From Market to Table: Pork and Vegetables

We are a country that has more or less the same climate as our neighbours Vietnam and Thailand, we also happen to be in possession of micro-climates like Baguio, Sagada and Bukidnon, yet our selection and availability of produce remains quite mundane and limited in its diversity. When I walk around grocery stores I’m saddened by the rows upon rows of uninspiring vegetables and products. How come I can’t find garlic flowers, apple eggplant, chive flowers, water lily, heirloom tomatoes, micro greens, Swiss chard, collard greens off the shelf?

I know those people who will say that a statement like that isn’t fair will probably be aching for a little word battle to put me back in my place and say that we have the best mangoes, sweetest pineapples, awesome coconuts, etc, etc.. Let me stop you right there: firstly, I’m not saying we have bad produce, I’m saying we have limited produce, secondly, how available and accessible is this best produce?  Finally, open your mind, laying the ground work and admitting faults is the only way things will change for the better; misplaced pride is not.

Having had the opportunity and the luck to travel to different countries, I’ve seen and experienced what is locally lacking: (seriously, when I step into Whole Foods, I cry)

1.       Diversity in street food and its availability at every corner

2.       Supermarkets that have wide options for each and every single item.

3.       Specialised restaurants (health food, southern French cuisine, northern Thai, western Vietnamese – not just national cuisine, but regional cuisine!)

4.       Market to Table restaurants and cooking.

5.       Gastro Pubs, Microbreweries, Ateliers, Spice Shops, Specialised Equipment Stores (Water Baths, Chemical ingredients…)

I’m not saying that we don’t have a strong food culture since that would be blasphemous! All our events and ceremonies are food centric, we plan our days around grub, while eating breakfast we discuss dinner and when someone says “hey you should visit this city”, our first and foremost recommendation is which restaurant to try. How come then are we not innovating, educating and pushing the limits of our cuisine and tastes?

I’m not sure how to answer that question, and writing it down has opened my eyes to many answers. I guess, first and foremost everyone here seems to enjoy and be satisfied with fast food, making us more complacent to making the effort of eating fresh every day; out of all the Asian countries, we are the ones with the most fast food and restaurant chains, no questions asked. Moreover, cooking isn’t passed down as much as it should; everyone should have a handle on basic cooking skills and take the time to actually understand ingredients and flavours. Thirdly, our culinary past is muddled, not everyone is aware of all the great Filipino dishes there are out there and the richness of our history; proof: when foreigners visit Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam and Singapore they cannot stop raving about the food and delicacies they encountered, however, after visiting the Philippines it is a rarity that our dishes were the centre of attention, they will come out talking about adobo and making squeamish faces at the sound of Balut; yes it has come down to that.

Of course, it isn’t all grim and dark; I just have a tendency for the dramatic when I’m trying to get a point across. All I’m saying is that we need to educate our palettes and become more curious with food, so that a need is created and eventually answered by local players. This little pinoy food revolution is slowly starting, with better produce in markets, little specialised restaurants, organic farms, but there is still much work to be done. (Why aren’t there more restaurants at the same level as, and with the same meticulous dedication as Anotonio’s Tagaytay?)

I’ve been talking about lately, this little farm down in Bukidnon, with amazing and different produce, check out their website! For this following recipe I used ingredients only sourced from this farm (with the exception of commodities such garlic and seasoning). Let’s support these little farms in hopes that they become bigger and that one day maybe an item like Swiss chard will become just another boring vegetable we can find in every supermarket.

If you feel what I’m saying, comment and let me know what ingredients/food you wish you could find every day!

Two sauce Pork Loin and Steak cooked with Fennel and Apples, Buttered Market Vegetables, Stuffed Pumpkin with Micro Radish Salad.

Simple. Fresh. Family Style.

