Monday, September 21, 2009

Pancit Palabok - a Filipino noodle dish

My mom is an awesome cook – one of those people who don’t use a recipe and just cook by taste. For as long as I can remember, she was always cooking, seemingly effortlessly. She did NOT pass those abilities onto me. I can bake but I can’t cook. Trust me, there’s a difference. The few times I’ve attempted “real cooking” – well, let’s just say my worst baking failures are probably still better than my best cooking efforts.

Cooking is more of an art and there’s much more room for ad hoc creativity and going by how something tastes. Baking is more of a science and is more exact in its ingredients and instructions. Most chefs, amateur and professional, prefer one over the other and are better at one over the other, even if they can do both. I’m on the baking side and always will be. I can create all sorts of desserts and pastries but can barely boil water for the pasta to go with the canned jar of sauce from the grocery store. Those frozen dinners you can microwave are a staple in my freezer.

This is a picture of a traditional Filipino dish called Pancit Palabok – it’s a noodle dish with sauce, hard-boiled eggs, shrimp, a little chicken, green onions and a bunch of other “stuff” (says the non-cook). I’ve tried to get my mom to write down the recipe for the tastebook I’m creating for my nieces but while she’s made this dish for years and can probably make it in her sleep, she doesn’t have a recipe for it. She just knows how to make it. That’s a cook. Whereas I have reams of dessert cookbooks and pore over recipes, making notes, refining them and writing them out to document them. That’s a baker or a pastry chef. A world of difference. Fortunately for my nieces, my sister, Corin, inherited Mom’s cooking genes so she can make the traditional Filipino food. Although she doesn’t really use recipes either. Argh.

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