Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Deviled Eggs or Eggs Mimosa or Salad Eggs (Rellenong Itlog)

In line with the fast approaching holiday season where parties and gatherings will be regular happenings in most homes, schools, offices, churches, peer groups, etc., I thought of featuring a feast or get-together food which is easy, simple and yet a sure delight and conversation-fare among families, friends, guests and other party attendees – the Deviled Eggs. Also known as eggs mimosa or salad eggs, deviled eggs are hard-boiled eggs cut in half and stuffed with the hard-boiled egg's yolk mixed with various ingredients, seasonings and some spices. They are usually served cold, either as a side dish, an appetizer or even a main meal.

Having originated in ancient Rome, deviled eggs are still popular across Europe until today. They are known as “ceuf mimosa” in France and usually flavored with pepper and parsley. They are also a regular table fare in Hungary where the yolks are mixed with white bread soaked in milk, mustard and parsley. Interestingly, they are called as "Russian eggs" in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany as they are usually filled with caviar and served in remoulade sauce. In Midwestern and Southern parts of the United States they are also called dressed eggs apart from salad eggs. In the Philippines where they have gained wide acceptance as well, they are sometimes referred to as “rellenong itlog”.

I affirmed that the dish is unfussy to make because it does not really involve elaborate preparation and long-time cooking. Basically, cool hard-boiled eggs are peeled, sliced lengthwise and the yolks are removed. The yolks are then mashed and mixed with a wide range of other ingredients such as mayonnaise, mustard or tartar sauce and spices. Other common flavorings are: Worcestershire sauce, diced pickle or pickle relish, chives, ground black pepper, powdered cayenne pepper or chipotle chilies, vinegar, green olives, pimentos, poppy seed, capers, and minced onion, among others. The yolk mixture is then scooped with a spoon or piped with an icing bag and tip into the yolk cavity and dust with paprika for added flavor and garnish.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adobong Atay at Balunbalunan (Chicken Liver and Gizzard Adobo)

Following the lively discussion that ensued after the “iyasi” post in the Facebook page of this blog where “pulutan” or the Philippines’ answer to Spanish “tapa” or the “bocas” of Central America or the “anju” of Korea, has caused some stirs, I decided to prepare another popular “pulutan” cum viand entrée made from the reliable chicken liver and gizzard called “atay at balunbalunan ng manok” in the Philippines. I’m pretty much sure that you already have an idea what the dish is going to be. Yes, it’s the widely-prepared “adobong atay at balunbalunan”.

The dish is probably the most common Filipino way of cooking the versatile chicken liver and gizzard even beating barbecue. It is quite easy and really simple but extremely tasty. The combined flavors of liver, gizzard and heart (that usually goes with the liver) and their contrasting but complementary textures make the dish exciting. With liver alone it will probably be too overwhelming. With gizzard alone it will be plain and boring. But with the combination of the two, or three with the heart, a distinctly delicious dish with the right amount of flavors and a pronounced appeal is achieved.

In cooking the dish, I joined our group’s “adobo king” himself, my wedding grandson (“inaanak”) Dong of the famed “Pork Adobo a la Dong” post here. Basically following the same procedure in his pork adobo recipe, I helped him cook and document our version of “adobong atay at balunbalunan”. Like “sisig pampanga”, “bopiz”, and “imbaligtad”, this adobo dish is highly regarded as “pulutan” and at the same time widely accepted as “ulam” or viand in a regular Filipino meal. The whole family loves it which goes well with either plain steamed rice or the tastier fried rice.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Iyasi - The La Paz Batchoy of Batangas

Nippy wind starts blowing in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Torrential rains continue pouring hard over the entire island of Sri Lanka and other South Asian nations. Heavy snow started falling in the UK, Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe. We are experiencing a cooler weather all over the world. Truly, the cool and joyful season of Christmas is almost here. It does not only stir excitement to the Christian world but also brings a chilly feeling deep down to the bones. It makes us stay longer in bed and even longer inside the comfort of our homes.

During such cold season, the family will be delighted if served with steaming hot soupy dish like “tinola” or “sinigang” or “nilaga” during meals. In line with this, I thought of preparing another soup dish, rough recipe of which I learned from the mother of my brother-in-law. It is locally called “iyasi” in some parts of Batangas which is basically a type of “bachoy”, utilizing almost the same “bachoy” ingredients, with just a few twists in the preparation like the addition of chopped coriander or “kinchay” and “misua” or long and thin wheat flour noodles in the end.

As a backgrounder, “bachoy” is the term used to refer to the combination of pork meat composed of some tenderloin (“lomo”) and entrails like spleen (“lapay”), kidney (“bato”), heart (“puso”) and liver (“atay”). It is also the name of a traditional soup cooked using the collective meat ingredients and flavored with lots of ginger and topped with chili tops. If noodles are added and the noodle dish is topped with ground pork crackling or “chicharon”, it is called “la paz bachoy”. Since “iyasi” have “misua” noodles, it can be considered the “la paz batchoy” of Batangas (Philippines); the reason for my post title above.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chicken Adobo cum Paksiw (Chicken Braised in Vinegar & Sugar)

The adobo fever is still on! Using the same technique employed in preparing the well received “adobong puti”; I decided to try its version using chicken. As we all know, next to pork, chicken is probably the closest contender for the throne of best-ever adobo. In fact, the combination of the two is extremely popular on its own. While this variant is not really new to me as I have been served before with a wonderful chicken adobo that is simply braised in vinegar and salt and cooked in its own juice (alone) until fork tender; that is, without the addition of water. So, we are speaking of a type of adobo with no soy sauce and not aided with any liquid, water or broth, while it tenderize.

With such a limiting requirement you can imagine that this is only good for easy to tenderize meat, hence the use of the chicken. With its relatively tender meat which requires shorter period of cooking, we can be sure to have a fully done dish even by just braising. In addition to “adobong manok sa dilaw”, this is another alternative to uniquely enjoy the tasty chicken in the form of the well-loved Filipino adobo. Call it daring or peculiar but this simply titillates my palates and therefore will be a regular fare in my diet.

You probably noticed that I included the words “cum Paksiw” in the title. Like “adobong puti” this chicken adobo uses almost the same ingredients as the “paksiw na pata” and therefore the resulting dish is expected to have a very strong resemblance with one another, in taste and in depth. Although as I said before, the obvious difference is that the dish is intended to be cooked until somewhat dry or “iga” and served coated with a rather oily residual liquid instead of a rich and thick sauce. Having said that, I believe “chicken adobo cum paksiw” is such a fitting name to this dish.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Zucchini with Thyme (Courgette with Thyme)

In an effort to feature appetizing vegetable dishes outside the boundaries of the traditional Filipino veggies like “ginisang gulay” a.k.a “pinakbet tagalog”, “abraw” or “inabraw”, “laing” and even “chop suey”, among those already posted here, and to continue the surprising saga of the now popular “beef with broccoli” recipe, I heeded to our group’s request that I cook zucchini. So when we went shopping for our weekly food provisions over the weekend, a medium-sized pretty zucchini is among the new food items that we acquired. We are hoping to transform it into a delectable veggie dish for our Sunday dinner.

Like broccoli, zucchini is a European vegetable now widely available in the fresh harvest section of most Philippine supermarkets. As some of us know, it is now successfully being cultivated and produced in the cool regions on the Philippines like the environs of Baguio City in Benguet and probably Tagaytay City in Cavite. It is a fine–looking and intriguing produce which is akin to a cross breed of the local gourd or “upo” and squash or “kalabasa”. While its skin’s usual deep green color with tiny white spots (there is a golden variety colored yellow or orange) resembles that of the skin of a young squash, its flesh is pretty much like that of a gourd, soft and whitey.

