Kulawo - Laguna's Best Kept Secret

During the summers when I was a teen, I would spend it with my aunt in the province. She learned to cook "Kulawo" which happens to be an known secret appetizer. I refer this as secret because it was the first time my aunt heard of it then and her family was raised and lived there like forever. When we tried it, it became a great hit with us and our friends. Now that my aunt has aged and has forgotten how to make this. Good thing she kept a recipe and I tried to make this with banana hearts (puso ng saging). In just two 1/2 days, it was consumed at home since it was served with almost everything.

1 kilo banana heart, shredded
2 cups grated coconut meat
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
live coal

Place the banana heart in a bowl and add salt (about 3-4 tbsps.). Let it stand for a few minutes. Squeeze out the liquid to remove the bitter taste of the banana heart. Wash the banana heart and squeeze excess water. Set aside.
In a metal pan (or any container that can withstand the live coal) place the grated coconut meat. Make a well then place the live coal in the center. Burn the coconut meat until it becomes brownish and smells slightly burnt. Remove the coal and let the burnt coconut meat cool down. Pour the vinegar into the coconut meat and squeeze the milk from the coconut milk. Strain the coconut milk to make sure that the charcoal ashes does not mix into the milk.
In a pot, place the milk, black pepper, onions and heat in medium heat without letting this boil. The milk will curdle into clumps if you allow the milk to boil. Let it simmer for 4-5 minutes to cook the vinegar then add the banana heart and season with salt. Let it cook for another 8-10 minutes or until the banana heart is soft and cooked.
Note: The banana heart may be substituted with eggplants. To prepare the eggplants, grill it then peel off the skin. Slice into lengthwise and cook the same way with the banana hearts.


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