Mighty Meaty

Tokwa’t baboy as a stew

Traditionally, tokwa’t baboy is a side dish served with lugaw (congee). Pork face is simmered in salted water until tender, chopped into cubes, tossed with crisp fried tokwa (firm tofu) and served with a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, chopped onions, garlic, ginger and hot chili.

There are many variations though. In a lugawan in Marikina, for instance (I hear it has folded up due to high taxes), instead of boiled pork face, lechon kawali is used.

My father had his own way of serving tokwa’t baboy. He cooked it as a stew.

casaveneracion.com tokwa't baboy as a stew

The taste isn’t much different from the traditional tokwa’t baboy since the ingredients are practically the same. It is the texture that makes this dish unique. The thickened sauce, sticky from the broth in which the pork face was simmered, is just perfect for pouring over hot rice. I made three deviations from my father’s recipe though. 1) I omitted the salted yellow beans which my kids are not so fond of; 2) I browned the pork ears and nguso in the oven after simmering them to make them chewy rather than mushy; and, for that added color and zing, 3) I sprinkled chopped wansuy (cilantro) over the cooked dish just before serving.

Ingredients :

about a kilo of pork face, ears and nguso (the nose area) are best
a large cake of tokwa
2 whole garlics
3 onions
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger
soy sauce
2 finger chilis (siling haba)
pork broth
1 tsp. of tapioca or corn starch
a handful of wansuy (cilantro) for garnish
about 2 cups of vegetable cooking oil for deep frying the tokwa

Cooking procedure :

First, some notes about buying pork face. In wet markets, the ears and nguso are sold separately. The nguso is usually sold with the bones. It isn’t unsusual to find shards embedded in the soft nguso and removing them can be tricky. Secondly, when you buy in the wet market, the ears and nguso are, often, not properly cleaned. There are visible hairs especially in crevices.

To remove these hairs, use a kitchen torch to burn them. When I was a teener, I used tweezers and the effort was torture. But don’t use a candle because the smoke will blacken the pork. Another way to burn off the hairs is to place a rack over the live flame of the stove and to sear the pork for a few minutes, turning the ears and nguso often. Your choice, really. It’s just that the visible hairs detract from the overall palatability of the dish so get rid of them.

If you want to save yourself all the work, cleaned and shardless pork face is available in some supermarkets. I bought mine from Monterey at Cherry’s Supermaket.

Once cleaned, place the pork ears and nguso in a cooking pot. Pour in about half a cup of vinegar and enough water to cover. Season with a little salt, and add a whole unpeeled garlic, a whole unpeeled onion and one of the two thumb-sized pieces of ginger. You can even throw in some peppercorns and a bay leaf for better flavor and aroma. Simmer the pork for an hour and a half or until very, very tender. Remove from the broth and cool–it’s easier to cut the pork after cooling since it becomes more firm for better handling. Strain the broth and reserve.

While the pork cooks, cut the tokwa into half inch slices and deep fry until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels and cool then cut into strips about half an inch wide. It is best to cut fried tofu after it has cooled a bit; otherwise, it will fall apart.

Peel and finely mince the remaining garlic, peel and slice the onions, peel and grate the remaining piece of ginger. Cut the finger chili into rings. You can remove the seeds if you don’t want the dish to be too spicy.

When the pork is done and has cooled, cut into strips about the same size as the tokwa. Place the pork strips on a single layer in a large ovenproof dish. Grill in the convection oven until the tops are browned and the pork starts to render fat. Pour off the fat and drain the browned pork on several layers of paper towels.

Heat about 2 tablespoonfuls of cooking oil in a large shallow pan (preferably, a wok). Saute the garlic and ginger together until fragrant. Add the onions and the finger chilis and sauté for another 30 seconds. Pour in about 2 cups of the broth. Season with soy sauce, sugar and more vinegar, if necessary. I purposely omitted the amounts–do it by taste. If you prefer the sourness to be the dominant taste (the preference of most), use less sugar. If you want it a little more sweet, use more. I wouldn’t recommend omitting the sugar altogether since it gives the dish a wonderful balance. Add seasonings little by little until you acquire the taste that you like. After you do, add the browned pork and the fried tokwa to the sauce and simmer for about five minutes. Disperse the starch in a little water and stir into the pork and tokwa. Continue simmering until the sauce thickens and clears.

That’s it. Transfer the cooked dish to a shallow serving bowl, sprinkle with chopped wansuy and served with hot rice. :)

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