Zucchini as commonly called in North America, Italy, Germany, Australia and the Philippines or courgette as known in the United Kingdom, Greece, New Zealand, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa, is a popularly cultivated summer squash that can grow big (up to one meter in length) but harvested while still immature at just half the size. While botanically, zucchini is a fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower, it is considered a vegetable in the culinary context. Meaning, it is usually cooked and served as a savory dish or accompaniment rather than consumed raw or fresh.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tinola or Tinolang Manok (Chicken Stewed with Ginger & Green Papaya)

It has been raining hard for several days. The rivers and streams are swollen. The marshes, grasslands and green fields are inundated with water. The surroundings are dripping wet. The forest canopy is shrouded with mist. The air is overwhelmed with cool wind. Thick clouds abound, shielding the warm sunrays from reaching the land. The atmosphere is cooler by about 4 degrees centigrade. Yes, it’s cold in here! …… and we need a piping hot chicken soup. But since we are Filipinos, the last phrase simply means we want some “tinola” or chicken stewed in ginger. For lunch or dinner, it doesn’t matter. Just serve it fast with a rice platter.

Chicken soup is a classic comfort food that is believed to have healing properties for common colds and flu. It is a soup made by boiling and simmering chicken parts and/or bones in water and added with various vegetables and flavorings. It is typically served consisting of a clear broth with small pieces of chicken or vegetables or with noodles or dumplings. The Philippines’ answer to this classic feel-good soup is its “tinolang manok” or simply “tinola”. A soupy chicken stewed dish flavored with ginger and added with green papaya and chili leaves. The rejuvenating flavor of ginger and the slight kick and peppery flavor of chili leaves make Filipino “tinola” an even better chicken soup alternative……..at least for me.

The dish, regarded as the Filipino chicken soup, is widely accepted among all sectors of the society because it is quite inexpensive, could well satisfy a rather big family or group of diners and can be quickly and easily prepared. While it is believed to have been first invented in the 1800s using the delectable native chicken and referenced in the famous “Noli Me Tangere” novel of Dr. Jose Rizal, it remains extremely popular today. It has withstood the test of time and is continuously evolving. Exciting variants using pork, edible frog, fish and shellfish are regularly seen. In the Visayan Islands of the southern region of the Philippines, there is a version called “binakol” which uniquely includes flesh of tender coconut and coconut water to the dish.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maja Blanca (Filipino White Pudding)

The “espasol” post is still hot and here we are giving another delightful Filipino sweet delicacy or “kakanin” recipe again ……… the arguably more popular and truly my personal favorite …….. “Maja Blanca”. This feature is actually in response to an ardent request from our blog-friend Anne who probably wants to serve this sweet and creamy treat to her love ones, specially her kids. And since I don’t want Anne to settle to a second best “maja blanca”, I asked my wife to summon my Auntie who has been excellently preparing the delicacy and regularly serving during our family occasions to share her long-kept secret recipe……forcefully if necessary. :-)

And since my pretty Aunt Mileth love my wife and me dearly, of course she cannot refuse……… not to a favorite (I’m just assuming this…okay?) nephew anyway. :-) Like Luz who recently shared her tasty “espasol”, Aunt Mileth gladly gave away her easy but proven “maja blanca” recipe for this blog…….. for all of us to try……… and quite surely enjoy. Just in time for the holiday season, the most important Filipino affair, when preparing sweet delicacies is part of the tradition.

“Maja blanca” is a soft, gelatinous and creamy traditional Filipino white pudding made from coconut milk, evaporated milk, cornstarch or corn flour (or rice flour), refined sugar and sometimes added with grated sweet corn or as much easier, out-of-the-can cream-style sweet corn. The ingredients are simply combined together and slowly cook over moderate heat until the mixture thickens to a creamy consistency enough to firm up in moulds as it cools down or chills. The pudding is usually topped with toasted grated coconut or better yet with the fragrant “latik” or curdled coconut cream.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Beef with Broccoli in Oyster Sauce

When thinking of a dish composed chiefly of meat and vegetable, a stir-fried beef flavored with oyster sauce will always come to one’s mind. For some reason, beef and oyster sauce easily create a pleasant combination of flavors which works very well with many kinds of vegetables especially those belonging to the families of cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprout as well as gourd like bitter melon. So when a friend requested that we cook broccoli for a change, in our regular list of weekly veggies actually, I immediately thought of beef broccoli. Sounds pretty delicious right!

Broccoli is a plant of the Kale family “Brassicaceae”. The plant has large lovely flower heads stunningly arranged in a tree-like fashion on branches sprouting from a thick stalk. The edible flower head is usually green in color and attached to an also edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli is a cool season annual crop most closely resembles cauliflower, a different cultivar group belonging to the same species. It is believed to have evolved from wild cabbage plant that grew on the continent of Europe.

Apart from tasting real good and quite an attractive ingredient, broccoli is a very important vegetable because it is highly nutritious. It offers many health benefits - enough reasons for us to regularly include it into our family’s everyday meal. It is an excellent source of vitamins C, K & A and dietary fiber; and a good source of selenium. In fact, a single serving of the vegetable could provide more than 30 mg of Vitamin C. It also has high levels of carotenoids, particularly rich in lutein and a provider of beta-carotene. Amazingly, it also contains multiple nutrients and chemical compounds with potent anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Espasol a la Luz (Sweet Rice Flour Cake or Pudding)

Reel and Grill is blessed. Blessed with really wonderful friends who are willing to unselfishly disclose some of their most kept secret recipes and food preparation techniques ……… all in the name of friendship……… and the noble cause of sharing kitchen knowledge. So that everybody, most especially you dear friends, followers and readers of this humble blog, can enjoy the food creations they personally concocted……… perfected ………… over years of untiring preparation. After all, we as food lovers should all champion the essence and beauty of keeping amazing recipes flowing and made available for all who lives the same passion.

Like the rest of foodies who have generously contributed recipes here, Madame Luz, in celebration of her birthday, is sharing her famous, among friends and relatives alike, homemade “espasol” recipe. Hurray! I am extremely excited about this as “espasol” is one of my childhood favorite Filipino sweet delicacy or “kakanin” which I haven’t had in quite a long time. I know many of you; especially those Filipinos working and living abroad would share the same feeling of enthusiasm. For Luz will be our salvation to be able to prepare the uniquely sweet and delectable “espasol” on our own.

“Espasol” is a soft and chewy Filipino rice pudding or cake which originated from the province of Laguna (Philippines). It is typically cylindrical in shape, although also served in squares, diamonds and other flat fun figures. It is made from sweet rice flour cooked in coconut milk and sweetened coconut strips or other flavorful fruits like jack fruit, etc. It is quite sticky but dusted with toasted sweet rice flour to make it easily manageable. It is eaten as a satisfying snack or “merienda” in between meals or as a flavorsome dessert after a meal. It is a popular give away or “pasalubong” item, especially during the Christmas season of giving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Caldereta or Kalderetang Manok (Chicken Stewed in Tomato Sauce)

As mentioned several times, “kalderetang baka” or beef stew as called by Filipinos in the West, recently divulged to me as the same dish sometimes referred to as “bakareta” in some parts of the Philippines, is among the signature dishes of this website. Quite evidently, I have prepared and posted the dish twice, here and here. In addition, a similarly popular variant, “kalderetang kambing” or goat meat “caldereta” was also prepared and featured here not too long ago. Simply, it goes without saying that we (me and my colleagues) love “kaldereta” dish so much that like “pork adobo a la Dong”, it has been a regular fare in our weekly menu.

