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.


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