Technically, a creamy bacon pasta in white sauce.
We Filipinos have an uncanny ability of creating Pinoy style versions of well-loved dishes, including the infamous Pinoy-style spaghetti and in this case, carbonara.
Lest this be called cultural misappropriation, let us remind ourselves of what the late and esteemed food historian Doreen Hernandez has to say about this many moons ago which is still relevant today:
“The process seems to start with a foreign dish in its original form, brought in by foreigners (Chinese traders, Spanish missionaries). It is then taught to a native cook, who naturally adapts it to the tastes he knows and the ingredients he can get, thus both borrowing and adapting. Eventually, he improvises on it, thus creating a new dish that in time becomes so entrenched in the native cuisine and lifestyle that its origins are practically forgotten. That is indigenization, and in the Philippines the process starts with a foreign element and ends with a dish that can truly be called part of Philippine cuisine.”
Who doesn’t love pasta? And in the case of the Filipino palate, a creamy cheesy one? While the influences have gone beyond Spanish and Chinese, we certainly have continued adapting and borrowing from wherever and therefore ending up localizing these borrowed dishes.
This Pinoy carbonara is one example. It has been localized by using more accessible ingredients compared to the original one, where the average Juan dela Cruz may not be able to immediately access or afford guanciale, the main component in carbonara, much less the pecorino romano cheese used to mix with the egg yolks to create the carbonara sauce, Italian style.
Simply put, the difference in cooking Pinoy carbonara is in the use of cream and milk to create the sauce rather than using eggs. It also uses commercial bacon that’s easily available in the groceries or supermarkets.
I came across a good type of bacon called bacon etag from Log Cabin Sagada when I visited Impakabsat hosted by DTI Cordillera Administrative Region. The etag is made all the way in Sagada and is their version of smoked pancetta that has been cured and smoked on alnus wood. It’s the smoky taste that made all the difference for this particular recipe.
1 pack all-purpose cream
1/2 cup milk
Your choice of pasta noodles, about 400 to 500g
Mushrooms, pieces and stems
A few cloves of garlic
1 medium sized onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Slice your bacon to strips or to your desired piece/cut.
2. Place the sliced bacon in a pan to fry. No need to put oil as the bacon will render its own fat. Set aside (note: use a paellera for a one pan dish – cook and serve)
3. In the same pan (you may lessen the bacon fat if it’s too much), sauté garlic and onions until translucent.
4. Add the mushrooms.
5. Add the cream and milk. You may add some cheese here to make it a thicker consistency. At this point you may add some of the bacon you have fried earlier. Taste for seasoning.
6. Add your pasta noodles and combine thoroughly.
7. Top the pasta with the remaining bacon.
8. Garnish with your choice of herbs: parsley or chives, for example.
Yield: Serves 4
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