While searching in my cookbook Flavours of the Philippines for the Bam-i recipe, I came across the tamalos, a specialty from the same region in the Philippines. These annatto colored, meaty, nutty, and slightly spicy cousins of the Mexican tamales are made with rice flour and wrapped in banana leaves. I've never had this kind of tamale before although I once made another Filipino version that also has peanuts but flavored with coconut milk and shredded cooked chicken.
The preparation of tamalos is quite tedious as there are several steps, not to mention kitchen tools and pans, involved. But I couldn't ignore the yummy ingredients such as peanuts, roasted sesame seeds, and the adobo style pork belly and started imagining what they will taste like. I am not disappointed and although they came out a little bit softer than I would have liked, they are otherwise fantastic! I love the combination of the different flavors of peanuts, sesame seeds, and savory pork belly and the fragrance of banana leaves. Simply delicious.
adapted from Flavours of the Philippines: A Culinary Guide to the Best of the Islands
by Glenda Rosales-Barretto
2 pounds pork belly, skin on
2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
1 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
200 grams toasted peanuts
100 grams roasted sesame seeds
2 hot red chili peppers, chopped
4 tablespoons annatto oil (warm 4 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespons annatto seeds, then discard seeds)
200 grams rice flour mixed with 500 ml water
16 pieces banana leaves, cut into approximately 10-inch square
- Place the pork in a casserole together with 1 tablespoon garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, and 2½ cups water. Bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes, then remove pork from the broth and allow to rest. Slice into 16 portions, return to the broth, cover and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. Remove pork and set aside. Discard the bay leaves and reserve broth.
- In a food processor, grind peanuts, sesame seeds, and chili peppers. Add broth in a slow stream to produce a smooth paste.
- In a saucepan, heat the annatto oil and saute briefly the remaining 1 tablespoon garlic, then add peanut sesame seed paste and cook, stirring continuously until thick. Add the rice mixture and stir well, then immediately remove from heat.
- For each tamalo, place 2 pieces of banana leaves on a flat surface. Spoon or pour about 170 ml of the rice mixture in the center, add 2 pieces of sliced pork and top with another 100 ml more of the rice paste. Hold the 2 sides of the banana leaves and fold together to secure, then clasp both ends to form a compact parcel. Using kitchen twine or strips of banana leaf, tie a knot at both ends and another crosswise around the middle section. Steam for 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.