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.
Baked Filipino Torta by Bianca Garcia
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
Preheat oven to 350 F.
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.
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.
Beat the eggs with a generous pinch of salt.
Add eggs to pan. Let sit on stovetop for a minute or two, until edges start to set, and then transfer to oven.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until eggs are set.
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.
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