Catching up with my pal Jacqui of Urban Ma and her hubby, Wes, at Pho Fever was long overdue.
So later that night, from our respective pads, we FB messaged back and forth, setting up a mid-week lunch for a few days later.
On the morning concerned, I message her: “Lunch? Or Not?”
She replies: “Heya!! It’s my dad’s birthday today and now he doesn’t want to go out for dinner. I’m going to have to shop at the market today for some dinner!”
What unfolds is a most fabulous day and night.
Long-time readers will know that quite some time ago now I had a number of awkward encounters with Pinoy eateries. All along, various folks – including Jacqui, in our initial email conversation – told me home cooking was the only way to appreciate food from the Philippines.
And here I am, through sheer serendipity, about to be granted entre to a most special birthday celebration of the Pinoy home-cooking variety.
But the food and its preparation, good and enjoyable as they are, are just a part of what is about to unfold – even more moving is being welcomed into the homes and hearts of extended Medilo clan with wide open arms.
Arriving at Jacqui’s Cairnlea home, I quickly make the acquaintance of her cousins, JV and Arielle.
I meet, too, the birthday boy, Eduardo, who turns out to be excatly the same age as me – 37. Haha …
Then it’s off to Alfrieda Street with my fellow blogger, cousins and baby Daniel for the big shop.
We’re figuring to do quite a lot of what we need to do at Big Sam’s Market, but end up getting the job done on Alfrieda itself, at traders within a few hundred metres of each other, with a side trip to a Pinoy grocery a block or so further away.
Among the many, many items we pick up are …
… banana leaves …
… pork belly …
… and fruit.
Lunch? Banh mi, of course – BBQ chicken, BBQ pork, meatballs and tofu spread among the four of us.
Before heading home, we hit the St Albans IGA for more prosaic items such as tomatoes and onions. Daniel gives his fanging approval to the toms.
I’m impressed with this supermarket. It’s a lot bigger than our Yarraville IGA and has a really pronounced European/Continental vibe. Well worth checking out!
Then it’s home for us and a happy afternoon of prep.
But not before the shopping booty is duly recorded by all and sundry – as is the way of the world these days …
The marinade is prepared for the pork belly.
The milkfish is cleaned by JV then stuffed with tomato, onion and tamarind leaves.
Arielle and I thread on soaked skewers the BBQ pork that Jacqui’s husband, Wes, set to marinate earlier in the week.
The mussels are steamed with ginger and more …
Daniel, meanwhile, grabs some time out for a spell with his favourite movie.
As we’d been shopping, I was happy that after quite a few encounters now, Jacqui’s gorgeous boy finally cracked a smile for me – and even held my hand in one of the shops as he went looking for his mum.
Then, in two cars, we ferry the food and ourselves the few blocks to the home Jacqui’s parents, finding on arrival Eduardo already firing one of two BBQs that will be used.
JV gets the cooking underway, starting with the pork belly. Things are starting to smell very interesting!
More of the clan seem to arrive with every passing minute – including Wes …
… and Jacqui’s mum, Marissa, who is preparing a typically Chinese-inspired Pinoy noodle dish.
Out back in BBQ territory, it’s the turn of the pork skewers and milkfish, which have been wrapped in banana leaves.
The rest of the leaves are to be used as a giant serving plate-cum-tablecoth for the entire spread, but not before Jacqui has wiped them clean of grit and dust.
The calamari get the BBQ treatment, too, and are then sliced by Jacqui.
More people are arriving … they eventually include, all up (and I’m hoping I’ve got everyone covered …) aunty Ann and cousins Johan, Andre and Jed; and brother Jonathan and wife Katrina.
The last to arrive for the party after her work is gig is sister Jospehine, who is very chuffed about her new doughnut socks.
It’s almost time!
Arielle, Marissa and others get to laying out the food on the banana leaves.
Special touches include this dipping sauce for the meats made from vinegar, garlic and chilli.
More photos …
… and then it’s on!
No cutlery here, folks!
Much eating is done and laughter laughed, eventually giving way to happy sighs.
Thus ensues several hours of happy socialising and conversation.
Though in one more way of the modern world, the younger cousins soon find something more worthy of their time and furrowed brows.
Josephine has joined the gang to help encourage Daniel to puff out the birthday candle sitting atop aunty Ann’s cupcakes. He gets there eventually!
Daniel, by the way, is a Bonds Baby!
Oh my – sincere thanks to the Greater Medilo Clan for allowing me to share their special day.
I’ll never forget it.