Sunday, October 31, 2010

Suman and Hallow's Eve

Tomorrow night, A. and I will celebrate our first Hallow's Eve. We have candies for the kids who will come Trick or Treating and a scary contraption we have christened as the "Fag Hag", with no disrespect meant to our gay friends.
The Fag Hag
Halloween is such a foreign concept for us, having  celebrated only the All Souls and All Saints Christian holidays for most of our lives. We both grew up visiting the graves  of long dead relatives every November 1 bringing flowers, candles and food offerings that the souls of the dead can partake of as they travel to the underworld.  The food offerings are commonly made of grains and yams cooked into sweet sticky concoctions... champorado, bico, suman and ube. A small part of what was cooked would be put in small containers and left on the tombstones of our loved ones.

Though I no longer practice this tradition and have been converted into celebrating Halloween (as the fag hag floating on our gate can attest to) I still miss having sticky food during this Filipino holiday. And so tonight as we prepare the candies to give out tomorrow night, I am thinking of the most recent  sticky treat I had the chance to eat... Rosalie's Buko Pinipig suman.

Wrapped in fresh banana leaves, each green roll of rice smells like tradition.

There is no need to coat each small log of rice with sugar. The sweetness is blended in as well as the toasted pinipig and coconut bits.

Biting into it brings back good memories of the All Souls Days of my childhood... innocent laughter amidst the darkness and graves of those who have lived their lives.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cafe By The Ruins' Shrimp and Buko Soup

At the most recent book fair, I found a copy of the Cafe By The Ruins Cookbook. The restaurant is a favorite haunt whenever I find myself in the cold upland city of Baguio. And so it was such a pleasure to discover that the owners of the restaurant had generously shared their recipes.

Introduction to the SOUP chapter
"When the big July 16, 1990 earthquake happened, the Cafe had just closed for its annual month-long vacation (we don't do that anymore) and the whole staff had gone on leave. Realizing the extent of the  disaster, everyone voluntarily reported back to work and we opened a soup kitchen. Mostly, we did this to dispel our own fears- keeping busy together helped us keep our sanity.

As we had no idea how long the situation would prevail, we served up congee to stretch out the rice rations issued by the Department of Tourism and other government agencies. The lines formed around the block and we had to use a megaphone for crowd control. The Italian embassy donated freeze-dried minestrone soup to which we added only water.

Many people displaced by the earthquake had no means to cook and the market had closed down so we also boiled milk for babies and children under 5 years of age. On the day that a shipment of blankets and tents was delivered, we were mobbed.

When the Cafe returned to business, we vowed to always serve soup- the profit margin is better."

After reading the heartfelt introduction to the Soup chapter, which I have quoted verbatim above, I decided to try a recipe that is as unique as the spirit of the the people behind this landmark Baguio restaurant.

I am sharing with you their recipe hoping that every time you make it in your own kitchen, you are reminded that we have a nation rich in resources, the most important of which are its resilient people.


2 buko (malakanin)
1/2 kilo jumping fresh suaje (saltwater shrimp)
1 cup kamias, sliced into disks
2 knots of lemon grass
1 knob of ginger
3 onion leeks
patis to taste

1. Empty the juice from 2 bukos into a saucepan. Shred the meat into noodle-like strands and set aside.
2. Peel the shrimps and set aside heads.
3. Along with the coconut water, put the heads of the shrimp, sliced kamias, lemongrass, ginger and onion leeks. Bring to a boil and make  the basic broth.
4. After about 10 minutes, strain the broth into another saucepan to remove the debris and obtain a clear and flavorful soup.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Just before serving, drop in the peeled shrimp and buko meat in strands with some thinly sliced kamias disks.
7. bring to a boil just long enough to cook the shrimps briefly. Don't overcook as all the sweetness will be lost.
8. Season to taste with patis.
9. Serve immediately.

Seafood merienda Overload at Panciteria San Jacinto

Panciteria San Jacinto, one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Manila is located  along the always- congested C-5 National Highway. Was lucky enough for a quick merienda stopover  and sample its Cantonese cuisine.

Since it was a cloud cast day, Hototay was the first order for the merienda. The egg was already mixed in the soup unlike the practice in many Chinese resturants where the staff would crack the egg after opening the steaming silver soup pot. The soup stock, richly flavoured with pork and poultry lent it taste to the vegetables and seafood which you know were added in at the last part of the cooking process because of its bright colors and plumpness.
We just had to try the San Jacinto Seafood Chow Mein. The noodles were tasty and firm despite the starchy, light brown sauce.  The dish did not disappoint as it was loaded with vegetables and seafood.

To go with the soup and noodles were the hakaw or steamed shrimp dumplings served in warm bamboo baskets and dipped in soy sauce with chili oil.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Just wanted to share this.

And in an act of extreme laziness, I am lifting the video description and the introduction of the speaker straight off from the Ted Talks site. KUST CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO SEE THE VIDEO.

About this talk

Did you know you have functioning neurons in your intestines -- about a hundred million of them? Food scientist Heribert Watzke tells us about the "hidden brain" in our gut and the surprising things it makes us feel.

