Josephine’s, a Filipino restaurant in London’s Charlotte Street, is a place I often end up when I can’t think of anywhere more exciting to go, and I always end up enjoying it more than I probably would if I’d gone somewhere I thought was going to be more exciting. It isn't quite as gauzy as in this picture, and never as empty.
I try not to have the same thing, every time though the dinuguan (translated on the menu as ‘black pudding stew’) is hard to resist. That’s it in the rear of this picture:
And in the front is deep fried milk fish. I’m pretty sure I’d never had milk fish before but it was pretty good and the vinegar sauce made it even better. I gather that milk fish has reputation for being boney but the restaurant, or their suppliers, had done a fine job of removing the bones.
I also gather, I mean I looked it up online, in 2007 the milk fish (chanos chanos) accounted for 17% of global finfish production behind only Atlantic salmon which has 40%. I also learn that in 2009, Philippine milk fish production contributed to 14.03% of Philippine aquaculture production behind seaweed (70.23%) but ahead of tilapia (10.53%), though producing milk fish (I gather they’re mostly farmed) seems more of an achievement than raising seaweed.
Everything was good at Josephine’s, and at the bottom of the stairs as you go down to the loo there was a pile of free papers – Planet Philippines. I took one. It contained a lot of ads for immigration lawyers and remittance agencies but it also had a three page article titled ‘Chicharrific: Potion or poison?’ about Philippine pork crackling, written by one Claude Tayag, who it runs out is quite the Renaissance man, an artist as well as a restaurateur and writerThis is one of his pictures titled ‘Oyster shucking.’
Tayag and his sources reckon that the word ‘chicharrón’if not the thing itself comes from Spain. He quotes Antonio Sánchez de Mora, head of the Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla, Spain, as syaing ‘Chicharrón (the Spanish spell it with a double “r”) originated in the Andalusia region of southwestern Spain, where most of the colonial seafarers came from. It was in Cadiz, one of its five provinces, where the ships embarked to the New World. They brought with them their food ways, including all things pork, especially its curing into jamón, tocino (bacon), chorizos, and chicharrón.’
This of course doesn’t explain which we get pork crackling in most parts of England. This is a picture of Claude Tayag hard at work.
In his article Tayag makes some claims for the health fits of pork skin ‘fat that’s in chicharon is mostly mono-unsaturated, the same healthy kind of fat found in olive oil, avocados, and macadamia nuts. Some kinds of chicharon have as high as 40 percent of this “heart-healthy” fat. Seriously? I’m not kidding … It is also high in protein, comparable to the protein content of Greek yogurt, and has nine times more protein than potato chips. Since it has zero carbohydrates, it is Keto diet-friendly. It is the seasoning used, mainly salt, that raises blood pressure, which in turn could lead to heart problems. But it is also high in calories.’
Something of a mixed message there, and he concludes, ‘Like in most everything good that is bad (i.e., cigarettes, alcohol, chocolates, illicit sex, wink, wink), chicharon produces the “feel-good” chemicals (endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine) that make us happy when consumed, at least for a while. Well, my advice is to just avoid it or have it in moderation. Choose your poison. Or potion (wink, wink). Give me lard or none at all.’
This may have lost something in translation.