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”. :-)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Apple Loaded Fruit Salad

Just when you thought you are so tired or actually lazy to make an awesome dessert, try this fruit salad. It’s so good you will impress yourself and boost your morale. This is the perfect dessert for a lazy weekend. We have them for three (yes that’s 3) consecutive weekends already and we don’t think we’ll experience a taste fatigue any sooner. Okay, the analogy about lazy and having it on several weekends does not seem to favor me. I admit I have been so sluggish to hit the kitchen lately but it’s due to the work overload at the office. I intentionally included the word “office” for I believe it is the magic word …… to at least make it a valid reason for not being able to post anything for quite some time now …… to lessen the feeling …… of guilt that is. :-)

Featuring this simple and easy version of the well loved Filipino dessert is just in time for the holiday season ……… in particular the “Paskong Pilipino”. This salad is among the top favorites Filipino table fares during such special family occasions where only the grandest foods are served.

Different regions have different preparations of fruit salads. The variation is dictated by the use on the types of fruit as well the kinds of sauce. Generally though, fruit salad is a dish consisting of numerous kinds of fruit, served in a liquid, either in syrup or simply in their own juices. While fruit salad or “buko salad” in the Philippines is typically made with condensed milk, cream, canned fruit cocktail or fresh fruit specially young or tender coconut and relatively sweet the other countries’ fruit salads can be savory with the use of sour cream or yogurt or mustard and spicy with the inclusion of peanut and shrimp paste.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Arroz Caldo (Filipino Chicken Congee) – iLugaw 4S for Kulinarya Challenge

It’s Kulinarya time once again …… and the November Challenge conceived by Joy of Joy’s Misadventures is up among the (probably) finest Filipino food bloggers around …… exploring an authentic Filipino light meal or snack dish generically referred to as “lugaw” …… a common name which for me is representative of scrumptiousness, self-effacement, simplicity and serenity …… my own concoction of iLugaw 4S. :-)

This month’s theme is “arroz caldo”. A type of Filipino congee or “lugaw” (as referred in the local language) flavored or added with chicken. As you may know, the main component of the dish is rice which in the Spanish language is called …… you guessed it right, “arroz”. Well of course, the other originally Spanish word “caldo” refers to broth or stock …… I know you knew that …… and you need a lot of it to be able to prepare a really tasty rice congee worthy of being called iLugaw 4S.

This modest dish is superb when the climate is cool …… during winter (obviously when living outside the Philippines, like most Kulinaryans are) …… or when it’s windy and rainy. It is believed to possess the ability to perk-up or improve one’s body condition after dining with it …… piping hot of course. It is also considered an ideal comfort food for the sick and elderly as it has a therapeutic effect …… or healing power of sort, if you like.

Apart from my “Goto Arroz Caldo”, I have already posted a recipe for “Arroz Caldo” before (no, it’s not called iLugaw 4). While I am fully satisfied with it, in honor of Kulinarya Cooking Club, I will attempt to make a reboot entrée to offer a fresher approach to the dish …… hopefully to come out with simpler or easier procedure but geared towards accommodating many variations or possibilities …… and probably …… just probably …… we could make serving and eating the humble “lugaw” more fun and exciting. :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Atay ng Baka sa Oyster Sauce (Beef Liver Stir-fried in Oyster Sauce)

This is about beef liver as a culinary item …… and I need to tackle this matter convincingly …… my better half is not a fan of the food and as we all know, it’s hard to argue with the wife …… most often it is a no contest situation …… lol. No matter how good my preparation is …… if it has liver, chances are my wife will not touch it …… much more eat it. :-))

But that should not discourage me from sharing you good people what I believe is a wonderful food item …… both in taste and in its nutritional contents. Am I that obvious I love this food? I think so… :) Simply grilled, lightly fried or cook in “calamansi”, soy sauce and onions like in “bistek” (Filipino beef or pork steak), liver or “atay” (as called in the Philippine language), be it from beef, “carabeef”, chicken or pork, never ceases to delight me.

Yes, beef liver has delicate texture and is delicious. Okay, okay that’s only me speaking and not my better half. And it’s also full of high quality protein, has lots of vitamins such as A, C and many types of B as well as riboflavin and niacin, essential minerals such as copper, selenium, iron & zinc and other nutrients such as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

I guess she will have to agree with me on the last statement. After all, it is factual that beef liver or calf liver has an incredible nutritional value even when served in small quantity. To mention just a few, it helps the immune system in functioning well, improves cardiovascular health and decreases the risk of having a heart attack. Who would not like that benefits? Except my wife that is. :)

Truly, there are more reasons to eat liver than not! Here is one take that you could try if you have not been transformed yet. Who knows, it could open a whole new insight on the rather exotic food.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Avocado-Banana Milkshake (Smoothie)

Avocado is in season here in Sri Lanka and our group has been consuming the healthy fruit (or vegetable, if that’s the way you like categorizing it) enormously. Either prepared as avocado shake/smoothie as a drink or lightly pureed and sweetened with condensed milk and eaten as a dessert (the popular Filipino way of eating it), avocado is truly delicious. Wait …… I’m drooling just thinking of the greenish yellow, velvety, buttery flesh of the fruit .... so make that very delicious. :)

Taking advantage of the current abundant supply which also translates to very reasonable or inexpensive cost, we have avocado smoothie almost every day. Don’t be astonished. While we love it and there is no indication that we will develop a taste fatigue any sooner, I decided to effect counter measure early on and made an easy variation by blending banana into the luscious drink. The result is pretty fabulous and worthy of posting hence this feature now.

This is a nice addition to the several fruit shake recipes already posted here such as the exotic bael (beli fruit), guyabano (sour sop) and green mango (unripe); the typical ones like pineapple, mango, avocado and papaya; and mixed-flavor concoction like the mango-papaya. Since guyabano and avocado are my top picks, this new avocado-banana blend is another potential favorite for me ……… and just probably, yours too!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pichi Pichi (Cassava Pudding with Grated Coconut)

I bet you’ll love this. Seriously! :)

Although “pichi pichi” is just a simple Filipino sweet delicacy (“kakanin”) which I believe is just a recent addition to the Philippine gastronomic scene, it is for me full of potentials and appeal which could make a stir in the international food scene given the right opportunity or exposure. Being a Filipino I can be a little bias of course but don’t just take my words for it …… you can always try it and discover for yourself.

I have to warn you though …… this is potently addictive. :-))

Unlike the traditional “kakanin”, this snack and dessert dish has depth and class worthy of international recognition. Wow, I really like saying that. Despite the simplicity in its preparation, the taste, texture and appearance attained a level much higher than any of its kind within the context of Philippine cuisine. There's no wonder why this has been a favorite gift food item whenever one is visiting a friend or relative or attending an occasion.

I first ate this sometime in the year 2000 when a colleague brought some from his town in Concepcion in the province of Tarlac (Philippines) where it became an instant hit to our office in Greenhills, Manila. Since then, I have eaten this many times in parties and social gatherings and being a chef-wannabe, prepared it several times with moderate to high success. :)

I believe it’s now time I share this very easy recipe with you …… for your next occasion …… birthday or anniversary party or better yet in December …… include it among your Christmas banquet for the whole family.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Buntot ng Baka sa Oyster Sauce (Oxtail in Oyster Sauce and Lemon Grass)

Oxtail is quite exotic a cut of beef and therefore less appealing (if at all, it is even considered an edible cut of meat) to most, especially mothers, ladies and young children. It composes lots of tailbones called caudal vertebrae, strong ligaments (that allow the joints to move), cartilage (that cushions the bones) and some rather tough flash that’s full of veins and tendons. In some Asian countries like the Philippines, the regular cut even includes, hold your breath ……… the tough rind or skin covering …… but which becomes gelatinous (due to collagen releases) after long hours of patiently slow cooking the meat. :-)

With such a composition, the uninitiated can only imagine how the meat would taste in, say, a rich stew or hearty soup. But before you even judge oxtail, try this dish first. Who knows, it might open a new perspective on how you and other people look at oxtail as an alternative food item? As for me, I have been enjoying its unique robust flavor for a very long time.

