Sunday, February 27, 2011

Catfish and Pangasius Fishing in Apalit, Pampanga, Philippines

For truly dedicated and passionate sports fishermen or anglers, looming unfavorable weather condition at the sea or lakes will be the worst news to receive the day prior to any weekend. Such unwanted (to hear) reports have the capability to crush ones spirits and turn the world temporarily upside down. It is tantamount to the complete annihilation of a week-long (sometimes month-long) process of profuse planning, preparation, anticipation and imagination which unknowingly, has already caused involuntary excessive salivating, unnecessary drooling and spontaneous feeling of agitation not really curable even by the powerful combination of TV-watching, pizza-eating and beer-drinking moments at home. (But that would really help to lessen the agony ……… just so the wives know!) :-)

During such days when the sea or lake or river is not quite safe for venturing or at times when you are located quite far from any of them and does not have the liberty of time for some reasons or another, then the nearest available pay pond could be the angler's best friend ………… which we may not instantly realize is always there to save the weekend. No, it will not brand us already addicted to the sports. No way! That’s not the case. As I said above, we are just seriously passionate about it. Okay, okay, somehow we probably are. :)

You see, like most implements and tools, the cheap (as the wives thought) fishing gears and accessories need regular testing and commissioning for its continuous well and effectively functioning. Such investments although not really big (as declared to the wives) need ample quality time, constant monitoring and personal touch or over-seeing ……… so that it will incessantly provide us with priceless “returns” supplied in the currencies of “thrill”, “joy” and “fulfillment”. I really like saying that! :-)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ensaladang Labanos sa Alamang (White Radish & Tomato Salad in Shrimp Paste)

Simplicity brings out the best in anything. It is said to be the first step towards attaining great things. Quite startling still, simplicity sometimes provides us with the grandest form of excellence ……… of perfection ……… of sophistication. Indeed, there is beauty, creativity and harmony in simplicity. This is also true in food where simplification means avoiding or eliminating the excessive or unnecessary, either ingredient or process, so that the food’s natural goodness, taste, flavor and nutrients are fully brought out, highlighted and well preserved within the dish.

Simply saying, there are foods that are better made uncomplicated ……… truly simple. Not simpler of course. Just at the right level ……… where everything is wholly complementing with one another ……… where the main ingredient is at its best state and everything else is in harmony ……… jointly providing something more than the sum total of all of its parts. :-)

For me, the Filipino side dish called “ensaladang labanos” is among those foods. This could be debatable of course, but for me, it is. The easy salad dish made from thinly sliced white radish, chopped tomatoes and sliced onions and seasoned only with sea salt or sometimes with fish sauce or “patis” is surprisingly good despite its unbelievable simplicity. An easy and tasty dish loaded with character, texture, depth and color you won’t necessarily expect to come out from just mixing a few ordinary vegetable ingredients together. That’s right, there is no cooking process involved at all and yet such a nice delicious dish will emerge.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Southern Tagalog Style Goto (Ox Jowl or Cheek Soup)

Aphrodisiac Food……that’s the theme of the Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge for the love month of February. It’s pretty sensible right? The sweetly and hotly (pun intended) celebrated Valentine’s Day or Heart’s Day is the most important occasion of the month …… especially for lovers …… or would-be lovers. A day allocated and designated particularly for couples who want to celebrate their love, pledge and vow (as the case maybe) with one another ……… to strengthen the relation ……… to re-ignite the passion ……… to rekindle the affection ……… to solidify the union.

If sumo wrestlers have their “chanko-nabe” meals to develop the strength for a husky and fiercely fight, we in Kulinarya tried hard to come out with special food for lovers to be ready for a lovely and cuddly fight. That while some political activists are giving free condoms in the streets of Manila (Philippines) for safety reasons, foodie members of Kulinarya around the world are busy concocting food formulas for sultry reasons ……… for enhancing the desire ……… for stimulating ones drive ……… through meals which are not only intended to be attractive and tasty ……… but also provocative and kinky. :-)

This blog is not actually new to such a recipe. For more than a year, my most popular and thus most visited post is Soup Number 5. Could you believe that? It is regarded as the ultimate aphrodisiac Filipino food. Myth or truth is something not important for those who love the dish. Be it simply for the taste or secretly for the potent love potion, Soup No. 5 continues to draw patron. Be it for the comforting effect or the stimulating upshot, more and more Filipinos are eating the famed soup. As a follow up for that dish and as my entrĂ©e to the Kulinarya challenge, I am glad to feature the Southern Tagalog Style Goto, an invigorating soup made from ox jowl or cheek called “mascara ng baka”.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Paksiw Na Pata Version 2 (Pork Ham Hock or Knuckle Stewed in Vinegar)

My first post of the Filipino ham hock or knuckle dish called “paksiw na pata” is the sweet-sourly type that has a reduced, rich and somewhat oily gravy-like sauce. I wish to feature here now the simpler salty-sourly and relatively soupy version of the versatile and popular Filipino table fare. While I have been long exposed to the second version and I have enjoyed and still enjoying it a lot, I am now biased to the first version which has become a personal favourite since I learned cooking it by heart. I must state though that majority in the family still prefer this second method which is how my mother, sisters and most family members regularly prepare the dish.

As already mentioned before, I have a strong affinity with the pork cut “pata” or pork hand + hock + trotter in the case of the British cut, or pork arm + hock in the case of the US cut. Aside from “paksiw” (stewed in vinegar), “humba” (braised in soy sauce and sugar), “estopado” (braised in pineapple juice), “pata tim” (cooked in soy sauce) and “kare-kare” (cooked in peanut sauce with vegetables), it is also fried into “crispy pata” (boiled then deep fried until crisp). I really like the succulent and gelatinous texture of the skin and fat and the soft juicy character of the grains of meat when properly cooked until tender) in cases of stew and braise dishes and the crunchy crackling that becomes of the rind and the roast-like taste of the meat inside when deep fried. Whew, I’m salivating now.

