Minced Pork and Kang Kong

Pork and kang kong

Minced pork and kankong

Adobong kang kong is much like the above recipe but you add about 1/4 cup of vinegar


This was dinner Thursday night and it was easy and pretty tasty. I just read over the above three recipes and then I did this:
Garlic cloves, 3 or 4, start browning in oil

half of a large yellow onion, minced, brown in the oil with garlic

one pound ground pork

about a tablespoon each fish sauce (or soy sauce) and oyster sauce, and about 1/4 cup of vinegar.  Brown together with the pork.

When the pork is brown all the way through, add about 1-2 cups of kang kong stems- you could try thin matchstick slices of bok choy just cooked to crisp tender, or perhaps some very young, fresh green beans.  Many suggest subbing spinach, and while the textures are the same, the flavours are decidedly *not.*

Stir in 1-2 cups of kang kong leaves.  Stir just until wilted then serve.

I ate mine as is with pepper added (fish sauce is salty so you don’t need more salt).   You could serve with rice.


With pictures and more comments:

Minced 4 or 5 cloves of garlic

Put them in some oil in my wok.  I peeled an onion, and cut it in half, and then turned on the stove burner to brown the garlic while I diced half of an onion (it was a large yellow one).

I added the diced onion to the wok, and simmered the onion and garlic while I cut up the kang kong. You separate the leaves and then cut the stems.

Here are the leaves- kind of shaped like arrowheads:

I pulled off all the leaves and put them to one side and then I put about a pound of minced (ground) pork in the skillet with a tablespoon or two of oyster sauce and about the same amount of fish sauce (here in the Philippines it’s called Patis), and some vinegar.  The vinegar is what makes this adobong.  Vinegar is a common ingredient in meat dishes here, because of the warm climate and lack of refrigeration. It hinders the growth of bacteria and stops food from spoiling. It’s also good for your digestive tract.

I tried flipping this pic, but wordpress won’t let me.

Vinegar here is puti (white), and usually made from cane sugar. If you want apple cider vinegar it costs more.  Puti was one of our recent vocabulary words.  Philipinos and Americans think about race differently, and it’s really been driven home to me just how kneejerk reactive some of our training here is.  In our language lessons puti was a recent vocabulary word, and the example used in a sentence was “Mga Americanos ang puti.”  Americans are white.   She wrote it out and asked us to read it aloud in English, and my husband and I just looked at each other for a second.  I know we both thought, “We can’t say that!”  It felt appalling.  But you know, most of the Americans here are Caucasian.  Most Americans in the U.S. are caucasian (over 60% if you take out the hispanics who say they are white, over 77% if you include the hispanics who identify as white).   Why is that so hard to say?  There is something really, really wrong with our culture when a simple statement of observable fact, even if a bit fuzzy and too generalized around the edges, feels like saying something bad.  But back to cooking.

While the pork/onion/garlic mixture continued to brown, I cut up the kang kong stems, which are hollow and crisp but tender, not at all tough or chewy, and not stringy..

The stems are thicker than the leaves, so they need to be added first.  You want to know a substitute for kang kong, and I would love to give you one, but it’s tough.  I had my son and husband taste the leaves and stems and tell me what they tasted like, and we couldn’t really come up with a good comparison.  Raw, the leaves are very mild, with the texture of butter lettuce and the flavor of maybe a very mild green or red lettuc.  The stems tasted like grass.  Cooked the way I like them, crisp tender, they were mildly sweet and very delicious- they might be a bit like a combination of very young and tender fresh green beans and bok choy stems sliced thin. Or perhaps asparagus stems hardly cooked at all, but more crispy crunch while still still tender?  The cooked leaves are good but don’t have a strong flavour.  It’s kind of the texture of spinach, but spinach can have a strong or bitter aftertaste, adn these don’t.  My son really hates cooked greens and he didn’t mind eating these.

So once the pork was browned all the way through, I put in the cut up stems and stirred over high heat until they just started to get really bright green, and then I added the leaves and stirred a couple more times and called it done (the leaves cook really fast):

I added some pepper to mine.  Patis (fish sauce) here is pretty salty, so I didn’t add salt.

I tried to rotate this pictures, but the blog just quit running every time I did that, so sideways will have to do (I think it’s my pathetically weak wifi).    This recipe was liked by all of us, and it was pretty quick and easy to make.  Also, the Cherub can eat it because we didn’t use soy sauce.  In the states oyster sauce is often sweetened with corn syrup, but that is not a common sweetener here.

It was also really inexpensive to make.