Whilst oxtails, in the olden days, really come from oxen or steers, today they are simply the tails of cows and other bovines (like the Philippine “carabao” or water buffalo) of both genders. Surprisingly, oxtail makes for a very flavorful stew or rich soupy dishes with its tasty meat and naturally intense beef flavor due to its bones and marrow. That is provided you are willing to undergo the long hours (based on my own experience, about 2 – 3 hours sometimes more) of slow cooking, either by braising or controlled boiling or simmering.

If you have not tried this fabulous meat yet, this should be the right time. Many adventurous chefs have been trying their kitchen prowess at this meat quite often now. The attempts are so variable and excitingly beyond the usual stew and soup preparations. Let’s be part of the ongoing trend of rediscovering the humble meat that has been with us for ages …… since the time we have started eating beef. :-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Adobong Manok Sa Tomato Sauce (Chicken Adobo with Tomato Sauce)

I have three words for this dish – INGENIUS, FABULOUS and DELICIOUS. I kid you not. This is one smart variation of adobo worthy of your time, money, effort and yes, experimentation. :) The improved “adobo” flavor of the dish, which for me transcends way beyond the flavor boundaries of garlic, vinegar and soy sauce, is simply amazing …… a welcome development for a dish extremely popular and widely eaten and that has essentially established itself to be like a cuisine of its own …… that is so dynamic …… continuously evolving …… reinventing …… even as we speak now.

The credit goes to a family friend Michael of Padre Garcia, Batangas (Philippines) from whom we learned the rather brilliant idea. This is basically how he cooks his popular and much-loved (by friends, relatives and guests) pork “adobo” which I tried recreating here in Sri Lanka through the use of the all-time available and very dependable chicken. Okay, okay, I like pork too but we don’t have one at the moment and I can’t wait any longer. :-)

While this technique has similarity with the “adobo” cooked with fresh tomatoes which I myself have prepared several times in the past (though not yet featured here), the use of the richer and fuller-flavored tomato sauce makes for a much improved “adobo” taste, at least according to my humble judgment. This I believe is due to the added hints of balanced sweetness and acidity that is naturally present in tomato sauce. I also thought that the aroma diffuse during cooking is also something very delightful, suggestive of a very good dish in the making …… but don’t just take my words for it …… you have to smell it to believe it …… so try doing it now! :-)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tocino A La Lalaine (Filipino Cured Pork)

For me, “tapa” (meat jerky), “longanisa” (a type of fresh sausage) and “tocino” (sweet cured pork) all together make the triumvirate of authentic Filipino meat breakfast. Arguably, I think they comprise the top Filipino-style meat preparation (or processing, if you like) techniques that have captured the unique taste of Filipinos. As a result, most mothers always include them in their weekly menu, especially for those who have kids with persistent habit of escaping breakfast. The food serves as bait in effectively luring kids back to the dining table. The sight of the freshly cooked meat alongside garlic fried rice and sunny side-up eggs are simply too enticing to ignore, even when in rush. Yes, I’m speaking from my own experience. :-)

For this post, our friend Lalaine will be sharing a unique recipe for pork “tocino”, a top favorite of most children including mine. While generally, “tocino” is prepared by marinating or curing thin slices of pork in salt, sugar, Anise wine, annatto, garlic and saltpeter, Lalaine’s version is with the use of pineapple juice and totally without saltpeter or “salitre” (in the local language). While I understand that saltpeter is a standard additive in most commercial preparation intended to extend the shelf life of the processed meat, I think homemade versions such as Lalaine’s should consider deleting it …… and I am happy she did. 

The reason is that saltpeter is actually potassium nitrate, a chemical use in the manufacture of gunpowder and explosive devices as well as fertilizers. Therefore, the fireworks and rockets we light during New Year’s celebration have saltpeter in them and I don’t think you like the additive to be in your food as well. :-)

“Tocino” is traditionally simmered in a small amount of water until the liquid evaporates and the meat is then slightly fry with the rendered fat and some oil. Alternately, you can directly fry it in oil though this method will usually result to somewhat burnt appearance. Another way of cooking, although not very popular, is by grilling it over live charcoal where the resulting dish will taste like pork barbeque with a unique hint of cured meat.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ensaladang Labanos (White Radish and Tomato Salad) – The Patriotic Version

With the above image, I guess I really don’t need to explain at length why I have added the rather peculiar extra wordings in the title of what should have been a plain food post. This very humble Filipino dish especially made to resemble or at least reflect the colors and as attempted here, figure, of the National Flag of the Philippines (if it will really resembles at all :-)) and the color yellow famously associated with the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino is actually my entry to the nationalistic August-September Culinary Challenge of the rapidly expanding Kulinarya Cooking Club (KCC). [Oh, I love that!]

The hosts of this power pack months’ challenge compose of Oggi of I Can Do That!, Day of Chef by Day, Ray of Wok with Ray and yours truly, Boyet of Reel and Grill. Collectively, we have chosen the theme – colors yellow, red white and blue taken all together in honor and consideration of the Philippines’ celebration of the significant Ninoy Aquino Day on 21st August 2011 and National Heroes Day last 29th August 2011. Although a little late, it has good intensions so therefore it is permissible. :)

While complying with the colors yellow, red and white is quite easy with the abundance of food ingredients which come naturally in such hues, the requirement for a shade of blue provided the difficulties, restrictions and depth to the challenge. While it intends to squeeze the possibilities, it added excitement and necessitated the dispatch of deeper imagination, creativity and ingenuity on the part of the participating KCC members

For my humble entry, I decided to dwell on the aspect of patriotism by trying [hard :)] to prepare an authentic Filipino dish, with some tweaking of course, which will somehow project the true image of the Philippine flag which incidentally also have the color yellow reminiscent of Ninoy Aquino. Your impression of the photos located far above and immediately below this will be the testament if I was able to realize my plan. :-)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bread and Butter Pudding

We are experiencing sweet tooth for the last several days. To satisfy the craving, I initially planned of making a “maja blanca” or Filipino white pudding but for some reasons, I can’t set the rhythm of starting the preparation. The other day, I purchased full ingredients for a single mixing of “leche flan” or caramel custard but still, even with the thought of the appetizing dish, I can’t shift myself into a cooking mode. :) I felt too lazy to even make the caramel syrup, so as expected I remained unable to prepare the luscious crème caramel until now. But after some contemplation and serious reevaluation though, I finally realized that the problem is that I am afflicted by a virus called “DITS”.

