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Relleno Alimasag (Philippine Style Stuffed Crab)

Relleno Alimasag (Philippine Style Stuffed Crab)

One of the greatest food writers in the Philippines was a lady by the name of Doreen Fernandez.  When I was in the Philippines I took for granted her contributions to our cuisine and so I rarely paid any attention to her works which was a pity since I have been crazy looking for some of her books which are almost impossible to find.  Last month in Melbourne I went to a store called Books For Cooks where tucked in a corner was one of Doreen’s books.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  The book is called Palayok (a type of native cooking pot) and while not a recipe book, is filled with valuable information on what and how our cuisine has come to where it is today.  The chapter I’m reading now for instance, is on the Spanish influences on food.

This influence is  of course inevitable considering we were a colony from 1521 to 1898 (I tell everyone we were colonized for around 300 years, but now I realize it’s 377!).  The first Spanish settlers were officials and their families then later on, friars.   Ingredients in the Spanish kitchen often make an appearance in our food like chorizo (sausages) and jamon (ham). Another example, is in our cooking methods.  To saute in the Philippines is called “gisa” from the Spanish word guisar.

Another cooking process commonly used in the Philippines, is called relleno which means to stuff.  With some types of relleno, the Spanish influence is much clearer, for example,  rellenong manok (stuffed chicken) will typically be stuffed with pork, chorizo and ham.  Other relleno has been adapted to the produce more easily available in the Philippines, for example, rellenong bangus or stuffed milkfish (milkfish is very accessible in the Philippines).

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