Filipino Spaghetti

People make fun of my almost reverent attitude toward this dish, but there’s something extremely comforting in slurping up a heaping plate of old school Filipino spaghetti. Growing up, my parents were always working, so often times I’d come home from school and run to the fridge to find my mom’s spaghetti sauce in one tupperware and pre-cooked spaghetti in another. Put one on top of the other, pop it into the microwave… and bam, home cooked meal in 5 minutes or less. It didn’t occur to me until I was well into my teenage years that this is not your typical spaghetti. A guy friend of mine had come over and bee-lined it to the fridge [why are teenage boys always hungry?] and immediately spotted pasta and had me make him some. Like a good little host, I plated some for the both of us and we immediately plopped onto the couch while I happily gobbled mine away. It took me a second to realize he was sitting there with a quizzical look on his face and *gasp* not eating. The conversation went something like this:

me: Umm… you ok? You don’t like it?
boy: It’s not that… but… why does it have hot dogs in it? And you put cheddar on it? And… is it supposed to be sweet?
me: Uhh… yeah. Isn’t it?

Filipino spaghetti isn’t what you’d call typical. It is sweet with a little kick of spice, cheddar cheese (instead of dry + sharp parmesan) and yes: hot dogs. Ask me which I’d prefer and 9 times out of 10, I’ll take the less-refined, sweet yet savory, hot dog packed pasta over perfectly balanced [and almost as tasty] Italian spaghetti.

First step is to make the base sauce which is actually an Italian recipe. This is one of my favorite sauces because it’s perfect alone but it’s also a great sauce to build from.

alt: This step takes approx. 45-minutes. You can cut this out completely and use a ready-made sauce like Prego. BUT… if you do have the time, I highly recommend making the base sauce. Since you’d be using a ready-made sauce you’ll be working with something with it’s own flavor profile when making the Filipino version. Basically it takes a lot longer [and a lot more sugars] to get that sweet but slightly spicy taste.

basic tomato sauce [adapted from marcela hazan’s essentials of classic italian cooking]
1 can of san marzano tomatoes [or 28 ounces of peeled roma tomatoes in a can]
1 medium sized yellow onion – peeled + cut in half
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter [about 3/4 of a stick]
salt + pepper to taste

Pour the entire can of tomatoes (including sauce / juices) + onion + butter into a sauce pan over medium heat. I used a 3-quart pan my first time making this sauce and it worked perfectly. Bring the sauce to a simmer and lower the heat to continue that soft simmer for about 45-minutes.

Stir occasionally and using a wooden spoon, crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot. You can also add salt + pepper to taste. You’ll know the sauce is ready when the tomatoes have fully broken down… this sauce is simple, velvety and delicious (and goes great on it’s own on top of spaghetti]. Discard the onions [or do what I do and stick it in a tupperware for later use. For example: I made a chicken parmesan sandwich with this sauce + the onions].

filipino spaghetti [makes 2 trays of spaghetti… or a whole lotta leftovers]
garlic – 2 or 3 large cloves, peeled + minced
1 tbspn butter / margarine
1lb lean-ground beef
tomato sauce (a 24oz jar makes for a meaty sauce)
1 cup brown sugar
granulated sugar to taste
2 cups grated mild cheddar
3-4 hotdogs – cut diagonally into bite sized pieces
spicy banana ketchup “tamis anghang” / hot sauce to taste
(2) 16 oz boxes of spaghetti

Melt about a tablespoon of butter (or margarine) in a large pot over medium heat [I use my 6qt dutch oven because it cooks slowly and evenly]. Once the butter has fully melted, add in the garlic and sauté then add the meat making sure stir with a wooden spoon so the meat separates + cooks evenly.

Once the meat has browned add your sauce and bring to a boil then add about a cup of brown sugar. Stir in the sugar + add hotdogs + half of your grated cheese + ketchup / hot sauce and let sit for at least 10 minutes before tasting [this is to make sure the sugar deconstructs, and the flavors combine together]. At this point it really depends on how sweet you want to go. Once the brown sugar has been added I tend to use granulated sugar a little bit at a time, because the sweetness is much more obvious so I don’t have to use as much. I add about a 1/4 cup at a time and always wait 5-10 minutes before tasting and adding more. Realize at this point the sauce shouldn’t taste at it’s “full” sweetness. This is because you’re going to turn the heat all the way down to low and let it sit on this low heat for at least an hour (or 3 if you have the time). Something magical happens during this “rest” period in which the sugars fully deconstruct and the sauce becomes a heavenly blend of sweet + spicy.