Yes, you heard it right, I have been suffering a minor case of “Do-It-Tomorrow-Syndrome” ……… wait …… based on the way I’m posting in Reel and Grill over the past few months, make that a chronic case of “DITS”. :-) Since I diagnosed it by myself ……… of course, I have to treat it by myself …… with force if necessary. :-)

This bread and butter pudding is probably my antiserum …… my salvation of sort. Firstly because it is so good that it could well please our sweet dish wanting. Secondly, it is so easy to do that I’ll need minimal effort to undertake it. And, lastly, we have a fridge full of several days-old sliced bread and lots of fresh milk. All together, it makes the perfect condition forceful enough to finally eradicate the unwanted syndrome. :-)

 As a backgrounder, bread and butter pudding is a bread-based dessert made by arranging layers of sliced or cubed bread (traditionally left-over or stale ones), added with butter and scattered with raisins and dried fruits in an oven dish into which mixture of egg, milk (or cream), sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon powder, vanilla and other spices, is poured. It is then baked in an oven until the mixture has set and crust is slightly browned on top. Some people may serve it with custard or cream, but often the pudding under the crust is moist enough to be eaten without sauce.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Calle Bistro on 11.11.11, Quality Fun for Everyone

If you love food (and I mean lots and lots of good food :)), pop and rock music, games and adventure and everything in between, read on ……… you’re in for a night filled with sumptuous cuisines, quality fun and excitement ……… all while fully enjoying those things you love. Does this sound thrilling to you? That’s because it really is. It’s seriously exhilarating! Calle Bistro is coming ……… our ticket to experiencing that electrifying moment …… to share with our friends and love ones ……… in an event where food, people, music, games, prizes and adventure will collide ……… into a supernova of FUN. So, book the date …… the collision is happening on 11.11.11. Remember, for boredom and monotonous night out, this is an ELI or extinction level impact. :-)

Calle Bistro is a revolutionized food sale project that would bring together local and foreign cuisines in the metro, particularly in an Open Area in Tomas Morato located within the heart of Quezon City, Metro Manila (Philippines). The food event (and more) will cater to young professionals and food enthusiasts to unwind, socialize and explore the rich oriental and western flavors dominating the Philippine food scene. Promising food retail brands and enterprises will be there to provide a one of a kind food socialization experience where people from different walks of life can get a slice of the world right on their plates.

This is promised to be a night of food adventure and grand time made more special by live bands that will be there to serenade the visitors as they indulge in Calle Bistro …… to fill the air with our favorite music …… while guests are savoring the delicious food dishes featured in the food fair. There will be complimentary drinks to quench our thirst, food-related games to fire-up the night and raffle draws of sponsor items and giveaways for lucky guests …… all to make it a true night of fun, delight and excitement for everyone.

The food lineup includes but not limited to the following: Pinoy Delicacies, Foreign Cuisine, Exotic Dishes, Street Food, Grilled Products, Snacks and Beverages, Coffee and Tea Products, Ready-to-eat Meals and Health and Organic Food.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Paksiw na Lapu-Lapu at Talakitok (Grouper & Trevally Stewed in Vinegar)

We are in the mood for another “paksiw na isda” or fish stewed in vinegar and ginger dish. But what we have in the freezer are just some small “lapu-lapu” or groupers and a medium “talakitok” or trevally. While these fish are considered special or prized and not commonly prepared into ordinary “paksiw”, we decided to give it a go for a change. Admittedly, with the high status of the two fishes in the Philippine market, we also thought that there will be some sort of pride in cooking “paksiw na lapu-lapu at talakitok”. :-)

Besides, due to financial and economic constraints, this might be difficult to do back home in the Philippines where the fish, particularly the grouper, are highly priced, scarce and are thus better reserved for extraordinary dishes, such as the fancy “steamed na lapu-lapu” or if you like sourly and soupy Filipino dish, the “sinigang na lapu-lapu”.

Being an avid angler and sportsman, I know the dish would be much better if the fish are personally caught by me using my rod and line. For some reasons, the fish are sweeter and tastier when acquire that way. Okay, okay …… I’m just dreaming and wishing that I could revisit the “playground” or my favorite fishing hole over the weekend. It has been quite a while since I last checked the coastline and wetted my line and the reel badly needs actual spinning for its operational reconditioning. :-)

However, it is just wishful thinking right now. It is still monsoon season here and the rain is heavily pouring at night and during early morning. The wind is blowing extremely strong and big waves are pummeling the rocky coastline and it not so fun to stay there at the moment. Not even with the passionate angler that I am. :-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chicharon Balat ng Manok or Tsitsarong Manok (Crackling Chicken Skin)

Filipinos love “chicharon” (“chicharron” in Spain) or deep fried pork skin so much. Sometimes called crackling in English, the versatile dish is eaten in so many ways: as a snack, morsel, viand, bites or tapas, appetizer, or simply an all-around food which easily beats small hunger while watching movies, TV shows, sports events and games, concerts or while on trips. The common people’s fascination with the dish even paved way into creating equally interesting but quite unique variations some of which I have already featured here such as the “chicharon bituka” or crackling intestines and “chicharon bulaklak” or deep fried pork mesentery.

To further explore the realm of “chicharon”, I decided to move on from just using pork cuts to chicken where there are currently two popular versions in the Philippine cuisine: the “chicharon balat ng manok” or “tsitsarong manok” (deep fried chicken skin) and “chicharong butse” (deep fried chicken crop). If the latter sort of causes your hair to rise as it will surely does to my wife, let’s forget it for a while and concentrate on the crackling chicken skin. :-) Some would probably still say yakkks! …… but not so fast, let’s keep it easy with chicken skin, okay? :)

While advocates of low fat diet and probably your mother and mine will loudly say chicken skin contains too much fat, recent studies reveal that it is actually fine to eat from time to time. It was reported that in-depth nutritional studies shows that the skin part of say a 12-once chicken breast only adds up about 2.5 grams saturated fat and 50 calories to the meat. It seems it is not really too much after all, more so if we will consider the flavors and taste benefits that it will bring into an otherwise most-boring lean meat called chicken breast.

The truth is, a bit of chicken skin now and then won’t really hurt your health and can even supply some healthful fat …… for about 55 percent of the fat in chicken skin is actually monounsaturated. If you don’t have an idea, that’s the heart-healthy kind of fat dieticians alike would want us to have. In addition, majority of the fat in chicken is found under the skin and not in the skin itself. Furthermore, by boiling the chicken skin, which is one of the steps in the preparation, the bulk of the worrisome fat would be released and would end up in the boiled water leaving very little measurable fat contents in the skin, not enough to even worry about.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chili Chicken, Deliciously Hot

I once read a fellow food blogger’s account about an amazing chili chicken dish being served in one of the restaurants of the world renowned resort island Boracay of the beautiful southern Philippines. The story appeared to have come from a truly satisfied and in fact a repeat customer therefore I assumed the descriptions supplied were quite accurate, balanced and truthful. Since I am fond of innovative, adventurous and exotic, not to mention really spicy foods, the idea of personally re-creating an extremely hot but still palatable and tasty (falling within the not-so-high heat tolerance of common Filipinos) “chili chicken” lingers in my mind.

While the idea is strong it remains incomplete and waiting for some forms of stimuli or crucial information that would finally compel me to trying the unusual but exciting chicken dish. The right moment came just mid of last month while our group was doing our regular shopping for a week’s food supply. There in the fresh meat section of our favorite supermarket (we actually have very few choices), some crews were enthusiastically offering patrons with a free taste of their new marinated meat selection called “miris kukula” or chili chicken which they fried right there inside the supermarket.

Sri Lanka is one country who really loves chilies in their cuisine and we have always known (and tested) Sri Lankan food as very spicy (a.k.a. heavily spiked with chilies) on top of its being usually rich and seriously curried. It turned out, the fried chicken pieces, which they are marketing as both a viand and a bites (“pulutan”), were quite tasty but living up to its name …… it’s really hot.

