[Recipe] Baked Filipino Torta

By Bianca Garcia

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

I grew up eating torta. I ate it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, always served with fluffy white rice. Torta was one of my family’s go-to dishes, made with simple ingredients that even picky eaters would appreciate. It’s essentially a round omelette with ground pork, onions, and potatoes.

It is sometimes referred to as “tortang giniling” (giniling = ground) because it is made with ground meat, typically pork or beef. This distinguishes it from different versions of torta. For instance, there’s “tortang talong” (talong = eggplant). There’s “tortang gulay” (gulay = vegetables), that’s made with different veggies like squash, bittermelon, cabbage, etc. There’s also a dish that is a combination of the above: tortang talong (eggplant) stuffed with ground beef. That dish is called a rellenong talong (relleno refers to anything that is stuffed) but then we are going on a different topic, and I’m here to talk about torta. Specifically ground pork torta.

The torta we eat at home in the Philippines is made painstakingly by my Tita Ine. It has teeny tiny cubes of uniformly cut potatoes that mingles seamlessly with the juicy ground pork, all in a delicate frittata-like casing, flavored simply with white onions and salt (never pepper). She cooks the ground pork first, then the potatoes and onions, adds in eggs that have been whisked into submission, and then flips the entire pan into a plate, and transfers it back to the pan to cook the other side. I’ve tried many times to recreate her recipe and follow her instructions, but it never turns out the same because 1) my knife skills are not great / I don’t have the patience to cut teeny tiny cubes of potatoes, 2) my flipping skills need work (there’s been more than one occasion of a torta gone wrong), and 3) I always seem to overstuff my torta and it doesn’t exactly come out as a delicate piece of art.

So I decided to make my own, easier, non-intimidating version. I made a few updates: 1) I roughly chop the potatoes into half-inch cubes, 2) I bake the torta, which saves me the stress of flipping it, and 3) I use a deep dish pan so even if it’s overstuffed, things don’t spill out of the pan, and instead it comes out as one big sturdy-looking frittata.

Below is my own recipe, which my husband and I make at least every other week. It has the same flavors as the torta I grew up with, and it still goes very well with white rice. But it also goes well with an arugula salad, or a sandwich (with a little smear of mayo, yum), or just eaten by itself. I like dipping it in ketchup, but some people like fish sauce or soy sauce.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Baked Filipino Torta by Bianca Garcia

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground pork
2 medium potatoes, chopped into ½ inch cubes
½ cup chopped white onions
6 large eggs
Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. On the stovetop, heat olive oil in a large oven-safe pan over medium-high heat (you can use a cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan). Add ground pork. Stir often and break up clumps with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Remove pork from pan and set aside.

  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add potatoes and cook for about 3 minutes, and then add onions. Cook until onions are translucent and potatoes are soft.

  4. Beat the eggs with a generous pinch of salt.

  5. Add eggs to pan. Let sit on stovetop for a minute or two, until edges start to set, and then transfer to oven.

  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until eggs are set.

  7. Slice into wedges and serve.

I know that torta could mean different things for different cuisines: it could be a Mexican sandwich, a Spanish flatbread, an Italian cake, a Brazilian pie. But to me, it’s an egg concoction with ground meat and veggies. To me, it has always been Tita Ine’s torta. And now, it’s mine, too.


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.

PAMANA Filipino Parade and Festival

By Bianca Garcia

We had a blast celebrating the 120th Philippine Independence Day with PAMANA (Philippine-American Mainstream Mainstream Advocacy for Nonpartisans Associations) last weekend. We ran a dessert booth in collaboration with BOSFilipinos and Confessions of a Chocoholic, and it was a hit! I made mini ensaymadas, Leila made leche flan, and our friend and BOSFilipinos member Val made calamansi bars.

Here are some pics from the day:

After the parade, there were some welcome comments, a flag raising, and various types of performances. And of course: Filipino food in abundance. Quintessential Filipino foods like lumpia, longsilog (longganisa + sinangag + itlog) plates, pancit, BBQ, halo-halo, and other snacks fueled us throughout the day and brought us a taste of home.

Our neighbors at the next booth were the Pulutan Boyz, Philjay (you may have seen him at BOSFilipinos events) and Mac, slinging longganisa and tocino sliders.

It was such a fun day seeing other Filipinos and celebrating our culture together.

Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by our booth to say hello and buy our desserts! We hope we were able to entice some of you to be a part of the BOSFilipinos gang in some way. Thank you to Jen and PAMANA for coordinating the Independence Day celebration. And maraming salamat to Val for baking goodies, and to Matt for driving us all to Attleboro.

