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? :)


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