Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sisig Pampanga for November Kulinarya Challenge

This month’s Kulinarya Challenge hosted by Frances of Iskandals and Jenn of Storm in my Kitchen is about one of my favorite Kapampangan dishes which, when the family moved to Tarlac City, I learned to eat, love and pray to cook, exactly in that order, is the versatile “sisig”. If you want me to salivate further by the mere mention of the word “sisig” kindly add the word Pampanga at the end to make it not just tasty but deliciously authentic, like the one I already posted before, and it will do the trick. :-)

I have no doubt that one of the culinary pride of the Kapampangan legion of Pampanga, part of Bataan and some part of Tarlac, is the amazing “sisig” – an ingenious and relatively low-cost (but hardly low-fat, lol) tasty food creation made of “inihaw” or grilled pork jowl and liver, fresh onion, calamansi extract and bird’s eye chili mixed altogether on the chopping board while …… hear this out …… while the cook’s knife (usually the wide cleaver-like type) is in “continuous up and down” motion.

Please be careful interpreting much more replicating the last phrase above. Although “sisig” was said to have been invented by accident, we do not want a kitchen accident occurring while preparing the dish. :-) The phrase simply means continuously chopping all the ingredients together (as oppose to individual dicing or mincing), until everything is properly mixed to desired sizes and consistency slightly bonded together by the paste-like substance that will eventually developed from the repeated chopping where minced bits of meat, onion, mashed liver, meat juice and calamansi delicately combine.

This may not be true or acceptable to everyone, but I personally believe that this process, which I observed, sneak peeked and spied on in restaurants, “turo-turo”, canteen, cafeteria, friends’ houses and most especially in roadside eateries (the same place where the dish was said to have originated), is a commonality among the tastiest Kapampangan “sisig” that I have eaten and is for me an important part of the “sisig” preparation technique where all flavors magically blend into pure sumptuousness.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Paigang Adobo sa Gata (Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk)

We are being served with lots of curried dishes lately and as typical Filipinos away from home, we are deeply missing the salty-sourly-savory comforting taste of “adobo”. Particularly the type that has little sauce that remains …… so flavorful that simply slathering the sauce on a pile of steamed rice would create a mound of carb so appealing and delightful. And just when the craving further intensifies …… beyond the threshold of gastronomic sanity, we decided it’s time we commander the kitchen …… ask the crew to move aside ……… chop some meat, crush some garlic, get some vinegar and let our instincts do the rest.

We have many other “adobo” dishes already featured here so we tried another route to the great “adobo” world and decided to prepare a creamy and dry a.k.a. oily variation using coconut milk with longer cooking time until the sauce is fully reduced and coconut milk renders oil. In the Philippine language, this is called “adobo sa gata” ("adobo" in coconut milk} cooked “paiga” (somewhat dry).

Reminder: This dish is sinfully fatty - laden with both animal and vegetable oil, perhaps has high count of calories (per serving), probably have lots of bad (and good) cholesterol, will likely make one eat lots of rice or carbohydrates and yes it’s heavenly delicious. So proceed at your own risk. You have been warned. :) 

We regularly walk about 14 kilometers, making about 20,000 steps and burning an extra 900 calories every other day so the paragraph above have no issues with us (wishful thinking, okay). If it’s any consolation, we will be using the leaner chicken instead of the fatty pork but of course, chicken with skin-on for that “killer” flavor, figuratively of course. Lol.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Thai Food Birthday Celebration at Jack Tree Restaurant in Colombo

My colleague and walking buddy Carlo just celebrated his birthday last Saturday. He treated us to a very exciting dinner with a cuisine so close to his heart – Thai Foods. Carlo stayed in Bangkok, Thailand for so many years that he has developed fascination and love of the aromatic-sweet-fiery taste of Thai cuisine. Now that he has been assigned in Sri Lanka for quite some time, it is no doubt that he has been missing the pride dishes of Thailand big time.

