Maynard Villaflores is a photographer, traveler, content-creator, and home cook based in Portland, Oregon. We talked about the flavors that bring you right back home, especially as the weather gets colder. There’s a warming power to tradition, even as we carry it to new places, share it around new tables, and shape it with our own favorite flavors and influences.
What is your food heritage?
Filipino dishes draw inspiration from many cultures coming from Asia and Western influences. Our food is very specific, comforting, like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. We always eat our dishes with rice or special sauces to give it extra flavor. It’s also a tradition to eat with your hands, called Kamayan. It’s the best way to enjoy a meal as a family.
Why is this dish special to you? What’s the story behind it?
When the colder months hit the Philippines, I immediately think of my dad’s version of bulalo. This dish made out of beef shanks with bone marrow, bok choy, corn on the cob, carrots, potatoes, and saba banana truly satisfies my cravings and immediately takes me home. Bulalo is native to Batangas which is in the Southern Luzon region of the Philippines. This dish is the perfect comfort food and reminds me of being back home in the Philippines.
Do you have a favorite memory of around bulalo?
Growing up, Sundays have always been a family day for us and we celebrate by making meals and eating dinner together. I remember my parents preparing bulalo and seeing how much love they put into the process of cooking from start to finish. The dish itself is easy but it’s how it’s made that’s special. Remembering our conversations, time spent together, and enjoying food together is what makes cooking and learning fun. I am very excited to learn how to make this dish from my parents and be a part of something that would become a family tradition someday.
Did you put your own spin on the recipe? If so, what was it?
My Dad’s bulalo recipe originated from Bulacan, a town in the middle region of the Philippines where my lolo (grandpa) grew up. Interestingly, the Philippines consists of many islands (7,641 in fact) and each region puts their own spin on this amazing dish and you can really get creative on how you want to cook it. My dad likes to add a little lemongrass to emphasize on the broth flavor. My personal favorite is the saba banana, which mixes the sweetness and the saltiness of the broth.
What is your personal mission? Or what do you want your impact on the world to be?
I want to continue sharing my work and story to inspire other Filipinx creators to continue following their dreams. Providing amazing opportunities to BIPOC and AAPI creators, photographers, models, and actors in mainstream media is my ongoing mission as I grow in this industry.
What makes a Place Ours?
Our home, my family, and the love and tradition that surrounds me is our place. Our place is where I feel safe, being with the people I feel accepted [by] and living the Filipino culture that I’ve known my whole life. The traditions and stories continue no matter where we are.
YOU NEED4-5 lbs. beef shank with bone marrow
3 yellow onions
1 tbsp. whole pepper corn
5 star anise
5 spring onion stalks
1 beef bouillon cube
4 sweet corn
4 tbsp. fish sauce
5 bok choy
1/2 napa cabbage - whole leaf detached
4 yellow potatoes
3 banana (saba)
1 lemongrass stalk
6 hot chili pepper
4 tbsp. fish sauce
2 calamansi or a slice of lemon/lime
1. Place the beef shank with bone marrow inside your Perfect Pot. Pour in enough water to cover the beef and put to boil.
2. After boiling for 5 to 10 minutes, drain the water to remove excess fat and sediments from the beef.
3. Pour a new batch of water, enough to cover the beef shank. In a mesh tea ball strainer, create a spice bag and add whole pepper corn, star anise, lemongrass, and onion and bring to boil.
4. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the temperature and simmer for 3 hours or until the meats are 80% tender.
5. Remove excess fats floating on top.
6. Add carrots, radish, potatoes, sweet corn, banana, and beef bouillon cube.
7. If there is not enough soup, add more water and fish sauce according to taste preference.
8. Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes until the meat is 100% tender alongside the corn, radish potato, carrots, and banana.
9. Add bok choy, whole leaf napa cabbage and spring onion. Cover the Always Pot and bring to boil for 5 minutes.
10. A dipping sauce is always perfect to pair with bulalo and steamed rice! In a small dish, add fish sauce, whole red chili peppers (sili) and calamansi or lime/lemon. Enjoy!