been moving around, but still seem to have everything under control and what a gorgeous new kitchen! If you have a Filipino store nearby you might find the crab fat there…you can ask for aligue or taba ng talangka :) Here’s to a simpler and more meaningful lifestyle!

Hi Mom-Friday! Thanks for sharing those links! I love aligue on pasta too :)

Hi Brittany! Sad about Christmas but that doesn’t mean we can’t reclaim all its magic! Which is what I intend to do :)

Hi JamS! Don’t think C and I haven’t had the same kind of idea – to just live in the country and sustain ourselves there! Glad you got to bring back some taba ng talangka with you to LA!

Hi Trissa! Yes I think the effort we put into these celebrations makes it truly memorable! :) I’m sure it was a fabulous party knowing the gorgeousness you regularly put forth in your blog!

Thanks Paula :)

Hi Vivienne! Love it with coconut milk! Yes, we are also finding ways to cut down…not too fun at the onset but slowly becoming very liberating!

Hi Quay Po! Hope you like it!

Miss you to Iyor! I hear you…we are having a very simple gathering this year and I am so looking forward to it :) Let’s plan our get together soon!

Hi Vicki! Thanks for dropping by and for the nice comment :) Aha! So we have the same alma matter I see! And I actually have the first edition of that cookbook!

Hi Chef D! That’s exactly it as well --- to focus on what’s important that sometimes gets lost in the fray!

Thanks Stephen :)

Hi Midge! Hahaha! Will keep that in mind!

Hi Shalum! Actually, now that I have decided to simplify things I am enjoying the planning much more…same with Christmas! :) The motto is free --- free for anyone to adopt and spread! :)

Hi Bella! Glad to see you have more adventurous tastes than your friends!

Hi Sann! Haha, most everything I make is simple – definitely doable for everyone! So true about kids putting everything in to perspective! And the five-year-old birthday celebration was wonderful…we so enjoyed :)

Thanks Amy :)

Glad you enjoyed the post Millet! Yes, there are definitely lots of other ways to make it more special :)

Hi TS! You never know…although I thought that before I had kids and still feel the same now :)

Hi Sally! That sounds great :) I think what’s important is that we are all together to celebrate :)

Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie said...

A few years ago I read a book titled "Unplug the Christmas Machine" and it was all about upping the meaning of the season while decreasing the unending expense.

The decorations are great - but do we really need all those expensive Victorian ornaments all over the house? It's great to eat special foods - but does it have to be lobster and Champagne?

And what ever happened to do it yourself decorations and going out singing Christmas carols?

The economic slowdown has forced millions to look at a lot of what Christmas has become and ask if it really works for YOU. And maybe if you're flush with cash you might still want to watch your spending and spend on things that are more important to you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo,

First off, let me just say how much I enjoy reading your blog...I usually don't comment but since this topic (downsizing-if you will) hits too close to home, I feel it is only appropriate.

I am completely with you-Just the other day I was mentally listing down all the must-buys and how much cash I need to put up and then I realized for a single OFW like myself, saving every hard earned penny I could- an expense amounting to 60K for 1 week of vacation sounds ridiculous. Really. It kind of overshadows the excitement that you're supposed to be feeling...

OK, maybe I sound like a scrooge now

ChichaJo said...

Hi Denise! I think the title of that book says it all! Definitely need to take a closer look at our Christmas habits :)

Hello Anonymous person! Thank you for commenting and I'm so glad to hear you enjoy the blog :) Seems like this is a topic that hits close to home for a lot of us. Definitely not a scrooge! I think it's just a matter of being more mindful of where we put our hard-earned cash and make sure that we use it to add true value and meaning in our lives...which is different for different people :)

Rasa Malaysia said...

Oh my, Joey, can this get any better? All the right ingredients in this recipe, love it and I can totally imagine the taste.

Anne said...

Totally agree with you in keeping things simple. I learned that too when I had my two kids...

I almost fell from my seat when I saw your post...oh my! that something I love so much :)) aligue and sugpo is my fave!

Tapping Therapy said...

I just love foods with coconut milk! The aligue made the whole dish absolutely delicious. Make sure to have your blood pressure checked!

Erin from WHERE said...

First off, this looks PHENOMENAL, and I can't wait to try it. What would you add to make it a little spicy? Some chili flakes?
And secondly, I can completely relate to the saving and appreciating what you have. I'm also going to resolve to have fewer, better quality purchases and stuff in my life.
Finally, happy birthday to the Cherry Bomb!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Tapping Therapy...I love dishes with coconut milk too :) And yes, I need to have my BP checked!

Hi Erin! Thanks! I would add more finger chilies to increase the heat :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Bee! I love this combination of ingredients too!

Hi Anne! Aren't prawns just fantastic with aligue? :) Love this too! And yes, definitely learning to simplify...and it's making me appreciate the important things even more :)

Gizelle said...

gosh, I miss aligue!

having a simpler eye follows that you have a simple budget too :D (Lesson-learned after so many years lol)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Gizelle! So true! Definitely helps to see the beauty in simpler things :)

Nisrine, Dinners and Dreams said...

It looks delicious. I would love it with a slice of the gorgeous pie below!

ChichaJo said...

Thanks Nisrine! :)

les 2 gourmands said...

that is just the king of food we love !! thank you

randie said...

Yum... Your pictures really make me want to try new things! Thank you!