Like “sinigang”, the sourly broth in this dish is so invigorating. However, to properly enjoy it, you must attain the right amount of vinegar. It is a key factor. Since different types of vinegar have different levels of acidity, which is responsible for the sourness, then familiarity on the type of vinegar to use and personal adjustment in the final quantity is necessary. The dish goes very well with steamed rice and loved even by kids. For those who like spicy foods, the addition of several chopped bird’s eye chilli (“siling labuyo”) directly on the serving bowl will surely provide a kick in every sip.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Match-Science TCT Batch 83 First Gift-Giving Project

Friendship endures. It is never diminished by distance or time. Most especially if it develops during the exciting formative years of high school. For it is firmly founded on shared experiences, togetherness, self-discoveries, unadulterated love and unconditional understanding. It is so powerful……… compelling……… capable of leaving a permanent footprint in the heart…… and most are in fact, everlasting! That no matter how rewarding, forceful, complicated, tragic or life-changing the succeeding personal experiences are, there will come a time that you will look back…… smile and wonder. And suddenly the desire to meet old but never forgotten friends is overwhelming. The feeling is intense but light-hearted…… chaotic but beautiful!

It’s probably the reason why for schoolmates, homecoming or even just an impromptu or haphazard meeting and getting together for at least a day, is one of the most sought-after activities lined-up during the long holiday seasons. When, despite the many family events that occupy almost all available days of the vacation, we would always find ways to squeeze into our already tight schedule, a time for significant gathering of alma mater friends, whoever is available.

This is so true for the High School Match-Science Batch 83 of the Tarlac College of Technology (TCT) [now Tarlac State University (TSU)]. We (or many times it was they :)) always find time to reconnect with one another…… to rekindle the friendship …… to reminisce happy memories …… and spend grand time. While such a simple get-together activity is already important in itself, some batch mates were able to transform the last one we had into an even more meaningful, socially relevant and cause-oriented affair. No kidding. It was many folds better and fulfilling than the usual meeting, bonding, eating, singing and drinking. :-)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Watalappan - Sri Lankan Egg Custard

In spite having been in Sri Lanka for almost 6 years and constantly enjoying its exceptional cuisine for such a long period of time, in our accommodation courtesy of our Sri Lankan cook, in our office during company affairs or during an employee’s birthday, in between restaurants, hotels and resorts during our occasional dine outs and holidays and in houses or reception halls of local colleagues and friends when attending their special occasions like weddings, we are yet to try cooking any of their highly varied native cookery and delicacies by ourselves.

Whilst I have featured here some of their foods such as the widely available baked, grilled and fried everyday snack which includes “roti”, hopper, fish bun and egg roll (our group’s favorite) amongst other things and interesting food products or ingredients such as the healthy “kithul” jaggery and treacle, this is my first attempt to actually prepare one of their popular sweet dishes called “watalappan”. Interestingly, “watalappan” is Sri Lanka’s version of the common custard pie. It is a dessert and snack dish very similar to the Filipino steamed egg custard called “leche” flan.

The unique aspect of “watalappan” is the use of their local palm sugar (made from inflorescence sap) called “kithul” jaggery or treacle in lieu of ordinary sugar (made from sugarcane) and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. Apart from its obvious health benefits, the innate, unrefined and unadulterated taste of palm sugar and inherent sweetness of coconut cream make for a distinctly earthy-sweet egg custard which has hints of subtlety and purity due to the natural forms of the ingredients being used.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tsitsaron or Chicharon Bulaklak (Deep Fried Pork Mesentery)

Does mesentery sounds new to you? Well, that’s the name of a section of the pig entrails that is called “bulaklak” (a cut of pork) in the Philippines and made into Filipino deep fried dish “chicharon bulaklak”. While most internet information would refer to the exotic dish “chicharon bulaklak” as crackling intestines, it is not made from intestines at all. Cracklings made from pork (or beef or even chicken) intestines are called “chicharon bituka”. Therefore, “chicharon bulaklak” which translates to flower cracklings in English, is entirely a different dish and not made from the tubular lower segment of the alimentary canal but from the mesentery.

In anatomy, mesentery refers to the fold of the peritoneum (membrane lining the cavity of the abdomen) attaching the stomach, small intestine and other organs to the posterior wall of the abdomen. However, the word mesentery usually refers to the small bowel mesentery, a fold of tissue which anchors the small intestine to the back of the abdominal wall. It is the thin, web-like structure that supports the small intestine while allowing for the changes in their size and position. When the intestine is detached from this mesentery, the outside thin part of the latter forms a frill or ruffled-like ornament resembling a flower, hence the name of the meat and dish.

“Chicharon” or “tsitsaron” is a derivative of the Spanish word “chicharrĂ³n” which refers to the dish made of fried rinds, usually from pork, but sometimes made from chicken, beef or mutton (goat). It is popular in some parts of Spain, in Latin America and other countries with strong Spanish cultural influences like Mexico and of course, the Philippines. Filipinos love the dish so much that many other meat parts are prepared into “chicharon”. Apart from rinds of chicken, cow and “carabao” (Philippine water buffalo), Filipino “chicharon” can also be made from intestines of pork, beef and chicken, crop or “butse” of chicken, skin of yellow fin tuna and as I am about to feature here, pork mesentery.


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