I dreamed of my dad last night. He looked so different from the last time I saw him. His face wasn’t frail. His cheeks weren’t hollow. He looked fit as a fiddle. He was sitting on the couch watching television with Dennis. Baseball was on. Bottles of San Miguel were sweating on the coffee table next to plates of gambas and beef salpicao. Stanford was, as usual, nosing around.
I wonder every so often what it would be like if my dad were still alive and had met Dennis. Would they get along? Would they like each other? If they spent time together what would they talk about? What stories would they tell?
They would surely talk about the weather like most people do. There would be the customary conversation about how cold it is here and how hot it is back home. They would talk about the new house. About the kitchen garden and the chickens, of course. About food and my mom’s cooking. About my cooking. My dad’s a man of few words. He’s very quiet and reserved and so I wonder if he would talk about life back home. About working his fingers to the bone to make ends meet, to bring food on the table. I wonder if he would tell Dennis what he always told me that his biggest achievement in life is raising me and my five sisters and sending us all to school. “Your education is my only legacy,” my dad used to tell me. “I am a rich man because of you.” Would he tell Dennis those stories?
I wonder if he would talk about the day I was born, the day when his prayers for a son were finally answered. About the day I left for California, the day he let go. Would he tell Dennis how proud he is of what I have become, of where I am now? Would he tell him how happy he is that we — Dennis and I — found each other?
It was bottom of the ninth and the bases were loaded. The two cheered together for a home run. My dad looked happy. Happy and content. He looked like he was having a good time.
Beef Salpicao Recipe, makes four servings as appetizer or two servings as main dish
1 pound sirloin or ribeye steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 to 2 Thai chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Season steak with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside. Whisk together soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in a pan over high heat. Add garlic and stir fry until they begin to sizzle. Remove garlic from the pan and set aside. Add steaks and fry for two minutes, stirring two or three times only to give the steaks a good sear. Add sauces, chili peppers, and butter. Stir to combine for another minute or two but not more. Do not overcook the steaks. Sprinkle with fried garlic and serve immediately.
The origin of the dish is not known. It bears no resemblance to the Portuguese salpicão, a traditional smoked sausage made with beef or pork or to the Brazilian chicken salad with the same name. Salpicar in Spanish means to sprinkle with or to fleck with. The Filipino salpicao may have gotten its name because it is sprinkled with or flecked with fried garlic. But one thing is certain — the garlicky pulutan and ice-cold beer make a perfect pair.