Serves 4

 Stuffed Pumpkin Salad with Micro Radish Salad

  • 4 handfulls of Micro Radish Salad
  • 16 pieces Pumpkin Flowers
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1tsp cornstarch
  • 1tsp spanish paprika
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1tsp of natural farm honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix together, ricotta, paprika, salt and pepper to taste and with the use of a syringe stuff the pumpkin flowers to the brim.
  2. Mix the flour and the cornstarch together. Dip each flower in this mixture, then dip them into the 2 beaten eggs, then back in the flour mixture. Take each flower and deep fry in a deep skillet. Until golden light and crispy.
  3. Beat the honey, lemon and vinegar together, slowly pour in the olive oil until well emulsified.
  4. In a big bowl mix all the micro radish with the dressing, until every last leaf is lightly coated. make more sauce if needed.
  5. Plate up.

Two sauce Pork Loin and Steak cooked with Fennel and Apples

  • 800 grams of Pork Loin (2-3 inch diameter)
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 6 small leek stalks
  • 2 apples
  • 1 whole garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 medium white onions
  • 2 tbsp of mustard
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 200 ml of beer (pilsner or lager – not light!)
  • 100 ml of beef broth
  • 1tsp brown muscovado sugar
  1. If you are working with pork steak make sure they are about 1 1/2 inch thick each. If you are working with loin make sure your keep it whole. Marinate the meat with some salt and pepper to season, half of the fennel herb from the bulbs chopped up and the crushed whole garlic (skins out). Let sit covered for about 30 mins or longer, depending how quickly you get through the next steps.
  2. in an oven 3 inch deep rectangular pan, place your sliced fennel bulbs, thinly sliced and peeled apples, chopped leeks, red onion, salt and pepper and more or less 3 tbsp of olive oil, lay flat in the pan. Heat your oven to about 220 celsius and place the dish in the lower rack and leave bake for 30 mins or until everything becomes unctuous and caramelized.

  1. Fry your pork in a very hot pan until  colored on all sides, remember you just want the colour you don’t want to cook it through, so make sure that once the appropriate sear is given remove it from the heat (1 min each side). Keep the fat in the pan. Place the pork on top the fennel/apple baked goodness. Lower the oven to 190 and place the pork and fennel/apple mix in for about 15 mins or until a thermometer reads 62.8 celcius or the meat is barely pink. Let rest for 7 mins, to let all the juices go back in the pork, before cutting. (once in the oven you should be able to finish point 4 and 5.)
  2. In the same pan where you fried the pork, with the same discarded fat, fry your sliced 2 medium onions and sugar until caramelized, add the beef stock and the beer and let simmer until nice and thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a small bowl or mixer, place your mustard, honey and salt and pepper, mix until combined, add the last half of the fennel herb and 2 tsps of chopped up dill. Slowly mix in 3 tbsp of olive oil until well emulsified.
  4. Once everything is ready, get a big serving plate and put the fennel/apple mix in the middle, top with your pork steaks or cut pork loin, brush the meet with your mustard sauce and set aside your beer sauce for dipping! top with some more dill and fennel herb.

Buttered Market Vegetables

Basically whatever vegetables you find fresh at the market you can add to any dish as a nice rustic accompaniment. I found some nice broccolini, swiss chard and micro carrots.

The rule of thumb here is easy, the thicker and sturdier the vegetable, the longer it will take to cook. So use common sense and do it in steps. Get large hot pan going with olive oil and some crushed garlic cloves, start with your cleaned baby carrots, until they are cooked and tender (but still crunchy). In the same time get a pan going with boiling water and salt, place your broccolini and swiss chard in for 5 mins until vibrant and done, drain, and add them to your carrots. Seasoning with salt and pepper here i key, get the right balance going. Finish off with a knob of butter, as much as you want! enjoy!

I know we did!


    1. Tiff June 15, 2011 at 10:08 am

      I’m glad I found your blog; that recipe looks great. I know of a great local farm that specializes in pork, so any excuse to give them business works for me!

    1. KT June 15, 2011 at 11:13 am

      I love reading your blog. I feel inspired to publish my cooking as well. Thanks for inspiring the wannabe chef in me. :-) It’s awesome that you are just not good in cooking, you are good in writing too. Impressive!