Discussing what to cook the other night, Dong, a colleague and at the same time my “inaanak”, brilliantly suggested I try preparing the usual savory, luscious and moderately spicy “caldereta” using chicken meat in lieu of beef. I immediately welcome the idea which I thought, could well serve as our group’s alternative recipe, for the predominantly chicken dishes (about 60% of our main meals) that we regularly have. Therefore, my version of “kalderetang manok” or chicken sautéed in garlic, lots of onions and spices then stewed in tomato sauce and added with liver spread and cheese was conceived.

Early on, I have a good feeling about the chicken being cooked into “caldereta”. For one, my brother in law on several occasions told me stories about the poor man’s version of the dish that they sometimes cook in the project site using just the cheap chicken feet as the meat. He swears it is so good that they usually ran out of rice during the meal. Well, I find that not really amusing after all. One attributes of a good “caldereta” is the sauce and if you attained a very flavorful sauce, then diners will really consume lots and lots of rice. And if using just the lowly chicken feet could work, then using choice cuts is bound to do even better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sinanglay or Ginataang Isda (Fish Cooked in Coconut Milk)

The Bicol region in the Philippines is home to many rich, creamy and ultra spicy vegetable, seafood and meat dishes. Often, they are cooked in thick coconut milk sometimes referred to as coconut cream. They are usually spiked with an abundance of chilies and other spices popular and widely used in the region. One such appetizing “Bicolano” dish which has successfully penetrated into the mainstream of standard Filipino cuisine and which I have already featured here is “laing” or dried (sometimes wilted) taro leaves (“dahon ng gabi”) cooked in coconut milk. A very spicy vegetable recipe made creamy with lots of coconut milk and flavorful with fresh or dried fish or some meat.

I have every intension to post here more of stimulating dishes from the said southern Luzon region. While I have posted a dish called “isda adobo sa gata” which is basically fish cooked in coconut milk, let me feature now its counterpart from the Bicol region, the “sinanglay” or whole fish stuffed with a mixture of some vegetable, chilies and spices then boiled in pure coconut milk. Basically, the dish is also fish cooked in coconut milk only done in a quite different but very interesting method.

For Filipinos living in a country like Sri Lanka where the use of chilies in its cuisine is quite prevalent, there is no way not to think of “Bicolano” dishes back home to refer to or compare with. As we all know, most dishes from the said Bicol region are also heavily laden with chilies to a point where the level of spiciness proved to be unbearable to some, specially the uninitiated. While over the years, many Filipino outside of Bicol have learned to enjoy such very hot dishes like “bicol express” (which I have cooked several times but not yet posted here) and “laing” as mentioned above, some remain to be unable to handle the food, most especially the former which is predominantly made from fresh chilies.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ginataang Kalabaw (Carabeef Cooked in Coconut Milk)

After the successful “ginataang manok” by Lalaine, I thought of cooking another “ginataan” (cooked in coconut milk) meat dish which I once prepared long time ago. My last encounter with the dish is when I ate it at a popular “turo-turo” or roadside eatery somewhere along the thickly vegetated and forested highway in the beautiful province of Laguna in the Philippines. I am referring to the quite exotic dish called “ginataang kalabaw” which translates to carabeef cooked in coconut milk in English.

“Kalabaw” is the Filipino name for the Philippine water buffalo called Carabao (“Bubalus bubalis carabanesis”), a domesticated sub-species of the common water buffalo or domestic Asian water buffalo (“Bubalus bubalis”). Carabao is a large bovine animal indigenous to Southeast Asia and found in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, other parts of Southeast Asia and interestingly, Guam where they were exported from the Philippines in the late 17th century during the Spanish colonization of the island.

The carabao is generally considered by most Filipinos to be the national animal although not officially supported by a law or decrees, which is required to be recognized as a national symbol. It has have been domesticated in the Philippines as far back as pre-Hispanic times and is often used by farmers to plow the fields and as a means of transportation. It is one of the most important animals of the country, especially in agriculture. Just like cow, it is also a good source of nutritious milk and may be slaughtered for its meat and hide.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pork Adobo a la Dong (Adobong Baboy ni Dong)

After sampling the distinct tastes of various international cuisines like the American pure-beef hamburger, the French creamy “chicken liver pate” and the Chinese yummy “shaomai or siomai” dumpling and after having indulged in some select Filipino sweet treats like egg pie and “kamote que”, then I could say we are once again ready for another round of the all-time favorite Filipino dish………… yes you’re right, we are speaking of the relentless “adobo”. Please bear with us on this. Our week will not be complete without enjoying the dish at least once……… or maybe twice. :-)

Like in the past, today’s version of “adobo” is interesting and equally motivating. It is shared by another engineer with strong fascination in cooking…….. Dong, one of my kitchen-talented “inaanak” (wedding godson) regarded as the certified “adobo” expert in our group here in Sri Lanka. He has excellently cooked the dish probably more than any viand he knows combined all together. Statistically, that means many times in a week. But of course it has not yet come to a point of overwhelming for it comprises many variations like using several types of meat such as chicken, pork and even liver and gizzard or combination thereof and doing it in different styles like saucy, oily or dry (“iga”).

Dong’s first meat recipe in this humble blog is his version of the common pork “adobo”. Therefore, unlike in the last three variations namely “adobong puti”, “adobong Batangas” and “adobong manok sa dilaw”, where soy sauce or “toyo” is not among the ingredients, the Chinese condiment will now again assume a major role in this dish preparation. Expect the color to be intense like the usual “adobo” as oppose to the most recent one where it is uniquely pale or whitish. One distinctive characteristics of Dong’s “adobo” is its non-use of the earthy bay leaves. Dong is not much a fan of herbs and intentionally avoids using bay leaf in his cookery, particularly in “adobo”.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kamote Que or Camote Que (Deep Fried Sweet Potato with Caramelized Sugar)

As a variation to the traditional Filipino snack or “merienda” or “kakanin” called “banana que” (referred to as “sundot saging” in the Province of Batangas, Philippines and other nearby Provinces), “kamote que” (can this be called “sundot kamote”?) was conceived. It is basically a snack or dessert dish made from slices or as recently being prepared, large sticks, of sweet potato deep fried in oil with sugar until pieces are coated with caramelized sugar.

Like, “banana que” and “turon”, “kamote que” is also a popular Filipino comfort food widely patronized by the masses and even by some socialites. A relatively healthy and cheap snack meal widely available in many places where there are gathering or congregation of people like markets, schools, townships, churches, supermarkets, transportation terminals, major road junctions, government offices and many more.

The name “kamote que” was also probably coined by the common people due to the way it is served; skewered in bamboo sticks like “banana que” and of course barbeque. Recent preparation however has deviated from the usual skewered type. Now, the sweet potatoes are cut in large sticks or strips instead of just sliced and after cooking are served in small paper or plastic bags and not impaled with the familiar bamboo sticks.

While I still call this as “kamote que” we will be preparing the large sticks version. I find them a lot easier to eat and more appealing to serve. The nice coating of caramelized sugar is also better distributed around the smaller and more uniform sweet potato pieces. But you can prepare it as you like……. it will be the same sweet and yummy “kamote que” at the end after all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hamburger with Cheese - 100% Beef (Cheeseburger)

Due to its widespread popularity and worldwide proliferation, hamburger can be considered as an indication of inflation. Seriously! The hamburgers we have been enjoying from the many fast-food restaurants have considerably evolved into smaller sizes over the years, sort of suffering from a serious condition of dwarfism. This, I believe is due to the effect of the world inflation. Knowing it is a good business decision to stick to the current retail price as much as possible, the only way to go for burger companies to counter the continuously rising prices of ingredients and increasing costs of production is to wittingly but very silently reduce the serving sizes.