At that point, I thought all I have to do is gather a little information from the crews who are actually preparing the special marinade and my long planned chili chicken could have a major breakthrough. Quite luckily, the crews, who have always been kind and friendly to us (perhaps because we are light-hearted and always smiling …… okay make that, because we are regularly buying 3-5 carts full of food and grocery items providing them with regular sales), are most willing to share us their secret ingredients. :-)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sinigang na Lapu-lapu (Grouper Stewed in Tamarind) - Kulinarya Challenge for July

It’s rainy season in the Philippines. Although this would mean bad news to many Filipinos and tourists alike, due to the flooding, thunderstorm and typhoon (name of cyclone in the pacific) that it brings, it is also a season for some good things. The sky will be cloudy, shielding everyone from the burning heat of the sun and the surrounding temperature will be cool and comfortable with a fine soft breeze. The rains will drench the drying lands and farms and will trigger the start of the rice (the Philippines’ staple food) planting season. An abundance of healthy and freshly harvested native vegetables, freshwater fish and other exotic catches will soon be seen lined-up at the local market. It is such an awesome scene for me.

Most importantly wild mushrooms like our family’s favorite “mamarang” will start sprouting in the farms, forest, woods and sometimes even on gardens, backyards and lawns in the rural areas and countryside. And this too will soon end up in the market or better yet directly in front of our gate courtesy of our friendly farmer neighbors who have particular knowledge of our huge …… okay make that very enormous and incessant ……… appetite for the truly delicious but extremely rare vegetables. :-)

In line with the cool weather that is now prevailing in the country (with occasional “uncool” typhoons of course) the even cooler group called Kulinarya ruled its theme dish for the wet month of July to be soupy, soothing and goodie ……… and what Filipino dish could better represent those than the mighty “sinigang”. Aside from “adobo”, “sinigang” is probably (just probably) the most featured Filipino dish by any Kulinarya member or any Filipino food blogger for that matter. I for one have already four (4) different posts of the sourly dish and yet I am not even a fan.

Among my “sinigang na tuna”, “sinigang na baboy”, “sinigang na baka” and not so long ago “sinigang sa buko”, I am deeply biased with the latter. Not only because it was fun, excitingly unique and adventurous but because it had a sweetish hint that really delighted my taste buds. If only I made the dish last year, I would re-do it for this month’s Kulinarya challenge. :-)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ginataang Palaka o Gatang Palaka A La Lalaine (Froglegs Cooked in Coconut Milk)

Frog tastes like chicken. You heard that before, right? Of course when I state that phrase (or sentence), it is more of a personal account rather than a generally accepted fact or knowledge. Many would of course offer disagreements in various forms. We are bound to respect that. But for me and the many people that I knew or talked to and who have tasted and enjoyed the rather exotic meat, this will remain the case. The tender white flesh with fine texture of the uncommon meat called frog and sometimes marketed as “froglegs” have taste and flavors very similar to that of the chicken.

This is the main reason why most Filipino techniques of cooking chicken like, “prito” (fried), “tinola” (stewed with ginger and papaya), simple “adobo” (braised/stewed in vinegar and soy sauce) or “adobo sa dilaw” (braised in vinegar and turmeric) and “ginataan” (cooked in coconut milk), to name a few, all works well with frog meat. In fact, I have already featured here a “tinola” version of frogs called “tinolang palaka”. As a follow-up to that post, I would like to feature another chicken-like cooking preparation that is called “ginataang palaka” (froglegs cooked in coconut milk). Since this is a variant of the popular “ginataang manok” earlier shared by our friend Lalaine, there is no better person to do the dish other than Lalaine herself. Clap … clap … clap!

As mentioned before, the tasty and nutritious edible frogs, even though not generally considered or accepted as major food item worldwide, are consumed in thousands of tons annually in several countries like France in Europe and China, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and of course my beloved Philippines in Asia. Although not really popular as table fare throughout the Philippines, it is widely caught during its season and especially served as viand in Central Luzon areas and “pulutan” or bites or appetizer over a bottle of favorite beer, wine or hard liquor elsewhere in other provinces.

Simply fried and “adobo-style” are probably the most preferred method of cooking frog when it is intended (as it usually is) to be served with alcoholic beverages among “barkada” or male friends. It is even tastier when using personally caught frogs by the group, usually the night before. But with the Internet taking much of our night time, this is now difficult to do except probably in the far-flung provinces. :-))

Friday, July 15, 2011

Daing na Flying Fish o Bolador (Fried Vinegar & Garlic-Marinated Flying Fish)

This is good. If you like “daing na bangus” (fried vinegar & garlic-cured milkfish), this is a fine alternative. If you have not yet eaten a flying fish your entire life but keenly considering tasting one, I believe this is the proper dish to sample the sleek fish ……… to somehow ensure a memorable dining experience and establish a deep connection with the fish ……… and probably ……… just probably …… it will transform you into a permanent flying fish eater or consumer, like me and my friends here in our project. :-)

Flying fish or “bolador” (which literally means kite) as referred to in the Philippines or “piyamassa” as called here in Sri Lanka is a shiny, elongated, silver-blue marine fish that lives in all of the tropical and warm subtropical oceans. Their most remarkable feature is their strangely large pectoral fins that resemble dragonfly wings which during gliding it spreads and tilts slightly upward to provide lift and folds clear to reenter the sea surface smoothly at the end of a glide.

The astonishing fins, with the aid of its strong lopsided tail fin, enable the fish to leap out of the water and take short gliding flights through air just above the water's surface for the purpose of hiding and escaping pursuing predators which include some of my favorite (in my dreams) game fishes such as tuna, swordfish, sailfish and marlin. For anglers like me, the sight of leaping flying fish is not only scenic but also indicative that our target fish is roaming around. :-)

While we in the Tarlac Anglers, only use the glossy flying fish as bait to catch bigger and more exciting pelagic fishes via trolling, it is now among my target species. :) If landing it with hook, line and rod proved difficult, I may either try gillnetting as it is commonly harvested in Japan or dipnetting as it is usually catch in Indonesia. Either way, some adult ones (not juvenile please) should end up in my skillet, sizzling away in hot oil. :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pata Hamonado (Pork Knuckle Cooked in Pineapple Juice, Sugar and Soy Sauce)

Here I go again playing with “pata”. As I have mentioned many times in this blog, I really like the versatile “pata”. The popular Philippine cut of pork that consists of the whole hand or arm in the front and the lower part of the leg below the round (“pigi”) in the rear of the swine. Collectively, it includes the ham hock or knuckle as well as the trotter. While I also like trotter, especially in “crispy pata” where it is very tasty and crunchy, for some reasons it is not sold (and probably discarded as waste) here in Sri Lanka so the cut that I will use for this special dish is basically the meaty knuckle or ham hock section only.

