The Muslim Filipino Pastil/Patil and the Japanese Sushi
By Apolinario Villalobos
The pastil/patil is a one-dish meal wrapped in banana leaf. It is topped with shredded chicken cooked in soy sauce and plenty of vegetable oil. A variation is the use of fresh water fish such as dalag (mud fish) and tilapia as topping. It is a popular meal ni southern Mindanao, particulary, Cotabato provinces, Zamboanga and Jolo. Today, however, the indication of the presence of a Muslim community in any place around the Philippines are the stacks of this banana leaf- wrapped meal in a store. High grade white rice is used in this dish and the shredded chicken is cooked for hours. What is nice about this dish is the cheap price per wrap at Phpq10 which has not been “updated” for more than 10 years, making it the popular poor Mindanaoan’s meal.
Similar in appearance is the Japanese sushi, although, much smaller in size and requires an intricate preparation. The price of each sushi depends on the variety – the kind of food wrapped and put on top of the rolled Japanese rice. Unlike the pastil/patil, only the rich Filipinos can afford the Japanese sushi, for the cost of the cheapest piece is equivalent to the price of one kilo high grade rice.
If you have ventured into a Muslim community, you may notice a delicacy neatly wrapped in a banana leaf. It is called “pastil”, a special kind of rice with a spoonful of viand on top– either fish or chicken. While the fish takes a shorter time to cook, the shredded chicken takes more, for as long as two to three hours to ensure its softness. The fish is flavored with “palapa”, a hot chili and shallot- based condiment, while the chicken is cooked in its own oil enhanced with a small amount of coconut or vegetable oil, toasted garlic, and with shallot and hot chili as optional ingredients.
In Manila, the place to go for this one-dish meal is the Islamic Center in Quiapo. While it can be partaken as is, some prefer to have other dish to go with it. At the Islamic Center’s halal carinderias and sidewalk eateries, the choices for other main dishes are chunks of young jackfruit cooked in coconut milk, red beans in coconut milk, broiled tuna, mudfish or tilapia, boiled eggs, stir-fried vegetables in herbs, and chicken cooked in thick coconut milk.
For dessert, one can have the Muslim version of “fruit salad” which is a soupy combination of gelatin and fruits in season flavored with milk and sweetened with brown sugar. It is different from the “dry” version of fruit salad which is topped with ice cream and shaved ice.
Variably, “pastil” is also called “patil” in other parts of Muslim Mindanao, and the preparation varies according to the added spice or condiment. The price however, does not vary, as the price is fixed at ten pesos per wrap.