Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Ingredients for Pork Afritada

Fried pork and fried onions

Meat and vegetables simmering in the pot

                                                                                                         Pork Afritada

This dish is an ode to my Filipino heritage. 

The Philippines was ruled by Spain for over 400 years from 1521 through 1898. Another Spanish colony was Mexico, and the Galleon Trade flourished between Acapulco and Manila for 250 years.  The galleons brought Chinese silk, porcelain, ivory and other luxury items bound for Spain.  Upon return, they brought foodstuffs such as olive oil, potatoes, flour, chorizo (sausage), and saffron.  Dishes made with these ingredients were once only for the elite.  Now they are more commonly served specially during birthdays, fiestas and other important occasions. 


Pork Afritada


3 large onions, cut into eighths

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

6 large potatoes cut into eighths

5 lbs pork, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

1 head garlic, cloves crushed

2 mild chiles

4 bay leaves

5 cups diced tomatoes or about 15 plum tomatoes chopped coarsely

½ cup soy sauce

2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1” squares


1.        Toss potato slices in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Bake in 350°F oven on a single layer until golden brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.

2.       Heat remaining olive oil in a large pot or wok.  Fry onions until translucent.  Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and drain.  Return drained oil to pot.

3.       Brown pork pieces on all sides.  Transfer to a warm plate.

4.       In same pot, sautée garlic and bay leaves for about 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and mild chiles and let cook about 5 minutes.  Add reserved pork and soy sauce.  Cook until tender.  Stir in red bell pepper, reserved onions and baked potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.



Lately I have been making a lot of French dishes, before that Italian and other cuisines.  So yes, it’s about time to go back to my roots.  My maternal grandfather served with the US Air Force during World War II and upon his return he wanted good home-cooked meals.  My mom told me that she used to make this dish almost every Sunday, thus she became good at it. 

Afritada means fried.  Frying the meat seals the juices in, helps to develop a beautiful brown color, and creates the basis for fond – the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  This dish is also popularly made with chicken.

Unlike most sautéed Filipino food, the onions are fried first and then removed.  Frying the onions infuses the oil which flavors the meat.  By removing the onions they keep their shape and consistency.  In the Philippines the potatoes are fried but I baked them to reduce the oil content.  Why do I use fresh tomatoes instead of tomato sauce?  For authenticity’s sake.  Back then people didn’t just pop open a can of tomato sauce!  What kind of tomatoes?  Plum tomatoes would be ideal because they are more meaty, but whatever you have will do.  I used what was left over from my summer garden: grapes, Champions, Queen Ann, Black Russian, etc.  Most versions of this recipe calls for some water to be added.  I almost never add water to a dish because it will only dilute flavors from the meat and vegetables.  Besides, the tomatoes will provide a lot of juice.  The outcome will be a rich, thick gravy as befits a proper stew, not a watery soup.

Did you notice how the soy sauce snuck in there?  Remember, this is a Philippine dish where Spanish and Chinese influences constantly marry.

I was asked by one reader why my garlic looks like they came in chunks.  It is because I buy the peeled cloves in bulk, run them through the food processor and freeze them in little resealable snack bags.  That way, whenever I need garlic, I just get the little bag from the freezer and cut off what I approximate to be the amount called for.  I do the same thing with ginger.

When we had it for dinner, one finicky family member remarked that the onions were sweet.  That family member also ate the stew with only the potatoes which I served on the side instead of mixing them in.  When I eat this or other Spanish-influenced Filipino dish I usually don’t eat the potatoes because I would rather let white steamed rice soak up the rich gravy.  How could anyone not like this dish which is redolent with garlic and tomatoes, and studded with sweet onions and bell peppers?  The best part about this dish as with most stews is that it gets better after the first serving.  The meat absorbs more of the flavor as time passes and with each heating.  Even after all the meat is gone, you’ll still be left with that glorious gravy!

What favorite recipe has been handed down in your family?

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