Lolo and Lola's Tortang Talong

September 23, 2013

Every week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Jacqui MacKenzie of Happy Jack Eats introduces us to an omelet that tastes like home.

Let me start off by telling you that this is not my Lolo and Lola's recipe for tortang talong, because I don't have a Lolo or Lola. Lolo and Lola means grandpa and grandma in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, which is where my parents were born. The only grandparents I ever knew lived far away and died when I was very young. I never got to cook with them or learn about their favorite foods. Every Filipino recipe I've learned to cook has come from my parents. They have grandchildren of their own now, who call them Lolo and Lola, and for whom my parents cook the familiar foods of my childhood such as pancit, tinola, kare-kare, menudo, lumpia, and adobo. And, of course, tortang talong

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Growing up, I never knew this food as tortang talong. I called it eggplant omelet, because really, that's all it is. In fact, I still call it eggplant omelet. Just like I called menudo "the one with raisins," and kare-kare "peanut butter stuff." I gave my own simplified, Americanized labels to foods that my parents ate in the Philippines because when I was a kid, food was just food. It wasn’t part of my family history or a window to Filipino culture. It was Wednesday night dinner, and it was comforting and good. 

In some cases, like with this eggplant omelet, I didn't even know it was a Filipino food. There is nothing noticeably “Asian” about it. No special noodles or vegetables that you can only find at the Asian grocery store. Just eggplants and eggs and pork -- although the addition of oyster sauce may make it seem a little more "exotic" for some. It's not the dish that my mom would make when having people over, or when asked to bring a special Filipino food to an American potluck. It's a weeknight dinner, something quick and easy to feed the kids. It so simple and -- I’ll admit it -- ugly, that I thought it was one of those dishes my parents made up, like so many people do when they find themselves staring into the fridge and wondering what to eat. 

I learned, though, that nearly every food my parents put on my plate had some tie to the Philippines: the scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions that my dad would make for my breakfast, or the canned corned beef my parents mixed with potatoes and served over rice. I was shocked to find recipes for these dishes online on other Filipino food blogs, and to learn that eggplant omelet is actually called tortang talong and that other people share my love 

It makes sense that every dish we bring to the dinner table has some sort of history and heritage to it. They all come from somewhere -- whether an heirloom recipe from grandma, or the product of a desperate late-night hunger that evolved into a family favorite. With every dish that I cook today, I find myself thrilled at the thought that I will cook these foods for my own children, and that hopefully they will cook them for their own kids one day. I know the Filipino favorites like lumpia and adobo will stick, but I'm hoping the little ones that often get overlooked -- like eggplant omelet -- but still hold my heart because they taste like home, will live on. 

Tortang Talong (Eggplant Omelet) 

Serves 4-6 

4 small eggplants
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
4 eggs
Salt and pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

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  • Sandra
  • Valentina Solfrini
    Valentina Solfrini
  • savorthis
  • darksideofthespoon
  • ChefJune
I like focusing on the small, simple moments that make up our every day. In the real world, I'm a web content editor for an international non-profit service organization. My favorite foods are eggs and avocados.


Sandra September 24, 2013
I like your Americanized labels to these Filipino dishes. I make these tortang talong without the pork , instead, place the egg dipped eggplant onto a plate of fresh bread crumbs studded with herbs (fresh or dried).
Valentina S. September 23, 2013
Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe, I can't wait to try a vegetarian version! I am thinking of all the possible vegetables I could mince up to get a texture similar to ground pork.
Looking forward to more recipes!
savorthis September 23, 2013
I'm glad you said that because I think mushrooms would be so good! Do you eat oyster sauce? That would be a tricky one to replace....
Author Comment
Jacqui M. September 23, 2013
Ooh mushrooms! Great idea. There is a Food52 thread on good substitutes for oyster sauce: Although, if I didn't have any oyster sauce on hand, I'd probably just use soy sauce.
savorthis September 23, 2013
Oh but oyster sauce is so good with eggs! I often will make an omelette type situation with leftover rice or noodles, pork or chicken and onions that I top with oyster sauce, green onions, cilantro and sesame and it just wouldn't be the same without the oyster sauce! I would be very curious to try the vegetarian version though.
Trena H. September 23, 2013
What is your favorite brand of oyster sauce?
Author Comment
Jacqui M. September 23, 2013
Honestly, I don't have a favorite. Kikkoman oyster sauce is what's currently in my fridge, but I've used others and can never tell a real difference.
Valentina S. September 24, 2013
Mushrooms would be amazing! Especially those with an earthy flavor, like Shiitake or Portobello. I was also thinking of a mince of mushrooms + Napa cabbage + maybe tofu, if you like it. Replacing oyster sauce would be tough, but I've heard from many asians that when they don't use it, they just go with plain soy sauce...
savorthis September 23, 2013
This looks great. Can I use biggish eggplants? I still have some in the garden.
Author Comment
Jacqui M. September 23, 2013
Yes! For big eggplants, my mom cuts them in half lengthwise after roasting them, then flattens them out and goes from there. Hope you enjoy!
Author Comment
Jacqui M. September 23, 2013
Oops, I should mention that she cuts them in half after they are roasted AND peeled. :)
darksideofthespoon September 23, 2013
This looks SO GREAT! Can't wait to try, i'll put it on the list ;)
ChefJune September 23, 2013
Oh this sounds so delicious. Looking forward to making it soon. Do you have a recipe for Bibingka?
Author Comment
Jacqui M. September 23, 2013
I don't! :( I've actually never tried to make a Filipino dessert, but now you've got me thinking that maybe I should!
Sandra September 24, 2013
There are several kinds of bibingka. You mean the kind made around christmas with the salted egg, I'm guessing. I've attempted one, but it somehow is not the same when baked in the oven......
AntoniaJames September 23, 2013
Marvelous! I do hope you'll share some of the other (ugly as well as beautiful) dishes passed down from your grandparents. Thank you for contributing this, which has "comfort food of the best kind" written all over it. ;o)
Author Comment
Jacqui M. September 23, 2013
Sometimes the ugliest dishes are the best, I think. Thanks!
darksideofthespoon September 23, 2013
Ugly?!!? This isn't ugly, it's gorgeous and I want some NOW! ;)