In case you missed us at the parade, don’t worry, you can find us at the next Filipino event on June 23rd at the 2nd Annual Filipino Festival in Malden. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to catch up with us every month.

You can also reach out to us at info@bosfilipinos.com and tell us how else we can build on the Filipino community. Or better yet, let us know how you want to participate.

We look forward to meeting more of you soon. Mabuhay!

(More pics on our Facebook page.)

Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Chef Ashley Lujares

By Trish Fontanilla

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares / Taken at Myers+Chang by  Kristin Teig

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares / Taken at Myers+Chang by Kristin Teig

Before we started BOSFilipinos and I was still in the consideration phase of my Filipino food project, the universe kept asking me, “Have you talked to Ashley Lujares yet?” And by universe I mean, Ashley’s previous colleagues at Myers+Chang, Chefs Joanne Chang (owner / chef), and Karen Akunowicz (partner / executive chef), and Veo Robert (chef de cuisine). Seriously, three separate conversations, three suggestions that I should chat with Ashley. After meeting her at an industry night, and then having a coffee chat that lasted for hours talking about our upbringings as Filipino Americans, I thought she’d be perfect for the blog!

Ashley is one of the amazing chefs in Boston that is bringing Filipino food to the masses by highlighting special dishes wherever she goes. We’re stoked that she was able to do this interview with us. And don’t worry, we’ll be highlighting more of the amazing Filipino chefs here in Boston throughout the year.


Where are you and your family from?
Ashley
: I was born and raised in Massachusetts, but my parents are both from the Bicol region in the Philippines. Half of my mother's siblings reside here as well as the west coast. And my maternal grandfather was in the U.S. Coast Guard. He was stationed here in Boston and in San Diego, CA.

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares

What do you do?
Ashley: I am the savory chef at Flour Bakery + Cafe in Fort Point.

What inspired you to become a chef?
Ashley: Many situations in my life have inspired me to become a chef. The first inspiration came from a day I was watching cartoons and my dad said, “Why don’t you watch something that you can learn from. You are rotting your brain.” He put on PBS, and Julia Child’s show was on. I was instantly hooked!

Soon after that I moved to the Philippines for 3 years, and one of my earliest memories is going to the market with my grandmother. My cousin Joy and I would take turns going there with her, and I would throw tantrums when it wasn't my turn. I loved how full of life the market was; I loved the smell of the street food and seeing fresh produce.

My grandmother owned a pancitan (noodle factory). She also had a green thumb and planted all of the fruits and vegetables in our backyard. Any exotic fruit you can find at your local market in the US, my grandmother had in her backyard. My grandfather owned a balutan (balut factory), and my aunt raised pigs and sold meat at the town market. She also helped my mother prep for parties. Through those parties my mom taught me the importance of eating with your eyes first.

Well we know that Flour is one the best places to work in Boston (like really, not just because of the sticky buns), but how did you end up working there? 

Ashley: I was the sous chef at Myers+Chang for a few years and I needed a change. I love Joanne Chang’s management style, and I felt like I would learn a lot about how to be a better manager from her as well as the business aspect of the food industry.

On Boston...

Provided by Ashley Lujares

Provided by Ashley Lujares

How long have you been in Boston?
Ashley: I have been in Boston for the majority of my life. I briefly lived in different places like New York City, the Philippines, and San Diego, CA.

What are your favorite Boston spots (could be restaurants / parks / anything!):
Ashley: My favorite restaurants are Sarma, Coppa, Toro, and my best friend’s family restaurant in Chinatown called Wai Wai’s. I frequent the back of the ICA overlooking East Boston, and I love going to museums like the MFA, ICA + Isabella Stewart Gardner. Mostly I'm in the South Shore where the Lujares family compound is located.

 

 

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Ashley: I really love my mom’s palabok (variation of Filipino noodle dish, pancit). It’s so rich yet so bright! I also love my mom’s lumpia shanghai (spring roll). Through the years she developed these recipes and made them her own, and both are her signature dishes.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Ashley: I love making Filipino barbeque and my grandmother’s atchara (pickle made from grated, unripe papaya). These components complement each other well, and they remind me of summer. I often make these at Flour!

On staying in touch...

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares

How can people stay in touch?
Ashley: My Instagram account is serajul. It’s my last name backwards if you are wondering where I got it from.

 


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: info@bosfilipinos.com.

A conversation with my Best Friend, Saima

By Leila Amerling

Saima and I, THEN and NOW...   (our Junior year of highschool (1998) and Saima as my maid of honor (2016). I actually couldn't find one normal picture of us in any of my wedding photos.)

