Another Filipino dish that my hometown, Pampanga, is famous for is our Tocino. It is usually served for breakfast together with fried garlic rice.
Tocino is typically a cured meat, may it be pork, beef or chicken. The more popular kind of tocino is sweet, but us Kapampangan have a special kind called ‘Pindang’ which has added tanginess to it.
The process of making tocino varies, but to achieve that soft and tender meat, Kapampangans mix all the ingredients together by hand for 3-5 hours then leave it covered overnight at room temperature before putting it in the fridge.
That is how much love and patience Kapampangans put into preparing their food, no wonder they are known to be great cooks all over the country.
This is not me boasting, just talking out of experience, I have been in so many places in the Philippines and more often than not, when people learned that I am from Pampanga, they would expect rather than assume that I know how to cook and that I am good at it! Talk about pressure eh! Good thing my Mama thought a thing or two;-)!
If you have the patience and time to do all that mixing, I suggest you do it sitting down, like while watching TV or reading a book.
And do not forget to use gloves! The longest that I have tried mixing a batch was for an hour and that was me being very patient! But I think it actually works! The meat was really soft and tender!
Traditionally, Tocino is reddish in color to make it look more appetizing and this is achieved by adding Saltpeter (Salitre) which is also used as food preservative. But this recipe does not use saltire but rather something more natural and healthier alternative. Alternatively, natural red food color may also be used or just skip it, totally up to you.
How to cook Tocino?
The way we cook Tocino in Pampanga is we first boil it in about 1-2 cups of water in a pan. When most of the water is gone and sauce starts to thicken, you can add cooking oil.
If your pork has enough fats on it, then no need to add oil as it will make its own but if not then add 3-4 tablespoon of cooking oil and let it cook over medium heat until the sauce caramelizes and meat is browned.
Tocino Recipe (Sweet Cured Pork)
- 2 pounds pork (butt, shoulder, ham or belly) - - cut into 1/4 inch thin
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 3 cloves garlic - - finely minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup fruit juice, (pineapple, apple) - (optional)
- 1/2 tablespoons finely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon rice flour - (optional)
- natural red food color - (optional)
- In a big bowl, combine all ingredients except for the pork slices. Mix until well blended.
- Add the pork and mix using the hand, use hand gloves to avoid stains. Mix for several minutes to an hour.
- Transfer to a container with a cover and let it sit overnight on the counter.
- Mix again for a couple of times before putting in the fridge. Cure for 24 hours or up to 3 days. Can be frozen afterwards and stored longer.