Saturday, February 20, 2010

a nugget of sweetness in my mailbox

A nugget of sweetness came in my mailbox today. I was busy sifting through the stack of envelopes and trying to separate the junk mail from the bills when I saw a tiny white envelope that bore my name. Handwritten in a kid’s penmanship, the envelope revealed it was from my eight year old nephew Peter.

I opened the envelope and saw a short piece of paper with scribbled words that said:

Dear Ninang Malou, (Ninang is a Filipino term for godmother)

I miss you! Can you come here to Orlando, FL? I was wondering, did you read a lot when you were young?

I felt my face suddenly soften as I smiled. I love the way he calls me Ninang Malou like I am the most important person in his life.

He must be having problems reading his AR books I thought when I read the seemingly random question in his letter.. I told him that he could always come to me for any questions. Because you’re my ninang? he would ask. And I reaffirm by saying  Yes I’m your Ninang and that’s what godmothers are for. And he would nod and you could see his lips get tighter as he smiles while his eyes are almost shut as he squints.

Peter and his sister Pia are my sister’s children in Orlando. When my family lived in Florida, we were always together. All the holidays, birthdays, long weekends, and yes even through all the hurricanes, brought us closer. All those lazy weekends and karaoke nights when we giggled hysterically as we belted out and danced to Madonna's Borderline... Ahh, I can't believe it’s been three years since we moved to California and it takes a letter to remind me how important it is to constantly communicate and to nurture the relationship, even if we're so far apart.

I should write him a letter soon, as this is the second letter I received from him.  I received the first one last month, which I posted inside my pantry door. Whenever I open my pantry I see his letter and it never fails to give me a nugget of sweetness .

He ended his letter today by saying:

I am almost having my Eucharist. Yah I will .


I guess he meant he’s going to have his First Communion soon. I hope his Ninang Malou would be there to witness this important milestone in his spiritual life… and how profound it is that he conveyed it eloquently, the old fashioned way—through a handwritten letter sent by mail.  Thank you Peter for reminding me of the important things in life, and for making me a part of your life.

Although Peter's favorite dish is Tinola (a soup-based chicken dish) I'm sure Peter will love the dish I'm sharing with you today, which is Patatim.

A few months ago,  I posted another version of  Pata -Tim using pork hocks.  This time around, I am using pork butt, or you can use pork legs.  I would say, the first one was a lot simpler to make.   And this recipe has a star...... yep star anise haha!  I love the flavor that this spice brings to the dish.  It fills your house with a nice aroma, and definitely the star anise lives up to its name.

Pork Butt or Pork Leg
green onions
3/4 c soy sauce
3/4 c vinegar
3-4 pieces of star anise
3/4 c brown or white sugar
4-5 cups of water (you may add more if the pork in not yet tender)
bok-choy for garnishing

Rub  the green onions onto the pork butt. Heat 2 tbsps of cooking oil on a skillet.  Brown all sides of the pork.  Set aside.

Caramelize sugar in another pot.  Add all the ingredients except the bok choy.  Let it boil.  Put the pork butt in.    Reduce heat when the pot is boiling and cook until the meat is tender.  It usually takes 2-3 hours before the meat is tender and for it to have the melt-in-your mouth softness.

Steam the Bok-choy and use it to garnish the Pata-tim.  Have a cup of steamed white rice and you are ready to enjoy the melt-in-your mouth goodness of Pata-Tim.  Happy cooking!

You could serve the whole thing and carve it on the dinner table.  The meat is so tender it will literally fall off the bone.

If  the size of the meat above scares you, you could serve it in smaller portions.
And it can also be served as an appetizer
Either way I hope you get to enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth kind of goodness that this dish brings... and the aroma of star anise will linger to your house just like a plugged in glade.  Do you have any recipe where you use star-anise?  I would like to learn more dishes that use it.


  1. I love the way you write your stories. It warms the heart.
    This is pork heaven.

  2. Wow I havent had Patatim in so long. I think because every time my mum made it my dad was the only one that would eat it. I dont eat the meat but I love the sauce with rice yum

  3. Such a lovely post about your nephew. It's so sweet.

    I can see myself bringing this dish to filipino parties because I know they especially love pata tims. When I share the food I cook using your recipes, someone always ask me for the recipe and that proves they're that good. Keep them coming!