Heribert Watzke: Food scientist

Why you should listen to him:

Heribert Watzke set up the department of food material science at Nestlé in Switzerland, pulling together many disciplines, including chemistry, nutrition and neuroscience, in pursuit of ever better foods. Watzke's background is in chemistry -- in the mid-'80s, he was part of a groundbreaking team at Syracuse working on splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen to create alternative energy -- before moving to materials science.
At Nestlé's lab, Watzke focuses on the most basic form of human energy: the chemistry of food. Research on food has previously focused on its sensory qualities -- taste, aroma, texture. But there is much more to know. How does food's biological structure determine its quality, its digestibility, its nutritional qualities? What's the science of turning a biological structure (for instance, a kernel of grain) into something humans can make into pure energy (for instance, a slice of bread)? His team has been looking recently at the impact of food structure on fat digestion, in support of the fight against obesity. How much fat is needed to feel full? And how can we most effectively communicate with the 100 million neurons in our gut?

"If you can cook, nothing will happen to you"
- Heribert Watzke

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pinaksiw na Galunggong

In the 80's, the galunggong was seen by many City folk as one of the lowliest fishes, the poor man's fish. It was such a staple on many Filipino tables that it became an economic index and a rallying symbol every time consumer goods prices would go up. However, in recent years, this fish, also known as as mackerel scad, has been overturned by the instant noodles as an economic indicator for poverty.
From the Philippine Institute  of Development Studies

This fish is usually ried until the skin is crispy while the oily, tasty flesh inside remains tender. So when I came across a fresh batch in the market, I decided to do something different. Paksiw!
Heres' the very simple recipe. Enjoy cooking and eating your Pinaksiw na Galunggong!

3/4 kg. galunggong, cleaned and washed. do not salt
3/4 cup palm vinegar ( I use the Ilonggo langgaw)
1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
1 red onion, sliced
1 piece (two thumbs big) ginger
1 siling haba
1 dried laurel leaf
pepper corn and patis (fish paste) to taste

Clean the fish by removing gills and innards. Place on a cooking pan. Pour vinegar and top with spices. Cover and cook in low heat. When the paksiw simmers, add patis to taste. Serve hot with warm rice.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I love my halo-halo!

A few years back, when an office mate treated me to the simple yet creamy Halo-halo of Razon's  Pampanga we got to talking about our best experiences with this cool Pinoy dessert. Mine were the ones bought in Candon, Ilocos Sur where I spent part of my summer touring a  play for my college theater  group. Hers were those bought in Tiwi, Albay which her father,  who passed away when she was still a teenager, would treat her to after visiting Mayon Volcano.

So when I go the chance to visit Mayon Volcano, I made sure to make a pitstop at Tiwi. And there our driver cum tour guide brought us to DJC Halo-Halo.

It was a simple concoction of finely shaved ice, minatamis na saging saba (plantain bananas cooked in sugar syrup),  halayang ube (purple yam) and leche flan (milk and egg flan). The clincher to this mix was the shaved cheese which brought a very Filipino dimension (This fruit salad with cubed cheese) to the whole experience. Halo-halo, served Tiwi style is truly a reflection of the  Pinoy  palate where sweet meets salty.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


My photo diary of Bicol...


Region Five  or the Bicol Region is the Chili capital of the Philippines. So it was no surprise that even desserts are flavored with the spiciest of chilis, Siling Labuyo. Also known as Bird's Eye chili and Mouse Dropping chili, this small capsicum species registers 50,000-100,000 scoville units, the measure of spiciness. It was unseated as the hottest chili pepper by the Habañero and the Naga which measure around 200,000 scoville units. But since this chili is widely available in the country, it is a popular spice in many dishes.

At the 1st Colonial Grill in Naga, I was intrigued when I saw that the dessert listing included Sili Ice cream. Though they also offered other interesting flavors like Pili and Malunggay, it was this red hot flavor ice cream that I ordered.

I was expecting a dramatic red concoction specked with bits of chili but was instead served delightfully pink dessert that reminds one of sweet cotton candy.

But it takes only one teaspoonful of this dessert to remind you that this friendly looking ice cream is, in fact, made of chili. The tongue is initially greeted by cold and then the fire slowly spreads as the cream  melts in your mouth. Fire in the hole! It takes a while to recover from the heat, that the deceptively rosy concoction is a form of fiery sensory torture. Some people may like the experience but for me, one teaspoon was enough.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chef Doy's @ Naga

I'm in Naga as I write, fresh from a full day's work rewarded by dinner at Chef Doy's Gourmet Restaurant. Located in a nook along Magsaysay Avenue, it is quite cozy with an in door air conditioned space and several umbrella-covered outdoor tables.

For starters we had the very tender Batang Batang Pusit which is basically baby squid in olive oil and spices. It's similarly done to gambas (shrimps in olive oil and garlic) but seasoned adobo style. The thumb-sized deep-sea suckers were soft and easily absorbed the soy-based sauce. 

My company for the evening wanted to try crabs, we ordered the Ginataang Alimango (Crabs in Coconut Cream). It was, to our disappointment, unavailable. So we went for the other ginataang ulam (dish cooked in coconut cream)-  Sugpo, Kalabasa at Sitaw sa Gata (Prawns,  Squash and String Beans in Coconut Cream). The mildly spiced creamy coconut sauce, infused with the sweet squash,

And to complete the coconut cream overload, we ordered Kinunot na Pating (Shark in Chilies and Coconut Cream). this recipe was spiced just right, from the chilies to the level of saltiness. The shark meat was a bit chewy. There must be a right way to cook shark (probably like squid- either very high temperature or cooked for more than 30 minutes).

To complement the creamy dishes, we ordered Inihaw na liempo (Grilled Pork Belly). It was hoever, to sweet for my taste with the barbecue sauce overpowering the taste of grilled meat.

To finish th dessert, we shared a small serving of Leche Flan with Pili nut toppings.  The flan itself was standard home-made fare- soft, starchy and sweet.