Sira-sira store: ‘Ricing’ to the occasion

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Friday, July 11, 2014

AH, for a rice-growing country such as the Philippines, I find it ironic that people should feel there is a lack of supply of cheap rice.

The government says otherwise, but for people like my friend Illustracio, being limited to five kilos of the NFA brand is not good.

“Isn’t that evidence enough? Why do I see mountains of rice in sacks, but have to fight with my neighbors to buy a kilo or two?


“When I have extra money, I make it a point to buy lots of NFA rice, which is cheaper than commercial rice. But I was told that only people living in distant mountain areas can buy 10 kilos of rice at one time.”

My uncle Gustav said, “Have you forgotten how some unscrupulous merchants doctored the cheap rice with animal feeds? Our rice is not going to the dogs but to the pests.”

“What do these merchants think of us—pigs?” my niece Joy asked.

“I don’t know when our rice problem will end, and here were are being threatened by the cocolisap. I watched the news on TV and learned that the pests have started invading the lanzones and magosteen plantations in four provinces of Calabarzon.

I think the pests are tired of eating coconut leaves and fruits,” my precocious nephew Pannon said.

My aunt, Tita Blit, said, “I fear the day when the scale insect infestation will reach our rice paddies. Then we’ll really have a problem.”

Rising to the occasion, I thought it would be good to honor rice with simple recipes.

It is one of more flexible grain food man has ever cultured.

Rice, the table variety and glutinous one, can be eaten as a sweet, taken as soup, used as stuffing for chicken and tomatoes, plain boiled to go with other dishes and ground to serve as milk substitute.

I discovered a very simple rice meal one night when I was hit by hunger pangs. I wanted to honor the ability of rice to fill the stomach and thought of those people who have very little in life.

I have been to a house where the family only had rice, tomatoes and garlic. At lunch, they boiled the rice and paired it with salt. That’s why last night when I got hungry after watching sports on TV (good exercise for my eyes), I thought of this family.

There is a better way of adding a bit of nutrition into plain rice.

The ratio would be one cup of bahaw rice, one ripe tomato and one small onion minced, patis, salt and food enhancer if you like. If you have no onion, no worry. The dish will still be good. By the way, patis is fish sauce although Cebuanos have the penchant of calling soy sauce as patis!

Saute onion, then garlic and toss until softened. Add the tomatoes and stir-fry until it sweats. Add one tablespoon patis and if you are using food enhancer, add a dash or two.

To have soft rice, make sure to break the rice into grains. Sprinkle with water—oops, not too much; just to moisten it. Toss. Then add to the tomato mixture. Stir the rice to coat each grain with the oil. Adjust taste. Serve.

Another rice meal I have tried is adobong talong rice. If all you have is one large talong, garlic, onion, vinegar and soy sauce, you can smile.

First, make the adobong talong. Slice it lengthwise, then cut each slice into three and slice into cubes. Saute minced garlic and onion, add the cubed talong and stir-fry until semi-cooked. You should have enough oil to form a sauce base for your rice. Add soy sauce according to taste. Add a teaspoon of vinegar and let simmer. Adjust the seasoning. Now add the rice and toss to incorporate the flavors.

A family need not suffer from eating rice paired with salt. There are simple and clever ways to present this most benevolent of grains on the peaceful dinner table.

As you savor each spoonful, you will forget the pain you had to endure trying to buy a kilo of cheap rice.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 12, 2014.


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