Praying the consumers will not really notice the physical changes and blindly think that they are eating the same portion originally served many years back. But of course we eventually become aware of. We may not necessarily complain but somehow deep inside we know.

On top of the reduction in size, the quality of beef patties is also probably being thwarted to incorporate cheaper extenders and the likes to cope up with the increasing price of beef. We have notice the slightly diminishing quality of the beef patties over the years as well. What used to be a 100% beef hamburger can no longer be expected from our favorite burger fast-foods now. But this negative food evolution is something we should understand. As I said above, this is brought about by the world inflation and the company’s decision to suspend increasing prices as much as possible. It is happening not only to hamburgers but to almost all commodities, food or otherwise.

But we, as consumers have the power to choose. With the many restaurants or food outlets available around, offering their versions of the delicious hamburgers, then we can select the ones giving the best worth for our money. We can still continue our pursuit for that 100% pure beef hamburgers. Not just as a commercial ad label but a true selection parameter. And if still we cannot find satisfaction, then we can always make our own and be sure that it is really a 100% beef hamburger.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Creamy Chicken Liver Pâté

We are in sandwich-eating mood and we scour our fridge for the available spread that we could use. We have both our all-time favorites’ chicken sandwich and tuna sandwich spreads, several types of sweet jam, some margarine and butter as well as slices of Cheddar, processed and Gouda cheeses. But none of them excites our palates this time. We have been regularly eating them and our taste buds are probably somewhat tired and wanting something different. Not necessarily new, but at least something we have not eaten in a long time.

Then I remembered I have half a kilo of chicken liver which I wanted to prepare into chicken liver pâté ……… and the excitement started to build-up. For most Filipinos who grew up with the country’s popular liver spread (Reno Brand) in their everyday sandwiches, especially with “pandesal” or Filipino bread roll, liver pâté is an expensive but sufficient alternative when living abroad.

In general, pâté is a mixture of ground meat and fat or butter blended into a spreadable paste. Common additions include vegetables, herbs, spices, wine and cream. In French or Belgian cuisine, pâté may be baked in a crust as pie or loaf or baked in a terrine or other mold or earthenware. The most famous pâté is probably “pâté de foie gras”, made from the fattened livers of geese, the tastiest liver for me.

In the European countries of Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Austria, some liver pâtés are shaped as a soft, often spreadable sausage, called “leverworst” in Dutch or “Leberwurst” in German. In the United States these are sometimes referred to as "liverwurst", a combination of English and German. Some “liverwurst” can be sliced and used as sandwich filler while others are spreadable, like the type popular in the UK and my father’s favorite. Yes, he keeps a good stock of a certain “liverwurst” product in his room. :-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beef Siomai or Shaomai a la Jhala (Beef and Vegetable Dumpling)

Now among the most popular light meal or snack meal in malls and supermarkets in the Philippines, “siomai” has been causing quite a stir in the Philippine food scene. With the proliferation of mall kiosks and roadside stores selling freshly steamed and sometimes fried “siomai” at a very affordable prices, the family can now fully enjoy the delicious Chinese dumpling any day of the week without losing a big chunk of the already tight budget. It is a welcome reprieve for mothers who have kids and hubby, who love the tasty dumpling so much, but do not have the required time to regularly prepare one.

“Siomai” as called in the Philippines is a traditional Chinese dumpling also known as “shaomai”, “shumai”, “siu mai”, “shui mei” and “siew mai” among its many name variants. While originally, there were two regional varieties in China, the Cantonese and the Jiangnan versions, its introduction and wide acceptance in many parts of the world like the Philippines and other South East Asian nations, inevitably resulted to the evolution of many varieties, methods of preparation and using different ingredients.

I have been preparing ‘siomai”, a standard dish of the Chinese dim sum tradition, for many years now but regularly using pork (though sometimes with shrimp) as the main ingredient. It is a constant hit among my friends, colleagues and guests. Due to personal satisfaction, a colleague, Jhala, wittingly prepared a variant using minced beef in lieu of the usual ground pork. It came out quite successful so sharing the recipe here for interested readers to try is such a noble deed which we should take advantage of.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Egg Pie or Filipino Custard Pie

For an ordinary Filipino snack or “meryenda”, especially in the provinces, freshly baked goodies from the many neighborhood bakeries are probably the most easy to acquire and serve to your family and love ones. They are truly tasty, available daily, have many choices and reasonably priced. Come “meryenda” time or during coffee break, all you have to do is to visit the bakery closest to your residence, make your pick and you will be equipped with really fragrant, fresh from the oven and utterly delicious snack in a short period of time.

Among these easy baked “meryenda” of the Philippines is the sweet and luscious egg pie. A Filipino custard pie made from eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, lemon essence and sometimes butter. While egg pie is probably an authentic Filipino baked goodie, its delightful taste has a very close resemblance with that of the Portuguese and/or Chinese egg tart extremely popular in Macau and the common or plain custard pie of North America.

It has been quite a long time since I last made this exciting snack and dessert dish. I thought of making this again so that I can share it with you, especially with Filipinos living abroad whom at certain point in their life living in a foreign land will surely reconnect with the memories of their childhood and inevitably experienced cravings for the typical Filipino “panaderia” or bakery products, like “pandesal” (Filipino bread roll), “ensaymada” (sweet bread topped with cheese and sugar), Spanish bread (sweet bread with sugar and margarine filling), “pan de coco” (sweet bread with coconut filling), “mamon” (a chiffon cake type of soft bread), and of course the delicious egg pie. Yes, it always happens to me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crispy Pata (Deep Fried Pork Ham Hock or Knuckle)

I am in really deep trouble. Earlier we had crispy “litson kawali” or deep fried pork belly, then we had “crispy ulo” of deep fried pork head, quite recently we had crunchy “pritong manok” or deep fried whole chicken and now we have what I think is the ultimate, all-time favorite and most popular Filipino deep fried dish, the great “crispy pata” or deep fried pork ham hock or knuckle. Since the best “crispy pata” uses the front leg of the pig, then this can also be called as deep fried pork hand + hock + trotter in the case of the British cut, or deep fried pork arm + hock in the case of the US cut.

Did you start to salivate? I can’t blame you. “Crispy Pata” is one of the fried foods that could easily stimulate anyone’s taste buds, of most Filipinos of course. By the mere thought of the golden browned, skin blistered, crisp-looking and deeply enticing pork knuckle, I could not avoid but to instantaneously feel that something is titillating my palate. Blame me not either, the dish taste so good and satisfying that it is considered an exceptional dish usually prepared and served during town “fiestas” or festivals, important family occasions, special gatherings and highly significant affairs. With the profuse craving……yes, we are in trouble.

