Personal Story: Ulam And Rice Makes Everything Nice

To this day, I still can’t forget the time when one of my high school classmates paired his tupperware of rice with the Jack Link’s Beef Jerky he bought from our music department’s snack shop. I thought, “Wow, he’s really trying to make his own tapsilog. That’s hella Filipino!”

We Filipinos eat rice with everything, I mean EVERYTHING! We’d eat it with Popeyes Chicken, homemade spaghetti meat sauce, and even steak. I recall the old Sizzler on Gellert Drive in Daly City (now replaced by In-N-Out) had a rice cooker by the salad bar. Daly City? Rice cooker? You knew that was the ultimate indicator that Filipinos resided in the area and dined there. My family and I would dine at Sizzler during special occasions like Mother’s Day or birthdays, but never scooped steamed rice to have with the Sizzler steaks. Although when my dad cooks steak at home, we’d definitely eat it with rice. Call it a “rice faux pas” if you will, but some other weird rice pairings I’ve partaken in include Wingstop‘s garlic parmesan wings, Gorilla BBQ beef brisket, Boston Market meatloaf, you name it I’ve probably had it.

When my husband and I were still dating, we went out for dim sum and I requested a small cup of rice. Mind you, I’ve been doing this for ages. “Why are you eating rice with dim sum?” he asked. I was like, “Why? You’re Asian. Don’t you eat rice with dim sum?”. “Nope. That’s weird,” he replied. I shrugged it off like it was nothing. The next time we went out for dim sum was a month later with his parents. Once again, I requested a cup of rice. My husband’s parents spoke some words to him in Cantonese and I assumed it may have been due to my odd request. He later told me his parents were dumbfounded by the fact that I eat rice with dim sum. It isn’t such a bad thing at all but it’s just not Chinese custom to do so. Well I’m Filipino, and it’s our custom to eat rice with everything!

With all the talk about there’s arsen in rice or rice gives you diabetes, I’ve somewhat been trying to change my diet to eat rice sparingly and when I do eat it, opt for an alternative like brown rice. I’ve been educating my parents on food choices as well and have been encouraging them to cut down on rice. You know, they’ve been eating it since the Ferdinand Magellan times so to tell them to stop eating rice is like saying, stop breathing. My mom’s words almost everyday is, “Parang nanghihina ako kung walang kanen“, meaning, I feel weak when I don’t have rice. Do you guys agree? As for me, I don’t feel weak at all when I go a good week or two without rice. I just start craving it.

It’s such a clear reminder that rice is not only our culture’s staple, it is our lifeline. That without rice, we’d probably, I don’t know, DIE? Lol! No really, on a serious note, we either won’t feel good or would feel completely dissatisfied with our meal. When I eat rice three times a day and on consecutive days, my palate starts to get bored and it’s time to give it a break. One thing that’s for sure is it will always be a part of my diet. There are endless possibilities on what to eat with rice, as you can see. Pretty much ulam (food item) + rice = sarap (delicious)! Whatever you decide to eat with it, remember portion control and of course, just enjoy the food 🙂

-Mestelle

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