Comfort Foods of the Philippines
On a recent trip to Manila, every morning at my uncle’s residence usually involves your traditional Filipino breakfast – corned beef, longanisa, tocino, scrambled eggs and garlic fried rice. That’s pretty standard and everyone is quite familiar with those combinations and more. Add a mug of Nescafe 3-in-1 instant hot coffee and freshly sliced Philippine mango and you’ve got an amazing meal to start the day.
One convenient difference is the taho vendor. Around the same time every morning, you can hear the familiar sound emanating from the streets all across the Philippines, “TAHO! TAHO!” Ever since I was a young kid, no trip back to the Philippines has been complete without at least one serving of fresh taho from the taho vendor that roams our family’s subdivision.
Taho is one of the many comfort foods I truly enjoy when I visit the Philippines. Taho made in Canada, just isn’t the same. The silken soft tofu and the sweet syrup have tasted the same for as long as I can remember. I still recall my first visit to the Philippines back in 1981 as I ran out into the streets with five pesos for a small plastic cup of taho.
During breakfast one morning, I snapped a photo of my glass of taho and sent it to my friend Rhia. She told me she screamed when she saw the photo because it also reminded her of the Philippines. She then asked if I’ve seen a binatog vendor. What’s binatog? I was clueless. I’ve never heard of binatog so I asked my uncle, aunt and my father. Basically, everyone within earshot and that’s where the great debate started. What is it? Where can I get it? Are there any vendors in Manila?
After much debate, several exchanges in text messages over several days, I was disappointed to learn that binatog vendors were non-existent anywhere in Manila. Even an inquiry with many of my friends in Manila came up empty. Since we couldn’t find anyone that sold it on the street, the next best step was to see how to make it. I was going to use the trusty internet to find myself a recipe. However, that idea was vetoed by my uncle and aunt and over several more text message exchanges, they got a recipe.
What is binatog? It’s boiled white corn kernels served with freshly grated coconut and dusted with sugar. It can be served hot or cold, and instead of sugar, some people add a pinch of salt.
I was at the local mall when I received the text message indicating that the binatog was ready. I was pretty anxious to get home and taste it since it’s been several days of non-stop binatog chatter between my relatives. I basically finished all my shopping and rushed home. I was that excited.
“OMG! I’ve had this before!” I shouted when I tasted the first spoonful of binatog. One spoonful of this uniquely textured and flavourful dish instantly catapulted memories of my youth so vividly, that it felt like it was only yesterday. It sparked flashbacks of me standing in the palengke (market) in the province with my cousins from over 30 years ago. To think, I’ve never had binatog in over 30 years! It reminded me of my Lola and Lolo, it reminded me of my mom, my cousins in the province and my family. It was such an amazing feeling and maybe that is why we call it comfort food.