    1. Ginny Mata June 16, 2011 at 7:38 am

      I’m a teacher of Creative Writing at UP Diliman, and I specialize in teaching food writing to college undergraduates. I’m working on my grad thesis on food culture here as well. Creative and insightful, your blog clearly reflects your passion for food, which is, as Doreen Fernandez says, life.

      As she says in her foundational book, “Tikim”:

      “The experience of food is ephemeral. What one puts into the mouth is the end result of a process that starts with the sea, the soil, animal life. In the act of cooking, we make statements about ourselves – about our perception of taste and appropriateness. In the act of eating, we ingest the environment, but we do not stop at that, for we Filipinos make eating the occasion for ritual – and ritual, the occasion for eating.”

      “We dance to (eating), dance with it, sing to it, caress it; we are in awe of it, and respectful towards it. Eating is the occasion for the rites and rituals of our lives. Eating is praxis in social amenities. Eating is the language that speaks of the nuances of what we are. Eating is making alive the various and variegated conjugations of our lives.” (Fernandez xv)

      I was able to interview Mara Pardo De Tavera – the woman who started green organic markets in the Philippines in 1992 – and thanks to her efforts, as well as the hard work of many other advocates of the Slow Food Movement, the Organic Movement, etc., like Gil Carandang of Herbana Farms (the father of organic farming in the PH), John Perrine and his wife, Renee Perrine (of My Personal Farmer) in Bukidnon – I do believe we’re slowly moving in this direction, although, of course the prices of organic produce is still quite prohibitive for many people in this country who live below the poverty line (70%).

      There is much that needs to be done in this regard – the need to feed our people, while at the same time, making sure that what we feed them is both physically and spiritually satisfying.

      More power to you and your blog. Keep cooking, keep eating, keep writing. :)

      1. Erwan Heussaff June 20, 2011 at 4:16 am

        Thank you for such an elaborate reply. I will now rush to the book store and pick up your recommendation. I agree with you on all your points, but like all things the only way for organic produce to become cheaper, it first has to become a household commodity and not only a product available to the favoured. That we will be able to achieve through widespread eductation and the hope that one day supermarket giants decide to hop onto the bandwagon.

    1. KBB June 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      I couldn’t agree more with your frustration when it comes to our very limited produce. I’ve been to Vietnam recently and our food really pales in comparison. I’d go back there in a heartbeat just to try out more food. Now, I’m planning a food trip to Taiwan!

      I’ve also lived abroad for 12 years, and now that I’m back home, I find myself longing for some excitement food wise. The craving for Jollibee gets old quick.

      Great blog post!

      PS, you might want to edit the link to It’s missing an H.

    1. Al June 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      do you know any supermarket/store/ secret place that sell vanilla beans?

    1. foodblogandthedog June 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      Living in Spain I know what you mean. There are abundant courgette & squash but no squash flowers sold in any markets. And vanilla extract, forget it! The Spanish are very traditional when it comes to food. They don’t like change so it can be frustrating. What I did is plant my own courgettes in pots on my roof terrace so I had my own courgette flowers to stuff!! :D

      1. Erwan Heussaff June 20, 2011 at 4:12 am

        I know what you mean, my balcony has sprawled into my very own herb and micro produce haven.

    1. bluejeansgirl June 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      I think the main reason, we Filipinos love fast food is because it’s fast. Not knowing the implications that it can cause to our body (which we sadly realise later in life). You are right that we should promote our own however I think the government has to participate on this as well. They should protect our farmers when it comes to prices and I don’t know if they should regulate the prices as well.

      We all want to eat healthy but how can we do it when we have to feed a family of four with a meager salary. End result? Fast food.

      On the other note, nice site. I was following your tumblr blog and thought that you have decided to go hiatus… you bought a domain na pala!

      Hope to see more recipes. :)

      1. Erwan Heussaff June 20, 2011 at 4:10 am

        I’m sorry i don’t agree at all. fast food is much more expensive than fresh ingredients you’d find in the market.

