A Hearty, Spicy Bopis (Pig’s Heart)
There are certain foods that we associate with a place even if the food is not indigenous to that area. For me, one example is bopis, a Filipino delicacy whose main ingredient is chopped pig ‘s heart.
A pig’s heart is one of the animal’s most active organs so it’s quite lean, especially with the fat trimmed off. It has a rich and dense flavor.
One summer, when I was still living in Manila, some co-workers and I decided to spend a few vacation days in a place called Baler.
Baler is a municipality in the province of Aurora in the Philippines, located 143 miles north of Manila. Getting there by bus or private vehicle takes one through a scenic mountain pass. It is host to spectacular geographic formations and is situated on a vast plain at the south end of Baler Bay, a contiguous segment of the Philippine Sea.
One of our co-workers hailed from Baler, so he invited us to their family home. It couldn’t have been a more appropriate time to go because at that time, a Hollywood production about the Vietnam War, “Apocalypse Now,” was being filmed in the town. In addition to fishing, swimming, hiking and enjoying the dazzling sunsets, we were able to watch the filming from a safe distance (with all the simulated explosions!)
It was in Baler that I first tasted bopis, expertly prepared by our co-worker’s dad, so I always associate this delicacy with the place.
1 lb pig’s (pork) hearts, cleaned, fat trimmed
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 small onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small thumb ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
4 dried basil leaves
1/4 cup annato seeds, soaked in lukewarm water
1/2 tsp dried chili crush
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white vinegar
2 tbsps Olive oil
6 cups water
1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the pig’s heart and cook until tender. Remove from heat, drain and slice into tiny cubes. Set aside. In a large wok, heat Olive oil in medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown. Add onions and ginger and cook for one minute. Add pig’s heart and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add chili crush and the water from the annato seeds (discard seeds). Add bay leaves and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add vinegar and simmer for 3 minutes. Add carrots and bell pepper. Add salt and pepper and brown sugar (if using). Cook for another minute. Remove from heat. Serve warm with steamed rice.