The making of mountain feasts (Part 2)

Sorry this took a while!

This is part 2 of the mountain cooking series first published here—written and co-developed with Hadjie Tecson and Dekz Macapagal. Bear with me because this is going to be a very long discussion. Ha!

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Pre-cooking meat

So you’ve done your meal plan, done the groceries, and you’re ready to pack. Wait, not yet—you really can’t throw that raw sirloin in your bag and expect it to smell good after 6 hours in the bus and 12 hours of walking. Gross.

There’s a ritual called pre-cooking and you have to do it to extend the life of your meats. I’ve seen many friends pre-cook and their methods differ in little ways. Here’s a simple way of doing it:

  • Cut your meat up to serving pieces and wash it thoroughly
  • Put it in a pot with salt and pepper (sometimes vinegar and all the seasonings you want in, including an old sock if it works for you lol) and a bit of water. Fire up the stove, let it boil, and let all the water evaporate
  • Let it cool for a bit, then pack it in a plastic bag
  • Freeze the damn thing
  • Once you take it out of the freezer, wrap it in old newspapers or brown paper bags

See! Easy enough to follow even for a kitchen idiot like me. Now this is as far as it goes, because the only person who can eat what I cook is, well, me. Yay to self-sufficiency!

Packing

Dry foods like rice, pasta, and instant mixes like Quaker oats, Nesvita, and Crab & Corn soups are so easy to load. Food from scratch—a bit trickier.

  • Rice. Don’t let one person carry the 2-kg load, please. When we buy rice, we usually ask the store attendant to split it into 500-gram packs. This is so we can distribute it among the members of the group.
  • Meats. See up.
  • Vegetables. I think it’s important to note that you shouldn’t refrigerate vegetables, because once you do so, they have to stay refrigerated. Mesh bags have always worked for me in terms of keeping the moisture out, but it does leave a weird vegetable-smell in my pack. Bahaha!
  • Eggs. Sometimes, not all of them get to the campsite in one piece. If they break, they also cause one big heck of a mess, so I still put them in a plastic before dumping them to the egg holder or before burying them in rice. That 6-pc egg-holder, I got from Daiso at less than a hundred.

  • Alcohol. I implore you, don’t carry that big ass bottle of empoy. Invest in an aluminum bottle, drink light, and drink happy.

Stoves

There’s a stove for every occasion—and a stove for every mountaineer for that matter. Because my friend Hadjie is a gourmet-type mountaineer (please, forgive the Tokyo Ghoul reference hahaha), he prefers liquid multi-fuel stoves that enable good flame control and the option for simmering. Samples are MSR WhisperLite, XGK, Kovea Booster Dual Max, etc.

Good, high-output stoves, of course, come with a price. They’re big and heavy—and they are also really pricey. Haha! So, some / most of us would rather buy those that run on butane (like our other AMCI friend, Cecile Morella, who’s a fan of Kovea Spider) and top mount stoves like the MSR Pocket Rocket.

Finally, if you really plan on cooking big meals, please drop the alcohol stove and your solid fuel stove. They are only good for boiling water.

We can discuss this all day long (I sat in AMCI’s 6-hour BMC lecture and practicals on stoves last year. This was a lecture on stove operations ALONE. Six hours. Tried all of the damn fire-making machines, while trying not to burn my hair. So far, okay naman, I lived to tell the tale). HAHAHA!

Special thanks to Derek Sta. Ana for the photos. That’s his collection–because he is an adik like that.

Practice Cooking!!!

Okay. This is it. When Hadjie asked what recipes I wanted to share here, he just had to qualify: may sabaw, sauce, or dry? Dry is easy because frying should be easy. Right? Right? Haha. So he gave sabaw and sauce recipes to practice on:

Tinolang Manok

Ingredients

  • Chicken (without bones, pre-cooked)
  • Sayote/Papaya
  • Dahon ng sili
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Salt/patis
  • Pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Sauté ginger, garlic and onion
  2. Add sayote/papaya and water, bring to boil.
  3. Add pre-cooked chicken, continue simmering for at least 2-3 minutes, until sayote/papaya is tender.
  4. Add dahon ng sili, salt, pepper, to taste. You can use chicken cubes if you want.
  5. Remove from heat. And serve hot.

Kalderetang Baka

Ingredients:

  • Beef (Kalitiran)
  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Bell Pepper
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Liver Spread
  • Coconut Milk
  • Tomato Onion Garlic
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Sauté garlic, onion, tomato
  2. add pre-cooked beef, potato, and carrots.
  3. Add tomato sauce, and pour in water, bring to boil.
  4. Add liver spread and continue simmering until vegetables are tender and the sauce is reduced and thicker.
  5. Add bell pepper, coconut milk, salt, and pepper, simmer for another 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and serve hot!

Ready na? Whoooo p*t**na that was mahaba! Good luck mountain gourmets! And send me photos of your mountain feasts, please!

