Kitchen & Pantry

About tocino

fried rice, egg and tocino

In modern-day Filipino language the dish that you see in the photo is called tosilog, a contraction of tocino, singangag at itlog, a popular breakfast dish that consists of strips of tocino (cured pork), fried rice and fried egg, sunny side up. While the term tosilog is a relatively recent phenomenon, the dish itself is quite old. Western cuisine has its ham, bacon and sausages; Philippine cuisine has its tapa (cured beef), tocino and longganisa (native sausages).

Personally, I’m not into meat curing. I have never tried making tocino myself. That is probably because it is readily available in any wet market or supermarket. There are even specialty stores that cater to the tocino-tapa-longganisa buffs. As with any delicacy, there are various grades of tocino. The cheaper kinds commonly found in local wet markets contain too much water. You’d think they’re a lot cheaper but once in the frying pan, you will realize how little meat there is in the package that you bought. If you buy your tocino from the supermarket, choose the tocino with clear plastic packaging so you can see how much fat there is. There are brands that contain about 50% pork fat. Unless you eat pork fat, that’s half of your tocino down the garbage bag.

Probably the most popular brand of tocino in the Philippines is Pampanga’s Best. It’s reputedly some sort of pioneer in the mass production of local meat delicacies but that doesn’t necessarily make their products the best in the market. I find Pampanga’s Best products more hype than having any real extraordinary quality. We buy our fatless color-free tocino from Belcap, a small store along Xavierville Avenue in Quezon City. A little more expensive but the consistency in quality justifies the price.

If you want to try making your own tocino, there is a recipe online from the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines. Or, you may want to try the version that uses annatto water to add a reddish tinge to your tocino. Both recipes seem simple enough.

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