Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tapa Tradition

Filipino food and Baltimore are words that haven't really gone together in my lifetime. It's almost non-existent. Until recently when my mom and aunt started making noises about some rotisserie chicken place that now serves Filipino food. Hmmm.

The timing is interesting because I've been thinking about tradition because of another discussion elsewhere on the Internet. The Power of Tradition. Filipino food has a tradition. And Beef Tapa in particular has a tradition. There's a certain flavor profile that must be met. More so if it's beef tapa as part of Tapsilog - that very Filipino meal of beef tapa, garlic fried rice and fried eggs. People live and die by that dish.

For me, the quintessential tapsilog place is Rufo's Makati in Metro Manila. It's a simple joint that's open all night long. I'm usually there around 3am. It is the gold standard of tapsilog.

Could this Mama Rosa's version stand up? While the eggs were nicely cooked, the sinaag (see-nah-ahg), or garlic fried rice, was cool even though it had come straight from the steam pan (it was only 11:10am). Then there was the beef tapa.

Tapa is meant to be marinated in Chinese white wine, sugar, soy sauce and a couple other ingredients then dried under the hot sun. The beef should be sliced thin for the best texture. These were merely marinated strips of sliced beef.

But in spite of all this, the flavors came together - especially when liberally doused with sukaang maasim or chile spiked vinegar. So while not completely traditional, it maintained much of the traditional flavors nonetheless.