Schloomp went my knife as I cut through the potatoes — first, into flat planks, then into strips as long as my stubby fingers, and then into nearly perfect cubes. I stacked them up high next to my plump red bell pepper and my pile of diced carrots. It felt great to be back in the kitchen, slicing and dicing while simmering soups and stews.

I opened the can of chickpeas I salvaged from the pantry then washed the beans in a colander. As the tin can and colander clattered in the sink, Stanford trotted off to the kitchen to see what was going on. He sat next to me, alert and attentive, waiting for something to slip and plop to the floor. I tossed him a piece of carrot and within a split second it was gone.

Things are slowly settling back to normal in our household. The last piece of ornament from our noble fir has been stowed. The last greeting card has been read and recycled. The family visits to Ohio were wonderful. Even though I didn’t get the White Christmas I dreamed of, it was lovely to be around family for the Holidays. It is a luxury Dennis and I don’t get to enjoy often and so we try to make the most of it whenever we do.

But the chaos of Christmas — the red-eyes and layovers, the cold, miserable rain, and the Midwest diet bereft of rice and fish sauce — left me craving for the comfort of routines and the safety of the familiar. Walks with Stanford. Three-mile runs. Coffee in the morning. A book before bed. Home-cooked meals. Corned beef and menudo. Roast chicken. Rice. Plenty of rice. And, of course, fish sauce.

Routines can be a good thing, you know. They keep you grounded. They make the reward of novelties and luxuries in life so much sweeter.

 

Menudo Recipe, makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon canola oil
1-1/2 pounds pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 2 cups
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 1 cup
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 bay leaves
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, washed and drained
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips, about 1/2 cup
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a pot over medium high heat. Brown pork on all sides. Transfer pork to a plate as they finish browning. Fry potatoes and carrots for about 5 minutes and set aside. Saute garlic and onions until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes. Place the pork back in the pot. Add tomato sauce, water, fish sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat. After twenty minutes, add potatoes and carrots. Simmer until cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. In the last ten minutes, add garbanzo beans and red bell pepper. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

 

Cooking Notes:

Menudo Notes

1. Cut pork, potatoes, and carrots into cubes with roughly the same size so that they cook uniformly.

2. Rinse the can of tomato sauce with water and use this to add to the stew.

3. Fresh tomatoes instead of tomato sauce can be used to flavor the stew. Use two medium tomatoes, chopped and seeds removed. Saute the tomatoes along with garlic and onions. To make the color of the stew more vibrant use achuete oil instead of canola.

4. For a more traditional menudo, add cubed pork liver along with garbanzo beans and red bell pepper in the last ten minutes of cooking.

 

Menudo

  • Tere Mortero

    I thought of cooking this while me and my husband was shopping in the asian market at Richmond just this weekend. I asked him if he likes pork liver, and he blurted a big NO. Lol. Il try cooking it without the pork liver. Or maybe i can cook it separately. Its best with pork liver, mama cooks it that way all the time. Now, i miss home again. Thanks for the recipe, Sir Jun :)

  • Anonymous

    Comfort food.  Menudo is always popular in the Philippines because it provides the potatoes, the vegetables and the meat and of course we still add it to rice.  Sometimes in the restaurants, more potatoes and veggies than meat.  When I make it, I always imagine that it will come out perfect but its always short.
    Delicious recipe, adding the pork liver only shows that we like to maximize the use of the animal in our dishes like most asians.  Nothing is thrown or discarded since meat is expensive.

  • Claudine Dusablon

    I’m so glad you posted this. Quick question: what would you recommend for a substitute for the garbanzo beans? I’ve discovered a recent allergy to them :(

  • http://desiretoacquire.blogspot.com/ marzz

    Jun, you are so right about routines. What would I do without my morning coffee, midday yoga class and a book before bed?And as much as I try to be vegan, I can’t live without patis (so I’m a pesco-vegetarian). My husband loves menudo, and now I know I have the perfect recipe. Thank you!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you once again, Claudine.  I’m sorry to hear about your allergy.  I’d substitute black eyed peas for garbanzo beans or you can just take them out.  Some people season the stew with salt but I’ve always liked using fish sauce instead.  Happy New Year!!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Happy New Year, Marla!!  I know, patis is one of those things I cannot live without.  I use it to season soups and stews whenever I can instead of salt.  Hope you had a wonderful Holiday!

