I have to admit, Food is a hugely neglected category on our blog. When one considers that Asia has a food culture as vibrant and diverse as that of Europe, and that the Pacific Islands have reminded us over the centuries that the ability to clog our arteries is not just part of what makes us truly human, but a sometimes life-altering experience to boot, one arrives squarely in the Philippines.
But this is not to be a long and drawn-out reflection on all foods Filipino…no – as a vegan I’m hardly qualified to pontificate on the deliciousness of the food here (although in spite of the many years, I remember!), but there are some things that just warrant a post in their own rite. Among these, the humble peanut.
My heart has created a very specific list of all the things I love about the U.S. Among these is the peanut – the myriad ways in which it can be enjoyed, and the incredible story (turns out it’s a myth?) behind the inventor of peanut butter as we know it today, Mr. George Washington Carver (who was a genius and gentleman in many ways – look it up). Of course, this is only 1/2 fair – while we can take credit for the marvel that is the PB&J (the gods wept the first time a child indulged in a crustless PB&J on Webbers White Bread), peanuts – even peanut butter in some form or another (peanut sauce, for example), has been used in South East Asian cuisine for eons.
In the Philippines, peanuts are called mani. They are predominantly beer- and street food. The most common way I’ve seen them prepared is adobo, or spicy adobo. This just means there’s a whole lot of garlic and salt (and probably MSG) added. These can be skins-on or -off, and are usually vended by young men at kiosks along the side of the road, near the market or in the mall. At the bus station, there will be prepackaged nuts for sale in little paper or plastic bags. The bags are about the perfect portion for a single person, and cost either Php5 or Php10, or between 10-20 cents. If they’re fresh and the seasoning is right, they are absolutely lami – delicious. The peanuts here are a bit tinier and crunchier than the (probably genetically modified) ones I’m used to in the U.S., and sometimes, particularly if you buy them early in the morning at the bus station, they are still warm…the mouth waters. The vendors come along the side of the bus, or board the bus, even as it departs, and sell five or ten bags per busload. They shout, “Manimanimani! Tubig-orange-chicharon! Manimani!” [Peanutspeanutspeanuts! Water-oranges-pork rinds! Peanutspeanuts!]
There is, however, a king (queen?) of the peanut in Northern Mindanao.
!!!SPICY BANANA AND CHILI PEANUTS!!!
Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing about that name that by any stretch of the imagination conjured up thoughts of anything tasty at all for me. I suggested to Chris that we buy it for one reason – curiosity. Now, please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not averse to mixing peanutbutter with bananas. And there is nothing wrong and everything right when peanuts are combined with chili. But surely this threesome has two significantly incompatible participants? Bananas and chili? What could they be thinking?
SOLID. FREAKING. GOLD. That’s what. Wowzah. Amazing. Sweet, but not too sweet, because the bananas are fried, as in banana chips – you know how they lose some of their sweetness that way? …Salty, spicy…perfect! I happened to learn, whilst seeking a picture for you, that Cheding’s is now available in the U.S. Their mascot does look suspiciously like Mr. Peanut, though…