Today, I honor my Mommy Julie, my paternal grandmother. Even though she celebrated her 3rd birthday in heaven last May 12, I still remember well her many life’s lessons. After fetching me from nursery school, she would bring me to the market to get the needed ingredients for our meals for the day. She was quite skillful in finding the freshest and cheapest goods. While she would take her time inspecting a piece of eggplant or pork shank she never annoyed the sellers because of her scrutiny. Mommy Julie was a gifted multi-tasker, who didn’t just have an eagle eye for the best bargains but who could actually strike up friendships with the market place regulars. She knew certain details about their lives, stuff about this certain vendor’s husband, tidbits about their children, and personal anecdotes about them. Her relationship skills were hard to beat! No wonder she got items at half the price. But don’t get me wrong, I believe this was just a natural consequence of her genuine concern for others. More than just a regular customer, my grandmother was always ready to stop and share a few words of encouragement, a part of herself, to these people.
I learned many things as I watched her go through life. She left footprints for me to follow. From the cooking, the cleaning of the house, throwing a party, taking care of children, and more! She was definitely a significant influence in my choice of a partner. It would be an understatement to say that I’m forever grateful to her.
I share this recipe she loved cooking for us, something we called “Lutong Batangas.” When I cook it myself today, and savor a mouthful, I reminisce about the same immense, pure JOY I felt whenever she prepared it for us back then. It makes me recall all the love she has shown us. This recipe may take some time because of all the slicing and cutting required. But she used to say, all the extra work is a concrete expression of love. Nothing is difficult and no time is wasted if done for those you love.
This simple dish is chock-full of nutrition. From the protein-packed pork, the high in vitamin C and fiber green papaya, lycopene-rich and osteoporosis-preventing tomatoes to the densely nutritious rice water, surely, the young and the not-so-young will enjoy a bowl of some piping hot “Lutong Batangas”.
These are just suggested proportions, assuming this will be for a one-dish meal. I, however, add more tomatoes for a richer taste. Whenever I simply serve this as a soup and veggie dish, I use just a bit of pork to get a hint of flavor and normally prepare grilled fish, chicken or pork as the main course).
1 kilo pork liempo strips
1 medium-sized green papaya (unripe) sliced into strips (you can add more)
6 red tomatoes diced (you can add more)
1 clove of garlic diced
1-2 green peppers
Fish sauce to taste
8-10 cups of water used to wash rice (“hugas-bigas”)
6-8 calamansi squeezed and unseeded, to be mixed with fish sauce as dipping sauce.
• Sauté garlic (not brown) and add tomatoes till well done, mashing to release juices while sautéeing.
• Add pork and continue to sauté to release pork juice. Season with fish sauce.
• Add rice water and bring to boil. Cook pork till soft and tender.
• Add sliced green papaya. Bring to boil and remove from heat.
Serve with steaming hot rice or as is.