Humba is a Bisayá recipe (Bisayá refers to the people residing in the Visayan Islands as well as on most parts of Mindanao, in the Philippines) and is a common dish found on most tables during special occasions in a Bisayan household and during town fiestas in the southern parts of the Philippines. Ask any Bisayá for his top favorite food and, most often than not, humba will be one of the things he will mention. In fact, this is my favorite Filipino dish and will recommend this dish to anyone who wishes to have a taste of authentic Bisayá comfort food.
Just like adobo, humba was made due to the need for the meat to last longer. Humba lasts for several days without spoiling due to the vinegar present and especially if it is immersed in oil. Surprisingly enough, it even tastes better the longer it’s stored. There are some versions why this dish is called such, some would say that it is from the phrase “HUmot nga BAboy” with the first two letters of the first and the last words joined together. Humot is a word in the Bisayan dialect which could be roughly translated to mean “sweet smelling”, “fragrant”, or “with delicious smell”. Baboy, on the other hand, is Filipino for pork or for a pig (it could be interchangeable depending on the usage). Some argue that it really means “HUmok nga BAboy”, since the meat, due to the way it is cooked, becomes very soft and tender. Humok means “soft” or “tender”.
If you want to try some humba eat it with some hard-boiled egg. I assure you that it is a very tasty combination; the richness, luxurious flavors of the humba mixes very well with the mellow yumminess of the egg.
There are several variations of this dish present out there, but I will provide you with the most common recipe being followed by the Bisayá. This may take some time in cooking for it is best to properly tenderize the meat in slow fire for better flavor.
3/4 tablespoon ground black pepper
25 grams dried banana
1 kilo pork belly or, if you want, the meat from the leg or thigh part, cut in desired portions (medium sizes are preferred)
2 to 3 regular size garlic, crushed and diced
2 regular size red onion; chopped
2/3 cup vinegar (palm vinegar or cane vinegar are preferred for a more authentic taste)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white sugar or brown sugar
(most folks now use Sprite or Coca Cola instead of sugar, if you use soda 1 1/2 cup of it would be plenty enough)
6 bay leaves
7 star anise
1 cup of rice water (if you do not have rice water, good old water would do)
½ cup of salted black beans (you could get this in cans and it is best to drain most of the sauce/juice and only use about 2-4 tablespoons worth of the sauce/juice)
Salt (add this to taste)
Separate the meat that contains huge chunks of fat from those that are leaner. Put the fatty chunks on the pan and add about half a cup of water then put a lid on it. Allow it to boil. Do this till the fat is already reduced to oil and the meat has started to brown. Stir every now and then to avoid burning. Do not throw away the oil from the fat.
Boil the rest of the pork in 1 cup rice water in a separate pan (put more rice water if what you put on is not enough to submerge 3/4th of the way); add 1 table spoon of salt. Allow it to boil till the meat is tender and the stock is reduced to half of its original volume.
Saute garlic and onion using the pork fat oil until it is brown. Add all the pork together in the pan with the oil. Stir fry for a few minutes until the meat is slightly brown. If by this time there is too much oil in the pan, you could remove some of the oil.
Add the water remaining that was used in boiling the pork (see above instruction). Add ½ cup of the soy sauce, the brown sugar, the bay leaves, the ground black pepper, and the black beans with its sauce. Then bring to a boil until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add vinegar but do not stir. Add the dried banana blossom. Boil for a few minutes (2-3 minutes). Simmer until a saucy consistency is achieved. Taste it to make sure that it is more sweet than vinegary. If it is too sour, add more sugar until the desired taste is achieved. Adjust seasoning and soy sauce according to taste.