Due to extreme popularity generating high demand, many enterprising Filipinos have made the “crispy pata” readily and quite inexpensively available to everyone in the Philippines. Roadside stores cooking and selling the dish have mushroomed over the last several years offering top restaurant-quality “crispy pata” at rather affordable prices. Enjoying the crunchy dish now is no longer a rare opportunity for as long as you have some extra money to dispose of. And if you still want to spend lesser for the dish, you can always cook it in the comfort of your kitchen. Might prove a little tedious but a lot safer than the ones you will buy from street stores.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ginisang Gulay or Pakbet/Pinakbet Tagalog (Sauteed Vegetables with Fish Paste)

For the last several posts, I have bombarded you with tasty but quite oily meat dishes. In consideration of the health aspects which everyone owes to take pretty seriously, let me share with you today a healthy mixed vegetable dish simply sautéed or “ginisa” as called in the Philippine language. Like the “inabraw” dish posted earlier, this “ginisang gulay” uses various types of vegetables and chiefly flavored with fish paste or “bagoong”, a unique but popular Filipino condiment made from fermented small fish usually eaten with locally grown vegetables.

“Ginisang gulay” as prepared in the Tagalog regions of Luzon, Philippines, although distinct and has its own character, is probably their version of the Northern region’s equally popular vegetable dish called “pakbet” or “pinakbet”. Hence, some of my friends refer to this dish as “pinakbet Tagalog”. Interestingly, both dishes share many similarities, in texture and in taste. Some who are neither from the two regions might not even notice the difference and would unwittingly interchange their names.

Along with fruits, we hear a lot of praises to vegetables as being the healthier food. Eating a good amount of it is sometimes tantamount to psychologically eliminate the feeling of guilt that has developed after indulging heavily on meaty and oftentimes oily dishes. To have a better understanding of the wonder food though, let me provide some facts about vegetables.

Vegetable usually refers to an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. Generally it means the leaf, stem or root of a plant. However, please remember that the description is not scientific and its meaning is largely based on culinary and cultural traditions. Therefore, the application of the word is not definitive and somewhat arbitrary or subjective. Some vegetable in culinary sense is actually a fruit in the botanical context. Some people consider mushrooms to be vegetables while others consider them as falling under a separate food category.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adobong Puti (Blonde or White Pork Adobo)

Here we are again……..exploring the delicious world of “adobo”, the pinnacle of the amalgamated yet distinct Filipino cuisine. After about seven different recipes of the highly varied “adobo” dish, using various meats such as pork, beef, chicken and fish, even involving unusual cuts such as ox tongue or “lengua” and chicken neck, and innards such as beef liver, heart and chicken gizzard, we can feel that we still have a lot to cover towards fully understanding the wide-ranging dish. Really, it is highly evolved; continuously metamorphosing and greatly encompassing that can be considered as a distinct cuisine in itself.

In the posts “adobong manok sa dilaw” and “adobong Batangas”, we experienced the tastes of “adobo” without soy sauce, long considered as a chief ingredient in the now common and accepted standard “adobo” recipes. Today’s preparation follows the same variation. There will be no soy sauce and at the same time there will also be no deeply colored turmeric or annatto seeds or “atsuete”. Thus, this is called “adobong puti” or blonde or white adobo, obviously due to the resulting pale colored dish.

Actually, according to stories of our parents, elders and grandparents, and probably yours too, this is basically how the original “adobo” is being prepared; at the time when soy sauce has not been introduced yet by the Chinese immigrants to the Philippines. Through the use of vinegar, garlic and salt only, “adobo” has been satisfying thousands and thousands of Filipino families. Today, we will try to re-create that “adobo” process which has been used and enjoyed for ages, either as dish in a meal or as a way of extending the life shelf of the meat during the time when refrigerator is not yet a common household appliance.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ginataang Manok (Chicken Cooked in Coconut Milk or “Gata”)

There are culinary properties of chicken and coconut cream which when combined together in cookery will result to a rich, flavorful, sometimes oily, but nonetheless truly satisfying dish. This is so true in the case of “ginataang manok” or chicken braised in coconut cream and spices. Like its close cousin “adobong manok sa dilaw”, it is a unique Filipino table fare perfect for its staple food that is steamed rice. The tasty sauce coating the chicken in the dish is just so full of flavors that when slathered on rice and eaten together could make you forget your delayed monthly amortization……. or your pass due credit cards payments…….or your long Christmas shopping list which, sadly, remains unallocated until now.

No, no, no, these are just examples and not really my problems …….true ……. Okay! Okay, the last one is………. but don’t tell my family, relatives and friends. It might trigger extreme panic, chaos and pandemonium. Let them buy their gifts for me first. :-)

Since this is another “ginataan” dish (cooked in coconut milk), one important ingredient of course is “gata” or coconut milk. As explained before in “ginataang alimasag” post, coconut milk is a sweet, creamy, milky white cooking base extracted from the grated meat of a mature coconut. There are two grades of coconut milk namely thick and thin. The thick coconut milk, sometimes referred to as coconut cream, and called “kakang gata” in the Philippines is the first extraction milk collected by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth or in between palms.

Thin coconut milk on the other hand is attained when the squeezed coconut meat is soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time to further extract coconut milk. This type is commonly used for general cooking purposes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Easy Beef Spare Ribs (Short Ribs) and Steamed Veggies

It’s been a while since my last post. Since last week, I have been busy on a special job assignment and so I thought I owe to present you guys with a rather extraordinary recipe worthy of waiting. But since I just returned and don’t have much time yet, let me first feature an equally important dish prepared by a colleague following the recipe I developed and posted here late last year under easy spare ribs. While my original recipe uses pork spareribs, my colleague tweaked it a little bit and used beef spareribs or short ribs and served the dish alongside steamed veggies. Brilliant Idea!

As discussed before, spare ribs or spareribs are a variety of pork ribs which are a long cut from the bottom section of the ribs and breastbone, just above the belly and behind the shoulder as oppose to baby back ribs which are from the top of the rib area along the back. It is considered to be more meaty and succulent than baby back ribs. For beef however, a slab of spare ribs can be too big so it is usually cut into thinner, lighter and more manageable sizes called short ribs. Short ribs or thin ribs are a popular cut of beef. Beef short ribs are larger and usually more tender and meatier than their pork counterpart. They are a cut from the rib and plate primals and a small corner of the square-cut chuck.

A full slab of short ribs is typically about 10 inches square, ranges from 3-5 inches thick, and contains three or four ribs, intercostal muscles and tendon, and a layer of boneless meat and fat which is thick on one end of the slab and thins down to almost nothing on the other. There are numerous ways to butcher short ribs. The ribs can be separated and cut into short lengths, typically about 2 inches long, called an "English cut", "flanken cut" across the bones, typically about 1/2 inch thick, or cut into boneless steaks, a style recently introduced in the US, as a cheaper alternative to rib steak.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Binagoongan a la Lalaine (Pork Binagoongan or Pork Cooked in Shrimp Paste)

This may be among the perfect anti-diet dishes of the Philippines. First of all, it’s basically oily and thus laden with saturated and unsaturated fats. Second of all, it’s relatively salty and therefore high in sodium. Furthermore it can, unwittingly, cause you to over-consume steamed rice which is high in carbohydrates. Lastly, it is fragrant, mouth watering and utterly DELICIOUS. Does it make sense? Even if it does, I will not be dissuaded from enjoying this irresistible dish ………..with lots of rice of course ………..probably lots and lots of it ………. because that’s the way it is eaten ………… and it’s the way it’s always going to be.

Most Filipinos love “bagoong alamang” or shrimp paste and we love pork or “karneng baboy” even more. Of course it is a no-brainer to assume that most of us also love “binagoongang baboy”. Generally referred to as simply “binagoongan”, the dish is a spicy, salty and flavorful pork viand largely popular in the Central and Southern Luzon regions as well as in the Metro Manila area of the Philippines. It is made by braising pork cubes in spices, tomatoes and then seasoning it with “bagoong alamang”. Sometimes coconut milk is added for an even richer and tastier dish.

