Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Upo & Spinach wiith Ground Pork

I don't know the Tagalog name for this dish, it has a very Chinese taste and feel, again like most of my posts on Filipino food, this was taught to me by my friend Shantall's mother (Herminia) whom I really appreciate and is always makes me feel like family :)

Anyways I really liked this dish, it can be served as a vegetable side, because even though it has pork the pork is not used as the "main" thing in this dish, this dish only uses a little bit of ground pork for texture and taste.

In case you don't know what "Upo" is , it is a type of squash, tastes a little like Zuchini but is more meaty, and has a very light taste, in Filipino stores it is labeled "Upo" I've seen it labeled as "Opo" at Chinese stores. If you cannot find this type of squash I am sure Zuchini (Italian Squash) would be an acceptable substitute, though it wouldn't be "identical" you will still get a really good tasting result :) I found this information on the internet about the squash:


The first time I encountered this was at the Chinese store I went to (99 Ranch Market which is a chain of Asian stores here), it looked cool, I had no idea how to prepare it, so I walked up to a random lady buying it and ask her how can I cook it, I know it had soy sauce and sugar a long with garlic but don't remember what else I don't recall what she told me but I remember making it when I got home (this was several years ago) anyways back to the present preparing it how "Hermina" taught me this is by far one of my favorite vegetable sides. The ingredients used here are relatively easy to obtain here in the USA and in most places I assume.

-1/2 lb. ground pork
-salt (not a lot about 1/2 tsp. because you will use other salty stuff in this)
-small pinch monosodium glutamine (msg, this is optional)
-ground black pepper to taste (a couple sprinkles is what I used)
-1 onion cut into medium sized flat squares (like chopped but bigger than usual)
-1/2 a head of garlic finely minced (about 5-6 cloves)
-1 opo squash peeled and cubed
-1 cup chicken broth or stock (canned, homemade, whatever you can even mix small tsp. bouillon with 1 water to make it, or just skip it and substitute it for water but you'll need more salt if you do)
-1 tablespoon soy sauce (or less to taste)
-1 bunch of spinach, washed, cleaned, and coarsely chopped


(1)Heat a wok, skillet or frying pan on high heat with no oil, add ground pork and about 1 cup water (enough water to cover ground pork slightly) season with salt, pepper, and msg, stir bring to a boil and cover, uncovering and stiring occasionally.

(2)When water evaporates and onions and garlic, sautee together until fragrant (the pork meat should have released some fat so you don't need to add oil, if your ground pork didn't have enough fat then add a little bit of oil but not a lot very little like a drizzle)

(3)Now add cubed opo squash, mix together, add chicken broth stir (this helps deglaze if you have any drippings/ browning in your pan from cooking the meat), add soy sauce, bring to boil cover and leave on high heat for about 5-7 minutes do not over cook squash unless you like it over cooked.

(4)Not fold in spinach, at first it will seem like a lot but it will wilt, keep folding in incorporating it well until it wilts, then turn of heat and it's ready to eat.

-This dish is not a "dry" dish, it has some liquid not a bunch but it's normal for it to have some juices, it doesn't need to be thickened with corn starch or anything like that. Herminia (the one that I learned this dish from) actually makes it more soupier she adds 2 cups of stock as opposed to 1, but she told me she did it because she just wanted to finish the can of chicken broth she used, so I went with 1 cup.