Lately, my breakfasts were served to me in little boxes full of rice, microwaved and with a tall glass of pineapple juice, courtesy of our friendly neighborhood 7-Eleven.
It’s been a few days since I left my home and currently, I’m writing this in our 39 square meter unit that I share with two of my friends. I’m in Manila now, trying to slug it out and chase whatever it is my hometown can’t give me. I actually have a post that reads like a novela in the works, but no, now is not the time for that. I need to make room for breakfast, and for tocino, which has been sitting at the back of my head for a while now.
Growing up my mom would make tocino from scratch. I gather that in some parts of the world, tocino means ‘bacon’ (another one of my favorites, hence my waistline). Tocino in the Philippines is cured pork or chicken slices and it literally spells a quintessential Pinoy breakfast (together with longganisa, beef tapa, danggit). Thin strips of pork are cured with a mixture of salt, sugar, saltpeter (sodium nitrate) or prague powder, and rice wine or gin. The salt to sugar ratio is important, because you can easily tip the scale between salty and sweet – flavors that a tocino must be must have in perfect harmony (Mom takes it very seriously!).
Tocino sold in the supermarkets in the frozen section is more processed than usual, and I don’t really care for it. This recipe is so much better because at least I know how much salt and preservatives are in it which doesn’t make it more healthful but at least sinking my teeth into every sweet and salty morsel is more of a psychological treat (haha!).
I think it may be a while before I get my bearings and adjust to my even tinier kitchen, so I might as well fill this blog with more of what I do get to taste in the Metro. But for now, when I’m thinking of home and of uncomplicated breakfasts, this sits at the top of my list (together with another favorite, my bacon and egg rings).
Tocino (serves 6 – 8)
- 1 kg skinless boneless pork
- Curing mix:
- 1 ½ tablespoons iodized salt
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon gin/rice wine
- ¼ tablespoon prague powder
- A dash of MSG
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the curing mix. Evenly coat the pork slices with the curing mix then transfer it to a larger bowl, large enough to hold the pork. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least one – two days before cooking.
When ready to cook, arrange the number of pork pieces you need in a pan and add water enough to cover the bottom. Cook it over medium heat, until the water evaporates and the tocino’s fat begins to render. Add a tablespoon or two of oil and fry until both sides take on a reddish hue and begin to brown. The pieces may burn easily so be careful. When done, remove from pan, serve with rice and an egg fried sunny side up. Enjoy!