Sunset Pastillas

It’s nice to sit here in my blank WordPress template and feel like I’m coming back to this journey. I know that I peek in and out of this, but every time I sit down and write it feels like the right thing to do.

I’m at the cusp of the holiday season and hence — a least stressful period for me and all teachers. I’m feeling like I can get back to myself a little bit. And last night, as I was lying restless, I kept thinking, I need to write in my blog, I need to do something fresh…my thesis is not clear enough. So here I am again, doing something pretty ordinary…but also radiant in its own way. In the moment, everything in the universe was clicking together in all the right ways. I love moments like that.

I decided to cook a Filipino dish. Now, I’m not a chef, but today I felt, that instead of just hearing or reading things about the Philippines, I need to connect myself through other pathways. And today just seemed the right time to do it.

I woke up, and decided I would make pastillas de leche, or “little milk tablets” or “milk pills.” This is a very common Filipino dessert/snack. It’s texture is soft and creamy, and has a playful, sweet crunch from the sugar its rolled in. In the Philippines, it’s mostly made from the milk of Carabao, or water buffalo. However, since that’s not handy there are other alternatives…that taste just as genuine.

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My mom waited until I was 10 or 11 to introduce me to pastillas, and I remember eating them and being supremely awed that food could taste that way. It was like coming home to something familiar; as if I was savoring something that I had been missing for so long. Ever since then, my mom makes an effort to pick up pastillas at Goldilocks or other Asian specialty stores. Because of my family, we’d be able to have 2 or 3 pieces each but that was it. A whole package would be gone in less than an hour.

Now that I know how to make them myself I don’t ever want to splurge so much ($4.99 for a pack of 20) on something that is so easy to make…

I used Vanjo Merano’s recipe here. It only calls for 4 ingredients:

* 1 can of sweetened condensed milk

* 2 cups sifted powdered milk

* Sugar for rolling

* Cellophane for packaging

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The only four ingredients I used. I couldn’t find powdered milk at any Asian store. I found it finally in Target but called ahead just in case.

I made them late in the day, around 3, because it took me awhile to find the powdered milk. I finally found it at Target in a smaller quantity, because I didn’t want to buy the whole tub of Nido powdered milk for $16. I got a Carnation packet for $4.99.

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I now have dozens and dozens of pastillas at my disposal…self-restraint is very difficult right now!

I got kind of emotional as everything started to come together and I got to  try it for the first time. I found myself completely in tune as I started to roll the tiny milk cylinders in the sugar, and kept thinking to myself: this is literally the first Filipino dish I have ever made on my own accord. Even though it’s so simple, I kept imagining my grandmother doing it in her kitchen in the Philippines…and her grandmother. And I got this jolt of generations running through my veins all the way to my fingertips. It felt like something from another world, another memory, but something I want to go back to, over and over again. I know that.

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Pastillas metamorphosis…the sticky dough, the ball, the small cylinder, and lastly — rolled in sugar and ready to wrap in cellophane paper.

And so, I give you my very first Filipino dish. It was done impulsively, with a lot of rapidness because I was so excited to be engaging in something that has usually been reserved for my Philippine-born mom, or my grandma. I hope that I can continue to explore Filipino firsthand this way, and look forward to more sessions like this.

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Siena loved helping and LOVED pastillas “that’s my favorite!”

I pray that all of you are doing wonderfully and that you are going into this week with open hearts. Sending you all love, especially during these trying times after the typhoon. Hope to catch up with you all soon.

Kristine

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