A new wave of Filipino chefs is making it possible to eat all-time favourites such as adobo and lechon manok with a healthy twist. Words and Images by MICHELLE BALTAZAR.
Diet lechon? Not quite, but for Filipinos who love their pork crackling, there is life after gravy. This month, the NSW government launched a cookbook featuring five Filipino recipes with more taste, less calories.
L-R: (sitting) Aileen Vidal Reardon, Maria Gonzalez and Neria Soliman. (standing) Sheila Constantino and Eduardo Delaguiado.
The recipes were selected from over 200 other recipes that the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service received when it ran a recipe competition last year designed to encourage members of the Filipino, Chinese, Italian, Samoan and Sri Lankan community to develop healthy eating habits.
Neria Soliman, well-known in the community for her culinary achievements (a published food author and dietician, she has won awards and regularly writes a food column) was the winner of the Filipino Recipe Competition for her ‘Adobo Supreme’.
Her recipe still features the ingredients that make ‘adobo’ one of the most popular dishes in the Philippines (soy sauce, bay leaf, peppercorn, vinegar and garlic). The big difference, however, is that she uses skinless chicken pieces and adds crushed pineapple to taste. It is still served with hot, steaming rice but with fresh salad on the side.
Soliman said the secret to eating healthily is not to deprive yourself of the food you love but to eat them in moderation. A traditional Filipino feast is often meat-heavy but vegetable-light, which is why she encourages Filipinos to add more vegetables and fruits to their diet.
Her recipe wasn’t the only one that got the thumbs up from the competition judges. Four Filipino finalists also had their recipes published in the multicultural cookbook.
For seafood lovers, finalist Eduardo Delaguiado shared his recipe called ‘Pinoy style mixed vegetables, fruits and prawns’. The dish is an explosion of taste, what with ingredients that include pear, apple and carrot mixed with water chestnuts, broccoli, snow peas, capsicums and mushrooms. It’s like a fruit and vegetable party with an Asian twist (Eduardo recommends fish stock and oyster sauce mixed in for flavour).
Those who can’t live without bagoong (fermented fish) can breathe a sigh of relief. Sheila Constantino’s ‘Lechon Manok with salad Ilocano’ made it to the top five.
Aileen Vidal Reardon
Highlighting that it’s all about portions, her recipe requires one tablespoon of bagoong (salted and fermented fish paste), which is just as well because sweet potato leaves (camote leaves) just don’t taste the same without it.
Ever heard of ‘binakol na manok’? Me, neither. But variations of this dish (the English translation ‘chicken and coconut juice doesn’t do it justice) has been handed down from one generation to the next. Aileen Vidal Reardon continues that legacy here in Australia with her own version. The health kick comes from the spinach and pawpaw thrown into the pot. And yes, you can still use coconut juice (but switch to the “lite” coconut version if it becomes a favourite).
Last but not least, Maria Gonzalez serves up what she called ‘saucy vegetable rice topping with sardine omelettes and tomato salsa’. It’s a healthy choice for those who want to follow the golden rule of having fish rich in omega-3 oil at least once a week. The ‘tomato salsa’ bit may sound complicated but Gonzalez’ instructions show that it’s easier than it sounds.
The cookbook is free and, as an incentive, the NSW government is also offering a free and confidential health coaching service. The telephone-based service gives callers access to a qualified health coach who can help them set healthy lifestyle goals and meet them.
People can find out more how to Get Healthy by calling 1300 806 258 or log on to www.gethealthynsw.com.au. Special thanks to Jesusa Helaratne, Project Officer at the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service for inviting Australian Filipina magazine to the event.
Members of the Philippine Australian Community Services Inc. (PACSI) who came to support the launch and Filipino winner, Neria Soliman.