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Passport & Plate - Dinuguan: Filipino Pork Blood Stew

Philippines | Wednesday, 25 February 2015 | 5 photos

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs of pork butt (shoulder), cubed
1 cup vinegar, mixed with 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon salt
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter (or lard)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pounded
1 1/2 cups pork blood
3 1/2 cups water
Salt, to taste
2 long green peppers (or 1 jalapeño)

Cooked medium grain rice, to serve


How to prepare this recipe
Begin by slicing the pork butt into stew-sized cubes. Put the vinegar, water and salt mixture in a large saucepan and dump in the cubed pork butt and the bay leaf. Turn the heat on medium and allow the meat to boil until it's cooked through.

While the pork is cooking, dice the onion and pound and mince the garlic. When the pork is nearly done, put another (large) pot on the stovetop and heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft and fragrant.

Using a slotted spoon or a strainer, remove the pork and stir it into the onion and garlic. You can discard the vinegar and the bay leaf. Stir and cook the pork with the onion and garlic for about five minutes.

Prepare the pork blood. If there are any big solid chunks of it that can't be broken up, remove them and discard. Slowly add the blood, little by little, to the cooking meat, stirring as you add. The blood should begin to turn into a dark brownish color as it heats. Keep stirring until all of the red color changes - it should begin to look like melted chocolate.

Next, add the 3 1/2 cups of water and stir everything together. The blood-meat mixture will turn very watery, almost souplike. Turn the heat up and let everything boil, uncovered, for about 20 to 30 minutes. The dinuguan should become thick, like a gravy.

Once the stew has thickened enough, give it a taste. Add salt liberally and keep seasoning until it tastes just right. Once properly seasoned, it should taste very rich and very delicious.

Serve the finished product with white rice and with a long green pepper or some jalepeño slices on top. Masarap!


The story behind this recipe
That’s what the recipe says, according to my transcription. Wil, my boyfriend, doesn’t seem too pleased. Can we use anything else, he wants to know? Oil? Butter? I tell him to call his grandmother. It was in her old, scrawled-in cookbook that we found this Filipino recipe: dinuguan, also known as chocolate meat. I had sampled it at Filipino restaurants before and loved its rich, comforting taste. Now for the first time I was trying to make it from scratch.
I laugh a bit as Wil dials her number, because lard is definitely not the strangest ingredient in this recipe. The cocoa color of the stew comes not from adding chocolate but from a healthy splash of pig blood. The pig blood cooks and thickens, coating the tender slices of pork butt in a salty, irresistible gravy.
I still remember my first bowl of dinuguan, from a Filipino diner in Virginia. Once I knew what was in the stew I had to try it. “Are you sure?” Wil kept asking, certain that I was going to spit it out and waste my money. Luckily my sensibilities are a bit less delicate than he expected. My bowl was spotless.
“She says butter is okay!” Wil tells me. I would have used the lard but I throw half a stick of butter in the pot. An hour later the kitchen is fragrant with the stew’s porky scent. Wil is eager for a bite but I’m a perfectionist. The seasoning has to be just right. Once I’m satisfied I pop a spoonful into his mouth.
“Just like home,” he sighs, a glaze forming over his eyes. Nailed it.
A few days later, over bowls of leftovers, Wil tells me how impressed his grandparents were that I managed to pull the dish off. Apparently it’s uncommon for an American to cook dinuguan at home. Maybe it’s because of the blood.
“When I told my granddad,” Wil says, “he said, ‘She cooks dinuguan? You have to marry her!’”
I laugh, blushing, and shove food in my mouth. I’m not sure this stew is worth a marriage proposal. But, as I stuff my face full of bloody pork meat, I have to admit: it’s pretty damn good.

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