I’ll tell you up front. I’ve never been to the Philippines. I’m not an expert on “authentic” regional cuisine of the Philippines, if there is such a thing. But I love trying the flavors of faraway places, especially when they are perfect for adding to plant-based dishes. So, when I saw recipe in Bon Appetit for a funky condiment called Palapa, I just had to try it. They were putting it on grilled shrimp, but it looked like the perfect topper for jazzing up rice, veggies, tofu, or anything that needs a burst of flavor and texture.
Condiments are Meal Prep
This toasty, spicy condiment is the perfect thing to prep and keep on hand. Once you have a tub of it in the refrigerator a plain bowl of rice or a quick vegetable saute can be transformed into an exotic Filipino treat. There’s more to the condiment than Ketchup and Sriracha.
Palapa is an Umami Bomb
Looking at the recipe, the palapa is made up of shredded coconut, some chiles and scallions and ginger and garlic, and ground dried shiitake mushrooms.The thing that jumped out at me was the ground mushrooms. They are key to adding umami to plant-based foods, and you don’t often see them in recipes. So, I made my own version of Palapa, with a few tweaks.
Because umami is the secret to making plant-based foods more satisfying and “meaty,” I wanted to amp it up. So, I added a little more dried mushroom. I also used dried chiles instead of fresh, because dried have more umami. If you really wanted to give it more fermented flavors, you could use tamari or coconut aminos instead of salt. I didn’t want to veer that far from the original, so I used salt. Maldon’s, to be exact, because good salt makes a difference, in something like this.
You can customize your Palapa
I used fewer chiles than the recipe in BA, and I liked the amount of chile in this recipe, but if you are not a spicy food fan, you can scale it back. Here in Minnesota I often cook for people who really can’t take heat, and I just dial it down to a hint of warmth. I also went a little lighter on the oil in mine. The Palapa in the photo in BA was quite moist and glossy, and I didn’t want it to be too oily. Theirs was also moister because they used fresh coconut and fresh chiles, which both have more juice than dried. I like the fluffy texture of this version.
Once you have a bowl of toasty Palapa, you’ll be set to make easy meals. Roasted sweet potatoes, perfect with Palapa. Popcorn? Heck yes. A bowl of noodles and tofu? Yes please!
Give it a try on your summer market haul, and you’ll eat and enjoy more veggies.
- 4 dried red Chiles
- 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 cups dried shredded coconut
- 2-4 tablespoons canola or avocado oil
- 4 large scallions chopped
- 8 large garlic cloves minced
- 2 inches fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
- 2 tablespoons raw sugar
- 1 te coarse salt
- In a spice mill or coffee grinder, grind the chilis and transfer to a small bowl. Grind the mushrooms to a powder, and transfer to another small bowl.
- In the oven at 300 F, toast the coconut for about 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Alternatively, place in a large saute pan and swirl over medium heat until toasted. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- In a large saute pan, pour half of the oil and place over medium high heat. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and as soon as it starts to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium low. Saute for about 5 minutes. When fragrant, add the chiles, mushroom powder, coconut and lime zest. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes, until all is fragrant and toasted.
- Stir in the sugar and salt and stir for another few minutes. Transfer to a bowl or glass storage tub and let cool. Cover tightly. Keeps for up to 2 months.