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.



  • Chris J

    Looks like it was a beautiful cut of meat…and nice picture, too. I’m a fan of your blog–if you ever drop in to the Berkeley Bowl West, drop by the cheese department and say Hi. I’ll be the only tall, bearded white guy in the place.

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

    Chris, thank you! We shop at Berkeley Bowl every so often. We’ll stop by the cheese department next time. Hope all is well.

  • row

    What a wonderful memory of your father! I often wonder the same thing about my mother who passed away 3 years ago. Your description of your father in your dream is exactly how I dream of my mom. She is healthy and well. She is sitting at the t.v. cheering on the Lakers. The education legacy must be a Filipino thing because my dad says the same thing all the time. I enjoy your blog and look forward to many more entries.

  • Anonymous

    This was such a touching story- what a wonderful dream to have about your Dad. He sounds like a wonderful human being- his memories seem to live on through the foods he loved to eat. Thank you for the very timely post. The salpicao looks wonderful!

  • Gemma Chew

    This looks delicious!

    Such a touching story :)

    xx gee

  • Anonymous

    What a lovely story Jun. Very touching, and heart felt. It is the simplest of words that say the most, isn’t it? I am sure he would have loved Dennis as much as you do!

  • Christine

    Your recipe appears as fabulous as your photo. Definitely going to try this one as well.
    Thank you for providing this.
    On another note, I do believe your father found a way to reassure you. What a wonderful experience for you to share.

  • oneworldplate

    You really have a way with words. And the recipe looks delicious as well.

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

    Peter, thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Dear Jun, I’m a long-time follower but sadly, am no great cook. The spirit is willing but try as I might, my best efforts yield merely edible food (and not the great masterpieces I so long them to be). In any case, your writing has been a godsend. Your recipes are concise yet full of tips. Although I am at the level of “Cooking for Idiots,” reading your words never make me feel inadequate. I am also a mom of four (with hearty appetites) and today I am going to serve them salpicao. Thank you so much, Jun Belen.