Saima and I, THEN and NOW...

(our Junior year of highschool (1998) and Saima as my maid of honor (2016). I actually couldn't find one normal picture of us in any of my wedding photos.)

Saima Kazi is a half-Bangladeshi, half-Indian Muslim living a foodie life in Boston. Saima has a story to tell and it starts (where most of our stories begin) where she grew up: the Philippines. Saima was born in Bangkok, Thailand, moved to the Philippines later in elementary school, and lived the rest of her formidable years there. She then moved to Boston for college and has been here ever since.

Saima and I have been friends, best friends, since the 6th grade (although she will claim it was the 4th). Like any close friend, she has been a part of many of my life transitions, she was even my maid of honor. She is the reason why I actually live in Boston. Well technically, she was the person who convinced me to move to Boston from the Philippines for college. The reason why I’m still here, well, I ask myself that every winter. It could have something to do with Saima’s cooking. If you ever have her cooking, you’d probably stay in Boston too.

Saima is one of the first members to join BOSFilipinos, and was a sous chef for our Filipino Food Pop-Up last September. When we host our monthly Filipino food potlucks, Saima's contributions are the first to be cleaned out. Anyone who has tasted her food will agree that she's an incredible cook. And anyone who meets her will also agree that she completely lives and understands the Filipino way of life.

Leila: This might be a loaded question but, where are you from originally?
Saima: I inherited the ethnicity of being from Bangladesh, but moved to the Philippines from Thailand where I was born. I grew up in the Philippines which is where my most coherent years were spent (i.e. teens), and it’s where I feel the most connected, like the culture and the food. Mainly because I was surrounded by Filipinos.

Leila: What do you do?
Saima: I help manage a boutique in the fashion retail industry.

Leila: What’s the best part of your job?
Saima: Meeting different people, being able to style them, and being able to teach people how to style them, leaving everyone happy once I’ve interacted with them! Well, at least most of the time...

Leila: What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Saima: Cook new things, spend time with my Besties, dance with my handsome Haitian boyfriend, and catch-up on Netflix. I’ve been watching Downton Abbey lately.

Leila: What is your favorite thing to cook?
Saima: Oh boy! Another loaded question. Adobo, Pinakbet, Arroz Caldo, Munggo, Thai Meatball Curry, Haitian Chicken Stew, Biryani, anything with a fried egg on it. I could keep going but those are in rotation in my kitchen.

Leila: Is that influenced by your background?
Saima: Oh yes! Thai I picked up from spending my early years there. At home, we cooked Indian, and most of my latter years was spent in Filipino restaurants and homes. But it’s not just the food, it’s the people that I’ve come across that have influenced my cooking (you and your mom are a BIG part of it). I was born into a conservative Indian family forced to follow rules but the Philippines brought me sunshine, tanduay rum, dried mangoes and introduced me to the other aspects of non-conservative ways of life, like binge eating, drinking, dancing and singing karaoke. I mean who doesn’t want a piece of the Philippines?!

Leila: How did you learn to cook?
Saima: Well, I never had to cook until I moved to the the States. I am a foodie so when I left the Philippines I craved it a lot. I thought about the flavors that I missed and enjoyed the most, so I took my favorite flavors, and learned to cook by trial and error.

Leila: When do you plan on going back to the Philippines?
Saima: When they eradicate all lizards. Hate them. Or when there’s a wedding to attend. That’s when all of the best Pinoy foods come out to play (except lechon, I’ll never know the true deliciousness thanks to my religion).

So there you have it folks. A little peek into the life of my friend, Saima. I’ll bet you may think that you have a boring life, but really, like Saima, you have a story to tell too!

 

We want to hear your story too! Or if you know of anyone that has a story to tell, or that you want to interview please let us know! Send us an email at info@bosfilipinos.com or hit us up on social media and we'll get back to you ASAP.

Filipino Chicken Adobo Recipe

By Bianca Garcia

© Bianca Garcia

© Bianca Garcia

During one of our early BOSFilipinos meetings, Leila, Trish, and I talked about our family’s version of adobo. I said my family’s is very vinegary, Trish said her family’s is a little sweet, and Leila said her family’s is pretty balanced, with equal amounts of soy sauce and vinegar. We all said our family’s version is the best.

If you don’t know yet, adobo is any meat or any combination of meats that is are braised and simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, lots of garlic, black peppercorn, and bay leaves. Saveur wrote a good Beginner’s Guide to Adobo. It’s the unofficial national dish of the Philippines, so ingrained in our culture, that just the thought of the fragrant stew can make any Filipino think fondly of home.

