Menudo, or Why I’m Craving a Hearty Stew at 11am

Last week, when my roommate came in to talk about how we would approach my summer of learning to swim, I was roasting chicken thighs at 11am (my evenings have been booked of late, so cooking is done during the day!). This week, it’s a pot of menudo – no, not the band, but a hearty stew of tomatoes, chickpeas, garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, green peppers, and chunks of tender pork and calf’s liver.

“It’s a little weird, Tash,” they say. I laugh it off and try to explain how the breakfasts I grew up eating often consisted of things that have been fried, simmered or sometimes stewed in a large pot – in Manila, your neighbourhood goto (breakfast congee) place very likely had that pot bubbling away for hours. Now that’s a hearty goddamn breakfast.

Back to menudo – a dish that warms my heart, and soul, and fills my belly and gets me ready to spend another full day in the trenches in Sublime Text.

Many servings of deliciousness.

Photo via AndySnaps on Flickr.

Menudo’s origins are, to say the least, confusing and sparsely documented. MyFilipinoKitchen sums it up well in this post when he says, “If you are Filipino and you haven’t asked yourself what the difference is between mechado, menudo, afritada and kaldereta, you aren’t eating good enough.” Historically, menudo is a descendant of the Spanish cocido – generally, a catch-all term to describe country stews with various meats and vegetables, with numerous regional variations across Spain and its colonized lands. Mahalo presents a nice little primer on Filipino menudo – a child of Mexican menudo, which considers the cocido its parent element. (Have I mentioned my side project involves tracing the lineage of Filipino food in graphical form? Would love to connect if you’re interested!)

Inspired by a conversation I had with Chef Yana Gilbuena of SALO, my menudo is a ‘localized’ version of the dish so many love. Summer’s in full swing here in Toronto, so I’ve picked up sweet Ontario carrots, new potatoes at their peak, and pork tenderloin and liver from the butcher. I bought a lot of tomatoes last week (not quite a bushel, but a lot) and set my slow cooker to work, and now have a gargantuan amount of fresh tomato sauce in my fridge and freezer to last the rest of the summer…

Needless to say, there will be a lot of tomato-based dishes coming out of the kitchen soon.

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