The Food and Wine Hedonist

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My Immigrant 4th of July Again

Hey folks – for those of you in the US, hope you have a Happy 4th of July.  Be careful with those fireworks because you need those fingers to comment and click the “Like” button.  For those not in the US, Happy Wednesday.  This is my post from last year’s 4th, but there’s enough gags here for 3-4 posts.  Once again, showing the exuberance of a new blogger.  Enjoy!

Once a year, my dad’s side of the family gets together for a weekend of eating, drinking, and passing down embarrassing stories to the next generation.  For the past couple of years it’s been at my cousin’s place just north of Indianapolis (I saw some Amish, but none were texting).  She’s married to a Palestinian restaurateur – the warmest, kindest guy I’ve ever met – whose brother lives next door.  So reunion weekends turn into this huge motley gathering of Filipinos, Palestinians, and a couple token honkies.  I’m sure we set off some Homeland Security alarms at these things.

Dale Chihuly work at Indy Children’s Museum. Didn’t see a title, but saw a plaque that said most people say it reminds them of fireworks. Perfect for this 4th of July post.

This year, the reunion fell on 4th of July weekend.  As I reflect on the weekend’s events, wondering how I gained 10 pounds in 3 days, it occurred to me that this was truly an American celebration. You can keep your parades with child-molesting clowns handing out candy and God-awful marching bands.  Give me family, food, beer, games, games involving beer, and music any day.  From the outside we looked like a filthy group of swarthy immigrants.  But on the inside ….yeah, ok, you could judge our book by its cover.

This is how we worked off all those extra calories.

Food-wise, these gatherings have been an amazing mix of both Filipino and Middle Eastern cuisines.   At any point you can find platters of hummus and baba ghanouj sitting right next to pancit and rice.  Thankfully there haven’t been any attempts to fuse the two cuisines within a single dish.  One thing, though, that both traditions have in common is their love of meat.  Copious amounts of meat – literally quintuple servings of meat at every meal.  Stock prices for Crestor soar during these reunions.  Previous gatherings have had whole pig, whole lamb, lamb shanks, steaks, roasted pork belly, and the occasional boneless skinless chicken breast.  Because the Man needs his bland meat.

This year was slightly different.  “Chemical Al” just graduated from college and will be attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales this fall.  He’s always had an affinity towards food and has been doing some of the cooking in recent years.  So the elders decided to pass the cooking torch to him and several others of the younger generation.  Damn, he did a great job. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with after he gets some classic training under his belt.  With this new influx of talent, this year’s food became a lot more varied, reflecting the tastes of a new generation. (Attention food and beverage industry – That last phrase is for sale. Call me).

Snack time!

Meals at reunion weekends don’t exactly fit the categories of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Sure, we have those, but there’s also snack time and post-dessert dinner.  This year the Sons of Palestine – Chemical Al, Shady, and the King – introduced me to 2am dinner.   Here’s a partial list of things we ate this weekend:

  • Hummus and baba ghanouj
  • Spicy pulled pork sandwiches
  • Mushroom ravioli
  • Vietnamese spring rolls
  • About 20 lbs of Kalbi – marinated Korean short ribs
  • Stuffed cabbage leaes
  • Bacon-wrapped filet mignons – I’d guess at least 100 of them.  They were like potato chips – always around for a quick snack.
  • Barbecued spareribs
  • Hookah – that’s food, isn’t it?
  • Tapsilog – the classic Filipino breakfast consisting of longaniza (sweet/spicy sausage), fried rice, and over-easy eggs.


  • Extra aged tri tip roasts – Expertly prepared and served by the Sons of Palestine at 2am.
  • Salad – ok, couldn’t totally avoid whitey’s influence
  • Fried Rice
  • Sapin Sapin – a Filipino dessert with layered rice and coconut
  • Dilly bars and ice cream cake – Did I mention they own a Dairy Queen?
  • Dinaguan

For those of you who don’t know, that last one is the Filipino equivalent of Scottish Haggis – an ungodly melange of stuff whose mere description will make most people squirm, if not hurl.  It’s the culinary equivalent of a dare – a stew made with pork, liver, chitterlings, onions, and hot peppers.   OK, mostly mainstream, although the chittlins can be a turn-off.  But did I mention it’s all cooked in pork blood?

Still with me?

Sounds utterly disgusting, but we’re not the only ones who cook with blood.  Various Europeans have blood sausage, the British have their black pudding, and the Poles have Czerina (duck blood soup).  The blood and the liver combine to give it a very rich, earthy flavor. The dash of heat from the peppers really enlivens the tastebuds.  It’s probably not the healthiest choice, but it’s so damn good. To my surprise, many of the young adults in my family have never had it.   A fair amount of peer pressure got them to try it and they all LOVED it.  Amongst my young brood, Piehole A had a sample and she approved.

A cousin had asked if someone could make some so, of course, I volunteered.  Here’s the recipe I used. It doesn’t call for chittlins, which was fine by me.  I’ve used them before and the house reeked for 4 days.

Pork Dinaguan (from

  • 2 lbs of pork shoulder or belly, in small cubes
  • ½ lb of beef liver
  • 4 cups of pig blood – available frozen at most Asian markets.  Just be careful in the parking lot.

  • 3 hot peppers – I used Anaheims, but they weren’t hot enough.  Go jalapeno.
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pouch of sinigang mix (tamarind soup mix).  This is probably optional
  • bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil

1 – Heat a large pan and add the oil.  When hot, add ginger and garlic and sautee for a minute or two

2 – Add the pork and brown

3 – add onions, peppers, bay leaf, soup mix and sautee until onions are translucent.  Season with salt and pepper

4 – Pour in water until just covered.  Bring to boil and then simmer for 30-45 minutes until pork is very tender.  Add water as necessary.

5 – While the pork is simmering, mince the liver.  This would’ve been easier if it was slightly frozen.

6 – When pork is tender, let the liquid reduce a little bit.  Meanwhile, mash the pigs blood in a bowl to break up any solid pieces.  Pour into pot and let boil.

7 – Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the liver and cook for another couple of minutes.  Adjust seasonings.

8 – Serve with white rice or puto (white rice cakes that are similar to Chinese steamed buns).


About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

7 comments on “My Immigrant 4th of July Again

  1. rsmacaalay
    July 8, 2012

    Wow I miss dinuguan now, I hope I can make some soon but pigs blood here in NZ is a bit rare to find and expensive

  2. Nine Cent Girl
    July 9, 2012

    My 4th was not half as delicious… but it was small town fun all the same. Thanks for sharing yours!

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      July 9, 2012

      Thank you!! Saw your parade pix and they look fun. We walked in Ann Arbors parade so it was smallish.

  3. ben
    July 13, 2012

    I’m in Japan and 4th of July was a very tame affair. I didn’t even notice that it was going on. Your food looks awesome!

  4. Pingback: Did you miss me? « The Food and Wine Hedonist

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