        Just think of it this way your cheapest meal that you’d find in the popular chains will probably start at around 50 pesos. where as a KG of rice in the market goes for 30 Pesos. How do you justify that fast food is cheaper. A kg of rice can feed multiple peopple too.

        Before you succomb to marketing/advertising techiniques of fast food chains convincing cosumers that their offering is cheaper/convenient and quick, go to your local market and you will be suprised by how cheap fresh ingredients are.

        Thank you for reading, much appreciated :)

    1. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide June 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      This looks amazing! I love farmers markets and we have two that only sell local, makes it easy to get fresh. The other main one brings in stuff from out of state, I can get that at the grocery store. Love the photos.

      1. Erwan Heussaff June 20, 2011 at 4:06 am

        Thanks. I just love the fact that whatever you buy should be made and used that same day.

    1. zee June 19, 2011 at 5:20 am

      I’d love to eat more fresh fruits and veggies. Actually my resolution this year was to do just that, and explore and eat varieties that I haven’t tried yet. Thanks to Down to Earth (my Salcedo Market suki!) I’ve put swiss chard, micro radish on my list. I’d rather pay more for fresh organic veggies than pay less in a supermarket with perfect-looking veggies imported from Taiwan! I can just imagine the amount of insecticides they sprayed on those veggies to make them look green and pristine.

      I’ll try the grass-fed meat at Down to Earth next time :)

    1. provincial lass June 20, 2011 at 7:43 am

      On stalled innovation…
      Maybe because of the oppressing equatorial climate, we are driven to appease our grumbling stomachs first and foremost before pleasing our palate. We feel like we are always hungry. Unlimited rice is a genius. A spread of many non-complimenting dishes (i.e. kare2, spaghetti,fried chx, afritada, callos, etc) is a more potent call to action than a buttery dish lovingly served on a delicate plate. Also, it doesn’t help that Filipino food is most satisfying with Coke. No wine pairings here!

      On lack of education…
      Hey maybe you could have some sort of make-over tv show for broader reach–you discover regional ingredients and make it into food porn (i never thought of stuffing pumpkin flowers ). No pressure, we are quite content with this blog. I’m just sayin’ if you want a revolution…

      On pushing limits of our tastes..
      Bring it on! What dish would you make with a ripe jackfruit and oregano?

      {In the probinsya, my grandmother mixed her arthritis potion out of herbs we picked in the neighborhood. Only much later did I realize that one of them is oregano, but we never have a local dish with oregano. We also didn’t do much about mint herbs available.}

    1. Louella June 27, 2011 at 3:26 am

      Nice blog find. I am a big fan of the likes of David Rocco, Martin Picard, Madhur Jaffrey, and Marketmanila, so it’s a delight to stumble on another blog that features food from the good old islands. I hope there would be a kabayan that would produce a show like the aforementioned–a combination of travel and cooking, and get shown here in the west. My childhood was spent in Central Mindanao, in a town a little close to Bukidnon and the foot of Mt. Apo. I consider myself lucky to have witnessed Thursday and Sunday markets when locals would close a street to lay a spread of their local produce. I didn’t appreciate it back then as I thought it was a little chaotic–things that we take for granted, eh? Last year when I visited Arles and stumbled on a Provencal market day, all the memories of my childhood came back flooding in. I realised how much I miss the market atmosphere, especially since–and mainly due to weather–we rarely get something that festive here in Canada (and I Iive in the tree-hugging-organic food-loving west coast, mind you). Sadly when I visited the the town I grew up in in Mindanao thirteen years later, the market culture had been reduced to a memory. Growing up, my family had a decent yard with a variety of fruit trees and veggies. Imagine never ending supply of calamansi, pomelo, and even spices such as achuete and black pepper all year round. Our town had a variety of local fruits–star apple, balimbing, santol, lanzones, mabolo (which, I would argue would give durian a run for its odour notoriety) among others. On my brief stay in Manila, I was very surprised that many do not even know about Marang. I guess that is one of the most important things lacking in the islands. More and more people unintentionally lose connection with, and knowledge of local produce because of several factors–migration to urban places where cultivation is next to impossible, and marketing influences. Unfortunately, there is a perception of class on what people eat. I mean my childhood friends in the islands would not believe me when I tell them I was served biko as dessert on a seven course menu at Canoe in Toronto (who knew it would be perfect with riesling). Anyway, my comment is turning into a novel now–I sincerely hope you would become a success in your quest for the renaissance of Filipino cuisine (I would love to join in, but I lack the talent to begin with–haha! I seriously believe that just as one has a talent for music, the same goes for those who can mix and match the taste of ingredients in their head even before the concoction is made). Oh, and salad, try blanched camote tops (if you can find it) with sliced tomatoes, onions, and anchovies–or bagoong for the real deal.