  • http://www.xaieatsalot.com Xai Losito

    it looks so comforting, especially in those enamel coated bowls. looks so good. i have always been scared of cooking filipino food because i know i’ll be disappointed in myself when the finished dish does not taste like what it’s supposed to taste like, but this year, i’m going to conquer that fear and make filipino food. :) btw, did you guys bring stanford to ohio?

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Happy New Year, Xai!! Don’t be too worried about how your version will taste like.  It’ll be your own version, however way you make it.  Looking forward to more Filipino-inspired posts from you! :-)

    We didn’t bring Stanford to Ohio.  The plane ride, I think, will be too much for him.  He stays in Pet Camp in the city.  Do you take Randall in your out of town trips? Stanford doesn’t mind our road trips.  Hey, we should meet-up this year and let our dogs play!!

    Happy New Year! 

  • Arlyn Avery

    I’m relatively new to your blog and have been enjoying reading your Filipino food recipes and stories about the Filipino culture.  I was born in Ilocos but immigrated with my mother when I was 1 month old in ’39 (3 months old by the time the big steamship got here to the States).  My mother was a great cook but passed away in 2007.  I’ve been trying to recreate some of her dishes and you can imagine my happy surprise to find out that your recipe for Menudo is one that I make but I did not know what it was called.  It is, indeed, a very comforting food and one of my favorites.  I made it for dinner tonight.  Thanks for your blog and Happy New Year!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you so much, Arlyn, for your lovely note.  Two months at sea? Wow! Have you had the chance to go back to the Philippines and visit?  Yes, menudo is truly comforting and the stew is so easy to make.  I wish you all the best in the New Year!

  • http://psychosomaticaddictinsane.wordpress.com Iya S. Santos

    Ang sarap na palaman sa pan de sal! :D

  • Arlyn Avery

    Yes, Jun, I have returned several times.  Once as an 11-yr old (not a good experience)  and a couple of times as an adult.  The first time as an adult was for my parents 50th wedding anniversary in ’88.  They repeated their wedding vows in the same 18th century Spanish church in which they were married and I was baptized.  The trip to Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, was a surreal experience for me.  Many things about my heritage finally gelled for me.  Now that both my parents are gone,  it is heartening to keep one connection to my heritage through your blog.   Thank you!

  • http://www.xaieatsalot.com Xai Losito

    I don’t think we’ll ever take him on a plane ride, but he’s great with road trips. we left him at a pet resort in SoCal last summer and the people said he didnt eat, drink or play with the other dogs. he was just crying. we think he has separation anxiety :( but yeah, we should do that this year!

  • Gracerice

    I never thought I’d ever be able to cook one of my favorite Filipino dishes. I’m looking forward to trying this one because you make it look so simple!!

  • http://thecanaryfiles.blogspot.com/ Jonathan

    So glad you’re back to your diet of rice and fish sauce.  Some things just can’t be denied. :)  This looks wonderful, Jun, and I can’t wait to make it.  Maraming salamat!

  • http://twitter.com/thedailypalette The Daily Palette

    This will be a book, di ba?  I cannot wait to pila sa book-signing mo, Jun!  I will make this soon.  Oh, and I cannot live without patis either!

  • http://twitter.com/thecheapmonk Alvin

    Hi Tere,  I’m not a big fan of liver either but menudo just isn’t the same without it.  So I leave out the liver and add liver pate to the stew instead.  Try it, I’m sure your husband wouldn’t mind this compromise.

  • Leah

    Hi Jun, my mom who is from Pampanga adds liver to her menudo. She marinates the liver in kalamansi juice and mashes it a bit to release the liver ‘juice’. She then adds this as a last step when all the other ingredients are fully cooked. She stirs the whole thing and it thickens up as the liver ‘juice’ cooks. Do not overcook the liver or it will turn powdery. Try it — that is if you like liver.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Hey Leah, thank you for sharing your mom’s technique.  My mom adds pork liver, too in her menudo.  She cuts them into cubes and adds it towards the end when the stew has already simmered for a while.  She also taught me never to overcook them since they easily get tough.  I’ll try mashing the liver next time I make them. Thank you, once again.

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