I think the leftovers would be good inside dumplings (mandu) or as turnovers.

Kang kong is known as water spinach, but it isn’t really a spinach at all.

Ipomoea aquatica is a semiaquatic, tropical plant grown as a vegetable for its tender shoots and leaves. It is found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, although it is not known where it originated.”

You shouldn’t eat it raw, at least not in most parts of Asia.  It also grows in some parts of the U.S., imported by Asian immigrants.  It’s an invasive species in some areas, but it seems to stay where it belongs in Texas.

There is a kangkong tempura I really, really love, but haven’t made because the leaves do not seem big enough to make it worthwhile, and it’s too hot to make tempura anyway.  We found a buffet just a few blocks from us that serves native Filipino food, all you can eat for just around five dollars a person, and they usually discount the Cherub without us asking. They serve this crispy kangkong and I pretty much fill up on that and their buko (coconut) water based punch.   I will nibble a few other things, but the crispy kang kong is so, so good.  Mmm.


More about kang kong here.


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Frugal Encouragement


If you’re trying to live a frugal lifestyle, it helps to have frugal friends who share your goals and values. Adults are not immune to peer pressure. Friends who go out to eat often (and worse, invite you along Dutch Treat and are surprised when you never come) can make you feel a bit grubby and mean about your lifestyle- or worse, can influence you to break your frugal goals. We’ve certainly found ourselves at a restaurant, dismayed with ourselves and mentally figuring out what we were going to have to cut from our budget to pay for this just because friends had pushed us to join them often and hard enough that we finally caved in to peer pressure.

People can be, well, less than supportive at times, can’t they? This can range from those friendly urgings to spend money you really shouldn’t be spending on stuff you really do not need to buy, to outright criticism. In one place we lived we kept a ‘compost bucket’ under the kitchen sink. Whenever we had compostable scraps we put them in the bucket, and when it was full we took it out to our compost pile to dump it. At one informal gathering of gals from church one of the young wives started complaining about how overboard her mother-in-law went on frugality, and she ended with something like, “I mean, I can see the point of saving money, but when it comes to keeping your food trash in a bucket in your kitchen, that’s just gross.” I blinked a bit- she’d been at my house more than a few times, and pointed out, “We do that, it’s for compost.” She wrinkled her delicate little nose and said pointedly, “Yes. I know.”

Oh.  So it wasn’t a faux pas. It was a deliberate rebuke.

There was a time when her criticism would have embarrassed me and made me ashamed, but happily for me, at this point in my life I was old enough and she was young enough that the only embarrassment I felt was for her own rudeness, and I must admit, I felt more irritation with than embarrassment for her. I have to wonder how negatively she might have influenced anybody else in that room listening to her act as though keeping a compost bucket was akin to letting pet mice romp on the kitchen counters, and spitting on the griddle to see if it was hot enough.

If you need some frugal encouragement, here are some links that might help (you’ll find good tips there, too):


You could try to take your real life friendships to a more mutually encouraging level.  Here are a couple of ideas for how this could work:

1. When you find a post on frugality or with a good frugal recipe or a fun activity that you think your unfrugal friends would enjoy, share it with them- either print it out, or email it to them.  Be careful with this- the idea is NOT to preach- just to share a post you genuinely think they will enjoy on its own merits that also happens to be frugal.

2. Cook one of the meals you find from one of these frugal sources and invite your friends over for dinner.

3. If they are real friends, they just want to spend time with you.  Find frugal activities that your friends will enjoy and be proactive about substituting them for the unfrugal activities they keep inviting you to do.  If they ask you out a lot, invite them to  brown bag -it with you for a picnic lunch at the park or your own backyard.  Or have them over for a baked potato bar or a a soup and salad bar (you make a frugal soup and home-made bread, offer a basic lettuce salad, and invite friends to bring other salad components or soup toppings).  If they invite you to a gym that isn’t in your budget, invite them to go walking with you once a week or a couple of times a month.  If they invite you to go shopping with them, ask them if you can have them over for tea when they are done shopping instead, or say you’ll come if they will go to your favorite store- and take them to  a thrift shop or consignment store.

