By Eugene Caccam

(Editor’s note: Thank you to Eugene for allowing us to occasionally post his recipes and concoctions, especially those that showcase the unique cuisine and ingredients from our homeland, the Philippines.  Many of his recipes remind me of my childhood and days in the Philippines, especially my hometown of Baguio City, where Eugene and I were schoolmates. This recipe is not only perfect for Sunday brunch but a great way to observe abstinence from meat during this time of Lent.)


The dictum is that no one leaves Dipolog City (Philippines) without feasting on one of its most famous of products: sardines. Regular or spicy Spanish. In a jar or plated. It’s the pasalubong (a present that one brings to loved ones from an out of town travel) that comes to mind.

So when I was there for a workshop three days ago, the first thing I asked, food-wise, was if the event’s menu included Spanish sardines. I was told yes, it was served for breakfast. I arrived on an afternoon, so the next day, my top agenda was to rush to the dining room at 6:00 a.m. and check if it was on the menu, so that if it wasn’t, I could plot out my strategies to find it. My fears were confirmed; the waiter said that since it was served the day before, it wasn’t today.

But it was available at the hotel restaurant . And when I was ordering a plate of it, a good friend, Malyn Tiu, who has the distinction of being the president of the Philippine Pharmacists Association, happened to pass by and bemoaned that a plate had only three pieces of fish, so grossly insufficient for my desires. So she herself ordered a whole jar for me! Which I almost finished.

Then surprise of surprises, on my way to the airport, I found out that Dr. Lenny Joy Johnson, who directed the workshop, had wrapped for me jars and jars of this dish from heaven. I had binged on it in Dipolog, but seeing the jars back here in Imus, I was certain I hadn’t had enough. So feast on it again, this time with a tweak.


First, I minced then browned five cloves of garlic in oil. Then I added the jar of sardines — fish and all (i.e. oil, carrots and all the condiments). Just when the oil began to boil, I stirred in the mejillones (mussels, tahong – ano ba kayo?) that I had previously steamed for ease of prying. Switched off stove.

That’s all. I poured the warm sauce on the spaghetti. To counteract the oiliness and blunt the after-taste, I topped the dish with torn basil and mint leaves. The result was a titillating light pasta of sea-bound spiciness, tamed saltiness, and garden-fresh mintiness.

Try it, you’ll like it.

(Thanks to Lilia Banico Palermo for the royal Yakan cloth.)



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