But it’s a good thing because the intended dish is “pork hamonado” (also called “pork pina hamonado” or just “pina hamonado”) where the trotter, composed mainly of rind, bones and tendons, will not particularly work well, unlike the hock or knuckle which is so damn good for the dish. Pardon the use of word please. :-)

“Hamonado” is a Filipino dish prepared by slow cooking a thick slab of pork (can be belly/“liempo” or shoulder/”kasim” or like in this case, hock/“pata”) in pineapple juice, sugar and soy sauce. The ending dish is a somewhat cured and sweetened meat that is so rich, flavorful and succulent. It is of course oily with fat and rind covering the lean meat but that’s actually the best part of it ……… seriously, it’s so wonderful ……… could be a little unhealthy but really awesome ……… at least for me ……… and to many people I know. :-)

I have one problem though doing this dish here in southern Sri Lanka. I have no or very little access to good quality canned pineapple juice (like Del Monte or Dole brands from the Philippines). So, like when I prepared the “estopado” (braised in pineapple juice), I will also use fresh pineapple instead.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Alimango Con Sotanghon (Mud Crab with Glass Noodles)

It has been a while since I last chanced upon mud crabs or “alimango” in the Philippine language, from the roadside kiosks we are regularly visiting along the coastal towns of southern Sri Lanka to obtain our group’s weekly supply of fish and other seafood. It seems the nearby vast mangrove forest that has always been lush and green (how I wish this could happen in the Philippines) was quite generous that day that it provided the local fisherman with a truly fine catch; a mixed bag composed of the tasty decapods crustaceans along with some pretty large prawns, pan-sized mangrove snapper, delectable eels and other exciting brackish water fishes.

Being a passionate outdoorsman and a perennial angler, the sight of the catch was simply awesome to me. It represents an abundance of nature and existence of a very healthy mangrove environment. From the looks of the catch, I could assume that it was harvested from a sustainable level of stock in a well flourishing ecosystem where marine water and freshwater collide. While I am also excited about the other fishes, the mud crabs instantaneously transported me into the realm of dish concoction moments. :-)

Mud crab or mangrove crab and sometimes called black crab is an economically important crab species found in the estuaries and mangroves of Asia, Australia and Africa. In the key cities of the Philippines, most Southeast Asian countries, and Northern states of Australia, it is generally priced above other seafood within the general public. Lucky for us Filipinos living here in southern Sri Lanka for it is reasonably priced around here although not widely available.

Commonly, the shell colour of mud crabs varies from a deep, mottled green to very dark brown to almost black. They are generally cooked with their hard shells on, usually steamed, stewed, fried and in soups. However, when they moult their shells, they can be served as soft shell crab seafood delicacy. Many Asian people, including myself, consider them to be among the tastiest of all crab species. The Philippines and other South Asian countries have a huge appetite and thus a very high demand of the said crab species.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pancit Puti (Thin Rice Noodles Cooked in Savory Broth)

If you are working or have worked in the Makati City (Philippines) area, there is a good chance that you have eaten the unique “pancit puti” popularized by one of the restaurants there specializing in fried (“guisado”) noodles and offering phone deliveries to offices, residences and business establishments. Their distinct “pancit puti” proved delicious and eventually became a hit to residents and employees in and around the city’s commercial district and nearby villages.

During my short stint in our company’s Philippine Branch office in Legaspi Village, Makati, I had, on many occasions, eaten the said “pancit puti” dish along with other “pancit” offerings such as “bihon”, “palabok” and “malabon”, particularly during birthday treats of co-employees. Even on the day my turn came to treat everyone, I also settled for “pancit puti” along with some other Filipino snack delicacies.

Of course, it is a common knowledge that the popular Filipino fried noodles called “pancit” (also spelled “pansit”), be it made with the generic “bihon” (thin rice noodles) or the other kinds such as “miki” (fresh egg noodles), “canton” (dried egg noodles) and “sotanghon” (mung beans noodles or glass noodles) or any combination thereof (either “miki-bihon” or “sotanghon-miki”), is cooked or sautéed with the salty, earthy and brownish flavouring condiment called soy sauce or soya sauce. This is one of the reasons why almost all “pancit” are light brown to yellow-orange in colour even when a naturally white coloured noodles such as “bihon” and the clear or transparent (when cooked) “sotanghon” is used.

Like in “adobong puti”, the difference lies on the non-usage of the deeply coloured and umami-rich soy sauce in the dish resulting to a rather pale or somewhat whitish (“puti” in Filipino language) noodle dish. Hence the name “pancit puti” is adopted which literally means white noodles in the English language.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Leche Flan or Creme Caramel or Caramel Custard - Kulinarya Challenge for June

One of the most highly-sought family dishes that I have not yet shared here is the Filipino egg custard called “leche flan”. On the scale of 1-10 the “leche flan” that our family, the Villanueva’s of Padre Garcia, Batangas, usually prepare is 11. I will repeat that in word just in case you did not get it clear - eleven. I know it’s logically wrong, but it’s hyperbolically true. I kid you not! For me and all of my friends and guests who tasted it, our egg custard is way better than those you can order or eat in any of the 5-star hotels or popular restaurants (at least from all of those that I and my friends have tried), be it in Manila or in any other key cities in the country.

Okay, I may be quite biased here but it is really that good. Wait, make that …… really that exceptional (objectively supplied)! :) Since it’s not very convincing to praise your own trait or sell your own merit, I guess, you’ve got to actually taste it to believe what I’m saying. :-)

The recipe is not really a strictly guarded secret. Nope! Many people knew it. I once talked to someone who uses the exact ingredients but nonetheless produces a much inferior dish. Maybe the recipe or at least a similar or very close recipe is already even published in the internet as we speak. But the meticulous cooking method, involving the careful preparation of the caramel syrup and the slow and controlled steaming process, which knowledge the family developed over a long period of time, makes the difference I believe.

I consider it as an acquired special skill learnt through practice and eventually shared or passed on from generation to generation ……… from parents to children, from mothers to daughters and daughters-in-law, from older sisters to younger sisters and sisters-in-law and in my case, from wife to husband …… although I’ve seen my mother (who diligently and painstakingly taught my better half) and aunties prepared it a countless times during significant family occasions. :-)

But it isn’t the recipe that I will be sharing here now ……… not just yet. Sorry! :-) For this post, I would like to feature my own concoction of the popular dessert dish. Hear me out first. You see the family recipe calls for several cans of condensed and evaporated milk which happened to be too pricy around here. So I developed my own recipe which uses fresh whole milk which is rather abundant and of course very reasonably priced (a.k.a cheap), about 1/8 of the canned milk price compared per unit volume. Besides, fresh milk is what they use in the Portuguese crème caramel recipe which is very similar to the Filipino “leche flan”.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Paksiw na Galunggong (Mackerel Scad Stewed in Vinegar)

Continuous or repeated indulging in a particular kind of food over a rather long period of time oftentimes causes us to experience a condition called taste fatigue. A temporary taste-driven situation when we tend to lose our desire to ingest a specific type of food. This occurs when our taste buds and its receptors received too much stimulation and in the process get overwhelmed by the same or similar flavor to the point it can no longer accurately sense or detect its true and natural taste. In the Philippines, we call this “suya” or “umay”. Sort of getting fed-up or tired of or bored of a kind of food that sometimes even its smell becomes annoying.

This happens to everyone. Especially after a long, or as the usual case, prolonged holiday, weekends or family occasions where cooking and eating (and drinking) are so important (they always are) that they comprised about 50% (sometimes more) of all the activities. :-)

Even the tastiest stew or braise dishes such as “adobo”, “mechado”, “menudo”, “asado”, “estopado” and “caldereta”, or the somewhat oily but heavenly fried dishes such “crispy pata”, “lechon sa hurno”, “litsong kawali”, etc. will no longer appeal to us once we get afflicted by such a syndrome of “suya” or “umay”. But there is a trick on how to go about it. First, give your taste buds a rest (not very easy though). Then, select different but simple foods and return to a normal eating pattern. This will eventually allow your taste buds and receptors to restore their normal sensitivity and once again get pleasure and satisfaction from eating your favorite foods.

