Grandma burst into song at lunch today. After lengthily praying, she burst into song – clapping while singing “This is the Day”. Look it up, I’m not singing it.
Mom was hiding silent giggles, uncle kept mouthing under his breath that he’s hungry, while I couldn’t really hide the fact that I was pleasantly amused. That doesn’t usually happen over lunch. She’s like that, my grandmother. It’s been an inside joke among family members that her lack of comedic timing makes her that more amusing. One time, during a party that we had at their place, with guests in tow, she burst into tears and extended the prayer before meals after my grandfather said his spiel.
The amusement that happened over lunch offset whatever antsy feelings I had prior. I was flipping out because from my end, lunch almost never happened. We don’t have set Easter traditions, we don’t have Easter bunnies and eggs; it’s usually only a celebratory lunch and dinner. I decided to make two dishes – bringhe and roasted chicken.
Bringhe is a rice dish from Northern Luzon (specifically Pampanga), similar to arroz valenciana and paella, but the liquid used to cook the rice is a mixture of water and coconut milk, and it has a characteristic yellow color because of the turmeric. Think curry rice, without the curry. Roast chicken is, well, roast chicken. I marinated it in soy sauce, vinegar, rosemary and lemongrass.
Time wasn’t on my side that day. While I was in the kitchen, I kept glancing at the clock, mentally kicking myself for being a hot mess. I thought I started on time, but in my head there was still so much to do. We brought out the turbo broiler for the first time, hoping that it’ll do wonders with the chicken. At 11:00 AM, we discovered that the broiler had failed us. The chickens were barely warm even after preheating and cooking for at least 30 minutes. I felt like I was on a pressure test and something was about to spell my elimination. I quickly grabbed a roasting pan and the chickens by the neck (sorry, chickens) and hastily preheated the oven. But even I knew they would never make it for lunch.
I cursed a bit, and resigned at the fact that something did go totally awry. I went back to the stove, telling myself that I probably burned the bringhe as well.
I opened the pot, steam wafted out and enveloped me for a nanosecond, and there it was. It was like a veil was lifted over me. I can tell. I can tell it was on its way to perfection with the broth slowly but surely being absorbed by the rice. I grabbed a spoon and took a bite of the rice. It was cooked (edible!). I didn’t break into song number, but I was happy. I will have something on the table at lunchtime. It felt like everything just fell into place. The timing was perfect.
Grandma just finished her song, was a little bit emotional partly because my cousin lacks proper etiquette (that’s another story), and we dig in. The roast chicken is biding its time in the oven, and it’ll obviously be ready before dinner. There’s pancit bihon, dinuguan and of course, the bringhe. We were somehow together (dad was away and grandpa retired way too early), and I realized that I made a mountain out of a molehill.
Today is Easter Sunday, the day hope was returned to us and a promise was fulfilled. There was darkness, but through it all, He lives. Jesus coming back from the dead can mean a lot of things, but I believe it means that God is stronger than pain, suffering and hopelessness. I try to pray because I believe I’m inadequate without Him. During lunch today, He sat with us and brought me back from whatever “death” had fallen upon me. I have a lot to be thankful for, Grandma kept repeating that.
I couldn’t agree more.
Happy Easter everyone!
Beringhe/Bringhe (adapted from Inquirer Lifestyle)
- ¾ kg chicken leg and thighs, sliced into serving pieces
- ¾ kg pork belly or shoulder, cut into cubes
- 150 g chicken liver and/or gizzard
- 1 cup regular rice
- 1 cup sticky rice (malagkit)
- 2 tablespoons Star margarine
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 whole head garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoons patis, or more, to taste
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup coconut milk (I used a 200 ml tetra pack; go ahead and use the fresh kind if you can)
- 1 cup green peas
- 1 carrot, sliced into strips
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into small squares
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced into small squares
- 8 pieces Vienna sausage, sliced into halves diagonally (I used Libby’s)
- 2 eggs, hard-boiled
- 1½ c raisins, for garnish (optional; I didn’t like adding raisins so I didn’t use this)
- In a large pan, add the chicken and pork and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Generously season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and allow the water to evaporate and the meat to cook. Allow for the fat the render and stir to lightly toast the meat. Do not allow to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine regular rice and sticky rice and wash three times under running water. Set aside.
- Heat the Star margarine in a wide casserole, large pot or a paellera.
- Sauté onion until wilted. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown.
- Add turmeric and patis and stir in the chicken liver or gizzard. Add the pork and chicken. Cover and simmer for a minute.
- Add water and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Let boil around one minute, then add the two kinds of rice, distributing evenly around the pan. You may want to give the pan/pot a few through stirs. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is fully cooked and has almost absorbed all the liquid, around 15-20 minutes.
- When the rice is cooked through but there is still some liquid on the surface, add peas, carrots, bell peppers and Vienna sausage. Stir lightly to incorporate and cover for 3 – 5 more minutes, cooking over low heat.
- Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs and raisins, if desired. Serve warm. Enjoy!