Perusing Reynaldo Alejandro’s THE PHILIPPINE COOKBOOK

Here is self writing about food again, which seems to have developed into one of her post-Virginia obssessions. Perhaps it’s the masochist in her, for the more self tells herself to stop eating, the more she thinks about food (It is self’s most sincere hope that when she does start teaching in earnest, only a few weeks from now, she can quit this particular line of musing)

This morning, self decides to have a look at one of her cookbooks, Reynaldo Alejandro’s The Philippine Cookbook (1982). Even though self thinks it is really lame to produce a cookbook with no pictures, this one is still a fascinating read.

For instance, the section on “Poultry Dishes.”

In the brief introduction to this section, Mr. Alejandro informs us that:

The Filipino taste appreciates the mingling of many different spices and seasonings, and chicken is perfect for absorbing various flavors. So it is little wonder that chicken is a favorite in the Philippines.

In perusing this section, self finds that the very first recipe is for Ginataang Manok (Helpfully translated as “Chicken Cooked in Coconut Milk”).

Hmm, self has never heard of this one before. And since the reason self is looking at this Philippine Cookbook is to embark on a journey (back through the mists of time), self skips this recipe and goes to the next, which is for Chicken Pastel (Chicken Pie), which self does remember eating, though mostly in Spanish restaurants in Manila, like Casa Isabela that used to be on Remedios Circle (Self suddenly remembers that she hasn’t been to Remedios Circle in ages, perhaps not since 2000–!). And she can assert that this is indeed quite a heavy dish, since it specifies that chicken be cooked with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, etc. etc. In fact, with any and all vegetables one normally finds in a “Western-style” stew.

Next is recipe for Apritadang Manok (Translated as “Chicken Apritada-Style” — would that be considered a non sequitur, self wonders), which seems to be a recipe for chicken fried with potatoes.

Next, the all-time champion chicken dish, Rellenong Manok (Baked Stuffed Chicken), which requires boning a whole chicken (Self wonders: why not just get the boneless chicken parts from the supermarket?) and then making a stuffing of hard-boiled eggs, melted butter, Vienna sausage (very ubiquitous in Filipino cuisine, self wonders why), stuffing the de-boned chicken with it (Now self realizes why recipe specifies de-boning chicken oneself) and then baking in a 350-degree (And since self still hasn’t identified the keyboard combination for “degree”, she has to keep typing the whole word out, which is a pain) oven for one hour. Sounds excellent.

And then there are recipes for a whole host of chicken stew dishes, such as:

Pocherong Manok (Chicken Pochero-Style, another non-sequitur?)
Sinigang na Manok (Boiled Chicken with Vegetables # 1)
Pesang Manok (Boiled Chicken with Vegetables # 2)
Misuang Manok (Chicken with Noodles)
Binakol (Chicken with Coconut)
Tinolang Manok (Boiled Chicken with Ginger) — and, pardon her ignorance, dear blog reader, but until this very moment self always thought Pesang Manok and Tinolang Manok were one and the same
Linaga (Boiled Chicken Stew) — What, another one?
Asadong Manok # 1 (Marinated Chicken Stew)

(Self’s fingers are getting tired of typing Stew, but since she has chosen to embark on this line of investigation, she might as well push on till the bitter end)

Asadong Manok # 2 (Sour Chicken Stew)
Asadong Manok # 3 (Piquant Chicken Stew)
Pinatisang Manok (Chicken with Patis)
Gallina con Guisantes (Chicken with Sweet Peas)
Fried Pigeon (which self has never tasted, even though she grew up in the Philippines)
Pato Tim (Marinated Duck)

and, piéce de resistance: Talunang Manok (Defeated Chicken)

Explanation for the curious name of the last dish is this:

The national sport in the Philippines is cockfighting. Cocks that have lost their last fight are called talunan. Because they were bred for the pit and not for the table, these roosters are tough. This special recipe is needed to make them tender.

