, July 20, 2024

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The Alchemy of Lasa

  •   1 min read
The Alchemy of Lasa
By Clarissa Trinidad Gonzalez


"After travelling to the culinary meccas of Paris, Barcelona, Tuscany and Provence, I can say with certainty that Filipino cooks can more than hold their own with the best. There’s a certain bravado in the way we orchestrate our flavours. Consider the astringency of fresh achara pickles cutting through a rich, salty pork liempo, or a just-sweet-enough rice cake, baked over coals and topped with wedges of salted egg and fresh buffalo cheese. We are adept in culinary harmonies, as well as counterpoints. Most of all, we know how to draw out the innate deliciousness (lasa and linamnam) of any dish—with a discerning but playful palate and a dash of our favourite condiment." - Clarissa

This creation begins with death
of tiny fish or crustaceans too small
to make the market grade

Wooden vat, water, salt
mineral claiming animal
shells and scales returning to the ocean

In an earthenware womb
under the fire of the sun
the oceanic pâté lies
in deep purple rot
the noble ferment
before its clear, amber rebirth

Patis. Nam Pla. Nuoc Mam
Drops of gold redrawing
the flat geometry of sweet-sour-bitter-salty
into the realm of lasa
The fifth flavour

(Published originally in Variety Crossing: Transcription, 2006)

About the Poet:

Clarissa Trinidad Gonzalez is a Filipina author, poet, essayist, and one-time contributing writer to Woman Today and City Man magazines in the Philippines. She has just finished her debut novel, Celestina’s House, due to be released in September 2024.

Clarissa lives in Toronto.

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