I come from the town of Marikina in the Philippines and so did my forebears. In fact, I can not trace any root other than this place. It is well known as the shoe capital of the Philippines. A new addition to the list of things to see in my town is the Shoe Museum which houses Madam Imelda Marcos' famous collection of shoes, some of which were made there.
Aside from being master shoe craftsmen, my towns folk are also known for their cuisine. There are a few dishes that originate from this town and one of them is waknatoy. It is a special dish that graces many a table during celebrations such as Christmas and fiestas. Memories of crocheted tablecloths, vintage pressed glass serving dishes and big family get-togethers come to mind and warms my spirit.
This dish has quite a peculiar name: waknatoy. I don't really know what this means, where this name came from or how it originated. Though it seems Chinese sounding, the dish itself is very Castillan. It is a rich tomato based pork stew with chorizo, Vienna sausages, pork, liver, red pepper and sweet pickles. The pickles is the ingredient that sets it apart from the other very similar Filipino stews. It gives it that sweet and tangy twist that gives it its unique flavour. As in antigo (old) dishes, the secret to the taste is the proper sauteing and simmering of ingredients. Old time cooks are very particular about the sauteeing stage when cooking. If you don't get it sauteed right, the end dish won't have the proper taste. Time, timing and patience is what it takes to cook these perfectly. Liquids should be added sparingly so as not to wash off the caramelization that has resulted in the cooking process.
Waknatoy tastes better the day after it has been cooked, when its flavours have developed fully. In fact, dishes like this are cooked in quantities because the taste improves as it is reheated. The last bit of leftover is usually pan fried, giving yet another dimension to its flavours. This is the part I always look forward to.
1 kg. pork shoulder or butt cut into roughly 2"x1"x1/2" pieces
juice of 2 calamansi, or 1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsps. of light soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 onions, cut into chunks
2 chorizos, sliced into rounds
1/3 c. tomato paste
1/4 c. sherry
1/4 c. pickle juice
water or stock
250 gms. pork liver
1/2 c. sweet pickle chunks
1/2 sweet red pepper, cut into chunks
2-5 oz. tin vienna sausages, each piece cut into 3 on the slant
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 c. grated processed cheese
Season the pork pieces with the calamansi or lemon juice, pepper and light soy sauce. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Sauté the garlic until light golden brown.
Add the onions and sauté until translucent.
Next add the marinated pork and the chorizo slices. When the pork is sealed (has changed colour), add the tomato puree (paste). Stir until the tomato puree coats the pork.
Add sherry, pickle juice and 1/2 c. water, pouring around the pork rather than on top, then shaking the pan to deglaze.
Simmer for half an hour on low heat while stirring occasionally. You will need to add water as it evaporates, 1/2 cup at a time, again around the pork pieces.
Add the liver, pickles and peppers. Simmer for about another half hour until tender.
Add the sausages, brown sugar and cheese and simmer for 5 minutes more. You can add a touch more water if the mixture is too dry. This dish shouldn't have too much sauce. The sauce should be thick and should coat the meat.
Note: If you don't have sweet pickles, substitute 3 tbsps. of redcurrant jelly. It gives a very similar sweetness and tang.
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