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The making of mountain feasts (Part 1)

This is a two-part piece on the super basics of mountain cooking and meal planning, written and co-developed with two of AMCI Mountaineering Club’s masters of supreme outdoor cookery: Dexter Macapagal and Hadjie Tecson. I shit you not—if you climb with them, you’re walking down a bit heavier.

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I was once a firm believer that you will survive a night up in the mountains for as long as you know how to boil water and shove a pack of instant noodles in a pot. And that, if it all came down to survival, there’s always an easy-open can of Century Tuna (and under the worst circumstances, a sachet of adobo-flavored Ulalammm and carinderia-bought rice).

Dekz and his sisig + booze. Hah!

It was only in June last year during the BMC season that I was able to taste tinola cooked from scratch—up on our Naguiling campsite, thanks to a batchmate. Lo and behold, a shocking revelation: you can eat well on high altitudes. Haha!

Here are some basic notes.

  • In the mountains, food is fuel. You’ll need to survive the next 90-degree vertical or the impending 1,000-meter ascent. If you’re not loaded, you’re not going far.
  • Meal planning. It’s that fun and tedious process of writing down and prepping up for what you will eat overnight or in the next couple of days. If you want to know how simple it is, let me summarize it: 1. count how many days you’d be up climbing, 2. count how many meals you will eat for that whole duration, 3. decide what to cook, 4. list down and buy the ingredients, 5. start packing, baby!

Ah, well, yeah easier said than done.

  • It’s actually dependent on a few factors:

Spoilage rate of the food. The quick guide is chicken before pork before beef—it translates to tinola, before sinigang na baboy, before kaldereta.

I kid you not. We make room for nice things when we climb. ❤ Photo by Rio Hernandez

Availability of water. It’s a wise decision not to cook too much soup when the water source is hours away and you would have to lug 4 liters of water on your way up.

Cooking and preparation time. Consider this—you are tired and you just want to crash right after you get to the campsite. Make the food prep as painless as possible and the eating quick. Haha!

Weight and bulk. I don’t like carrying a lot of canned things. They are heavy, they pack big (I’m small and I carry a 34+10L backpack, gets?) 😀

Preferences and restrictions of group members. Allergies, vegans, vegetarians, catholic friends on a no-meat Lenten sacrifice. Ask the members of the group what they prefer before meal planning. You don’t want a hangry person on a climb.

  • Allocating rice. There’s a simple and a complicated way to do it. Haha! The simple way is via guesswork: just to pack x kilos of rice, cook it up the mountains, and bring down what’s left. NOPE. Don’t do that. Hahaha! Here’s a better formula:

A = [(N/6) x M) x 0.5] + X

N = number of persons

M = number of meals with rice

A = amount of rice

X = margin of extra rice (1/4 or 1/2 kilograms depending on the group’s appetite)

Compute: 9 persons going on an overnight camp, three meals (dinner, breakfast, packed lunch on trail)

A = [(9/6) x 3) x 0.5] + 0

A = [(1.5) x 3) x 0.5] + 0

A = [4.5 x 0.5] + 0

A = [2.25] + 0

A=2.25 kilos of rice to be brought for the climb

Or .75 kilos to be cooked per group meal

Now you ask, can we not just make an estimate? Sure you can, but computing so that you have just enough will reduce the amount of excesses you’ll have to bring down.

  • Let’s try dat shit

So, how do we execute a meal plan? Let’s assume you’re going for an overnight hike at Mt. Tapulao. You are 6 in the group, and you will cook three meals: dinner (day 1), breakfast (day 2), lunch (day 2, which you’ll have to cook in the morning and eat on trail). Nobody has food restrictions. There is a water source near the Bunkhouse (alt. campsite).

Day 1 (Dinner) Day 2 (Breakfast) Day 2 (Lunch)
Rice Rice Rice
Tinolang manok Corned beef Bistek tagalog
Coffee Scrambled eggs
Vodkaaaaa ❤ Coffee
The Shopping List
Staples For the foodangs  
Camp Tissue Chicken breasts 1/2 kilo, cut to serving pieces and pre-cooked
Rollo Sayote 2 medium pieces
Cooking oil Garlic 2 cloves
Butane Onions 2 (for tinola and bistek)
Trash bags (for group trash) Pepper leaves 1/2 cup
Patis / fish sauce 1-2 tablespoons
Chicken cubes 1
Corned beef 2 cans
Eggs 6
Beef 1/2 kilo sliced thin
Rice 2 kilos, packaged in three at .67 kilos per pack
Coffee 10 sachets
All the damn seasonings (toyo, suka, salt, pepper, allspice, cumin seed powder lalalalala) (don’t buy, steal from your mother’s kitchen)
Juice 5 sachets (depending on how long the inuman is going to be)
Smirnoff Orange / Absolut Kurant 750 ml bottles x 2 (or more)

Now that’s super basic. I’ve seen friends cook prawns with gata and kare-kare. They are mountain cooking gods.

Part 2 is coming up in a few days. 😀

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