What a better way to re-live that long-missed dining experience he used to have regularly than in celebrating his most important day that comes just once a year? …… And we are more than delighted and willing to join him …… to contribute in the fun …… as he savors the unique flavors. For we know, with Thai foods tickling our taste buds …… it is not just happy but a really very spicy birthday. :-)

Known before as the Siamese cuisine, Thai food is the national cuisine of Thailand. Generally composed of lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and pronounced spiciness, Thai cuisine is among the fastest-growing and most popular world cuisines today. Amazingly, it has established quite a following in the international food scene. Yes, Carlo is among the avid ones and probably will include us very soon. A few more dinner treats from Carlo and it is very likely that we could be a full pledge convert - lovers not only of Filipino cuisine but also of Thai foods.

Thai food is basically prepared light. It has tantalizing flavor and richness but without all the heavy carbs & calories. Like most Asian foods, it is known for its balance of the fundamental taste senses such as sour, sweet, salty and bitter. The significant influences of its neighboring countries such as China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma, and Malaysia can be easily traced in its dishes …… blending flavors and cooking techniques that make Thai food truly wonderful. We can’t blame Carlo for loving it so much.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kinilaw na Ampalaya na may Dilis a la Carlo (Bitter Melon or Ampalaya Salad with Crispy Fried Anchovies)

Yes you read it right …… it’s a salad made of bitter melon or “ampalaya”. Kids will probably raise their eyebrows on this …… and most likely disappear from the dining table long before the serving plate even touch the top. First of all, we are talking about vegetable which most kids by nature are not quite excited about and second of all we are referring to “ampalaya” or bitter melon …… the one vegie most (if not all) children avoid, that is if not totally hate.

I sure shared the same feeling when I was younger but of course that’s no longer true at this time. I learned to love most vegetables including the mighty “bitter gourd” over the years. I have appreciated its unique bitter flavor which when prepared in specific ways becomes very palatable. This makes me excited about this simple vegetable dish which a colleague, Carlo, regularly eat (and enjoy) in their home province of Cebu, Philippines and now would like to share with us.

As a backgrounder, Momordica charantia is the scientific name of bitter melon or bitter gourd and called “ampalaya” in the Philippine language. It is a tropical and subtropical herbaceous vine of the family Cucurbitaceae that is widely grown in South and Southeast Asia, China, Africa and the Caribbean for its distinct edible fruit and sometimes for its young shoots and leaves like in the Philippines. One can easily remember the plant (or hard to really forget once tasted) for its fruit is among the most bitter of all fruits, or vegetables for that matter.

There are many varieties that differ substantially in the size, shape, configuration of the warty exterior body and bitterness of the fruit. The one usually available here in Sri Lanka is the Indian variety which I find more bitter than the ones sold in the Philippines - which I believe is the China phenotype. Bitter melon is generally consumed cooked in the green or early yellowing stage when its flesh is crunchy and watery in texture and skin is still tender and edible. The young fruit which do not have hard seeds yet are thought to be the best for cooking. As I said above, the young shoots and leaves may also be eaten as greens and I’ll tell you it’s great.

Bitter gourd is often use in stir-fries, soups and surprisingly stuffed and fried dishes in the Chinese and Filipino cooking. In some parts of Southeast Asia like Vietnam and Indonesia it is used in stews, cooked with coconut milk, boiled and steamed. In some parts of South Asia it is cooked with curry and other spices, stuffed with meat and boiled, sautéed with other vegetables and even pickled. :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chili Crab a la Regina - For February Kulinarya Challenge

This month’s Kulinarya Club challenge lovingly conceived by the tandem of Abigail of My Nappytales and Marni of Kensington Kitchen is about …… well …… first LOVE and the dish associated with it. I maybe blushing but don’t giggle just yet. :-) Everything I want to do at the time I first experienced that “tender feeling of affection” (I vividly remember I used to write down this definition in slam books), sometime in high school or probably early college, ha ha ha (it’s funny I’m not quite sure), is nothing but basketball. Perhaps basketball is to blame for clouding my memory and not clearly remembering.