4.  Be honest with them.  If you have a particular bill you’re trying to pay off- a student loan, a car payment, explain to them that you’ve decided you really need to pay down this particular bill as fast as possible and the best way to do this is to avoid hanging at the mall, going out to eat, ski trips, or whatever outside-your-current-budget idea that your friends long for you to do with them. Don’t be a Debbie-Downer, just laugh and say, “You know what guys, that sounds like fun, you go and have a blast and I’ll be with you in spirit.  But for us,  right now, I really want to push hard and save everything I can to pay off our car so we’re not giving extra money in interest payments to the bank instead of using it for treats for us.  I’m in for stuff that doesn’t cost money for a while.”  And then try and come up with a couple of things that do not cost money, or help you meet your goals frugally- game night at your house, go garage saling together looking for clothes for the kids,  invite a neighbor to go walk with you every morning, volunteer to clean the clothing room at a local pregnancy center and ask if a friend or two want to do that with you, invite a couple families to join you for a park day.

5. Don’t be preachy, boring, or moralizing- be the sort of friends you want to have- don’t guilt trip your friends, don’t be the kind of friend who only talks about one hobby horse, don’t make them feel like you think they are inferior to you because they of how you save money.  That would be as rude and annoying as my young friend of the anti-compost bucket.  Find other subjects to talk about than how you saved money this week if that is not an interesting topic to your friends- presuming these are friends you want to keep- but every once in a while when you do see a great deal on something you know they like, pass it on.

What are some of the ways you maintain friendships with friends who don’t share your frugal goals and inadvertently encourage you to break them?

Where do you find frugal encouragement?

What are some frugal ways you have found to have fun with friends?


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Quick Stress Relievers

I put together this list for somebody else, and then thought I might share it here as well. I am not going to go into all the details of why and how these things work. At the end I include the list in a printable form you could put in your pocket or use as a bookmark.

When stressed, or nearly into panic mode, or needing to fight off that fight or flight reaction (because your response is emotionally from within you, not because you are actually in danger), anxious, etc, try these:

1. Recite the times tables to yourself- start at the sixes if it’s not distracting enough to start at the lower numbers. If you are math whiz, then do something more complicated. It just needs to be complicated enough to require a *bit* of focus, not so hard you need pencil and paper.

2. Go over something you’ve memorized- Bible verses, poems, speeches, dialogue from a play or movie, sports stats, a speech you had to give or have coming up.

3. Sing a song. Singing songs is really a neat way to do all kinds of good things for mind and body. One of them is that singing releases oxytocin (although less so if you are a professional singer).

4. Cold water on your face, or even dunking your head and face in cold water, can do wonders. Gives new meaning to ‘go soak your head,’ right? It’s supposed to be especially beneficial to chill down the eyes and the area around the eyes, so if you can’t soak your head or splash your face with very cold water, try putting a chilled wet washcloth over your eyes, or get a chilled beverage and hold the container against first one closed eye and then the other.

5. Inhale through the nose for a count of 7, hold your breath a few seconds and then slowly exhale through the mouth. You want to be sure you are breathing deeply, through the diaphragm.

6. Exercise- if you can, do a few quick pushups or sit ups or jumping jacks. Jog in place. Run upstairs. Take a very brisk walk around the building. Do some quick stretches.

7. Get a massage. Hug somebody for 30 seconds or more.

8. If you’re an animal person, snuggle with your pet.

9. Gargle. It doesn’t really matter what- gargling your drinking water before swallowing it is fine.

10. Hum- works for some of the same reasons singing does.

11. Find a repetitive somewhat mindless activity you can do- some people use a fidget these days. Crocheting, knot tying, knitting, macrame, drawing, origami, whittling, adult colouring books also work.

12. Laugh

13. Something called Loing Kindness Meditation (LKM)- which to me looks a lot like just spending a few minutes earnestly praying for good things for other people.

14. Cold shower

15. Hold your breath, pinch your nose and try to breathe out, like clearing your ears for a dive if you scuba dive or to help with high pressure. Sit down while doing this because it can make you dizzyy.

