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News from Mama Sita

Cooking through Difficult Times

20 March 2020|

We hope that by this time, you still have something to cook with in your pantry. A lot of shops have run out of supply, and many food establishments have closed, reduced staff and limited services to takeout/takeaway. If we’re to read the signs, the worst is yet to come. But we strive to live and do what we got to do. For us cooks, we continue to cook.

What to cook anyway? Mrs. Milagros Enriquez, a veteran of World War II, wrote a book called Ang Kasaysayan ng Kaluto ng Bayan (The History of Our Nation’s Cuisine). It is a small thin book but has a wealth of information, mostly based on personal research and experiences. In one of the chapters, she listed the things that Filipinos cooked and ate in the war of 1940s. Remember that during this time refrigerators were not common in Filipino households, especially in the rural provinces. Here is an excerpt of Ka Mila’s list, which might come in handy any time:

  • Adobong kangkong/talbos ng kamote
  • Binatog – nilagang mais na putok at may sahog na niyog at asin
  • Kapeng binusang bigas
  • Champorado
  • Dinaing na bangus – nakalaan sa anumang mangyari, kung kailangang dalhin sa paglikas o di kaya pinapadala ng mga guerilla sa bundok
  • Ginataang gabi, kuhol, sitaw, puso ng saging, pungapong
  • Ginisang monggo at tinapa
  • Nilagang gabi at kinudkod na niyog at panutsa
  • Kastaniog – inihaw na niyog
  • Kamote – (hiniwang maliliiit) nilalagyan ng galapong at piniprito
  • Laing na dahon ng gabi
  • Lumpiang hubad – ginisang gulay na walang balat dahil walang harina
  • Lugaw – kaulam ay dilis o asin
  • Paksiw – isda, pata, talong, ampalaya. Nakahanda kung hindi makapagluto dahil sa air raid o pagbagsak ng bomba
  • Pinakalugkug na liwalo
  • Tapang baboy o baka

Isn’t this a very healthy list? No wonder Ka Mila lived through to write this and share with our generation. Many items might not be applicable or accessible for us to make, and some are even not familiar to us, like pungapong and liwalo—but the takeaway is this: it is possible to cook and prepare healthy inexpensive food even in these hard times.

Please feel free to ask us if you are unfamiliar with any of the things in the list, and we’ll try our best to answer or ask Ka Mila’s descendants to share their stories. And if you happen to know pungapong and liwalo, we’d know you’re one of the wiser generations and we’d be very happy if you shared with us what you know.
Aren’t we lucky to have been raised by Filipino mothers and grandmothers who lived and nourished our families through war and turmoil? They championed home economics, making sure nothing goes to waste, practicing prudence as part of everyday life because they knew how it was to live with meager resources.

In times like these, we realize the more important things and go back to the essentials, the basics. More than ever, we learn to be more creative and resourceful, especially in the kitchen because we have families and little kids to raise, nourish, and keep healthy enough to take care of the world ahead of us.

Keep cooking!

Beef Tapa
Makes 4 servings


1 kg beef sirloin, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup Mama Sita’s Tapa Marinade
4 tbsp cooking oil for frying


1. Marinate the beef sirloin in Mama Sita’s Tapa Marinade for 1 hour.

2. In a hot pan, fry the beef strips in cooking oil till done;
take care not to crowd the pan.

3. Serve with hot rice, fried eggs, and papaya atchara.