It’s curious how some Filipinos declare that they don’t really like meatloaf, but they do like embutido. I don’t get it. Embutido is a meatloaf. And I wonder if the preference is cultural. Is it the familiarity of the name that brings back memories of Christmas and fiestas from one’s childhood? Is the preference then in the context of comfort food?
Or is it the peculiar way that embutido is seasoned? Unlike most Western meatloaves, embutido is sweet with a little tanginess.
Or is it the insane amount of eggs that go into the embutido? There were no ovens in the Philippines until the American colonization so baking was never a traditional cooking method. While Western meatloaf is traditionally baked, Filipino embutido is steamed. The steaming process does not remove excess liquid from the meat mixture and it therefore requires a lot of eggs to bind it together. Without all that egg, the embutido would be too soggy for slicing.
I love embutido. I grew up with it and I love it. But there came a time when I wondered if the embutido would taste better if the natural flavor of the meat weren’t drowned by all that egg. I experimented. One time, I added powdered cream of mushroom soup to act as binder so I could use less eggs. Another time, I baked the embutido using improvised “steaming pans.” Both worked. But, honestly, the baked version was better. And I never really went back to steaming.
In this recipe, I prepared a ground pork mixture a la embutido, packed it in a small loaf pan and I baked it, Western meatloaf style. It looks every inch a Western meatloaf but, in flavor and aroma, it is embutido all the way.
Baked embutido, Western meatloaf style
- 1/2 kilogram finely ground pork with at least 20% fat
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt use less if using refined salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
- 1/3 cup finely chopped bell pepper any color will do but I used red to contrast with the green pickle relish
- 1/3 cup crushed pineapples well drained
- 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions
- 1/4 teaspoon grated garlic
- dash Worcestershire sauce
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- Preheat the oven to 325F (a turbo broiler works well too).
- Mix all the ingredients together.
- Not that you can’t adjust the seasonings once the loaf goes into the oven. So, taste first. Take a tablespoonful of the mixture and fry in a little oil. Taste. Make adjustments as needed.
Pack the mixture into a loaf pan. A 9"x4"x4-1/2" pan is just right. I used a non-stick pan. If yours isn’t non-stick, you might want to line the sides and bottom with baking paper.
- Bake the meat loaf for an hour.
- Cool the meat loaf in the pan.
- Loosen the edges, invert on a plate then re-invert on a slicing board. Cut into one-inch slices. Important: Use is very sharp knife and slice with a see-saw motion.
- Serve the meat loaf between slices of bread. OR with mashed potatoes. OR with rice. Whatever pleases you.
- Finally, a tip. If you have enough meat loaf for a single meal, make only enough slices that you can consume. Wrap the remaining loaf, unsliced, in cling film and keep in the fridge. It’s so much easier to slice it neatly after chilling. Should you serve it cold the next day? You can. But my preferred method is to lightly brown both sides of a meat loaf slice in hot butter. It’s really good.