One of the wonderful things about adobo is you can alter it in many different ways to make it your own. You can change the ratio of vinegar and soy sauce, you can use different meats (my family’s go to is pork and liver) or vegetables (my favorite is sitaw, or string beans), you can add coconut milk, a little sugar, onions, ginger, hard-boiled eggs, chilies. However way you make it, I’m sure it will be delicious. And pretty soon, you’ll be claiming your version is the best.

CHICKEN ADOBO Recipe by Bianca Garcia

INGREDIENTS

6 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)

1 ½ cups vinegar

½ cup soy sauce

10 garlic cloves (around 1 whole head of garlic), smashed

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon coarse salt

8-10 dried bay leaves

1 cup water

1 tablespoon olive oil

fresh chives for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, and seven of the smashed garlic cloves in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add one cup water, plus more if necessary, to barely cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

  2. Remove the cover and simmer, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.

  3. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken and set aside. Increase heat to high and allow the broth to continue simmering.

  4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic cloves. Add chicken and sear each piece on both sides until golden brown and skin is crispy.

  5. Return chicken to the pot, and continue reducing the sauce by simmering for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens to your liking. Serve with white rice, and garnish with chives, green onion, and/or chilies.

If you’d like to read more of my story, check out my post on Filipino Chicken Adobo on Confessions of a Chocoholic.

And If you’d like to explore other variations, check out the following recipes:

Chicken Adobo is the Greatest Recipe of All time by Bon Appetit

What I Cook When I’m Alone: Top Chef Winner Paul Qui’s Pork Adobo Recipee

Enjoy!
 

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Food Photographer Tina Picz

By Trish Fontanilla

Picture provided by Tina Picz / Tina with her husband and daughter

Picture provided by Tina Picz / Tina with her husband and daughter

Where are you from?
I grew up in Massachusetts and have lived in California, Florida, and Brooklyn, NY. My mom is from Leyte, Philippines and my dad is from Rhode Island. 

And what do you do?
I've been a food photographer for over 3 years and a freelance writer as well.

What inspired you to be a photographer?
I became a food photographer after having a cooking blog in NY for a bit, by way of trying many creative outlets over the years like singing in bands, designing clothing, planning fashion shows and selling vintage clothing. I'm always in search of new artistic paths, and have loved trying my hand at many different mediums of self-expression. I've always enjoyed capturing moments of beauty, in whatever form I could, and sharing them with others.

On Boston...

How long have you been in Boston?
I have been back in Boston for 3 years now after moving around the country for 6 years.

What are your favorite Boston spots? Could be restaurants / parks / anything!
Some of my favorite spots are Boston Public Garden, biking along Charles River, and for food I love Mei Mei, Pho House, Dosa N Curry, The Indo, Whole Heart Provisions, and My Thai Vegan Cafe.

© Tina Picz / Jacqueline Dole pop-up at Mei Mei

© Tina Picz / Jacqueline Dole pop-up at Mei Mei

What's been your favorite, or one of your favorite photoshoots?

One of my favorite photoshoots in Boston was probably a pop-up dinner event at Mei Mei a few years ago, at which Jacqueline Dole, founder of Parlor Ice Cream Co., was pastry chef and made delicious Baked Alaska. I loved the local, seasonal, one-night menu, and the usage of handmade pottery by Adria Katz. It was fun to get behind the scenes and capture the chefs cooking, the young, lively staff having a good time, and of course eating the great food they offered!

What's your community superpower?
Helping food pantries and food businesses tell their stories through photographs. I especially love working with local female entrepreneurs and small businesses, and seeing all the ingenious and creative ways that they've incorporated food into the community to benefit those less fortunate. I like offering my photography skills as a volunteer service where it can help spread the word to more people regarding ways to get involved locally.

On Filipino Food...

© Tina Picz / Tina's mom's birthday party

© Tina Picz / Tina's mom's birthday party

What's your all-time favorite Filipino dish?
My all time favorite Filipino dishes are: Sinigang (my mom's fish soup), Fish Adobo, Champorado (chocolate rice), Biko (sweet rice cake), Puto (rice cake), and Suman (coconut sticky rice in banana leaves).

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
My favorite to make is Champorado because it's easy and sweet!

How can people stay in touch with you?  
To stay in touch, follow me on Instagram @bostonfoodphoto and @deerdrifter or http://deerdrifter.tumblr.com

© Shannon Aubourg  / Tina with her mother and her daughter

©Shannon Aubourg / Tina with her mother and her daughter