You know how it is said that "food brings people together"? So true.
When we went home to the Philippines, family members from both my husband's and my side went to great lengths to bring us food they knew we missed. Everyday they would ask what else we wanted to eat (aside from what places we wanted to go to or what things we wanted to do).
Going back to Australia, I realized that we didn't really have to wait for many years till we can get to eat the same food again. I do know how to cook and we certainly have the resources here.
First thing I made was taho (warm silken tofu with brown sugar syrup and tapioca pearls). We only had this once in my Dad's house as the street vendor didn't pass by regularly. But growing up, this was a constant accompaniment to our breakfast.
We've already made taho three times. My eldest son loves it. If someone left even a bit on their cup, he would finish it off. Even if it was cold.
Next we thought of making hurricane popcorn. This isn't Filipino food but my brother from Hawaii who was visiting the same time as us, gave us a box of this. Definitely something different! It's basically popcorn mixed with seasoned seaweed and rice crackers and flavoured with lots of butter.
After we had finished all our hurricane popcorn packs, my daughter searched where we could buy them online. Unfortunately, the only way was to order it from Hawaii. Next best thing of course was to just make it ourselves. Easy and quite addicting!
Then there was ice buko with monggo (coconut ice pops with red mung beans). We had this after my son's 19th birthday party. On the way back to my Dad's house, we stopped by a small side street store to buy this. Making ice buko here at home was super great, especially since we had a terribly hot summer.
And then there was another refreshing dessert - buko pandan salad (creamy coconut pandan). My youngest brother had this ready for us on our first night home! Normally, this dessert isn't frozen (just chilled) but ever since a small Filipino family bakeshop (Nathaniel's) came out with a frozen version, that sort of became the standard to live up to. Thus, I went the extra mile to make ours special as well. I made my own vanilla ice cream to which I folded in the pandan jelly and young coconut cubes. Just as great, maybe even better!
I also experimented on making suman sa lihiya (sticky rice flavoured with lye water). My mom used to order lots of these to give away every Christmas. We would help arrange them in baskets then we would wrap the baskets in red or green cellophane all around.
On our way to Tagaytay (south of Manila), we stopped by the eating places along the expressway to have breakfast and one of my brothers bought suman from one of the stalls outside McDonald's. It was so yummy especially with the warm coconut jam sauce. My version wasn't as tasty though. I think it's mainly because I used canned coconut cream instead of freshly squeezed and vacuum-packed banana leaves instead of newly-picked. But hey, given my limited resources, it was certainly good enough.
Chocolate crinkles....we had these from the night we arrived till we left. My husband's cousin even gave us hundreds of these to take back to Australia. We just had to give away some or get sick of eating it.
All I can say, homemade is much better.
Last but certainly not the least, the ensaimada (Filipino version of a pastry/bread originally from Mallorca, Spain). This is one food that my aunts never fail to bake for us. Since I was a child, breakfast was always more special with this on the table. They make the best ensaimada ever. Commercial ensaimadas definitely pail in comparison.
With their recipe on hand, I finally tried to make ensaimada at home (after years of avoiding to). Success on the first attempt! I will be making these again for Easter Sunday.
As I am writing this, I'm thinking of what's the next thing to recreate....hmmmm.