The shrimp paste to use in a “binagoongan” can be the fresh or raw one or the sautéed homemade type like the one I posted before or the commercially prepared ones which abound in most groceries and supermarkets or in Filipino or Asian stores abroad. But adjustment on the amount of ingredients should be observed. Addition of sugar and /or vinegar might be needed when using fresh “shrimp paste”.

This “binagoongan” recipe is again shared to us by our family friend Lalaine who earlier provided the hit “kutsinta” recipe. This involved a huge portion which she specially prepared and served, along with many other authentic Filipino dishes, which of course includes her signature “kutsinta”, in a friend’s party in London where many Filipinos were in attendance. As expected the “binagoongan” was also a hit …… and Lalaine and her friends shared a truly luscious meal…….great time ……. and some magical moments.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tinausian or Luto sa Tausi (Pork Cooked in Fermented Black beans)

This dish was just mentioned by a friend in passing during a conversation and yet it almost instantly generated profuse craving in me. The desire is so intense that I have to adjust the planned menu over the weekend to give way for its immediate preparation. I am supposed to cook another pork dish but since “tinausian” has stirred and thrilled my taste buds……….swift assuaging is necessary. :-)

“Tinausian” is a Filipino term which means cooked with the condiment Chinese fermented (and salted) black beans, and in particular, referring to a unique Filipino pork dish flavored with the pungent-tasting and sweet-spicy-smelling Chinese seasoning ingredient called “douche” and locally referred to in the Philippines as “tausi”.

As explained in my post “bangus sa tausi”, “tausi” is made of soy beans made black, soft and mostly dry by the process of fermentation. It has a taste that borders from sharp to salty to somewhat bitter and sweet. It is only used as a seasoning for foods and is not meant to be consumed in large quantities. Some forms are overly salty which most of us cannot handle if directly eaten.

In meat preparation, I already used the flavoring ingredient in “humba”. This is another way of imparting its unique flavor in a meat dish. This, for me, is a very exciting dish, but I have to warn you that it is quite oily. After all, the best cut of pork to use here is belly or “liempo” and the cuts which include the fatback with rind. In some preparation I tasted in Northern Philippines, this dish is used to cook the trimmed and collected all-fat and skin parts of the pork.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Steamed Fish with Toasted Garlic

It’s weekend……and since I might be tempted to revisit the “Playground” for some shore fishing adventure (again?), I checked our freezer last night for the inventory of my remaining previous catch. I discovered I still have two nice pan-sized fishes. One is a tasty grouper or “lapu-lapu” and the other one I am not quite familiar with but looks like a delicious crossbreed of sort of snapper and bream. The last part of the statement actually reads ….”I don’t really have an idea”. :-)

Since I am hopeful that my next angling expedition will be fruitful (as always….. typical thinking of an avid angler), I thought the freezer should be cleared of old catch to give space for the new ones. So the two fish should immediately be cooked …….by all means…….not that I am starving because the chicken barbecue we ate for an early dinner was fully digested at that time…..but because I need to cook. It’s a therapy for a stressed mind…….of people living far from love ones. And yes I have to blog……it is already a part of the system……of my life.

I initially thought of simply cooking the fish in the oven like my previous post baked fish. But when I tried preheating the oven, the moment I turned the switch on, I instantaneously sent the whole compound into total darkness. It appeared there was some short circuit in the oven’s electrical line and turning it on will trigger the main switch to trip and cause massive blackout …… all throughout the compound. :-)

It was the reason why this post is entitled “steamed fish” and not baked. But it was a blessing in disguise……this steamed fish which I prepared with toasted garlic, butter and lime juice ended up luscious. A dish worth the trouble of temporarily cutting the electricity supply…….as well as the internet connection…… at the time when most of my housemates/friends are chatting with their special ones. :-))

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Filipino Menudo Recipe (Pork & Liver Stewed with Potato and Carrot)

To be honest, I am not so much a fan of the Filipino dish called “menudo”. Given the necessity to cook, I would rather prepare “adobo” or “estopado” or even “mechado”. But since a friend requested the recipe of the dish, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt, take another look, set aside my personal (and probably biased) reservations and prepare it for posting here. And I'm glad I did……. after enjoying the dish, truly, I now have a better appreciation of the rather simple but delicious pork “menudo”.

“Menudo” is a common cafeteria or canteen or “turo-turo” or roadside eatery or small restaurant dish. It is actually exceptionally popular to most Filipinos, except me but including my better half (even if she does not eat liver), both in the provinces and in the cities. It is also a regular fare in most Filipino banquets and feasts during family occasions, special holidays and important gatherings. It is simple enough to quickly prepare but tasty enough to satisfy even choosy guests.

The dish is a typical tomato sauce-based stew using small cubed pork and liver. Several types of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, green peas, chick peas or garbanzos can be added as well as hotdog or sausage. The liver provides its distinct flavor while the veggies and especially raisins, if using, give its hints of flavorful sweetness.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tapa or Tapang Baboy Ramo (Marinated or Cured Wild Boar)

The title surely sounds exotic. After all, meat from wild boar or what is locally called “baboy ramo” in the Philippines and “wal ura” in Sri Lanka has become so seldom and difficult to come by. Most probably due to over-hunting in the past and the inevitable intervention of progress and development into their natural habitat (a.k.a. consequential destruction) which unnecessarily (and sadly) resulted to extreme depletion of stock in the wild and the subsequent enforcement of strict government initiatives as well the preservation efforts of various wildlife groups, having wild boar meat in your kitchen is quite a rare opportunity nowadays. At least, in some Asian countries, where unlike in the US and Europe, wild boar farms are quite few, if ever there are any.

Now, that I was able to acquire some portion of the meat from what they told me as a legally butchered wild boar from an operated farm, I am quite ecstatic to prepare a truly favorite Filipino dish called “tapa” from the exotic meat. As a disambiguation, “tapa” of the Philippines refers to marinated, dried or cured slices of meat, usually beef, pork and venison, although other meat or even fish may be used. The meat are thinly sliced and cured with vinegar, spices and seasonings as a method of preserving it. It is best served fried or grilled. This is not the same “tapa” or “tapas” of Spain which is the name referring to a wide variety of appetizers or snacks in the Spanish cuisine, usually eaten while drinking some wine in the bars.

Wild boar or wild pig (“sus scrofa”) is the wild ancestor of the domestic pig. Wild boars are native across much of Northern and Central Europe, the Mediterranean Region (including North Africa's Atlas Mountains) and much of Asia through Siberia and as far south as Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Principally for hunting purposes, wild boars have also been artificially introduced in some parts of the world such the Americas and Australasia. In some places, populations have also become established after escapes of wild boar from captivity. While the term boar is used to denote an adult male of certain species, including, confusingly, domestic pigs, wild boar also applies to the whole species, including "wild boar sow" or "wild boar piglet".

Sunday, October 3, 2010

R&G Reviews Taylors Eye Witness Veritable Sabatier's Cooks Knife

One fundamental requisites of cooking is cutting. In some food preparation, this accounts for more than 50% of the entire time required in the cooking process. Therefore, a good cutting and slicing implement is an important component of anyone’s kitchen. Seriously, if you have a strong passion in cooking and food preparation then you should have a keen eye in finding a good, not necessarily the best, chef’s knife or cook’s knife………one that could safely and effectively respond to your specific kitchen requirements ………… it may not always be true or applicable to others but particularly tailored to your needs.

