By Joaquin Carlos De Jesus
I adhere strictly to the Catholic requirements of abstinence from meat and fasting. However, I must admit that some of my favorite Holy Week dishes may meet the requirement for abstinence from meat but may betray the spirit of austerity as they can be a bit of an indulgence. Because I live in Cubao, Farmers Market is five minutes away. Fresh seafood is always a blessing. I never got accustomed to frozen seafood.
Mixed seafood stew
A hearty soup made with lapu-lapu, live suahe, squid, clams, and mussels. You first make a base guisado of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and garlic. I then portion the shrimps, sauteeing half of the amount I bought to lend their flavor to the base. I add in tomato paste and sauté further. Then, I deglaze this with white wine. Afterward, I pour in a commensurate amount of water and season with salt and pepper as well as one shrimp bouillon cube. I let this boil and add about three to four tablespoons of tomato sauce as well as chopped basil leaves. I add the seafood in this order: fish, uncooked shrimps, clams, mussels, and finally, the squid and cooked shrimps. I then add capers and olives, a dollop of good olive oil, grated lemon zest, and top with flat leaf parsley. Europeans might eat this with crusty bread but I love this with rice!
Steamed live suahe
At Farmers Market, you can easily buy live, jumping shrimps. We love to steam these and create a soy-based sauce on the side. The sauce is a simple mixture of light soy sauce, minced garlic and onions, a bit of sesame oil, and wansuy, all simmered together.
Ulang (river prawn) pasta
I create incisions on the big ulang heads, which are fatty. I also create an incision from its head to its tail and cut off its spiky legs. I season these with salt and pepper and if I feel extra diligent, insert minced garlic and butter into the meat.
I then sauté baby tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions in olive oil and cold butter. I use cold butter so it can withstand heat and not easily burn. I then add the garlic and chili. I add the ulang with the side of the incisions straight to the pan. I add white wine to deglaze as well as more olive oil, olives, and capers. I also add some pasta water. I add two to three tablespoons of tomato sauce. Once the sauce simmers and the ulang turn orange, I add in the spaghetti noodles, lemon zest, chopped basil, and flat leaf parsley. I finish this off with grated pecorino or parmesan cheese.
For Easter Sunday, my family often prepares the same food we prepare for Christmas or special occasions: callos, lengua (either estofada or con champignon), roast pork belly or chicken paired with cold potato salad, a mixed greens salad with cheese and homemade vinaigrette. We also sometimes have a hearty kare-kare with mukha (beef cheeks), tripe, and oxtail. Really laborious!
What would the menu of my “Last Supper” be? This is really interesting because the Lord’s Last Supper was when he instituted the Holy Eucharist or the Mass. Every time the Mass is said, He becomes real again—body, blood, soul and divinity—in the form of bread and wine. The Mass, henceforth, has been the “source and summit” of Christian life.
Adobo sa gata
Now, for my own last supper, I thought of the dishes that my friends or strangers might strongly associate with me. Perhaps, I can simply be a meal consisting of my signature seafood paella, laden with prawns, ulang, crabs, clams mussels, and squid, Spanish cochinillo, which I truly adore, crab bee hoon, which I quite am good at making as well as callos, which my Lola and Mama make expertly. I wouldn’t dismiss too our cook Ate Virgie’s spicy laing with shrimps and native chicken adobo sa gata. As a fellow Bicolano, Ate Virgie’s gata-based dishes are rich and decadent with a layer of oil gleaming above a thick coconut cream sauce that curdles and explosive with spice and flavor. My last supper would be indeed the end of anyone with alta presion!