Roughly four months after visiting Sagada for the first time and I am already thinking about where I can get etag minus the 13-hour travel. Etag, or smoked mountain ham, is 4 parts meat and 1 part pork fat. Traditional preparation can take as much as 6 months although there are already shorter curing processes these days. Anyway, I bought two slabs which would have been too much if Choi didn’t do a lot of cooking. Choi, my sister’s boyfriend, does a lot of experimenting in the kitchen like me so let’s just say we had a lot of fun. Here, I’ll be enumerating a number of things you can do with etag. I’m thinking of putting up a link from my travel blog to this list of etag recipes as it’s related to Sagada.
Tinola or Nilaga
Although the most common recipe used with etag is tinola, Choi found out that it is just as good mixed with Nilaga. Thin slices of etag may be enough for the soup to have that smoky taste. You should especially watch your seasoning as it can get a little bit too salty. You would need to boil etag for at least 3 hours to make it tender if you are planning to eat it. However, you can skip the boiling part and not eat it especially that most of the flavor is already in your soup. It’s tedious but you can simply use a sharp knife and shave it as thin as you can.
Local sautéed vegetables may sound ordinary but with etag, Filipino dishes are completely transformed. Instead of mixing in pork or shrimp, kalabasa at sitaw (squash and string beans) can be sautéed with a slice or two of etag before stirring in gata (coconut cream). You can also do the same for kangkong, pechay, broccoli and any other type of legume or vegetable you want to sauté. Mushrooms will also do just fine. Basil, parsley and celery can also be put into use for more variation. Not happy? Make chopsuey!
I can think of about 5 pureed soups right now and give me about a minute and I’ll tell you 10 more. Anyway, pureed broccoli, squash, cauliflower, asparagus and carrot are only some examples of vegetable soups that can be transformed by simply infusing a shaving of etag while sautéing garlic. You can add water and vegetables and boil until tender. After that strain vegetables and set the broth aside. Use a food processor or a blender before mixing it with the broth. Sprinkle some spices cause it’s no magic.
The smoky taste of etag is perfect for breakfast. Sauté garlic and shavings of etag before mixing in chopped vegetables. Carrots, cabbage and peas are only some examples of what you can make use of. If you want more flavor, add in shrimp and other kinds of meat. Just try not to overdo it as etag has a very distinct taste. I, on the other hand, will be quite satisfied with garlic, green onions, shavings of etag and pair it with good old scrambled egg for breakfast.
Sauté garlic and shavings of etag in olive oil. Once cool, strain olive oil into a bottle. Mix it with your typical salad dressings as needed. The result is something in between bacon and dried anchovies. Choose from mixing it with classic vinaigrette, mango and capsicums, honey mustard, Caesar, sour cream and onion and any other dressing you can think of. Have fun with a bit of heat like cayenne and chili. drizzle over salads, sandwiches or use as a dip for tacos and chips.
And please, don’t let me stop you. Cheers!