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Jackfruit and Blood Stew: Breakfast of Champions

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I knew I was going to like this place when I walked inside the H-E-B at Bellaire and Highway 6 and saw a cardboard cut-out of Miss Piggy advertising fresh chicharrones outside Wok n Roll (14498 Bellaire), the Filipino breakfast joint just inside the grocery store's main entrance.

Meeting my friend Dr. Ricky there for breakfast had been his idea. He'd scoped out the little place for one reason: The food stall serves whole roasted pig -- Filipino-style -- on Saturdays and Sundays. He called ahead to make sure they had the pig in stock, and we arrived at 10:30 on that Sunday morning only to find that they sadly hadn't gotten the pig in after all.

Chagrined but hungry, we decided to stick it out and order something equally intriguing: Pinoy breakfast. There were several combinations to choose from, all of which included fried rice and fried eggs.

Ricky explained to me that the fried rice and eggs are the staples of every Filipino breakfast, so common in fact that their presence in the meal becomes a suffix in and of itself: -silog. Whatever you order alongside the rice and eggs -- chorizo or ham or fish -- gets tacked on to the front of that suffix to form the dish's full name. Longsilog, tapsilog, tocilog, et cetera.

With Ricky ordering for me in Filipino, I went with the tocino option, a kind of cured pork that tastes a lot like ham. It came out in a simple Stryofoam box with plenty of curled strips of tocino, two fried eggs and a huge serving of Chinese-style fried rice. We noted with a laugh that the stall does double duty, serving both Chinese and Filipino food -- and that Chinese fried rice ends up on the Pinoy breakfast plates.

Ricky called it "fancy" fried rice -- it had peas and carrots and onions, like your standard Chinese take-out -- and told me that regular Filipino fried rice is just that: rice, fried with a bit of garlic. I loved this "fancy" version, especially with a fried egg split open on top of the mound, its yolk coating the rice.

For his part, Ricky had ordered black stew and jackfruit with shrimp paste. The black stew is a Filipino means of using up food that would otherwise go to waste: Parts like the pig's intestines are cooked down in its blood, resulting in a thick, musky, slightly sweet and vaguely earthy-tasting stew that's a bit of an acquired taste. But certainly not overwhelming in flavor or consistency.

What I really enjoyed was the jackfruit, served here in its unripe state, looking and tasting like artichoke hearts. It was coated in a sweet, briny shrimp paste (hence the pink color) and I gobbled it down greedily, shocked at how good this combination of flavors was.

Breakfast finished, I couldn't simply leave without getting at least some of the pork I'd come for. I grabbed a packet of chicharrones off the Miss Piggy stand to go, eating them later that afternoon as a snack.

These were the kind of chicharrones after my own heart: lots of fat still left on the crispy skin, melting in my mouth as I crunched my way happily through the package. Now I really can't wait to try their whole roasted pig...

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