The train’s thunderous horn broke the silence of our early morning walk.  Stanford’s ears suddenly perked up to acknowledge the train that was rattling along its tracks a few blocks away. It must have been the 6:16 train, the old double-decker that used to ferry me to work everyday.  I remembered taking the train down the Peninsula, sitting comfortably and enjoying a canteen of coffee and a Jeffrey Eugenides or a Michael Chabon.  

But I also remembered all those hurried mornings. It was always a mad rush to get up early and get to the station in time to catch the train for the hour-and-a-half-long trek, door-to-door, if I was lucky. Breakfast was normally an overripe banana or a paltry piece of toast. It wasn’t the getting up early part that I hated. I am one of those morning-types who thrive in the early morning hours when my mind is clearest and I am most productive. It was the rush that I never liked, the rush that kept me from enjoying the best part of the day.

Stanford and I walked for another block up the hill, enjoyed the glistening skyline and the dramatic, deep blue sky, and headed home. My mornings have been a lot more flexible ever since I left Silicon Valley. There are days when I still feel rushed, of course, but there are days when I can choose to slow down a little and enjoy the morning — the cup of coffee and the walk with Stanford, maybe a three-mile run, or even breakfast! I can choose to make and actually enjoy breakfast, a rare luxury for most.

The kitchen soon reeked of garlic, which I used to fry the day-old rice that had been sitting in the fridge. I cracked an egg into a hot pan while sweet tocino [toh-see-noh] sizzled in another. Within minutes, I turned off my phone and emails, made myself a plate of tocino, rice and eggs and reveled in the promise of a fresh, new start.

Tocino is Filipino sweet cured pork. Think ham, bacon, or char-siu. Tocino is pork, usually butt and shoulder, thinly sliced, sweetened and cured for a couple of days, and then pan-fried or grilled. Traditionally, saltpeter or achuete is used to color the meat red but I use natural red beet powder instead. Serve tocino with garlic fried rice and fried eggs to make a variation of the popular Filipino breakfast silogs [see-log]. Or sandwich layers of pork tocino in between pan de sal for simple pork tocino sliders.

Pork Tocino Recipe, makes six servings

1 lb pork butt or pork shoulder, sliced thinly into 1/8-inch thick strips
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon red beet powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more as needed

Combine sugar, salt and red beet powder in a small bowl. Liberally rub the pork with the curing mixture and place in a container or zip top bag large enough to hold everything together.  Add whatever is left of the sugar, salt, and red beet powder and refrigerate for two days.

After the second day, the cured pork can be either pan-fried or grilled. When pan-frying, heat the oil in a large pan over medium-to-high heat. Pan-fry the pork slices for two to three minutes on each side, until cooked through and browned. Transfer to a plate and continue frying the remaining pork slices. When grilling, grill the pork slices for two to three minutes on each side, until nicely charred.

Pork Tocino

Pork Tocino