Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Post-prandial reflections from a plate of snipes

THE PLATE held five or six snipes, halved and oozing with a melange of grease and burnt soya-colored gravy.

In Tagalog-speaking areas, we call these birds as kanduro. Enterprising farm-based traders (mostly from Bulacan and Pampanga) net ‘em by sackfuls, peddle a dozen-per-string of snipes in plush neighborhoods in the metropolis. Steep price to pay for a lean gaggle of birds that takes hours to dress, marinate, and cook.

It was a late breakfast treat from the Upsilonian brod and Shell training farm manager. He wanted my taste buds to bring home a fond memory of a local Bicol delicacy, concocted by a carinderia off the Legazpi airport.

So I dug in, divining the marinade’s ingredients with the first few morsels chewed -- dark soy sauce, kalamansi, sugar, Seven-Up or Sprite, and garlic. No hint of gaminess with the flavor a quaint closer to a combo of quails and bacon’s than free-range chicken’s.

The Upsilonian insisted that I finish the job. Instead, I let out a bellyful of complaints. (Hah, one becomes what he eats—I took snipes, I’ll let out a few snipes.) The Seven-Up component in the marinade made the stringy all-dark meat tender and infused a whit of sweetness, I began, but why slather the ensemble with cooking oil? That was disastrous, mwa-ha-ha-haw!

A better culinary option: steep dressed snipes in soda water with a wee drizzle of Seven-Up, fresh basil, light soy sauce, and orange pulp; turbo-broil, roast or steam ‘em fully-marinated snipes; next, do the sauce separately, i.e., add some chopped mushrooms and chives to the marinade -- a three-minute rumble in a sauce pan would do. Pour sauce over broiled or steamed snipes, serve with a few stalks of leeks or fresh coriander. The side veggies are for color contrast, for a Viagra after-effect on the partaker, mwa-ha-ha-haw!

We have to highlight snipes’ delicate flavor; we don’t want it smothered in too-strong sauces. (Uh-oh, I had a brief stint as assistant cook in a carinderia but that won’t be included in my resume. I’m known better as a kook dishing mischief than a cook aspiring to be a chef.)

It ain’t the cost of the delicacy that matters to the pockets -- it’s the values added to the ingredients that picky eaters go for. Why, business ought to be value-competitive rather than cost-competitive to ensure profitability, so I argued.

The stream of arguments, even the foray into cost- and value-competition had no effect. The Upsilonian obliged me to finish ‘em snipes. I did.


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