As mentioned in my post about CSN Stores’ offer last month, I am to review one of their quality products which as per my sharp choice is a 25-cm Taylors Eye Witness Veritable Sabatier Cooks Knife. I love outdoors……..I love cooking ……..I love fishing……….I love camping………I love hunting (although it’s been quite a long time since our last expedition….:-( )………of course, it should follow that I love knife…….especially high quality cutlery that could withstand the rough and tough demand and condition of outdoors environment.

To provide a good review, I tried to understand the over-all components and mechanics of a chef’s knife. And in order that even non-chef or non-foodies for that matter, could understand the technical terms that I will be using when referring to particular part or parts of this Sabatier Cooks Knife, let me provide you an illustrative guide on the basic parts of a typical chef’s knife.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Abraw o Inabraw (Vegetables Stewed in Fish Paste)

Another popular regional dish from the northern Luzon area in the Philippines is “abraw” or “inabraw”. I believe the other Ilocano term “dinengdeng” also refers to the same dish. “Abraw” is a simple vegetable dish where several types of vegetables are stewed in a small amount of water and seasoned with “bagoong” or fish paste. Sometime during the cooking process, a flavoring meat usually fried or grilled fish or dried shrimp fry or krill are added to further improve the taste of both the broth and the cooked veggies.

For me, this dish is not really something we can brag about. After all, from its original and humble inception, it is prepared in a simple, easy and straightforward procedure utilizing simple ordinary vegetables and inexpensive local seasoning. That’s all. It is basically intended to be a simple meal of a rather simple, and probably frugal, family. But out of its simplicity, the dish is tasty and satisfying…… not to mention very healthy. That it has become popular not only in the Ilocos region (Philippines) but also in other neighboring regions and even in the Manila Capital area.

Being a vegetable dish using fresh local harvests, it is best eaten with some fried or grilled fish along with lots of steamed rice. But it also goes well with other seafood dishes like the “halabos na hipon o sugpo” (steamed shrimp or prawn) which we ate alongside "abraw” and posted here before. If you like grilled or boiled or steamed veggies dipped in “bagoong” in your meal (like me), then you will appreciate this dish and probably love it later on.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Swimming and Ultra Light Shore Fishing at Kahawa Beach, Sri Lanka

As a part of our group’s rest and recreation, we decided to make a short swim on one of the many beautiful beaches of southern Sri Lanka last Sunday. Since we were at the Koggala Beach Park the other week, where I did some quick shore fishing as well, it has been suggested by some members to re-visit Kahawa Beach this time. We have been to the nice and highly visited swimming place one time and would like to check it out once again.

Like Koggala Beach, Kahawa Beach is particularly a safe, easily accessible and highly suitable swimming area, even for kids, frequented by many locals due to the natural pool that the rocks on the water several meters away from the beach creates. Basically, the place is offering quality swimming opportunities for families and friends, uninterrupted by the roaring waves pretty normal to most Sri Lankan coastlines. The enclosing rock is serving as a natural breakwater, providing protection for the pool of crystal clear water over fine white sand.

As featured before, Sri Lanka is a beautiful tiny island surrounded by rich waters offering an abundance of white sandy beaches, lush greenery, exciting water adventures and amazing marine ecosystem. It has a very healthy coral reefs and wide oceans providing shelters to numerous varieties of coral and sub tropical fishes and other astounding marine life. Kahawa Beach, though public and not really a top tourists destination, is aptly one of them.

While I have mentioned in my posts some well known and popular beaches in the past such as Hikkaduwa Beach, Unawatuna Beach, Bentota Beach and Koggala Beach, I considered Kahawa as also important and worthy of praises. Its fine white beach and clear blue water pretty much support that statement of mine.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Homemade Tuna Sandwich Spread

Our group has been consuming a lot of chicken meat for the last 5 years that we’ve been assigned in a highway project here in Sri Lanka. It’s mainly due to the scarcity and high cost of pork and seasonal availability of fish. In my estimate, out of the 21 main meals that we have in a week, considering 3 meals per day, more than half of the meals are made up of chicken either as the main viand or major ingredient in cases of vegetable dishes. Obviously, there were days when we have chicken for both lunch and dinner. We love chicken, right! :-)

So when I again decided to prepare a homemade sandwich spread the other day, I opted to use canned tuna meat instead of the usual boiled chicken flakes. While chicken sandwich spread which I featured here before remains my most favorite amongst other sandwich spread variations, we felt using tuna will serve as a sort of reprieve for the many days of continuously over-indulging into the reliable chicken.

Tuna are massive, fast swimming sea water fish with muscle tissue that ranges from pink to dark red. The fish are highly sought-after by both fishermen and anglers alike either for commercial consumption or sports and recreational pursuit. While there are over 48 different tuna species, the term tuna generally refers to those that belong to the family of “Scombridae” and particularly under the genus “Thunnus”, which includes 9 species. The yellow fin tuna is the most prominent specie and probably among the most important in terms of culinary application, although not the most expensive.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tilapia in Oyster Sauce and Veggies - Escabeche Style

Like many other people all over the world, Filipinos extensively eat tilapia because it is a good source of protein; especially one with a low saturated fat, low calorie, low carbohydrate and low sodium. Additionally, tilapia meat is a sure provider of essential vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus, niacin, selenium, vitamin B12 and potassium. You are right, that’s half truth. Not many people knew about that health benefits stuff. We eat tilapia because it is delicious, widely available and relatively inexpensive, sort of within the Third World’s average family budget. Okay, okay, it’s cheap. That’s it! :-) But tasty, huh!

Tilapia, St. Peter’s fish and pla-pla when large, are just some of the names referring to the third most important fish in fish farming or aquaculture worldwide, next to carps and salmons. The top three fish, along with European seabass, catfish and cod, comprised the top six farmed fish in the world feeding hundreds of millions of humans, for quite a long time now.

However, due to large size, rapid growth, easy production, tolerance to high stocking density, high profitability and palatability, tilapia have been the focus of major farming research and developments and it will just be a matter of time before they become the leader among the most important cultured fish all over the world.

Another good thing about tilapia is that it can be cooked in so many ways. I have previously featured one way to enjoy this farm’s bounty by cooking it into zesty “paksiw na isda”. Similarly, like pony fish, “pompano” and “talakitok” it can also be cooked as “pangat" or "pinangat” or “pesa” and “ginataan” like “dalag” or mudfish. Even simpler, the fish can also be grilled, fried, steamed, stewed and baked, all requiring very few basic ingredients.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coleslaw or Slaw (Cabbage Salad)

If you like KFC coleslaw, then you will probably like this coleslaw version of mine. I thought of making this salad as an accompaniment to the fried chicken dinner we had last Sunday. With a deep-fried chicken that taste like Max’s and coleslaw that taste like KFC’s (that sounds very boastful though, not very like me) what could we possible ask more for a dinner? None really, except for a cool cola drinks and probably some vanilla flavored ice cream at the end of the meal. :-)

Coleslaw or simply slaw in some American dialects is a vegetable salad mainly consisting of shredded raw cabbage. Sometimes different varieties of cabbage, such as red cabbage, as well as shredded carrots are used for better color and texture. Other variations of the dish include the addition of other ingredients, such as pepper, onion, grated cheese, pineapple and apple. What distinguishes coleslaw from cabbage as a condiment is that it is mixed with a dressing which traditionally consists of vegetable oil and vinegar or vinaigrette.

