Sundays were very special in our family when I was growing up in our small island called Marinduque in the Philippines. Not only because that’s the day that we all dress up and attend church but also because we know that Mom would have something special for us for lunch. It was always a much anticipated meal.
And though oftentimes, the weather in the Philippines is hot, still we would have something hot for lunch – like Bulalo (Beef Marrow Soup) or Sinigang (Pork Sour Soup). We don’t mind it at all. We found it quite refreshing to have a steaming hot bowl of either of this soup. We look forward to Sundays because of this.
However, on certain occasions instead of the usual soup my Mom would make a stew instead. And as far as I can remember this is the stew she would make especially on a Sunday – Pochero – a tomato based stew that uses either beef, pork, chicken or a combo of all three plus a variety of vegetables. What makes it unique from the usual tomato sauce based stews is that it has Burro Bananas (Saba) or sometimes called Sweet Plantain as part of its main ingredients. It’s simply not Pochero without it – it will just be a regular stew but not Pochero. And this is what truly sets Pochero apart. I just made this for my family the other day and they all loved it especially my husband who had an extra serving because he truly enjoyed it. I know it seems weird to add bananas to a stew but these Burros are hardy cooking bananas and I tell you they are what makes Pochero extra special. Try this for your Sunday lunch or dinner and am sure you’ll love this!
Here’s a photo of what a Saba Banana looks like.
Photo is from Eating Club Vancouver.
2-3 Tablespoons Cooking Oil
2 medium Plum Tomatoes, diced
1 medium Onion, diced
4 Garlic cloves, minced
2.2 lbs or 1 kilo Country-style Boneless ribs or pork belly,* cut into 1-1/2 cubes
2 Tablespoons Patis (Fish Sauce) – may add another tablespoon if using water instead of Broth
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 can Beef or Vegetable Broth (or water)
2 Medium Red Potatoes, quartered and then halved
1 Large Carrot, chopped (similar size to potatoes)*
3/4 cup Del Monte Ketchup (or regular Ketchup or 1 small can Tomato sauce)
3-4 Ripe Saba or Burro Bananas, sliced
1 bunch of Bok Choy (Baby or regular)
Salt, to taste
Brown Sugar, to taste
*Beef or even Chicken or a combo of any two or all three may be used instead.
*You can replace the Carrots with some Green Beans and/or Garbanzo Beans – which are the usual ingredients for Pochero.
Heat the oil in a deep pot like a Dutch Oven. I used my Le Creuset.
Sauté the diced onion for a minute and then add the garlic. Add the pork cubes and coat it with the oil and the aromatics. Stir in the tomatoes and continue to cook until the pork cubes have turned light brown.
Pour in the Fish Sauce (Patis) and sprinkle the ground black pepper. Stir. Let it simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
Add the broth or water and bring to a boil. Simmer covered until pork is tender (about 30 to 40 minutes).
When the pork cubes are tender, add the potatoes and carrots. Pour in the Ketchup or Tomato Sauce. Stir. Simmer again for about 5-6 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are slightly tender. At this time check the flavors and adjust the seasoning to your taste by adding either salt or sugar or more fish sauce. If it’s a little sour (esp if using regular ketchup or tomato sauce) add some brown sugar to achieve a balanced flavor.
Add the sliced Burro Bananas and continue to cook until it’s tender. Add the Bok Choy leaves, turn off the heat and cover. Let it stand for about 5 minutes. The remaining heat will cook the Bok Choy.
Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy with rice! Yum! Some Filipinos eat this with a little fish sauce on the side mixed with a few drops of freshly squeezed Lime juice. Delish!
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