About 30 minutes before you think you’ll die if you don’t have some spaghetti, pull out another large pot, fill with water, add a generous helping of salt + bring to a boil [that whole add olive oil to keep noodles from sticking together is a myth but salt does help it come to temperature faster]. Toss in the spaghetti, cook for about 8-10 minutes until al dente then pour into a colander under cold water to stop the cooking process [and *gasp* to keep the noodles from sticking]. Once you’ve drained all the water simply combine everything into the trays. I usually do a little spaghetti + sauce at a time to make sure the sauce gets to the very bottom. Once you’ve filled the trays, add a bit more sauce on top, sprinkle with your last cup of grated cheddar and enjoy!

alt. When I’m not making this dish for a party — or a regular dinner at home with my large Filipino family — I still make the same amount of sauce but just enough pasta for me. The rest of the sauce I stick in a tupperware and pull out whenever I’m hankering for good ol’ Filipino spaghetti (which is every subsequent night until the sauce is gone).

* * *

Reading this all back to myself, it sounds complicated and a lot of work, but I promise you it’s not. If you don’t make the basic tomato sauce it’s about 10-15 minutes of prep time, 3 hours of reading a book / watching tv / going to the gym so you don’t feel bad about the massive amounts of pasta you’re about to eat… while waiting for your sauce to be ready. AND, it’s only about 10 minutes of clean-up (you’ll have to wash one knife, one cutting board, 2 large pots [one for the sauce + one for the pasta], + one colander. Easy Peezy.]


Animal Noises.

I have no idea why I had originally sought out to find this, but I’m absolutely fascinated.

The first time I realized that animals made different noises depending on which language you speak was during one of my various trips to the Philippines. It must have been when I was younger, because I remember complaining about the rooster who woke me every morning at 5am (I used to prefer sleeping in back then). I was explaining about the rooster to someone who worked for the house, but she spoke little English and didn’t understand what I was referring to. So then I said, “You know… cock-a-doodle-doo.” I expected her to understand immediately, but I only received a confused stare & something in her eyes definitely expressed that she thought I had gone completely bonkers.

At that time, someone walked in—an uncle, an aunt, a cousin… someone who understood me—laughing hysterically. They turned & said to me, “Nikki, I think you mean tiktilaok.” Now it was my turn to look at someone as if they were loony.

Then it dawned on me, if a rooster isn’t called the same thing in Filipino as it is English, why would the noise it makes sound the same either?

So what do other languages make of this squawking, vociferous, angry-looking creature? Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Danish: kykyliky
Dutch: kukeleku
Finnish: kukko kiekuu
French: cocorico
German: kikeriki
Greek: kikiriku/kikiriki
Hebrew: coo-koo-ri-koo
Hungarian: kukuriku
Italian: chicchirichi
Japanese: ko-ke-kok-ko-o
Portuguese: cucurucu
Russian: kukareku
Swedish: kuckeliku
Turkish: kuk-kurri-kuuu
Urdu: kuklooku

I have to say, the Philippines definitely has every language beat.

My Curséd Body.

Happy Christmas Eve (on my side of the world, anyway). Though I’m very much looking forward to this evening’s festivities, I will most likely have to abstain from anything which involves injesting, whether solid or not.

I spent a majority of last night crawled up into a ball on my bed trying to breath through the pain of each spasm in my upper abdomen as it felt like a red hot poker was repeatedly being plunged in my stomach then slowly pulled out, the repetition occuring every 5 minutes or so. I woke up this morning feeling rather well considering, though there is still a dull pain in my upper abs.

