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.


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