Bicolano with a Twist | Daily Prompt: Mouths Wide Shut

Are you a picky eater? Share some of your favorite food quirks with us (the more exotic, the better!). Omnivores: what’s the one thing you won’t eat?

Yes, I am a picky eater.

The family thought that it would just be one of those childhood phases, one that I would gradually grow out of. I didn’t. Picky isn’t a phase, it’s a way of life for me. And thankfully the family—especially the parents—could accommodate my preferences ever since I could eat on my own.

Because the family is Bicolano and Bicolanos are known for their signature spicy fare, I grew up eating stuff that wasn’t just hot but came with a kick. Anything less would be a disappointment. But before I came into the picture, my parents usually cooked any Bicolano recipe the way they normally would. Yet once I gained influence in the kitchen, all that changed.

One of the most dramatic alterations is the way Pa made bopis. Bopis is a dish, made up mostly of lungs and heart bits; by tradition, we took those from a cow. Throw in some chilies, vinegar, and soy sauce and you’re good to go! Because of my prodding, just before it’s served, Pa adds some cubed cheese, which made it creamier and gave it more texture.

Laing recipe focuses on dried gabi (taro) leaves and gata (coconut milk). But instead of any remotely seafood-tasting bit as a bonus, Pa uses tuna; usually canned tuna because he only needs a small amount. That’s the same thing he does with santol (cotton fruit): cooks it with gata, loads of spices, and chunks of tuna. The spicier, the better!

Speaking of tuna, he and Ma tandem on making tambakol (yellow-fin tuna) in gata, which takes hours to cook. And they make certain that the bottom layer of tambakol not only simmers in sauce but gets a bit toasted as well because that’s the part that I love eating. I usually don’t go for anything burnt, saved for barbeque and tambakol. Just don’t overdo it.

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