In such a case, my father who is from Batangas would always ask my mom to cook a “sinaing na isda” either, “tambakol” or yellow fin tuna or “tulingan” or frigate tuna (oh I miss this) or even the easy fried or grilled “tuyo” or dried fish with “kamatis” or fresh tomato, or even simpler, serve him with “ginisang bagoong” or sautéed fish paste as side dish in a meal. Our friends in Cebu and Leyte always resort to “tola or tinowa” and “kinilaw na isda”. I have lots of friends in Pampanga and Tarlac who always ask their spouses or mothers to cook them either a “sinigang” or a “paksiw na isda”.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chicken Lumpiang Shanghai (Chicken Spring Roll)

Have you heard of the prideful name “Global Filipinos”? Okay that’s quite tough. How about the enterprising brand “Overseas Filipino Investors” or “OFI”? It still doesn’t ring a bell? Or you probably have a hint but not quite sure. Well, the two labels are the same as the most used (and abused) “Overseas Filipino Workers” or “OFW” (I am referring to the word of course). The shortened version is simply known as “Overseas Filipinos”. I bet you now know this. You hear and read about it so often that it could have already involuntarily left a permanent mark in one of the faculties of your mind. It’s in the news, magazines, internet and even books.

The popularity (or infamy) is not surprising though. After all, it represent a rather large but very silent group of Filipino people scattered all over the world with only one thing in mind – to WORK ……… and I mean really WORK HARD at that. Just how big this group is amazing ……… about 10 million ……… more than 10 percent of the entire Filipino population distributed to nearly all major continents of the world. That’s 20 million skilled hands contributing to the world’s economy from the tiny islands collectively called the Philippines.

Culinary speaking, that’s a lot of people missing their native foods back home. I’m one yeah! More so for those who are in countries where there are some levels of prohibition (due to religious affiliation or the likes) to the foods we grew up with like in the case of pork in the Middle East where about 4 million pork-loving “Overseas Filipinos” are working. Or in the far North American or European countries which geographically could not sustain the cultivation or raising of vegetable and foods commonly grown in the tropical Philippines and thereby leaving close to 5 million “Global Filipinos” (such an endearing title) craving for “tawilis”, or “saluyot” or “talangka” or “gatas ng kalabaw” or “talbos ng kamote” or “bulaklak ng katuray”. :-)

Relative to this, I wish to share a variant recipe of the well-loved Filipino meat spring roll called “lumpiang shanghai”. Specifically a type you can easily cook while living in the Middle East where pork, the main ingredient, is not available and chicken fills up most of the areas of the meat section of groceries. Thus, this is chicken meat spring roll ……… your tasty alternative for the crunchy, mouth-watering and pleasurable “lumpiang shanghai”. Did I mention I had a beautiful childhood memory and long standing infatuation with this dish? :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken and Pork Empanada

Folded pastry around meat and veggie stuffing is probably the most accurate definition of my true Filipino comfort food. It is among the simple gastronomic treat that immediately reconnects me with home ……… family, relatives, childhood friends and everything in between. It is an ordinary snack which every bite for me is capable of educing flashes of happy thoughts, retrieving golden memories and subsequent feeling of divine-like contentment. It could somehow serve as a mother’s tender touch or spouse’s caress that provides warmth, consolation, sense of security and peaceful refuge even when you are actually so far away from home. I am referring to the tasty stuffed bread called “empanada”. :-)

Popular in many countries of Latin America, southern part of Europe and South East Asia particularly the Philippines, empanada refers to the stuffed bread or pastry, either baked or fried, made by folding a rich buttery dough or bread patty around the stuffing. The fillings usually composed of varieties of meats, seafood, vegetables or even sweetened fruits. It can be served as a small meal, a starter before a meal, finger foods in parties, dessert after a meal in case of sweet fruits fillings, morsel while watching TV or movies or sporting events and snack at any time of the day.

There are many international variations. In Argentina, their empanadas are often served at parties and festivals. The fillings are mainly chicken or beef spiced with cumin and paprika. In Brazil, they have fried turnovers filled with seasoned ground meat, shredded chicken, cheese, seasoned ground shrimp, hearts of palm and various other fillings. In Jamaica, they have their Jamaican patty that contains various fillings and spices baked inside a flaky shell, often tinted golden yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric. Puerto Rico’s “empanadilla” is a small empanada that uses flour or cassava flour dough and lard. In Spain, empanadas are often made from thin, flexible, but resilient wheat pastry. The variable filling includes tuna, sardines and chorizo in a tomato puree, garlic and onion sauce.

However, the type I will be preparing here is of course the Filipino empanada. It usually contains ground pork or beef or chicken meat or chopped shrimps, diced potato, green peas, chopped onion and raisins in sweetish-buttery dough made from wheat flour or all-purpose flour. The dough can either be doughy or flaky and plain or covered in bread crumbs. The empanada can either be baked or deep fried with the former being my preferred method as it does not involve a degree of oil accumulation to the finish product. The golden brown tasty crust without the hint of fat (from frying) complemented with the sweetish meaty fillings is such a delightful delicacy to me. :-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tinausiang Manok (Chicken Cooked in Salted Yellow Beans)

A colleague-friend is coming over and we want to prepare an unusual viand cum “pulutan” or bites made from chicken I have been wanting to cook for the last several days. Already tired of the usual “adobo”, “afritada”, “caldereta”, fried and even barbecued chicken, we thought of preparing a chicken version of the earthy pork dish called “tinausian”. We believe the unique flavor of the pungent-tasting and sweet-spicy-smelling “tausi” or salted/fermented soy beans would also work well with poultry, especially if complimented with the sweet-sour flavor of fresh plum tomatoes or tomato sauce.

Just as I have already prepared almost all of the required ingredients and ready to sauté, I realized I no longer have “tausi”. :) We are in Sri Lanka and the canned “tausi” that we normally use all came back home from the Philippines. Maybe it is available in any of the several Chinese or Korean stores in the Colombo capital but we are yet to find one. I can no longer back off from doing the dish so I thoroughly scoured the cupboard once again. Right there at the back, I found a familiar “Temple” can but my joy is short-lived because the label says “Salted Yellow Beans” instead of “Salted Black Beans” which refers to “tausi”.

But then I thought it might serve the purpose as well, after all, it is made from beans and also salted. A short research from the internet confirmed it is a very similar seasoning ingredient which can be used for the intended dish and thus I have a green light. I found out later that salted yellow beans, also a type of fermented beans like “tausi”, is called “tauco” in Indonesia where it is popular and commonly used in cooking chicken. With that, it seems I’m on the right track.

The fact that I will be using a different condiment in my “tinausiang manok” made the preparation even more exciting. Apart from the dish itself, the opportunity to learn new preparation using the distinct ingredient opens a new horizon to my limited culinary world; that is, granted I really have one. :-) Like “tausi”, I could imagine salted yellow beans can be applied to many braised meat and seafood dishes as well.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kinunot na Pagi (Spicy Stingray Cooked in Coconut Milk)

Coconut milk in my food! I love it. Coconut milk and chili in my cookery! I like it. Coconut milk, chili and stingray in my meal! You eat it! But, wait a minute. Of course, I’m just kidding with the stingray. It is an astonishing animal so it is very likely that it could also make a wonderful viand. I have at least the Bicol region in the Philippines and probably the whole of Sri Lanka to support that claim. But let me put it straight; in support of WWF, I only refer to those varieties that are not endangered. Let me repeat that. Only those stingrays, and skates for that matter, which thrives in abundance and not currently threatened of extinction.

