Kamatis Ensalada: Food My Momma Usta Make

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Kamatis At Pepino Ensalada Sa Sinaing Na Bigas

My mom excels at easy meals that ease my soul. Just like the rice-n-egg dish that Midori Nakamura wrote about a few weeks ago, I have a simple meal that makes me feel like I’m rolled up in a warm blanket on a rainy day. It’s another rice dish (hey, I’m Filipina), so you can either: a) read on because you LOVE rice dishes, or b) stop right here and wish me well.

The full name of this dish is kamatis at pepino ensalada sa sinaing no bigas (tomato and cucumber salad over cooked rice), which is a bit misleading, since the tomatoes and the cucumbers may not necessarily make it into the final ensalada. As I explain at the end of this article, the ingredients are always a little different each time you make it. It’s really what’s in your refrigerator. But the following ingredients are the usual suspects:

  • White rice
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Rice vinegar
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Cilantro

In contrast to the overly complicated and long title of this dish, the length of time to prepare it is short—only ten or fifteen minutes. By the time the rice is cooked, the ensalada should be ready to go. Boil at least two cups of rice (usually of the jasmine variety) in a pot or using a rice cooker. While the rice is cooking, chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, and onions. In a medium-sized bowl, mix these ingredients with a little bit of rice vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. When the rice is cooked, scoop up about two large spoonfuls of piping hot rice and put them in a bowl. Add the tomato mixture on top of the hot rice. If you have it, top off the bowl with some finely chopped cilantro. (And if you have more time on your hands, you can grill some fish or steak, put that on the rice, and use this ensalada as a topping.)

I can never make it exactly like my mom, which is NOT very strange considering how my mom refuses to use a recipe or write any of her own down. And she’s Filipina, so the whole bahala na (“come what may”) attitude figures into what she’s doing in the kitchen (it’s all about being in the moment). So her kamatis ensalada is never the same. Sometimes it has more tomato than cucumber, sometimes it has only tomato, and sometimes it has no tomato at all. Occasionally my mom would add a sili, which is a hot pepper similar to a jalapeno. She has also been known to use a boiled egg or two, a few celery sticks, and unripe mango—but not all at the same time. And then to make things really interesting, sometimes she would throw in bagoong, which is a salted shrimp fry relish that resembles pink boogers in a jar (I kid you not). But the hot cooked rice is always the perfect match for whatever ends up in the ensalada

So I hope you like this simple kamatis ensalada over rice. And if you don’t have tomatoes or cucumbers, or even rice—well … do as the Filipinos do (or at least my Filipina mother) and figure it out when you open up the fridge. And say to yourself, “Bahala na.” 


To contribute to this column, just post an article using “Food My Momma Usta Make,” with the opening of your recipe title.

Photo of the author’s grandparents with their grandchildren in the Philippines, courtesy of the author.




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