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.

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