  4. That is so sweet!!! Lucky you!

  5. Such a sweet post! This dish sounds awesome, especially with star anise flavor!

  6. Peter sounds like a darling! How wonderful that he writes to his ninang - seeing his careful handwriting is almost as good (almost) as having him right in front of you, I'm sure! Happy Blessed First Communion to your nephew and hope you'll be able to attend!

    As for this recipe - wow! I can't remember the last time I had patatim. I'm printing this right away as I know that my husband will love it!

  7. What a sweet story! The food looks delicious too!

  8. foodie2: thanks for being there... it inspires me

    Kath: Patatim has always been one of my family's favorite

    cookies and cream: great to know feedbacks like that. i truly appreciate it... for as long as you keep reading, i will keep on posting...

    kenny: isn't it sweet? i know im lucky to have Peter in my life.

    Natasha: thanks and yeah I love the star anise flavor and the aroma that fills the house.

    TN: I truly appreciate all the wonderful things that you say. It never fails to brighten my day.

    Mother Rimmy: thank you... i know it's not yur idea of healthy hahah!

  9. Beautiful story. Love this dish. Looks very delicious. This is one of my favourite dishes.....beautiful flavour and taste. Just sooooo good with rice...yum

  10. Where can we get nephews like Peter? Oh he's so cute and a darling!

  11. I love Pata-Tim but I love Peter more! Such a loving nephew you have!

  12. Tita malou writes a lot of wonderful comments about everyone. she is a nice person!

  13. Mary Moh: Yes rice and lots of it!!!

    Wonder Mom: Peter is a darling indeed!

    Ananymous:hahaha but yes I'm lucky to have him as my nephew and a godson!

  14. Pia is that you! Thank you for the kind words... I miss our dancing and singing the BORDERLINE! I miss you sweet pea!

  15. That is a nice post!That looks delicious!

  16. thanks for stopping by today erica! have a good weekend!

  17. Patatim is something of a luxury for me - because I don't know how to cook it so everytime I come across it it's always something special... but at the same time boy oh boy I'm gonna have to check my blood pressure if I eat this! It looks so good though!

  18. Malou, I just found your site and love your recipes and writing. I love slow cooked pork butt and this is a fabulous recipe. Thanks!

  19. Trisha hello! You're right, it's not BP friendly that's why we get to indulge with sporadically.

    Hi Penny! It's great to meet you. I'm glad that you found my site. Thank you for the kind words and I hope to see you around... Happy weekend!

  20. oh wow adorable and your pork looks amazing get yourself some flowers from me he he

  21. HI Rebecca! Thank you for the daffodils. It definitely brought sunshine to my weekend!

  22. That is the sweetest thing ever! Your nephew sounds adorable. Being close to family is one of the most important things in my life...which is why even though I would love to move to california some day, I know I couldn't bear to be away from my parents and siblings. Sigh. I hope you get to make it to his communion!

    This pork dish looks amazing! I don't use star anise nearly as often as I should which is crazy because I love it!

  23. Oh wow, that is absolutely adorable.

  24. i will try this. looks really yummy.

  25. Joanne: It's great to know that you value your family as much as I do. I enjoy reading your family stories too...

    Koko: great to see you!

    Cathy: hmmm... now you've made it! haha!

  26. This was a very sweet and spicy post. How blessed you are to have such a darling nephew who writes to you! :)

  27. Hi Laurie! I'm so thrilled to see you stop by. Yes I'm blessed indeed! See you around the blogsphere!

  28. That's so to Peter :-)
    Patatim looks scrumptious and sure will be a winner

  29. Hi Gulmohar!
    I'm glad you found your way to my kitchen. Great to see you and I hope you come visit me regularly!


  30. OHMYGOSH Malou my mom would make that all the time, it was one of my cousin's favorite dish she would always request it over the holidays. I love how the meat is just soaked through with the delicious sauce GAH the minute I get back from China I am making this, it looks amazing.

    I enjoyed reading your story about Peter :) What a sweet boy to write you a handwritten letter, I feel as if no one does that anymore! He must love you very much :) Wonderful post and read!

  31. ayyy, another sinful dish!!! melt in your mouth pork skin...ang sarap! I usually cook this dish once in awhile kasi nga sinful...hehehehe i don't want to see san pedro too soon (j/k only)pero seriously looking at the pic..(drool factor!)