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They Have No Rice

Regarding my previous Davao Diary post, I will say, it’s not 100% true that if they say they have no money they have no rice.  Culture is culture, but people are people after all.  
I do see more abject poverty here than I have ever seen in the U.S.  That is not all I see.  There is a thriving middle and upper class.  There are plenty of people who live well. There is just a different quality to the poverty here than in the U.S. The safety net is not the same.  I see more evidence of bad dental care- lots more people missing teeth here, including people in professions where you would not really see that in the state.   And people who seem to be living well, it’s hard to explain. They are, but there is a different set of expectations about what that means.  We ended up with movie tickets we could not use and we gave them to somebody else from church, and later we learned this was the first movie they had seen in ten years.  There is a man who lives at the church building with his school aged daughter because he has no money and his home collapsed in a storm. The home was basically four bamboo walls and a roof. She doesn’t seem to go to school. 
But sometimes there is some exaggeration of conditions.  We were at the beach once and a guy came up with a sad story about having run out of gas in his boat (he was a shell diver- they free-dive and bring up stuff to sell to tourists), and he had no money for gas and could not go home. We only had enough cash with us to pay a cab to take us home, so we really could not help. He started up his motor and left.
On another occasion as I walked down the steps to go to church, there was an adolescent sitting at the bottom steps- before he saw me he just looked like any young teen lolling around of an evening. When he saw me, he slumped, looked pathetic, and held out his hand and said “Money?” in a weak voice. I had none with me- my husband had taken my backpack and gone ahead of me a couple minutes before. I said, “Dili quarta,” which is bascially ‘no money,’ although it may be ungrammatical. I pulled my pockets out to show him, to be sure I was clear.  
In a heartbeat he unslumped, straighted up, grinned cheekily and went back to being an adolescent.
There is a custom here that in the Christmas season, people will come to the door to sing, and you are supposed to pay them something.  Our language teacher told us she saves pesos (about .02 each in USD) and other small coins (centavos which are worth much less, but we haven’t figured them out) all year long for passing out, and early in the Christmas season she will buy large containers of snacks, lollipops, gum, jellies (a tiny individually packed container of something like jello, but it does not need refrigeration, one container is about a spoonful) to pass to the children.  After I told her about the man on the boat who said he had no money for gas, but then he did, she nodded and explained the Christmas practice. The children, she said, may or may not have money, this is part of the custom, so you give a small something because it’s Christmas.  But the mothers, she assured us, “if the mothers come to your door to sing for money, it is because they have no rice.”
The Christmas season here begins in September.
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Recipes for Cooking in the Philippines

Here is a cheesecake you make in the rice-cooker.  I am so excited about this.   It is so funny the things you crave.  I like cheesecake, but it’s not really something I go out of my way to make or to buy back in the states.  I’ll grab a piece at a potluck, but that’s about it.  I *can* get cheesecake here- there are two shops within walking distance (around fifteen minutes if the Cherub isn’t with me, ten if I push it) that carry it.  A slice is about 2 dollars at one of them and 4 at the other.  The 2 dollar slice is twice as big and it is good, but there is something not quite right about the aftertaste.  The four dollar slice is tiny, a sliver.  And it’s perfect.  But to be able to make a whole cheesecake in my rice cooker- well, that would be such a treat, and I could serve it to guests as well.

Tortang Giniling– this is a kind of omelette with cooked potatoes and tomatoes in it.  Potatoes are not as cheap here as in the states, and mostly I see new potatoes (tiny ones), although I hear big ones are at the open market.  However, the little ones are nice for cooking curries- I cut them into quarters and start them cooking and they are done quickly.


Tortang Talong– this is a kind of omelette or fritter made with eggplant. You take chinese eggplant (the long, skinny kind) and char them over the fire. Our helper pulled the grill off the outside grill and just set them over the gas flame on my burners inside.  Peel the blackened skin, then, with the stem still attached, mash them flat with a fork, dip in egg mixtre, fry, spooning more egg over the top, and flip and fry some more.  That’s the most basic version.  Linked is one with some other vegetables and extra meat.


Ampalaya Con Carne– this a simple stir fry with bitter melon and ground pork. I want some more bitter melon in our diet because it’s suppose to help with high blood sugar.


Tinolang manok: Manok is chicken.  This is a soup.  Green papaya is really, really tart.

Tinola chicken mami– also kind of a soup, with noodles, green papaya and malunggay leaves. You could use spinach or bok choy leaves.  Calamansi is a tiny lime, with wonderful flavor. You can use lime juice and if you’ve never been so blessed as to have calamansi, you won’t know the difference.  Miki noodles…. I don’t know.  Fresh noodles, very thin.

It amazes me how much they like their food well heated here. It’s so hot I just want main dish salads but that’s not really a thing.  It’s kind of hot for lettuce, of course.  And most tomatoes in the market are small and green.  They are not unripe, not like a green tomato would be in Indiana. But they don’t have the same deep, zesty flavor as an Indiana tomato, either.

Tofu and green bean stir-fry with salted black beans:  I haven’t had good luck with firm tofu so far. It’s got a sour taste to me.

Ginisang Sardinas with Ampalaya or Sautéed Sardines with Bitter Melon– putting this on the menu for the Cherub and I for lunch.

Piningyahang Manok (chicken with pineapple, recipe calls for canned, I will just use fresh):

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