Yes, I believe I eat a lot that time, because we played a lot and needed a good amount of food to supply the energy requirements, but nothing in particular really registered in my mind when it comes to food. With just a 5-peso daily allowance (sometimes none) and with body strength 95% powered by rice (some “bahaw” or “kanin lamig”), that’s probably not unusual, lol.

But of course I would not want to disappoint Abigail and Marni. That’s a nay. I can’t reason out I’m on a holiday/vacation just like last month (sorry Pearl of My Sassy Chef and Thea of Words and Nosh) and they have an awesome theme with rich topics to share. In lieu, I would like to prepare a roughly similar in taste (okay not quite comparable but also good) with the dish so close to my heart that my first experience of it is like falling in love for the first time. The dish is called “Crab Juanita”. Now you can chuckle. :)

Okay, I admit I messed that up a little bit. The dish I fell in love with is actually “Crab Maritess” of the popular Red Crab restaurant in Manila (Philippines). The name Juanita that came into the scene is actually my wife whom I am deeply in love with. Love can be so confusing sometimes. Really!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tokwa't Isda (Fish and Tofu in Sweet Vinaigrette)

It’s good to be back. Yes, I’m back from a long …… actually, prolonged hiatus which started during my long Christmas holiday back in the Philippines from late December last year. I had a grand time with my family, relatives and friends. Too many memorable moments that somehow led to an after vacation condition of slightly chronic amnesia that caused me to temporarily forget that I have a blog to maintain. Not cool, yeah!

All I can say is, sorry folks that I was not able to post anything for quite a long time …… well, make that very long time. In fact, it was the longest duration of inactivity in this website …… and I have no intension of repeating such a period in the future.

For a starter, let me share a simple but delightful tofu dish. Obviously this is somewhat a healthy variation of the popular Filipino side dish cum appetizer cum “pulutan” (bites or morsel) called “tokwa’t baboy” – a mixture of fried pork and fried bean curd in a slightly sweet vinegar-soy sauce dressing. While I prepare “tokwa’t baboy” regularly (especially when … okay let me cut that off … the wife wouldn’t like it and besides drinking is not good for our health, lol), I have not featured the dish yet and instead just posted the plain “fried tokwa” version which is prepared basically the same way except that the “baboy” or fried pork part was omitted.

Not really due to diet restrictions or medical condition …… but because we can’t easily find pork jowl here. You read it right, that’s pork jowl or the pig’s cheek that I’m referring to. For me and my male friends here, pork jowl is the best pork cut for the dish … and if you are uninitiated and have problem with that, pork belly or “liempo” is the next best cut which works just fine. :-)

Since the day I wittingly substituted fried pork with fried tuna and added some crunchy cucumber, the new concoction which is the subject of this post instantly became our group’s favorite tofu dish. I have already posted a photo of the dish in the Facebook fan page of this humble blog which received favorable comments and thus the recipe, a very simple one, is provided herewith for those who are requesting for it, for “pulutan” purposes I suppose. :-)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Baka Tim or Beef Pata Tim (Beef in Sweet-Savory Sauce) for December Kulinarya Challenge

For foodies and people who love food, cooking, eating and everything in between (you are right, the one after eating is usually not well loved :)), one Christmas tradition that excites me the most is the Noche Buena. The customary dinner or feast shared by and between the whole family on Christmas Eve …… usually right after attending the midnight or late evening Christmas Eve Mass called Misa De Gallo.

Keeping up with that tradition, Joy of Gastronomy by Joy and She of Señorita Sisa’s Blog of the Kulinarya Cooking Club (KCC) chose the theme Noche Buena (of course) for our December Challenge where participating members will prepare one dish of their choice. Something that they intend to become part of their family’s Noche Buena come Christmas Night.

Since I decided to dwell on the centerpiece of the Noche Buena which is usually accorded to the magnificent ham or the all-time Filipino favorite fried or roast whole chicken or the pricey roast pig, I decided to make a new dish that could be placed at the center table with all pride and glory comparable to that of the three mentioned main dishes but characterize by a fresh idea, easy preparation and relative affordability. Here comes my version of “pata tim” prepared using a slab of beef instead of the usual pork knuckle – the “baka tim”. :-)


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