Embutido is a steamed-and-fried log-shaped meatloaf that is often served at parties, family gatherings and other special occasions in the Philippines. It is not difficult to make and the ingredients are not expensive nor extraordinary. Why it is considered a "special occasion" dish has probably more to do with its appearance than anything else. Sliced and plated, embutido can be picture pretty on the dinner or buffet table.
Why is embutido steamed when most meatloaves are baked? The oven is not a traditional cooking equipment in the Philippines. Until the last few decades, the oven wasn't even a standard in Filipino kitchens. To this day, I have a lot of readers in my blog who don't own ovens and there are always a lot of questions about whether this or that, especially in the baking section, can be cooked in an oven toaster instead.
Why is the embutido shaped like a log? To mimic the shape of the Spanish embutido which, by definition, is a sausage. In that context, embutido is a local adaptation of a coloniser's traditional food.
The traditional recipe for embutido lists caul fat (also called leaf lard; sinsal, in Filipino) among the essential ingredients. The leaf lard is spread flat, ground pork mixed with chopped vegetables, sweet pickle relish and raisins is placed in the middle, canned Vienna sausages or hotdogs are optionally laid on top, one edge of the leaf lard is folded over the ground pork, the sides are tucked in and the whole thing is rolled into a log.
The wrapping process is very much similar to making spring rolls which the Filipinos have embraced from the Chinese, their long-time trading partners who have been doing business in the country long before Magellan got lost and landed in Central Philippines thinking that he had reached the fabled Spice Islands.
The caul fat-wrapped ground pork is steamed, cooled then fried until the fat wrapper turns brown and lightly crisp. The browned log of meat is then sliced to expose the interior that is specked with bright chopped vegetables and dotted with raisins. You can just imagine how beautiful that is when served.
These days, caul fat is difficult to source. One reason is that hog raisers sell it directly to lard manufacturers as caul fat is considered the highest grade of lard. Another reason is that the fat-is-scary-and-bad generation prefers to trim traditional dishes of what are perceived to be unnecessary fat content.
This recipe dispenses with the caul fat wrapping. The ground pork mixture is stuffed into empty milk cans to get that perfect shape.
- 1/2 kilogram pork (finely ground)
- 1/4 cup carrot (finely chopped)
- 1/4 cup bell pepper (finely chopped)
- 1/4 cup relish (sweet pickle, drained, or 1/4 cup raisins or 1/8 cup sweet pickle relish and 1/8 cup raisins)
- 2 teaspoons salt (rock)
- 1 teaspoon white pepper (ground)
- 3 eggs (lightly beaten)
- Mix together all the ingredients.
- Stuff the mixture into two to three empty milk cans (depends on the size of the cans) packing it tightly.
- Cover the cans with foil. Place in a steamer basket for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool.
- Invert the cans and tap out the embutido. If they do not fall off easily, run a knife around them.
- Wrap each embutido with cling film and chill for several hours, preferably overnight. This is the secret to making those clean slices. Still-warm embutido will crumble when sliced.
- To serve, unwrap the embutido and cut into half-inch slices. Garnish with ketchup or serve the ketchup on the side.