Nilagang Baboy Recipe
Today we are making nilagang baboy, a traditional boiled pork & veggies soup. First the recipe (because I hate blogs that put the recipe way down the page). After the recipe, is the embedded YouTube video, then some pictures and my thoughts on the recipe. I did Americanize it somewhat, because that is what I do. But overall it is still a fairly simple soup.
Nilagang Baboy Recipe
½ kilo Pork
A few tbsp flour
2 bell peppers
2 small onions
4 cloves garlic
2 medium potatoes
1 carrot (optional)
1 head cabbage
1 squash (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sage
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp red wine
2 liters beef broth
Water as needed (1 or 2 liters)
Mise en place – Prep
Cut pork into 1 ½ cubes, roll in flour and set aside. Remove core from cabbage head and quarter the cabbage. Peel squash, remove seeds, and chop into 1 inch cubes. Cut potato and carrot into 1 inch cubes. Large dice onions & bell peppers, mince garlic. Measure out spices.
Heat oil in large pan, add meat and let the flour brown. Do not stir! Use tongs to turn meat to brown all sides (a minute or 2 per side). Remove meat from pan, set it in reserve. It will not be cooked yet, but will boil later. Leave the oil and meat bits in pan. Add wine to pan to deglaze. Once all the bits are loose (30 seconds) add onions, peppers, and garlic. Saute until the onions start to sweat. Add broth and meat to pan. Boil until meat is cooked and almost tender (about 20 minutes). Add potatoes, carrots, and spices to pan. Cook until veggies are tender (10-15 minutes). Add squash to pan, boil about 5 minutes. Add cabbage and boil 3 minutes. During cooking, add water (or more broth) as needed for consistency.
This is an Americanized version of a Filipino classic. I roll the meat in flour to get it crusty (used in a lot of Chinese and French cooking). The recipes I have seen usually just call for cabbage, meat, and potato. Some add plantain. I added squash because the summer squashes looked so good (and I am not a fan of plantain). The carrot & garam masala are completely optional, I just like them. Spices vary on each recipe I found, just use what you like. Keep the spice fairly simple as the meat & veggies are the stars of this stew.
Nilagang baboy, or pork nilaga, is a simple boiled pork and veggie soup. Nilaga translates into “boiled” or “stew” depending on your dictionary. You can use any meat for this: pork, beef, shrimp. I prefer pork, simply because I prefer pork. The meat & veggies are the star of this stew, so while Americanizing the recipe somewhat, I tried to keep it a fairly simple recipe. Looking online for recipes I saw almost every recipe was different. They all use different veggies, but similar (basic) spices. Some of the veggies differences seem to be regional, or family preference. People are recreating the soup that lola made (grandma). Some of the veggies are cabbage, pechay (Chinese cabbage), plantain, jackfruit, taro (gabi), potatoes, squash…
The simplest recipe I found was pork, pechay, onion, and potato. Extremely simple, but would be very good. I added a bit more veggies to mine, plus I added bell pepper – something I did not see in any recipe online. While Americanizing the recipe I did try to stay fairly simple, but this is much more complex than the traditional nilaga. For me this is bare minimum of spice, but is much more than most recipes call for. I would add more spices, some vinegar, oyster sauce, corn starch… but then I would be getting away from the simplicity of this soup, and making a different dish.
The meat & veggies are the star of nilagang baboy. It is easy for me to overdo it.
Mise En Place
When I start any dish I always do my prep (mise en place). My limited cooking training was in Texas, so we do “prep”, not “mise en place”, but mise en place is just the French term for prep, or set up. I have seen some online “cooks” say that mise en place is good for beginners. Well… yes it is… but also for all cooks. You go into any professional kitchen and the prep is a major part of the day. There may be a whole team just doing the set up.
Anyone saying it is just for beginners has obviously never cooked professionally. Get everything set up in advance. Items that will be added together can go in the same container. For an Indian dish I would have 3 or 4 bowls of spice, this dish only requires one. Everything is premeasured, and precut. Do your prep! A lot of times we think ‘oh I can chop this while the meat cooks’. Usually this is not the case.
Browning the meat
The main addition I did was browning the meat first. This is meant to be a one pot, boiled meal. I still used one pan, but added a step to brown the meat. I just like it better that way. Roll the meat in flour and let it sit for a few minutes. Put a few tablespoons of oil in a pot and place the meat gently into the pan. Do not stir, or you will make a gravy like mess. You are trying to get a nice crust on every side of the meat. As each side browns you use tongs to turn the meat. After it is all browned – it is not cooked yet – you pull it out and deglaze the pan with red wine.
The wine boils all the meat scraps loose in the pan. The traditional recipe does not brown the meat, so this would normally be unnecessary. The wine does not add much flavor, but must add some. I learned this method in Chinese cooking, so I am surprised it is not more common here. Even when they fry the meat in advance, they do not roll it in flour first.
Stock is wonderful
Every nilagang baboy recipe I saw online calls for bouillon cubes and water. That is the most common here in the Philippines, and what I normally do. However I found some beef stock at the grocery store and figured I better use it while it was available (I should have bought 5 or 6 more!). Grocery shopping here in the Philippines is a treasure hunt. You never know what you might find. The prepared stock is not like a good homemade stock, but even retired… I just don’t have the time to make stock ha ha. The box is pretty good, and way better than cubes. But yes, I generally use cubes.
Add the veggies
After you add in the veggies it really starts looking like soup. As I said the meat is not fully cooked after browning it. You boil the meat & veggies together to finish cooking the meat. Also the slow boil helps tenderize the meat, as most meat here is pretty tough (especially beef). The potato and carrot can go in together. If you use regular squash you would add it a few minutes after the potato, and before the cabbage. I used an opo squash which is more like a melon than a standard squash, so I added it the same time as the cabbage.
You just need to know the cooking time of each veggie. The harder things, like potato, carrot, taro etc will need more time than cabbage. It is only important for fresh soup. The next day it is all the same – a bit mushy – and pretty good!
Time to eat!
One of the hardest parts of the recipe is letting it all simmer long enough to tenderize the meat. It starts smelling good – and I want to eat it ha ha. But let it simmer, it is worth the wait. This is still mostly nilagang baboy, but I did add a bit more veggies, and spices than traditional. The beauty of this is that every family seems to have their own recipe… so what is really traditional? This is still a good, simple, delicious soup.