By Charity Fernandez*
“Nay gusto ko magsud-an sang utan na puti iya sabaw”, a young Ilonggo girl remarked. As April Rose, who is now nineteen years old and lives in La Paz, Iloilo City reminisced her childhood days, she used to say those words when referring to one of her most favorite dishes. Therefore, in deciphering the dish she was asking for, I have come to think about a dish with gata or coconut milk. It actually best fits the description. The dish that young April had craved for was utan nga tambo.
Tambo is the Ilonggo term for bamboo shoots while labong is the tagalog term. Sometimes the term tambo refers to the dish itself because tambo is the signature ingredient of this classic Ilonggo sud-an or viand. However, for a more detailed description, the dish is oftentimes called utan nga tambo in order to emphasize that what is wanted is tambo with vegetables rather than referring to other dishes such as Atchara nga Tambo or Tambo with Bagongon-telescope shells.
These fresh bamboo shoots come from the farms and mountains of Iloilo. Right after summer, at the end of May, new bamboo shoots sprout from the main bamboo plant especially when the rainy season starts to unfold. This is what rural folks refer to as “tigtarambo or season for bamboo shoots. Thus, tambo can be bought cheapest during this season. Therefore, you could find it in public markets in Iloilo, for only ten pesos per kilo.
However, whenever tambo is already out of season-starting from the months of August and September-its price from ten pesos per kilo doubles.
Utan nga tambo can be cooked in different ways and with varying ingredients. I discovered through my interviews that the choice on whether what ingredients to be used depends on one’s preferences and social status. For instance, the simplest tambo recipe only has the following ingredients: tambo, coconut milk, okra or tugabang (saluyot leaves) and bagoong. Moreover, the regular tambo recipe includes shrimps and does not include bagoong. Finally, the ultimate tambo recipe would consist of tambo, coconut milk, crabs or even alimango, okra and tugabang (saluyot leaves) or takway.
Furthermore, unlike KBL (kadios-baboy-langka), utan nga tambo is not served during fiestas or other special occasions. This is because the production of tambo is seasonal. And perhaps, Ilonggos just do not see it as something they usually serve in fiestas-something that is more appropriate for ordinary days.
Hence, these variations of recipes of utan nga tambo, which somehow depends on social status and ones’ preferences, only prove the versatility and resourcefulness of Ilonggos to adapt to different life situations.
To be able to cook tambo, you will need the following:
• Tambo or bamboo shoots
• 1 coconut to produce the pure and the diluted Coconut Milk or “gata”
• onions (sibuyas)
-bagoong- for the simplest recipe
-shrimps or pasayan – for the regular recipe
– 3 crabs or alimango- for the ultimate recipe
-tugabang (saluyot leaves) – for the simplest recipe
-okra or takway- for the regular and for the ultimate recipe (or it could be a combination of the three)
• corn-for the ultimate recipe
How to cook:
1.) Blanch tambo, then when done, squeeze until dry; or you could squeeze it with salt.
2.) Cook tambo with diluted coconut milk.
*you can add your “subak”, however, if you’re going to use shrimps add it five minutes before the dish will be finally cooked
3.) Add seasoning. Add onions.
4.) Add the leaves.
5.) Then, when the dish is finally cooked, add the pure coconut milk.
The dish is now ready to be served.
*Charity Fernandez did this feature last year.She’s now a junior at UPV Miagao.