I may be both an angler and a hunter, but definitely a responsible one. I practice the ideals of nature conservation as I believe the sports I love will also perish, if I will not do my share of protecting wildlife now. I champion WWF you know. I may not have featured their noble conservation works yet but soon I will. Deep in my heart, I believe I should.

I first tasted stingray when I was in a project in Cagayan, Philippines some six years ago. Our friends from NIA in Camalaniogan town treated us to a lunch of exotic delicacies. Among them was a grilled stingray. I would say the taste was not bad but sadly it was not something that delighted my palates as well. The inherent stench or fishy smell of the flat fish was still pronounced on the cooked dish that even with the tasty and spicy soy sauce + “calamansi” dipping sauce, it failed to amuse me.

This could be the redemption of that not so exciting culinary experience as far as stingray as a food item is concerned. It has been quite a while since I last eaten a stingray and I am hopeful that after doing this dish, I will be somehow changed or transformed and will have a better perception and appreciation of stingray as a fine alternative table fare. I am referring to “kinunot na pagi” or stingray cooked in coconut milk and chilies. Being a traditional dish from the Bicol region, “kinunot” is banking on the creamy coconut milk and the spicy chili to deliver that magical taste that made the dishes “laing”, “sinanglay” and “bicol express” extremely popular.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chami Recipe A La Lalaine - The Pride of Lucena, Quezon

When living (or working if you like) abroad, the most common inquiry you will receive from other Filipinos (“kababayan”) you will meet for the first time is the province you came from. It’s but natural of course. It is actually your first question to others as well. The question “From what province are you?” or as casually supplied in the local language “Anong probinsya ka (or mo)?” is the usual start of a usually warm conversation. You may be wondering why I have to mention this when the question is so ordinary, rather insignificant and probably won’t even require some brain processing to know the answer. Well, to most Filipinos it is, but to me it is something that always makes me think and smile.

Most of my childhood friends knew me as a full-blooded “Batangueno”, having spent most of my childhood days and critical formative years in Padre Garcia, Batangas where my father, 5 of my siblings and most of our relatives (from my father’s side) were born. My other friends whom I met during and after college and at the time I’m already working regard me as a true “Tarlaqueno”, having continuously live in Tarlac City, Tarlac with the whole family since I was a 6th grader. But that’s not all. My birth certificate has an important bit of information that will add more to that. I was born in San Antonio, Quezon, the town of my mother, her siblings and most of our relatives from her side making me a legitimate “Quezonian”.

Going back to the question “What province I came from?”, I bet you now have an idea why such a simple query would switch my brain into work mode and almost subsequently elicits a smile on my face. Yes, it may be a little complicated, but I came from all of the above. You could envy me for this. I consider myself as an amalgamation of several groups of awesome people; a Quezonian, a Batangueno and a Tarlaqueno all at the same time. I hailed from three great provinces, all of which I am truly proud of.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Orange Cake, Easy and Zesty

I love oranges. I really do! Like “ponkan” (a type of tangerine almost the size and color of an orange), apple and banana, orange is among the regular fruits I eat to curtail off food cravings during late nights when I have to stay awake either writing, blogging, watching movies or browsing the internet. I can consume lots of it just before going to bed and not have the feeling of guilt or being bloated. For this reason, I maintain a good stock of orange (or “ponkan” if available) inside the fridge which I regularly replenish every Saturday.

This practice of keeping a steady stock of orange in our home became very handy one day when I needed and wanted to bake a cake. While I would usually prepare either banana cake or carrot cake during such a time, the absence of banana and carrots from our pantry that day forced me (in a good way) to look at and consider the other ingredients at hand which happen to be orange and apple. I settled for orange and it proved to be a wise decision. The orange cake, unlike chocolate cake, was quite easy to prepare and was also zesty and tasty.

Basically, orange cake is just a common pound cake added with some orange juice and flavored with its zest. Although it can be served without any frosting or just sprinkled with icing sugar, I prefer it with some light frosting simply made by dissolving confectioner’s sugar in some orange juice. It adds zing to the taste and at the same time retains the cake moist for several days. Amazingly, orange can really be used to make a truly exciting cake.

Sweet orange which refers to the citrus variety called “Citrus sinensis” is the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world. While it is reported to have probably originated in Southeast Asia (this makes me wonder how come it is not commercially grown in the Philippines?) and first cultivated in China (2500 BC). Brazil, USA (Florida), India and Mexico are now the top growers of the tree for its delicious fruit, either to be eaten as a whole or to be processed as juice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chicharon Bituka (Crackling Intestines) for April Kulinarya Challenge

For a person who’s in serious diet, decadence could mean indulging in foods not in line or in total contrast with the diet program. Most often the foods involve are those excessively sweet, heavy on carbohydrates and overly laden with fats and/or calories. Since I am not so much into sweet foods, like banana cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake, no-bake or refrigerated cake, “ube halaya”, “maja blanca” and “minatamis na saging” (no … not really, I just like to make them :)), decadence to me is feasting on salty and oily foods like “crispy pata” (the all-time favorite), “crispy ulo” (unsightly but goodie), “rebosadong taba” (gush, I have to make this again soon) and as recently featured here “chicharon bulaklak” (the ultimate in crisp). The mere thought of these fatty but utterly tasty foods made me slobber and feel seemingly a pound heavier. :-)

In response to this month’s (April 2011) Kulinarya Challenge under the theme DECADENCE (I really like this term, for some reasons it sounds good and feels good), I thought of adding another sinful dish similar to the deep fried meats (or fats) above but this time using the equally challenging intestines of a swine or a bovine. Okay this maybe a bit unusual for non-Filipinos and definitely not for the squeamish as it involves part of the offal or internal organs of an animal used as food. While I usually use such intestines in “dinuguan” or blood stew, this is also good cooked as “chicharon”, either as a viand or side dish in a main meal, as a snack eaten in between meals, or as “pulutan” or bites munched over a bottle of beer.

Unlike the ordinary “chicharon” made from pork rind, I find “chicharon bituka” particularly fatty, salty and if store-bought, excessively seasoned with MSG. That’s on top of the fact that it is made from internal organ which has a high concentration of cholesterol. Thus, I consider it decadent to indulge with. But like most Filipino (and some Filipina too), I would still crave for it whenever I see some or even just hear someone talking about it. It is among the wicked Filipino foods that once you get used to are quite difficult to avoid or remove from the diet …… sort of kicking a vice.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ginisang Alimasag sa Patola at Miswa (Sauteed Blue Crabs with Gourds & Noodles)

It has been a while since I last posted something on the delectable blue crabs or sea crabs or to be precise the blue swimming crabs of Asia known as “alimasag” in the Philippines. While we usually have them for our Saturday seafood dinner, we always cook them steamed, an easy crab recipe which I have already featured here, so there is no special reason for me to do a re-posting. As suggested by a colleague-friend, this weekend it’s different. Instead of just steaming the blue manna crabs, we agreed to sauté them with ridge gourds and wheat flour noodles.

Since I have already provided some information about the blue swimming crabs in my previous posts where I cooked them, steamed, “ginataan” or cooked in coconut milk, “torta” or fried like frittata and a very similar type of preparation sautéed with “sotanghon” or glass noodles, I will just share some background facts about the other two major components of this tasty dish – the ridge gourd and the “miswa” or wheat flour noodles.

