The Last Feast

We've arrived at the finale of my Philippines trip, so I found it only fitting to end my series of posts with the lavish amount of food that we cooked for our last dinner.

For one last hurrah, close friends and family gathered at my Auntie Jessie's. Food, karaoke, and gambling (tongits!) was a classic Filipino get-together!

My cousin and I wanted to contribute to this "Last Feast", so my mom assigned us to the fried chicken. Frying chicken may seem simple enough, but Sam and I were stoked to able to get into the kitchen again and were willing to take on anything. Filipinos love their chicken...roasted, fried, in a soup, stewed with veggies...Filipinos love chicken. So, there was a little pressure for this dish to come out just right.

Of was a disaster, at first. The propane burner was ground-level, so you had to really squat down and bend over to cook. Also, the wok got EXTREMELY hot at an EXTREMELY fast rate. The oil was already smoking when I put the first batch of chicken in (BIG mistake #1). I didn't keep the pieces of chicken evenly spaced out from each other (BIG mistake #2). I took too long to flip the chicken over (BIG mistake #3). Luckily, it wasn't a 3-strikes-you're-out situation. We lowered the heat as low as possible, and worked out a timing system for flipping the chicken a few times while it cooks. With the help of my mom...or rescue mission, however you want to put cousin Sam and I were able to serve up some crispy, golden-brown fried chicken!

One of our favorite desserts is the Filipino classic: Leche Flan. It's a thick, creamy custard made from just egg yolks, milk, calamansi, and vanilla extract. (The vanilla came in a plastic bag, interesting!). Again, sounds simple enough, right? Well, that's how it started out.

We mixed the custard, and then made the caramel syrup that goes in the bottom of the pan, which oozes over the Leche Flan when you flip it over later! Then...that's when things started to get a little tricky. Traditionally, the dessert is steamed, but we didn't have the right pot or "llaneras" (oval, metal molds). We also didn't have access to an oven, so we needed to get really creative. Really, really creative.

At first, we placed an upside down bowl into a pot filled with a couple inches of water and used a heavy plate to weigh it down. The pan of Leche Flan went on top of this contraption. The problem was...when the water bubbles, the bowl moves around and the whole thing just jiggles. Finally, in a smooth move that even MacGyver would be impressed by, family friend Dalton took one of the stove burner grates and placed that into the bottom of the pot. The pans finally had a flat, stable surface to sit on.

After about 40 minutes, the Leche Flans were done! We let them cool, then cut them into squares to serve. They turned out great! :)

My last task of the night was helping my mom chop up what she needed for pinakbet, a variety of vegetables cooked with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and shrimp paste.

Our final spread also included grilled oysters, my Auntie Vi's famous pancit palabok (rice noodles with a shrimp and pork sauce), and turon (bananas and jackfruit wrapped in spring roll wrappers, then deep fried).

Plates were full, and the entire house was abuzz. It was the kind of night where you couldn't tell if your stomach hurt because it was so full of food or because you'd been constantly laughing. :D We were sad that our stay was ending and it was finally time to say our see-you-later's, but this was the best way to go out. I'm grateful for all of the priceless, joyful memories made in the Philippines, with the culture and the women that helped to shape my culinary aspirations! Here's to food, family, and the Philippines! :)