Jill: Looks can deceive. In the picture below, Verna looks like a kind and innocent woman working in her kitchen to provide her guests with an authentic and delicious Filipino dinner.
In reality, though, she is about to force-feed us pig’s blood. Unlike the pig’s brains we may or may not have eaten throughout the trip, we knew in advance what we were going to have for dinner. (Bethany told us before we arrived in Caba that we would be eating pork blood.) It’s a cliche for a reason, friends: ignorance is bliss.
Maya: Speak for yourself—I was not part of any such conversation. It’s not often that a bowl of blood is a recipe ingredient, though, and I’ve been trying to keep a more open mind when it comes to offal; despite my initial knee-jerk, negative reaction, I was intrigued.
Jill: The specific dish we were to be fed was dinuguan, or pork blood stew. Verna’s recipe included pork meat, pork blood mixed with vinegar, green chilies (siling mahabas), garlic and the ever-popular Filipino seasoning, Magic Sarap. She was vague on what part of the pig the meat came from, but a little research reveals that the stomach and parts of the face are commonly used in the dish.
Maya: Similar to an Italian frying pepper in both flavor and appearance, these chilies brought a mild heat and a vegetal element to the dish.
Maya: Though the sight of the blood thickening in the pan was slightly off-putting, the garlicky, meaty aroma was mouthwateringly appealing. I noted with relief that the dinuguan would be served with our lunch leftovers—in case the taste didn’t live up to the cooking smells, we wouldn’t go hungry. (Hypothetically, at least. We were still stuffed from our previous meal.)
Jill: This is common practice, we were told: The concept of leftovers is viewed differently in the Philippines. What is served at lunch will also be served at dinner. And breakfast typically contains part of the previous day’s meal served with garlic rice.
Jill: I found the perfect way to distract myself from the fact that I was eating blood. Volie decided to show Maya and I how to eat Filipino-style: using cupped fingers to scoop the rice and meat mixture off of the plate and into the mouth. This exercise proved to be hilarious. The kitchen became crowded with everyone we’d met that day (and then some) as they came to watch the process. She continued to yell, “WRONG!” at me until I succeeded in a proper delivery.
Maya: I wish I’d thought to switch my camera over to video; still shots just don’t capture the magic. Suffice it to say, “WRONG!” quickly became incorporated into our daily vocabulary. As for the dinuguan itself, only the gritty—clotted, even—texture belied the dish’s mystery ingredient. It might’ve been the Magic Sarap’s magic, but the well-seasoned blend of flavors was addictively tasty. I might’ve even had seconds.
Jill: Does this look like the face of someone who knowingly consumed pig blood? Yes.
Blood mixed with salt and vinegar (She swears this can be purchased premixed from our butcher; a quick look at the Asian market near Jill’s house confirms this is true.)
Boil pork pieces until soft. Fry in oil until brown. Add garlic and onion. Cook. Add blood and vinegar mixture and continue to cook. Add the peppers and Magic Sarap, to taste.