We walked in the Google office in San Francisco and felt the warm hospitality right away. The gleaming red-brown pork tocino slices were nestled next to perfectly sunny side eggs atop garlicky rice. The succulent Pork Tocino looked inviting sprawled next to moist scrambled eggs. We inhaled the aroma of coffee which filled the air and found out it was barako (a native Philippine coffee variety). We were not at a Filipino aunt’s place visiting. We were at the Google offices in San Francisco, California.
It was Friday, October 25. Google Enterprises headed by VP of Operations, Jocelyn Ding together with the rest of the Google Filipino employees welcomed our group for the day. We were on day 2 of our Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) summit, gearing up for our gala awards night the next day of the “100 Most Influential Filipina Women of the World”. Our second day was held at the Google building. It was a clear sunny day in vibrant San Francisco.
“Consider leadership a personal responsibility,” was one of the valuable thoughts Jocelyn Ding, VP of Operations imparted to us.
The FWN summit focused on female empowerment or “Pinay Power”. Panel sessions were packed with powerful stories from different Filipinas, each one a leader in communities and corporations. Every Filipina story was unique and hit us to the core. Life lessons about inner strength, patience, hard work, resiliency and determination against all odds were awe inspiring. This was the second day of our summit and by now, all 100 of us were becoming fast friends. But like all events, we stopped to eat. Google made sure we were fueled with good food, especially dishes we were familiar with and enjoyed during fiesta or special events.
(Photo above of the Kare-Kare, oxtail peanut stew with bagoong, shrimp paste which Google served us; below is the puto with ube-like jam).
Lunch was a luscious spread: shrimp sinigang soup (tamarind based stew), arroz caldo (rice porridge with chicken in ginger broth), kare kare (oxtail peanut stew and Asian vegetables) with a huge bowl of shrimp paste or ‘bagoong’, inihaw na manok (roast chicken), a vegetarian pancit bihon (sautéed noodles) and puto with ube-like jam (steamed rice cake with purple potato). Not only did the Filipinas in our group feast on these, but all the Google employees at the cafeteria as well. It felt like a big town fiesta that day.
Filipino hospitality is anchored on good food all the time. When we welcome guests to our homes, food is the first thing that is offered as soon as one walks in. No stranger is turned away on an empty stomach. It is not just good manners, but to Filipinos this is how we show respect for the next person. We share our food, a symbol of prosperity and long life to us. We share the best we can muster — food that is cooked carefully and expertly.
Take the pork tocino (say ‘toh-see-noh’) for instance. I grew up on this for breakfast back in my hometown, Tarlac, in the Philippines. My mother made these home cured pork slices all the time. You need a few days of curing to get the right shiny red-brown hue and sweet-savory flavors. It only means the Chef and his crew at Google prepared our food days before we even landed at the San Francisco airport.
(Photo with Chef Jefferson Sevilla who cooked all the Filipino food at Google)
And this is how Google honored us, the Filipina Women’s Network Global 100. Google opened their doors, shared their space and their top executives to speak to us, and most of all pumped us up with good, hearty food.
Chef Jefferson Sevilla told me during a brief chat that all the Filipino food was made in house, even the bagoong (shrimp paste). The thought behind that is what Filipinos call ‘nakaka-tabang puso’ (say ‘nah-kah-kah-tah-bang-poo-su’) which means it is very flattering and warms the cockles of our hearts.
Giving and sharing with us our very own cuisine and making sure as guests, we were accorded the quintessential hospitality Filipinos are known for was heartwarming indeed. In behalf of my fellow awardees of the Global 100, we thank you for making us feel special, Google!
*Maraming salamat po!
How to cook Pork Tocino
- Large Skillet: 10 inches or 12 inches in diameter
- 1 pound pork belly or pork shoulder sliced thin (liempo or casim in the Philippines)
- 4 Tablespoons salt
- 1 3/4 cups cups brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons paprika powder
- 1 cup canned pineapple juice
- 2 Tablespoons white wine
- 1/2 cup water for cooking pork tocino
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil for cooking pork tocino
- 2 cloves garlic minced, for garlic rice
- 3 cups cooked rice at least 1 day old; refrigerated; preferably white rice
- 1 teaspoon salt for garlic rice
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper for garlic rice
- 1 whole large tomato sliced, for serving
- To cure pork tocino: Around 3 to 5 days before, combine salt, sugar, paprika in a small bowl and set aside. Prepare the sliced pork pieces in a non reactive bowl by pouring the pineapple juice and wine. Pierce the meat with a fork all over so the liquid penetrates. Add the dry rub mixture and using your hands, mash the pork pieces making sure to incorporate ingredients well. Store the marinated meat in resealable plastic bags and freeze till ready to cook.
- How long to cure: Pork tocino needs to be marinated in these ingredients for at least 12 hours or 3 to 5 days before cooking. It will also keep frozen up to three months. Make sure plastic bags are air tight to avoid freezer burn.
- To prepare pork tocino for cooking: Thaw the meat at room temperature just before cooking. Do not thaw in the microwave. Allow to meat to get to room temperature on the counter. *Tip: Sometimes, if I'm in a rush, I soak the entire plastic bag of uncooked, frozen tocino in a tub of water to thaw.
- To cook pork tocino: In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add the pork slices and half a cup of water (for the amount of meat in this recipe). The pork pieces will turn brown and water evaporates in 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the pieces around for even cooking. When the water evaporates completely, add the cooking oil to the skillet. The pork pieces will turn a red-dark brown hue and have a shiny glaze. Lower the heat to medium or low. Stir pieces around the skillet and cook for 8 to 10 minutes more till the insides are thoroughly cooked. (Note: for safety reasons, pork must be completely cooked to a well done at all times). When pork tocino is done, transfer to a serving platter.
- To cook garlic rice: Using the same skillet where pork tocino was cooked, use the pork drippings and add the garlic. Mash the garlic with the back of a cooking spoon to flavor the skillet. Add the day old cooked rice, salt and black pepper powder. Mix well to make sure the drippings coat the rice grains well.
- Serve the pork tocino and garlic rice warm, with chopped tomatoes on the side.
- Cook's comments: Traditionally the pork is sliced in thin, fillet sizes. When I cured pork for this tocino recipe I already had pork belly cubes in my freezer and it's what I went with for affordable reasons. You can also ask your butcher to slice your meat for uniformed pieces if preferred.
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Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of the marinade ingredients. The actual amount of the marinade consumed will vary. The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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