Forget the fried rice. I just found out one exciting way to eat dried krill, locally known as kalkag. You pan-fry it without oil for a few minutes, just enough to take out the fishy smell, and serve it with thin slices of green kamias, a.k.a. iba.
It is one delicious dish, and can stand its ground among the appetizers of the world. I tried it recently on the dining table of a famous heiress whose culinary tastes have been honed from years of globe-trotting and she laughed at the fact that I, who was supposed to be the promdi between the two of us, wasn’t used to eating kalkag that way.
Imagine the meaty, slightly crunchy and a bit salty taste of the kalkag joined by the juicy crunch of the iba and you’ll know what I mean.
Like most you, my kalkag experience had been limited to eating it as part of fried rice, the little specks of it serving as a pleasant counterpoint to the soft texture of the rice. Or as omelette or torta, mixed with eggs and fried into cakes. A few years, I got intrigued by colored kalkag in a public market outside of Bangkok, dried krill dyed in pinks and blues and greens; the locals said this can be pan fried and eaten as is, or as a decoration to bread or pastry, much like I’d imagine how we use sesame seeds on our piaya.
Kalkag with iba slices, said our hostess, had been served in their island house for the longest time, and was also how the natives there ate it. It was so common nobody really paid particular attention to it. Like most of our traditions, we really did not care about it, not even if as this has proven, we are already in danger of losing it.
If many of my generation no longer know how to eat kalkag this way, I think it is valid to think that the next generation won’t ever, not if we allow this to continue. We are losing our local ways of eating simply because we continue to allow the West to rape our culture.
Now, now. I’m not gonna turn shibboleth-spouting ideologue here. But think of how the relentless assault on our senses by things Western has made us lose our own ways, our culture as it were. And this is not happening on some cerebral plane like perhaps in study groups in universities, but in our kitchens and dining tables.
It is the most perverse form of imperialism yet: we are giving up our ways of eating, our culture, indeed ourselves and our identity to the foreign gods of commerce and industry. Why, even our laswa, that sacred garden vegetable stew of our ancestors is now being tinkered with by multinational companies which want us to cook it with magic flakes and favor dusts.
Really. By the way we are being influenced by the high-powered media campaigns of these MNCs, it won’t be long before our laswa will no longer taste the way our grandmothers made them.
In case you haven’t noticed, this has already happened to our chicken. Time was when the chickens we ate had a certain toughness to them, brought on by the fact that our chickens, raised free range and allowed to grow naturally, had complete sets of muscles and tissues and fully-grown bones when we slaughtered them. On their own, they were also full-flavored and took little condiments to taste great.
These days, our chicken is so tender, and to me who was raised on naturally grown ones, so tasteless you need a ton of all sorts of dips to coax out some kind of excitement in them.
Of course this is a free country. Those food imperialists do what they do because we allow them to, and they make money with it. It’s just that I hope we are all aware of what’s going on, and stand up for who and what we really are; preserving our eating traditions is one way of doing that.*