      1. Erwan Heussaff June 29, 2011 at 1:56 am

        That is quite an elaborate comment! I believe that we are slowly going in that direction and hopefully it’ll materialise sooner than later. But if you’re from the islands, you are probably well aware that things move at a crawl here. Your market experience sounds wonderful and reminds of the times i spent in the french country side as a child, such a quaint memory. I know exactly what ou mean with the whole social class diet dilemma, people tend to think that certain things (rudimentary market produce) shouldnt be eaten by those who can afford imported products for example. But like with all things and products, first consumers use the product in it’s basic form, then there was a move to branding and diversifying the product, and lately we’ve been regressing back to the authentic, so there is hope yet.

    1. kris June 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      Food revolution it is!… i couldn’t agree more on everything you wrote,
      i really think people here should make it a commodity so that many will produce it.
      I think education is the key, w/ demos and taste test so that they will realize that it is essential, and most of all it’s healthy, i really hope this will become a reality.
      Count me in as your soldier in this revolution! :)

    1. Ma Abegail Fusilero July 14, 2011 at 8:58 am

      you are so right! My solution: I bought seeds on ebay and grew my own garden. I live in Mindanao and there not so many produce for gourmet cooking. I really enjoy reading your blog, I’ve been following you since college. :)

      1. Erwan Heussaff July 21, 2011 at 4:05 am

        are you kidding! all the best farms are in mindanao! you have the perfect weather down there. Im jealous you live so close to the freshest produce. Look around and ask the right people and you’ll be surprised by what you find!

    1. Shai January 31, 2012 at 12:32 am

      Well for me!! simple lang..if only we can produce Brussel sprouts mukhang doable naman since it’s in the family of cabbage. I’m hoping our farmers would consider planting these cuties and yummies.

      I’m searching more about veggies hoping that i could eat more of it than fatty meats lol!!

      more power to you blog site Erwan!

      p.s sorry for this super late comment…nag back read ako eh lol! Just started subscribing with your blog, so worth it to back read as i could

      1. Erwan February 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

        i agree completely!

    1. JunJun September 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      I’m saddened by this article not because you’re wrong but because for a lot of things you’re right. I don’t usually reply to post/blogs but I decided to give it a shot since I’m passionate about food and farming.

      1. uninspiring selection of produce – yes, we don’t have that much here in Manila, but growing up in San Jose City, N.E. I’m used to seeing and using wide variety of vegetables (native to Filipino, that is) in dishes. For example, the squash flowers (our farm and local markets have it) I’m very accustomed to and we use it for salads (blanched together with camote tops paired with cherry tomatoes
      and smoked fish); soups (corn soup with squash flowers and malunggay leaves); stews (black turtle beans and pork stew). We don’t have Kale or select greens because we Filipinos really don’t. In Philippine agriculture we don’t have those types of vegetables but I guess in the gastronomic evolution of Pinoys we can start eating those.

      2. how available and accessible is the produce – I know it sounds cliche….the government is partly to blame for that. For years, I have seen our farm decreased the variety of produce we are growing because we are losing profit. Long gone are the times when we used to grow heirloom tomatoes, red beets, purple potatoes, white and yellow eggplants, habaneros. Back then, we were the only ones who appreciate them. If you try to sell that in the local market, it would just probably rot there. A great solution to that would be to have farm-to-market relations, and/or farm-to-restaurant agreements. That would be “the” ultimate dream for me.

