When I started living in Manila, I was surprised when a friend who grew up in Manila said that pochero has tomato sauce. Pochero in my hometown, one of the coastal municipalities in Sorsogon (Bikol Region), doesn’t involve tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes. It’s closer to nilagang baboy of Tagalog, but we usually use pork hock and make the soup thick with melted taro corms and camote (sweet potato).
The Philippines is an archipelagic and ethnically diverse country, we have more than 180 languages so it’s not surprising that we also have diverse food and recipe variations based on the ingredients available in our respective regions or communities. Since I got confused with the difference between the Pochero in Manila or Pocherong Tagalog versus the one that I grew up with, I had to ask a couple of friends from my province (Thanks Lui, Bea, and Ani!). Apparently, even different towns in Sorsogon don’t have a similar take on Pochero. I actually had to double check with Sir Kiks, my former Anthropology Professor who is also from my hometown, if the Pochero recipe I know is really the recipe we use in my hometown and not only my own family’s recipe. He did confirm that the one I know is indeed the pochero recipe from our hometown.
So the recipe I’m sharing is the recipe I grew up with that my Lula and Mommy would always cook. We usually use pork hock (but you may also use other buto-buto or bony parts of the pork if you can’t find pork hock) and make a thick and starchy soup out of taro corms and camote, and add ripe saba (saba banana) and cabbage. The camote and saba make the soup a little sweet, so you have to create a balance of sweetness and saltiness. I realized that we actually use a lot of taro in our food in Bikol since it is abundant in the region. We use the taro leaf for gulay na natong (laing in Taglog), pinangat, among other Bikol recipes, so it’s not surprising that we also use the taro corms for the soup.
Pochero is one of the first few recipes I learned at home mostly by watching Lula cook and asking Mommy for some of the steps that I missed. To be honest, I haven’t cooked pochero in a while, and as always, we don’t really measure ingredients while cooking—tantya-tantya lang! (just eyeball it!). So I tried hard to measure the ingredients I used. Here’s the recipe:
- 1 Kilo Chopped Pork Hock
- 3 small pieces taro– washed, peeled and chopped (3/4 of this will be melted to thicken the soup and the rest are used as soup chunks)
- 3 small pieces camote—washed, peeled, and chopped (3/4 of this will be melted to thicken the soup and the rest are used as soup chunks)
- 3 pieces ripe saba—washed, unpeeled, and cut in half (crosswise)
- ¼ kilo cabbage—a small head of cabbage cut in 4
- 2-3 small pieces onions— peeled and cut in half
- ¼ tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp rock salt (or depending on how salty you want it to be)
Onions, Peppercorns, Cabbage, Taro Corms, and Camote
- Thoroughly wash the pork hock and boil in a pot
- When the water starts boiling, add ¾ of the sliced taro corms, ¾ of the sliced camote (leave the rest of the camote and taro for later), onions, salt, and peppercorns
- Boil in medium fire until the meat is tender and the taro and camote melted in water (I boiled it for an hour, and mashed the soft taro corms and camote using my wooden ladle and fork)
- After the camote and taro disintegrated in the water, add the remaining taro and camote for the soup chunks
- After 5-10 minutes, check if the camote is already cooked (poke it with fork if it’s soft enough) then add saba
- When saba is already cooked, add the cabbage and turn off the fire after 2-3 minutes or depending on how well you wanna cook your cabbage.
- Enjoy with rice!
In the lower left of the pic are the remaining chopped taro corms and camote that I left for the chunks. You may add more if you like.
Pochero is one of my comfort foods when I was young and it’s best eaten with rice during cold weathers. We often hear about Philippine food based on what is known in city centers like adobo and lumpia, but our food tradition is way richer than that. We have a lot of food varieties and ingredients. Even in the Bikol region, we have recipe variations too. We also use other spices and ingredients in Bikol that are not often used in other regions in the country like taro corms and pasitis. Also, you may want to try Moro food too. I love their tasty food there! Because of our colonial history, we tend to worship Western food and culture including fastfood, so it’s always important for me to share about my culture through food. It’s just a small reminder how rich our culture and history is.
Tell me about food from your hometown too!
Hi! I’m Gale, a Crocheter, Crafter, Wanderer, and Researcher/ Ethnographer from the Philippines.
Let me share with you my crochet and craft projects, work side-trips, local recipes and food picks, and language and cultural tidbids– basically my struggle to find sparkle of joy in this world.
2 thoughts on “Pochero sans Tomato Sauce (Pork Hock Soup with Taro and Camote)”
Yummmm, can’t wait to try this! 🙂
Yes you should try it instead of always cooking chicken! 😛