This recipe requires two cups of salted black beans, which one must then mash with vinegar and brown sugar and place, “with chicken, pigs’ feet and water” in a large pot. Boil until tender. Add garlic (3 heads) and spices, simmer until stock is thickened.

Hmmm, self thinks 3 whole heads of garlic may be a tad excessive, but then she recalls that garlic in the Philippines is not the elephantine variety that is sold at Safeway. The garlic there is smaller — one may almost say: “petite” — but much much tastier (if self’s memory serves her right). Perhaps that’s because it’s “organic”?

Self, how do you know? Can’t you stop making pronouncements about matters that you know absolutely nothing about?

Self thinks would be a good place to end this post, for she now has to think about what to make herself for breakfast (Note to self: request Dearest Mum to locate champurrado mix and send with next visiting relative).

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.


  1. rexmoond said,

    September 9, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    oooh, oooh! I have this cookbook! I have even deboned a whole chicken based on his instructions and stuffed it the way he described! But my favorite of course is the defeated chicken. There really is no better way to eat a chicken.

  2. September 9, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Kudos to your having deboned a whole chicken, which is something self has yet to attempt. Did yours come out good?

    And, where and how long ago did you purchase this cookbook?

    I inherited this cookbook from my sister, who brought it with her to New York. And you–?

  3. rexmoond said,

    September 10, 2007 at 2:30 am

    I got mine from my mom. She must have gotten it from New York or DC. I guess EVERYONE inherits that cookbook. It came out OK. Not worth the effort, I think. Or as my wife would say, it’d be worth it if we had a personal chef who did it for us.

  4. September 10, 2007 at 3:11 am

    Oh, but you’ve got to try it once, I think.

    Lemme see, I’ve got to try cooking one of those chicken dishes. Did you know that September is officially designated “National Chicken Month” . . .

  5. Icelle said,

    November 23, 2007 at 3:27 am

    I’m thinking of buying this book, only because i want a filipino cookbook that’s in english. Is it really worth buying?

  6. November 23, 2007 at 4:07 am

    If your only criteria is that you want a Filipino cookbook in English, there’s tons out there. You know, I inherited my copy (it’s very old, published 1982), so it has sentimental value!

    Yes the recipes are authentic. And they’re not difficult to follow. But if you want a more recent book, MEMORIES OF PHILIPPINE KITCHENS, from the restaurateurs at Cendrillon (fab Filipino restaurant in New York), came out last year, has great pictures. And you learn history, too, as you go through it.

  7. g alejandro said,

    December 2, 2007 at 5:37 am

    Its worth buying a copy for yourself, my brother wrote it….he has many other books on cooking..

  8. December 2, 2007 at 7:33 am

    You are the brother of Reynaldo Alejandro??? Oh, my God, thank you for dropping by!

    If you want to name other cookbooks he has written, I’m sure this blog’s readers would rush out and get them . . .

  9. Andrew said,

    March 15, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I just bought the book this morning (new) at the Strand in New York City. It’s the 1985 edition, and am glad to have found your musings here. Reynaldo Alejandro also wrote the glorious picture book, “Authentic Recipes from the Philippines”, pub. in 2005. What that book has lots of pics , this book is stuffed full of recipes, over 230. I was looking for what may be impossible to find, Vegetarian Philippine. Now that I have the book at home, searching, I see there are very few straightforward non-meat recipes. “Fried Pigeon” (p.81) is not vegetarian, and neither is “Talunong Manok” – a special stew for roosters that have lost their last cockfight. But recipes for eggplant and spinich adobos look inviting, and rice and noodle dishes, and I’m guessing that I can have a Fil taste even if I substitute in tofu for pork loin, beef or chicken. I see that Alejandro writes, “Filipinos cook their vegetables with meat and other ingredients. In fact a plain vegetable dish is hard to find….” (p178) I hope to try something soon.

  10. August 6, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing this book. There are lots of great recipes inside and this is a perfect guide for cooking.

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