When one talks of a special meal, the most usual attitude is to think in terms of a special main dish. I’m not exempt from that mentality. I often get so wrapped up with preparing the most delectable main dish, using very special ingredients, that I forget one obvious thing. Although a special main dish can make a meal outstanding, it is equally true that a special meal can mean a totality. How? I can think of two ways.
First, take a very plain ingredient and dress it up with something unusual. For example, hard boiled eggs. Who would consider plain hard boiled eggs remarkable? But wrap them in meat loaf or fry them to create an impressive texture, smother with a sweet-spicy-salty sauce and garnish crisp onion slices and voila!
Second, a simple main course becomes anything other than boring when paired with something unusual. Think outlandish. Like serving lechon kawali with rice cooked with yogurt. The combination was so darn good that we ran out of rice before all of the lechon kawali could be consumed.
Don’t be alarmed. There are no complex procedures for cooking the rice. And you don’t need special equipment either. Just cook your rice as you normally would, in a rice cooker or on the stovetop, but instead of adding water, use meat broth, add yogurt, spices and a few pandan leaves. The aroma is heady and the multitude of flavors that blend together will make you eat more rice than you usually do.
Spicy pandan-yogurt rice with crisp roast pork belly
- 2 cups long-grain rice
- 3 cups bone broth
- 1 cups plain yogurt
- salt to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- 2 to 3 pandan leaves
- cooked roast pork belly (lechon kawali) for four persons
- finely sliced onion leaves
- fried shallots
- toasted garlic bits
- Rinse the rice as you normally would. Drain.
- Put in the rice cooker. Pour in the broth. Add the yogurt, salt, black pepper, fennel seeds, cumin, pepper flakes, turmeric and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
- Twist the pandan leaves to form a knot. Add to the rice. Cook.
- When the rice is almost ready, prepare the lechon kawali by chopping the meat into bite-size pieces. Then, assemble the dish.
- When the rice is done, rake with a fork to fluff.
- Scoop the rice into individual bowls. Top with roast pork belly. Garnish with onion leaves, crisp onion slices and toasted garlic bits.
- Dig in and have a wonderful meal.