Gourd or “patola” as called in the Philippine language belongs to the tropical and subtropical vines comprising the genus “Luffa”. The fruit of at least two species and typically called “luffa” or “loofah” or “lufah” is grown and harvested while still young and tender (before maturity) and eaten as green vegetable. The type I will use here is called ridge gourd and the other type (among the two species) is the smooth or cylindrical variety.

While it can only be cooked and incorporated into various dishes while still young, gourds are also allowed to ripe and dry when then it can be made into the popular plant sponge called “loofah”. It can be obtained after processing where everything but the network of fibers called xylem is removed. It is then marketed and used as bath and kitchen sponges. Due to its inherent natural properties, it is widely patronized as a hand and body scrub.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bagis Recipe Version 2 (Minced Beef Cooked in Calamansi & Chilies)

I have featured this spicy viand before in a version cooked using lime juice and green finger chilies. Since I now have “calamansi” or “calamondin” (Philippine lemon) and “siling labuyo” or bird chili which are the original ingredients in an authentic “bagis” (as usually prepared in the central and northern Luzon areas of the Philippines), I would like to make another version of the dish for posting here. Well in addition, it is also my lame excuse for not being able to immediately come out with fresh ideas on how to cook our minced beef long standing in the fridge. But as it turns out, it is an appetizing excuse indeed. :-)

Minced beef or beef mince, popularly known in the Philippines as ground beef or “giniling na baka”, is a finely chopped beef, usually by a meat grinder or mincer locally known as “gilingan”. Please take note however that the cutting process involves fine chopping or mincing and not grinding. Ground beef is relatively a quick-cooking form of beef which does not require long simmering or boiling to tenderize the meat. It is usually made from leaner, tougher and less desirable beef cuts ……… sometimes from loose or side cuttings of other cuts which could easily be marketed minced.

The popularity of minced beef soars with the popularity of hamburgers where it is the main ingredient. It is also widely use in the preparation of meatloaves, sausages, meat pies, meatballs, tacos, chili, sauces like lasagna and spaghetti Bolognese and many more.

In the Philippines, it is typically cooked into everyday food called “giniling” with minced tomatoes and potatoes, in steamed dumplings like “siomai”, in meatballs like “bola-bola” and “kikiam”, as fillings for pastries like in empanada, turn-over and buns, in meat spring roll called “lumpiang shanghai”, in fresh sausage called “longanisa” and in meatloaf known as “embutido”.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sumang Kamoteng Kahoy A La Fely (Cassava Suman)

It’s the Season of Lent and Holy Week is almost here. Apart from moments of reflections, it is a time for family gathering. Expect to see different varieties of native “kakanin” in most Filipino families’ dining tables. It is part of the significant occasion ……… an important element of the tradition ……… particularly on the aspect of “handaan” or food preparation. Just in time for the season, we are glad that our friend Fely of London is willing to share her most requested native delicacy called “suman” (in the Philippines). In particular, a variety that is made from the starchy tuber called cassava or “kamoteng kahoy” or “balinghoy”.

Honestly, this post makes me really excited. True! I love this native “kakanin”. It’s my top favorite among the various types of “suman”. I used to buy it from elderly ambulant vendors directly coming from the barrios and lining the streets of the Tarlac Public Market every morning selling what seemed to me as their home-made “suman” from backyard-harvested crops. That was a score and 8 years ago when I was still a teenager helping my parents attend to our fruits store. While I find the sticky banana leaves wrapping a little too messy, the tasty cassava filling is such a comfort food that I would buy regularly.

For non-Filipino readers, “suman” is a type of rice cake or pudding originating from the Philippines usually served wrapped in banana or palm leaves. It is typically made from glutinous rice (but also from root crops such as cassava) cooked in coconut milk and often steamed. It is also known as “budbud” in the local dialects in the southern parts of the Philippines. It is among the popular sweet “kakanin” or traditional snacks or “merienda” of the Philippine cuisine.

This snack or dessert dish called “sumang kamoteng kahoy” refers to the finely grated cassava roots, mixed with sugar, sometimes with coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Preparation follows a pretty simple recipe which I have not realized as such until Fely disclosed her recipes with us. It is really very easy. In fact, I could hardly believe the simple process that I tried it myself first to verify the tenacity prior to this posting. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sinigang sa Buko (Fish Stewed in Tamarind and Tender Coconut)

This is quite an unusual but exciting “sinigang”, the generic term that refers to highly varied Filipino stew flavored with any of the many types of natural souring agents such as tamarind, camias or “calamansi”. The use of young or tender coconut in the dish, both of its nutritious water and soft white kernel, is utterly innovative and truly promising, culinary speaking that is.

The idea is pretty rational too considering the popularity of “sinigang” and the abundance of coconut tree throughout the whole Philippine archipelago. It pretty satisfies the conditions that would make the seemingly special dish actually a practical alternative still falling within the range of the average (a.k.a. tight) budget of most Filipino family.

This type of “sinigang” was first mentioned to me by a friend who visited Mayon Volcano in the Bicol region where he learned and has actually tried the dish. Apparently, there is a restaurant in the region who wittingly concocted this “sinigang sa buko” recipe (a variation) which eventually gained wide acceptance among its guests and soon became the restaurant’s signature dish. In reality, there is no secret to the recipe, just plain ingenious concept that works. Its major difference from a typical “sinigang” lies only on the usage of tender coconut’s sweet and refreshing water as well as its spongy and milky flesh. That’s all. It’s simple but brilliant.

The restaurant usually uses slices of tasty blue marlin for the dish. But of course, wahoo or seer fish (“tanigue”), trevally (“talakitok”), yellow fin tuna and other fish varieties and even pork or beef are also options. For this preparation however, I intend to use slices of the predatory coral fish called grouper or “lapu-lapu”. No, I’m not trying to cheat here. I would admit that with grouper, my “sinigang” is probably one notch more delicious already but what can I do, in this part of the world (in our area at least), “lapu-lapu” is the much cheaper fish and easier to come by. Seriously! Its price is almost the same as the short mackerel or “alumahan”. :-)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Adobong Manok ni Dong (Chicken Adobo A La Dong)

I believe the popularity of “adobo” has already transcended into the subconscious mind of most Filipinos. I can say this because during times when our group can no longer think of a new viand, we would always settle with an “adobo” dish ……… not really as a forced consensus due to absence of options, but rather a form of immediate resolution that is considered fail-proof and almost always acceptable to all members …… and true to our implied expectations, we would always end up satisfied with the meal …… to a level where there is no trace of backlash or regret. That’s on top of the fact that “adobo”, either pork, chicken or combination thereof, is already a regular dish in our weekly menu.

Simply saying, “adobo” is something our group persistently enjoys during meals and there is no indication that we shall come to the point of getting tired of the dish any day soon. Not with our incessant appetite for the dish and quite even more, not with our colleague Dong, of the pork “adobo” a la Dong, around. :-)

Since we have been eating a lot of “adobong pusit” lately, (not that we are complaining for we really like it) I suggested to Dong to prepare his version of chicken “adobo” or “adobong manok” for posting here. Generally, it is for the interest of recipe sharing and at the same time to serve as a follow up for his first posted recipe of “pork adobo”. In addition, this will somehow support the moniker our group has jointly accorded him as our undisputed master of ‘adobo”, at least within the confine of our kitchen and dining rooms.

Gladly, Dong agreed to do his chicken version of “adobo” for all of us. While we may already have similar recipes in our notes, exploring other variants is always a constructive way of improving our own techniques; openly finding alternatives which could better what we already knew or had for furthering our culinary knowledge in respect of the Filipino dish-cuisine called “adobo”.


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