      3. pushing the limits of our cuisine and tastes – well, i guess YOU will be the great answer for that. I don’t know if you may recall but challenged you to use passion fruit for the dishes that you make. You have been put in a position to elevate the level of the Filipino cuisine. If only people were stuck with great restaurants and not with so much selection of fast food. Then I guess we would be known to have great FILIPINO food.

      4. enjoy and be satisfied with fast food – myself included. There are a lot of factors to these. The type of work that you have, proximity with home, traffic, income. I recall during college, I always cook Lunch for the whole family just because I have an hour free time before 12:00 noon and the university is just 15 mins of a bus ride. Back then, I don’t see the need then to go to Jollibee and just buy a bucket of Chicken and steamed rice because it still cheap to cook from scratch. But now, we the rising prices of commodities, transportation and housing, it would be much more economical to resort to fast food. I have watched several documentaries about eating healthy and have to farm right and it would always go back to the government’s responsibility of creating policies/laws to make sure sectors in society get the support (and I mean subsidy) they need.

      5. Cooking isn’t passed down as much as it should – This one I believed is true. Even my girlfriend doesn’t know how to cook. But fortunately for me I can. I guess the answer to this would be responsible parenting. No, this is not about the RH bill and I’m not about to criticize my future mother-in-law. I was raised by a mother who took time teach and forcefully let her kids learn to be independent. When I was 12 I was forced to cook and learn from my mother because we don’t have help anymore.This continued until college and I didn’t know it was such a priceless skill. I remember all her recipes even those from my father.

      6. we need to educate our palettes and become more curious with food – well this goes hand in hand with no. 5. It depends on a personal basis. People have different ideas when it comes to food. Those that are not ready to try new dishes or even a type of vegetable (gf) will rarely try a different dish everytime. But for those who have the passion for food and culture (me) will go on lengths to try and sample each and every dish on any menu (raw fish included).

      1. Erwan September 11, 2012 at 8:20 am

        Hi JunJun,

        Wow that was a long comment. Thank you so much for really taking the time to reply and express your views. I completely agree with what you are saying, it’s something that has to be changed from the ground up. Just to quickly jot down my ideas on your points.

        1. Yes i agree, but if we look at Australia, all or most of their produce wasnt grown there in the beginning. People just got curious. We need that curiosity.

        2. The government and again our culture. We need to be more open. If the demand is there by the people, the farms will produce. I agree that a business needs profit to survive.

        3. I’ll try my best.

        4. I agree, but by learning to cook, people will realise that it is ultimately cheaper to make food at home. They just need to shop smart.

        I’m glad to find someone as passionate as i am.

        All the best,


    1. Jay January 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Wow… i totally agree with you & all the other people who commented on this article… Im an aspiring chef… i grew up in the kitchen… AND i have this adventurous taste for food… I agree that we are severely limited in the produce that we have… seriously… we are (should be) an agricultural country… but instead agriculture here in the PH is just pushed to the sidelines by the government… Because seriously, the produce section in even the biggest malls & groceries here are really small… The convenience food section is sadly bigger… I also agree that many people now are resorting fastfood often… Been there, Done that… I got sick of it eventually both literally & figuretively… I longed for home cooked meals… meals from scratch… Those kinds of dishes are far more healthier, cheaper & tastier than what i have tasted from fastfood chains…




I gained weight because of a sedentary lifestyle and overly indulging in foods I knew were bad for me, eating out too often, taking the easy route (microwavable dishes) and not caring what went in my body, before I knew it reached 240 lbs. I lost weight through pure dedication, tireless hours of hard work and yes, food. I cooked my way to fitness, making sure to only feed myself tasty well prepared dishes with all the right stuff, the perfect fuel, taking me down to 150lbs. Of course I indulge from time to time, as the fat kid still lurks inside of me; here you will find a little bit of everything for the sole purpose of sharing my passion for food and life.





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