  32. RC: I'm thrilled to see you stop by.

    JOY: oohh I want to know your mom's recipe... it would be more authentic "patatim" haha! Yes,sad to say handwritten letters from the mail are no longer in fashion...

    cusinera: yes we are allowed to indulge once in awhile... hehe! pero I know it's bad bad!

  33. Malou - I super love love love patatim! Especially with some white siopao bread (not sure what it is called). Anyway, your nephew is so cute. I love the fact that he sent you a hand written note. I hope Ninang Malou one days also posts Peter's tinola recipe!

  34. What great nuggets of sweetness.....aaw, the blessings of being a godmother!

  35. trissa: your comment made me smile... thanks for drpping by... btw, i posted a tinola-usque recipe here I called it chop drop tinola... check it out!

    Ozoz: Hi Ozoz! I'm glad you've fluttered your way to my kitchen... great to see you!

  36. This looks absolutely incredible. How did the star anise work with the meat? Blumenthal is a big believer in it, stating that he believes it adds a lot to the umami of the dish. I haven't really used it with meat enough to render a verdict either way, but this looks like the PERFECT dish to really get a good understanding of the star anise and meat interaction.

  37. I believe Heston Blumenthal showed in his In Search Of Perfection series that star anise enhances meat flavors.

    I've been familiar with Star anise since it's common in cooking meat stews in some Asian cooking.

  38. Loved this story and how you described your little nephew; it reminded me of how precious children are and how much one gets attached to them, especially at that age! What an adorable boy this little Peter.
    Great dish too! I have some star anise in my cupboard, yes! I will be trying it soon.

  39. This is pork nirvana!

    The size of the meat doesn't scare me at all! Your blog never ceases to make me crave Filipino food. I've never had pata tim before and this is a MUST-HAVE! If I make you my Ninang will you send some over to NYC please?

  40. TOB: Aren't children so precious??
    Great to know that you are familiar with star anise. Let me know how it turns out.
    Dhale: I could still be your ninang maybe on the interwebs hahah! but even if I wasn't your ninang, I'd gladly cook for you!

  41. Loved ur shout out at the party .....twas the best and how could we even afford not to invite or miss u....u rock gurl....Woot woot for u....oved the way u wrote those music notes n hearts....howdya do that?

  42. Wow, this pork dish looks delicious, so tasty with all the ingredients :-) Love the shiny piece of meat ;-)

  43. Hey MIA... yes twas a fun party you had over at your site! I got those hearts and notes from my friend in facebook... isn't it cool?

    Juliana! Hi it's great of you to stop by... hope you'll come by regularly...

  44. You plated this beautifully.

    Thank you for sharing that beautiful experience. He must love you so much. It is wonderful that you are such a positive influence on him, even from afar.

  45. Malou, I didn't know you used to live in Orlando, that quite a bit of a change!

    I love the licorice, cinnamon spicy flavors that star anise imparts to meat. This looks delicious!

  46. You've received one of the sweetest letters. This dish is my late-father's signature dish with less sugar on his recipe. You've done a lot of work on this dish and it's made with lots of love.

  47. Chaya: aww thank you... you're the sweetest!

    Christine: indeed a drastic change. Except for the family part, we're loving it here.

    Divine: isn't it the sweetest thing? esp coming from an 8 year old boy!

  48. Ahhhh...what a sweet letter from Peter. It made my heart smile too. I have 3 great nieces that are so very precious to me, so I understand how much the letter meant to you!

    Gorgeous photos!

  49. thanx ate malou my kidz and my husband love it so much nung sinubukan kong lutuin sarap ulit ulitin

  50. thanks a lot ms malou, good you have this recipes on-line para matuto din ako ng iba pang recipes na di ko pa nasubukang lutuin. akala ko talaga ang hirap nyang gawin pero noong makita ko ang video mo on "how to cook pata-tim inulit ulit ko po itong i play hanggang sa natutuhan ko ang pagkasunod-sunod ng pagluluto, sabi ko ay madali lang pala. hayaan mo lulutuin ko yan ngayong darating na Easter sunday at babalitaan kita, ok. maraming maraming salamat talaga Malou. this is Sister Joy Briones of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts here in Italy.

    1. Hi Sister Joy!
      Your comment made me smile. Thank you for dropping by. Sige balitaan mo ako when you cook it. Sana successful. This recipe has been with me since I started cooking when i was 16.
      good luck!


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