Here’s what people have speculated so far:

  1. My liver. The belief that I’ve been drinking too much and it’s catching up to me. I really don’t think this is the case as I’ve spent 2 nights drinking in the Philippines when you can usually find me drinking several nights a week in New York…
  2. Virus. Some kind of weird 24-hour flu virus. I’ve had a flu before and it was nothing like this.
  3. Acids in my stomach from previous food eaten. Could be, though honestly the pain was so bad that I felt nauseous from it.
  4. An actual curse. Though not purposeful there’s a superstition here which believes that some people carry such curses within them and when they feel a negative emotion towards another, the curse is placed on that person, regardless if it was meant to be placed. [Not gonna lie, after an hour of these awful, awful spasms… I started thinking, did someone curse me or something?!? Lol…]

Since I refuse to go to a doctor, I’ll probably never know what it was unless it happens again at which time I’ll probably be dragged [kicking & screaming] to the hospital. My guess though?

I probably drank the water.

Unfamiliar Homes & Familiar Histories.

I’m currently in Ligaspi, Philippines visiting my grandmother’s ancestral home for the first time in my life and it’s a strange yet warming feeling to be here. I spent my first evening poring over old photographs of my grandmother, her siblings, her wedding to my beloved grandfather as well as images of my mother as a young child playing in the gardens of this old house. Looking at all of those photos makes me really want to go through all my archives of photographs both physical and digital and start placing them into books. After all, an image on the screen is nothing but 0s and 1s, and like my ancestors before me I hope to share my history in visual form with the generations that follow mine.

My second day was spent visiting historical churches and sites, one of which was Cagsawa, an entire town that was buried by the eruption of Mount Mayon on February 1, 1841. The only part of the town that can still be seen is the bell tower and some windows of the town’s church. It was incredible to stand there and touch the stones of the tower, knowing that I was touching history (as cliché as it may sound).

Present day Cagsawa & Mount Mayon, one of the world’s few perfectly cone-shaped volcanoes.

I can’t believe it’s only my second full day in the Philippines. Three more weeks to go!

It feels so good to be home. <3

fate, vampires & a new focus.

I used to read my horoscope in an almost religious fashion. Any magazine, paper or website that purported to predict my future or decipher my current situation always seemed to find it’s way into my greedy hands. This went on for several years until one day I decided to avoid reading such things. The reason was two-fold—

[one] I wanted to believe that I am the maker of my own fate.


[two] Reading or evening glancing at a string of words that seemed to project a knowledge of my past, present or future, influenced my own analyses of any given situation thereby causing me to make decisions, however conscious or subconscious, based on the alignment of the stars (probably not the most reliable source to go by).

Lately though, I’ve found myself reverting back to my old habit. It all started because of the ever-so-popular website which was recommended to me by a friend (I blame my spiral into relapse on him). I promised myself I would only read Susan Miller’s once a month predictions, but soon after I found myself scouring the web for daily horoscopes. Boo.

Today’s horoscope though seemed dead on—

Your thoughts are dreamy, fantastic, and faraway right now. Your imagination and intuition is heightened, which benefits any creative or artistic work you may do. However, your practical reasoning ability and your ability to focus on the here-and-now are diminished. Your judgement regarding concrete matters is a bit fuzzy at this time, so you may wish to delay making important decisions.

I’ve never been one to get lost in my daydreaming, nor do I often fantasize about things that don’t at least have a touch of the realistic yet lately I find myself drifting off into my own little Ena world in which impossible situations come to life in my head. I’ve also been having vivid dreams of vampires trapping me and groups of strangers in a building in which the only saving grace is reaching the 5th floor and a room made of glass.

So, so strange.

This post in and of itself speaks to the scattered state of my mind. I’m sure it makes no sense to anyone but me… though it is helping me a bit to gather my frayed thoughts into something that I at least find comprehensible.

I think this is all because I’m leaving for the Philippines. Whenever I go, whether I mean to or not, I completely separate myself from my life in the United States. I avoid computers, run around a lot and spend my time being the country girl that I am. Maybe my mind is just getting ready for the 3 weeks I’ll be spending staring at clouds as I lay in a rice field. Or maybe I’m just losing my mind.

Regardless, I am very much looking forward to this trip.

I am going to take those 3 weeks to stop fussing over the trivialities I’ve been focusing on for the last few months. I’m determined to clear my head.

My main focus is to stop thinking on what will never be, and instead appreciate what’s to come.

Ah. Therapy in the form of home.