Soybean-Caused Nostalgia

This is my version of the common Filipino dish “Fish with Tausi” or  Fish with Fermented Black Beans.  It has fried firm tofu, green bell peppers, xiaoxing wine and plenty of garlic – more Chinese than Filipino really.

My mother used to make this dish with tomatoes and her tausi was freshly bought from her favored vendor or “suki” at the market.  They normally sell tausi in Philippine markets with other soybean products like tokwa (tofu) and tahure (fermented beancurd).  In Colorado Springs, I’ve been sourcing my fermented black beans from Filipino and Oriental stores around Academy Boulevard.  It’s only available in cans but is the exact same thing you’ll get back home.

Spouse is not usually keen on soybean products.  He doesn’t like tofu and I love it.  I have to coax him into enjoying it.  I have to tell him tofu is like a chameleon with no flavor of its own but it picks up the flavors of the other ingredients you put in with it.  He likes it better when it’s fried like in this dish.? He enjoyed this dish immensely, thank goodness.  Even after I cooked it twice last month to use  up a bag of frozen catfish fillets I had.

My favorite tofu dish is fried tofu, sauteed with garlic, onion and tomatoes.  This was a dish my eldest uncle came up with years ago and shared with my mother.  

My Tito Casto is all of 90 years old.   He’s a retired country doctor who practised in their home province of Zambales.  He’s always been health conscious and was always very careful about what he ate, unlike the rest of the family who just loves to cook and eat without thinking of the consequences.  He was into wine-making, vinegar-making, curing meats and other such things as I recall.  Even after he retired in his 70’s he continued learning new things and started on countless projects.  I have’t seen him in about 6 years and understand he now lives in California with one of his sons.

My mother’s siblings are all very interesting people.  Like their surname Magsaysay (Tagalog: to relate) implies, they all have the gift of gab.  I’m sure all my cousins have fond memories of our titos and titas gathered around someone’s dining table on an all-day, Sunday get-together.  

The food was always good and plentiful and it flowed all day long.  Their generation would all be talking and laughing at the same time, trying to be heard above the noise and always trying to outdo each other in their story-telling.  Oh the laughs and the stories we heard.  Everyone seemed to be smarter than the other at finding the best food and shopping bargains…LOL!  The sisters even had their own  secret “language”  that the brothers didn’t understand.  They say mostly Ilocano words in the reverse and could converse this way without blinking or stopping to think.

How strange that a simple dish which not even all the relatives knew of made me think about those happy times.  Each of my aunts and uncles had their own specialties. We always expected “orange rice” or arroz valenciana from Tito Casto, most times he’d bring  callos too.  Tita Chato had her brazo de Mercedes, Tita Mameng’s salads and fruitcakes were always to die for, Tito Luis could make a mean corn bread the likes of which I’ve never had to this day, my Tita Milagring made the best bibingkas, doughnuts and banana bread.  My godmother, Tita Remy, who passed away last year made beautiful tamales like she learned it from the best chefs in Pampanga.

My mother is allegedly the best cook amongst all of them.  Her claim to fame is Bessie’s  pinakbet.  My Lola Blanca taught her in her usual style, by instruction and not example.  This particular dish was based on my lola’s  Tiya Dyanang’s recipe.

It’s said she would cook it over a very low charcoal fire in a claypot or palayok, no water added so she had to keep it covered and never lifted the lid.  Shaken not stirred – just like a James Bond martini…LOL!

For years the only feedback Mama got from her mom was, “Tiya Dyanang did it better.” Finally, my mother gave up and told her, “After all these years, my pinakbet is better than Tiya Dyanang ever made it,” to which my grandmother only laughed in reply.  My mother’s pinakbet is so good, my Lola Blanca’s sister, Sor Peregrina (our Lola Ines) of La Consolacion always took back a big jar of it to the convent on Santolan Road after spending Sunday with her sister and her family

This was our Sunday ritual for so many happy years…all brought back by a can of fermented black beans.


At the Table with the Family
At the Table with the Family

15 Replies to “Soybean-Caused Nostalgia”

  1. mita, these are the kinds of entries i love to read — full of stories and personal memories. i hope you keep on sharing:)

  2. Hi,
    I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog 🙂
    Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day 🙂

  3. Dear Mita,
    I It was a surprise for us when papa was surfing the internet and put his name in google found this. He was very happy and wants to thank you. Just remembered our g ood old days we had during our reunion together .If you receive these message of mine pls. do email me thank you very much and regards to everybody esp. your mom and dad whom I miss them and to David. Pls. keep in touch. God bless……………..wilma magsaysay

  4. Wilma, thank you for the feedback. You have no idea how excited I am to learn that Tito Casto found this by googling his name!

    Of all the relatives to find this blog first, it had to be the eldest uncle at 94. It’s so classic Tito Casto to be curious and learning new things. I’ve always been so very proud of him. Most of you and your brothers got that from him. You have much to be proud of. And we, all 50 cousins, are so lucky to have the family memories we have, diba?

    Now I have to get this blog up and running again. I think your email just gave me more reason to do so. Maybe you can write a post or two? Your knowledge and expertise is far superior to a lot of us…

  5. Dear Tita Mita,

    Its so nice to see you writing again! I hope that you would continue on with your writing. Are you still here in the Philippines or in the US? Hope to hear from you soon.

  6. Hi Jason! Thanks for checking out the blog and leaving a comment. I’m still in the Philippines, a few blocks from your Lola Bessie. We’re here to stay. Actually, we haven’t been travelling outside the Philippines like we always planned. We’re stay at home bums for now limited to road trips to Zambales and Pangasinan or Clark – anywhere there’s no traffic!

    I’m in touch with your Tito Ric and I want to keep in touch with you guys too….email me your cellphone number when you can. Tito David says hello.

  7. Hi Tita Mita,

    Jonathan and Tita Dolly just called today. They’re here in the Philippines fora few days to finish some matters. Anyway, my mobile number is 09263313336. I know its very expensive to call using your mobile because Mecca uses Digitel. I just misses Tita Gigi and I am planning to visit you guys soon. Just text me so that we could schedule. Regards also to Tito David. Hope to see you soon.


  8. G’day Mita! This is Carmencita! I must thank Wilma for informing me about your blog. Whatta great idea. I have easy & great recipes too to share! Incidentally, I also love tofu……I think its the best!!!……cheerio & regards to al!!!!

  9. Hi Carmencita! So nice of you to check out my blog and leave a message. I have a post about your Mama too. It’s the one about Spaghettie Bolognese. I hope she’ll read it.

    I bet you have a lot of great recipes…and so do the other cousins. Please share them here…I’ll give you access so you can write a post. I really wanted to make this a resource for my sisters and I to share recipes…but no takers so far. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the cousins? Honestly…I was just watching and tasting in the past. You and Wilma and the others have more to write about than I do…

  10. Hi Mita this is great Ill try to post some recipies of mine soon. But for now Ill try what you did with thw fish and chips. I know it will be crispy as ever thats what I like.Asta lavista prima ! Regards to everybody. Talk to you soon!!

  11. G’day Mita. I have a very easy & mouth watering recipe for Green Mango Pickled in beer. All you need are firm green mangoes ( sliced 2cm thick )1 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp of salt & 1 bottle of beer ( most important ingredient for this recipe ). Put the sliced green mangoes in a bottle or jar. Sprinkle salt & brown sugar then add all of the beer pouring slowly so as not to over flow (with the bubbles) . Keep in the fridge for a week then it can be ready to eat. The crunchiness of the mango depends on how firm & green it is. Try this one & it goes very well with fish or even on its own…ENJOY!!!

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