Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Turons for Luz and Gojee

Below is my column featuring this recipe in The Daily News Egypt dated Saturday, October 1st, 2011.

Already ma'am?” laughed Luz.      

I had outgrown yet another pair of shoes only recently purchased; and Luz, our Filipino housekeeper, calmly tidying my room, couldn't contain her chuckle. I, an 11 year old, was passing down spanking new shoes again to a lady gradually growing shorter than me despite the long years of life she had lived ahead of my birth. My feet just wouldn't stop growing.

We can't keep up,” my mother laughed along while I internally panicked that I would soon be dubbed Bigfoot, unaware that my menacing feet would soon halt their unruly lengthening and allow the rest of my body to play catch-up.

Between the blossoming but often contradicting interest in boys and food and counting down to becoming a teenager, eleven was an age of befuddlement. Mundane routine kept me in check: donning my uniform and heading to school, scheming to gain in popularity, vaguely listening to the teacher, recess, doodling in class and returning home for lunch.

Lunch was a bizarre event. My sister and I were still adjusting to having our own apartment away from our familiarity with hotel rooms and room service. When served what my mother made for breakfast one morning in our new kitchen, my sister looked at her plate and exclaimed, raising her eyebrows as if to declare something of monumental importance, “I didn't order this.”

The displeased expression on my mother's face told us that there was to be no ordering in our house. We were to be raised as normal children and living at the hotel was a transitional phase because we all needed our own rooms and a kitchen. From now on, we were to visit the hotel but not reside there. Daddy worked there and that's about it. A strong determination in my mother's eyes confirmed that we were not to become spoiled nor bratty.

Every afternoon, seated at our dining table, I would pretend to be older than my years and babble with anyone who would listen. My sister, in between singing funny little songs, would spend a good fifteen minutes on each bite and Luz, now finished with our housework, would bring a banana and hot sauce to the table to eat with us before heading home. It didn't matter what we were eating; from molokheyya to stewed okra, we would be exposed to the wild taste buds of Luz, ones we hadn't yet developed or thought of even attaining one day. Fusion Filipino-Egyptian cooking was being constructed right in front of us but we were too young to think beyond “ Look at what she's mixing together. How weird.”

Did we know much about the Filipino diet? No, not beyond noodles and the sweet Filipino polvorons, a buttery powdered milk candy, that Luz would bring us as a pasalubong, or gift for overseas friends, on her return from her yearly vacation in the Philippines.

Pasalubong in Tagalog literally means “something meant for you when you welcome me back” so we would welcome her back by chomping on the sweets as she recanted stories of busy streets and karaoke-loving people, welcoming us into a culture far from our own.

Although at the time we weren't ready to experiment with our palates, Luz is today someone I think back to when I am in need of some inspiration in the kitchen.

As I was trawling for recipes, I came across a Filipino street snack that is as simple as it is scrumptious. Called a turon, this snack is essentially a banana wrapped in spring roll pastry, also known as lumpia in the Philippines. Each vendor puts their own spin on the mighty turon. Some will add jack-fruit while others might grate some cheddar cheese or coconut onto the banana before sealing the wrapper.

I chose to eliminate these flavor combinations and opted to bring some heat to these crispy rolls by utilizing the Indonesian long pepper I had lying around as well as freshly ground black pepper.

If Luz was coupling the creaminess of bananas with the red hot heat of Tabasco sauce and roll it around in Arabic flat bread then dip it into a bowl of Molokheyya, it was inevitable that I, too, would one day add some heat to the sweetness of a fruit I've never known to mix with much.

Honey-pepper Banana Roll
You'll need:
3 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons of brown sugar 
12 spring roll wrappers
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

To dip:
1/2 tablespoon of honey, per roll
1/2 a teaspoon of ground Indonesian long pepper
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper per roll
Peel the bananas and split them down the middle. Cut lengthwise down every half. Place each banana slice on an individual large spring roll wrapper (21.5x21.5cm). Sprinkle the banana with some sugar. Fold the top of the wrapper over the banana then fold the right and left sides and roll until the wrapper is tight and closed. Moisten the top flap with water to seal. Heat your oil over medium heat. Deep fry until golden brown. Drizzle with honey and black pepper. Serve hot. 
This turned out to be really good stuff. The banana melts with the sugar and becomes custardy and soft. Really good stuff. Concerning other things, I am now a contributor on Gojee, a website I saw a while ago and loved instantly. I had no idea I would be part of such an amazing team and was happy to have discovered Gojee right from the start. When they rolled out the new list of contributors I was surprised to see such popular blog names contributing along with tiny little Buttered-Up here. If you're ever craving something, head over there and plug it in. You'll find many, many ideas.  

1 comment:

  1. These look amazing! I'm a college student who's figuring out how to cook delicious meals in my teeny tiny kitchen. I love the look of your site and recipes as well as your stories. I will definitely have to try some of them out. I just opened a Tumblr account and soon will have a Twitter and Facebook Page. It's http://cookingin5squarefeet.tumblr.com/. check it out! :)


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