Coleslaw is a side dish generally eaten with fried chicken, barbecue, fried fish fillet and potato fries. It is also widely used as a sandwich ingredient like in hamburgers and hotdogs. With its popularity, many variations exist. Some U.S. variations contain buttermilk and/or mayonnaise, prepared mustard and sometimes ketchup and vinegar in lieu of mayonnaise. In Sweden, there is a version that is made with vinegar and oil and usually served with pizza. Interestingly, there is another variant called broccoli slaw where broccoli is used in place of the cabbage.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Homemade Barbecue Sauce and Chicken Barbecue

I love barbecue. I love grilling. Yeah, I know the blog title says it all. I gain joy while barbecuing. In spite of the process being somewhat messy, it’s fun and rewarding. There is something in it that lightens my spirit. The smoky smell that it generates while the meat cooks. The dripping sauce that causes the familiar barbecue aroma as droplets touches the hot coal. The gorgeous lightly charred skin of the meat. The tender and luscious meat with a combination of sweet, salty, sourly, earthy and many other flavors quite difficult to describe which all-together, encompass that exquisite taste that can only be experienced in a true barbeque. Expectedly, I have been preparing this dish on a regular basis.

Recently, I prepared a chicken barbecue which I marinated overnight but due to heavy rain, I was not able to grill it outdoors over charcoal fire and settled to cooking it inside the oven instead. Remarkably, the chicken came out still very juicy and delicious. The recipe I used there is basically the same as the one I applied in my pork barbeque post long time ago with just slight improvements, particularly on the amount of brown sugar.

Since I am now very pleased with this barbecue recipe, I decided to transform it into the next level; by creating a barbeque sauce which can be prepared early on, keep ready inside the fridge and use any time when the need arises……simply and easy. It will serve as a handy topping or dipping sauce and a marinade at the same time. Pretty much like the usual barbeque sauce we can buy from groceries and supermarkets, except that it is homemade, using all-natural ingredients, no extenders, no added preservatives, no artificial coloring and most importantly, it does not cost a fortune. You can use the huge savings in buying more meat instead. :-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Igado Ni Nanay Consuelo (Pork, Heart & Liver Braised in Vinegar & Spices a la Mommy Consuelo)

When most of us think of good food, one that is comforting and truly satisfying, one that we have enjoyed over a long period of time and became part of our system and one that is perpetually inculcated somewhere within the small patches of our brain, we remember our mothers or grandmothers. No, not mothers in-law, I’m speaking of tasty food in general, not just bitter gourd or “amplaya”, nor palm vinegar or “sukang paombong” nor green mangoes without “bagoong”. Okay, okay I’m just kidding with that second sentence. I love my mother in-law. :-) But seriously, mothers and grandmothers are the ones responsible for the memory of the foods we loved growing-up with. And they too, always remind us of such wonderful table fares they can create.

While there are some exceptional mommies and grannies out there who prepare “suffer” rather than dinner, they are, in a larger context, our heroes or heroines when it comes to delicious everyday food……most probably the ones that sustained our growth. My mom in particular, has her really tasty “pansit bihon” or Filipino rice noodles in soy sauce as well as her luscious “nilaga or linaga” or pork stew with vegetables, which my daughter love so much, to mention just a few. I remember my granny or “lola” preparing the best ginger tea or “salabat” with purple yam or “ube” during the cool season of Christmas. I haven't had that for quite a long time. Everyone has such a recollection.

A colleague for one, has a mother who knows how to prepare dishes that one can really be proud of. On several times, we were lucky to have sampled her “igado” or a Filipino dish composed of chopped pork, liver and heart braised in vinegar and we have been always ecstatic to have it again. The mother whom everyone calls Nanay Elou or Nanay Consuelo is so kind to share her secret formula in cooking her yummy “igado” for all the people who are fortunate to have stumbled upon this blog. If you are one of them, enjoy this rare opportunity.:-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Estopado - Pata (Pork Knuckle Braised in Pineapple Juice)

For the first time in 5 years, we chanced upon some cut up pork knuckle and hock in the supermarket here in the southwestern Sri Lanka. Spontaneously smile appeared on our faces …………as if we saw a long lost friend ……………an ally of sort not seen in a long while……and instantly flashes of good memories started to come in……… at an exponential speed ………just like a state-of-the-art computer generating a rather vague but nostalgic images from the not so distant past. Then I saw my mom, my sisters, my aunts, my cousins and many other family members and friends who for so many times I’ve seen joyfully devouring on this particular cut of pork called “pata” in the Philippines.

No, we did not buy a kilo. We bought 5 lbs or more than 2 kilograms. It’s much yes but who cares, we might not find them again next week. And we want to make the most out of this rare opportunity to enjoy the food we have been craving for some time. We thought of “paksiw”……… “kare-kare” ……… “pata tim” ………… and finally………”estopado”. After all, it’s been a while since we have that Filipino braised and stew dish called “estopado” in our dining table. With the delicate and gelatinous fat and skin as well as succulent muscle meat with layers of tendons of pork knuckle, “estopado” is a likely source of a meal made in heaven.

“Estopado” is a sweet-tangy Filipino pork dish where pork, usually with layer of fat including the hind, is braised and then simmered in pineapple juice and spices and slightly sweetened with brown sugar. Slices of ripe bananas are usually added and sometimes even chunks of pineapple for variation. While there are several distinct recipes in the internet and cook books that use the same name, this version here is the kind of “estopado” that I am familiar with. Variations using other meat such as ducks and other exotic game birds and poultry are usually spicy, no longer including bananas and cooked until dry and oily or with just a small quantity of sauce that remains.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tofu and Mushroom Delight

I hated tofu or "tokwa" during my younger years. Probably most kids of my generations, and even other generations before and after ours, shared the same feeling. But that changed when I grew up and learned to explore with food, outside the boundaries of usual family dishes. I developed an appreciation of its health benefits and eventually its unique taste that it only acquires from various flavoring ingredients that it is cooked with. It is basically tasteless on its own and requires good batter or sauce or broth to be truly enjoyed and admired as a main food.

Although I have already posted two tofu recipes here before such as the simple fried tofu or “pritong tokwa” and the much elaborate sizzling tofu in oyster sauce, I am still in constant search for new ways to get pleasure from the rather bland but healthy and energy-packed food from China. Interestingly, other nations have also noticed and showed acceptance of the food item as an exciting addition to their cuisines. It is either for health reasons or due to its wide usage and applications to vegan principle (not using or consuming animal products) and vegetarian (plant-based) diets.

An alternative way of preparing the food is in combination with the tasty abalone or oyster mushrooms cook in mayonnaise and soy sauce. While the resulting dish will resemble the one with oyster sauce, its taste will be distinctly sourly and salty as oppose to sweet and salty of the sizzling tofu. Appreciation to this dish will then be a matter of taste preference. While I am biased over the one using oyster sauce for I really love that dish, this remains a stimulating option, especially for the daring and adventurous in taste.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

CSN Stores - Your Need is Just a Click Away


With the proliferation of so many internet-based stores selling rather inferior and almost regrettable goods, it is such a relief to find one that carries high quality and admirable product lines such as gorgeous dutch ovens. I am referring to CSN Stores, a fast-growing, on-line shopping company providing shoppers and customers, ranging from the budget–conscious to the luxurious, with easy access to the best home, office and school and outdoor products.

A visit to the CSN Stores website will enchant you with its 200+ stores and wide-range of goods which categories include furniture, home décor, housewares, home improvement, outdoor living, baby & kids, school & office supply, shoes, bags & luggage, pet and health & fitness. Yes, it’s remarkably a lot………..under a single site.

My navigation of their website came out easy and fun. The photos are crisp and clear and you can truly appreciate the looks of the products. To provide you with a quick glimpse of what their stores are offering, here are just a few of my most exciting finds:

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