With Filipino Time in play, there is no point worrying about the hour on the clock. Instead, I notice the passing of time by the amount of meals I have eaten (NB. This refers to meals that include rice. Anything served without rice, for example spaghetti, is considered a snack.) So when I've had two portions of rice, I know that the time must be somewhere between 11am and 5pm, because taking your lunch before noon is totally acceptable in the Philippines. It would, however, be impossible to gauge the time of day by the type of food served because at meal times- anything goes. There are no set 'breakfast items' and as a result I am regularly served up squid, shrimp and cat fish just past 6am. At first, this took a bit of getting used to because my stomach wasn't used to taking on such full flavours in the morning. I craved for bland bread, milky tea and maybe a banana if I was going mad. Yet now, I can't imagine starting the day without prawns and bitter melon. Or salted egg. Even the squid and green bean stir fry doesn't turn my stomach anymore. I've fallen in love with Filipino food.
A new favourite dish of mine is lugaw: porridge. No, I am not referring to the stuff made with oats and mixed with brown sugar to warm you up on a cold winter's morning. I am talking about savoury, Filipino porridge. Made with rice. It is a simple dish and yet it is an absolute treat for the taste buds when lightly spiced and warmed. What the dish is served with is up to you. Often chicken, spring onions and chillies are added to taste to top off the dish.
As it turns out, one of the host families has recently started a quail egg farm and as of last week, the birds are laying approximately 1000 eggs a day. So it seemed appropriate to have a quail egg-themed porridge party, to celebrate the success of the new family business. Prior to this I had only ever tried one quail egg (as they are pretty pricey in the UK): I was waitressing at a fancy function and managed to sneak a quail-canape into my gob. So as you can imagine, I was 'eggstatic' to see a mountain of quail eggs, boiled as a topping for the rice porridge. I am not lying when I say that I ate my weight in this truly delicious delicacy.
What surprised me was how sensitive the birds are. The family keep music playing 24/7 because apparently it- "keeps the quails happy." You'll be pleased to know that the quails are calmed and contented by the sounds of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" and are now laying eggs daily!
The very next day I was cooked another variation of the dish: champorado- chocolate rice porridge. It tasted like rice pudding mixed with 'Dairy Milk'. Glorious.
I was informed that this sweet treat should be paired with salted fish. Yes. Salted. Fish. Supposedly the sweet and salty flavours compliment each other.
They didn't. It has put me off porridge permanently.