Friday, April 20, 2007

PhilippineTocino instead of Bacon

The delicious tocino pictured above was the aftermath of an impulse purchase this past Saturday at the brand new AA Supermarket just west of Baltimore City at 6606 Security Boulevard. Tocino had grabbed my interest in the past. However, without a recipe handy, I'd always refrained from purchasing it. The reason for no recipe: Tocino is not so much as mentioned in any of the hundreds of cookbooks in my library. Nor is it mentioned in Jacki Passmore's The Encyclopedia of Asian Food and Cooking or among the "comprehensive definitions of nearly 6,000 food , drink, and culinary items" in Sharon Tyler Herbst's Food Lover's Companion. Later searches at as well as Gourmet Magazine's web site also came up blank. Tocino, of course, simply means "bacon" in Spanish. However, in the Philippines and far beyond, use of the word is more specific.
Oscar's Foods, the eminent U.S. processor of Filipino meat products, defines the tocino they pack as "Philippine style sliced marinated cured pork shoulder butts, colored with annatto." Listed ingredients are pork, sugar, salt, water, black pepper, garlic powder, monosodium glutamate,extractive of annatto, and sodium nitrate. Use of annatto extract for the red color was welcome news. In the Philippines, saltpeter is the preferred coloring agent. Less welcome for many could be the monosodium glutamate and sodium nitrate. That's why some might choose to produce their own tocino by rubbing a mixture of 2 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt and 5 tablespoons of granulated white sugar, along with a little bit of garlic powder and red food coloring into a pound of boneless pork chops (either loin or shoulder will work ). After several days of refrigeration, it will have become tocino.
To prepare, slice a slab of tocino into 1/4 to 1/8 inch strips, and fry in a small amount of oil until caramelized on each side. Word that vinegar accompanies tocino on the side in the Philippines didn't reach us until it was too late.