Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tokwa, Mami and the Kindness of Strangers

I have never eyeballed (EB) anyone this past decade that I have been a netizen (the term simply dates me, doesn't it?). But this afternoon, I made time to meet up with Glendz, a young woman from Tarlac who has been chatting me and A. up about a project we all would like to come into fruition. She would always be up in the wee hours- exchanging ideas, stories and good vibes.
Myself, Glendz and A.
She lives in Tarlac, a province a few hours away from bustling Manila. And when she had the chance to go to Manila, she asked to meet up with us if only to give us the mami and tokwa that she and her father make.  Only because we were nice to her on line. It was the most thoughtful thing any one had ever done for me for the longest time. Her touching deed strengthened my belief that people are innately kind. 
What do two bowls of hot noodle soup and a plateful of tofu have to do with kindness, you ask? Nothing and everything. She owed us nothing and we never expected anything from her. This simple act of kindness, just shows that you can find goodness in people, even online.

So, as I sip the tasty, hot broth while writing this short piece, I salute her. Her good thoughts warmed me more than the mami did (altough I have to say, it is really goooood). Thank you, Glendz, for this act of kindness.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food TED TALKS- Dan Barber's Foie Gras parable

Click on the photo to view the talk
Had my first foie gras when I was already an adult. Goes without saying that learned about gavage, or the act of force feeding a duck so its liver gets fattened 6 times the normal size. The thought of the cruelty puts some conscience on the table. But as Dan Barber said, "It's just freaking delicious!"

 Some controversy has come out of his farming ethics but this geese farmer, Eduardo Sousa, is amazing in his conviction to raise the animals in a more 'natural' setting.

As I sit here, typing, dreaming of a culinary tour of Spain, I am adding a visit to his farm and tasting the foie gras that promises to bring the taste of sunshine to my humble palate.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nilagang Baboy and the Joy of Eating Home Alone

In the nineteen years we have been together, A. and I try to share as many meals as we can.  Food, after all, is one passion we have in common (and yes, snarky readers, obvious naman, 'di ba?).

For me, eating alone in a public place is one of the saddest experiences. I'm not saying this because I have a partner. I like to eat with other people.  I bring food during meetings, I like to discover new eating places with friends and most of all I enjoy eating at other people's homes.

But eating alone at home is a guilty pleasure I indulge in from time to time. As I write this I am having lunch, listening to the birds chirp and the clacking of my keyboard. It is a fascinating moment, finding time for myself. 

One of the things  I enjoy eating alone are the soupy recipes I learned from my mom and A.s' family. Here's one recipe from A.'s eldest sister. She used to make this when we stayed at his family home in Malabon.

1/2 kg. Pork Liempo cut into 2 inch slices
8 cups water
1/2 cabbage head, quartered
1/4 head squash (kalabasa), cut into 1 inch squares
4 pieces local plantain (saging na saba)
300 g. Baguio beans, stripped and cut in half
1 pc. onion, quartered
1 tsp. whole pepper corn (pamintang buo)
1 pork cube
salt or patis to taste

In a pan, place the pork liempo, at least 6 cups of water, onion, whole pepper corn and pork cube. Let it boil and then lower the heat. If you're not using the pork cube flavoring, let the broth boil  for a few minutes more or use a pork cut with more bones like spare ribs. Add the kalabasa. When the squash is tender enough, add the Baguio beans and some water if you want to have more broth. Add salt or patis to taste. Add the cabbage last. When the cabbage gets tender, the soup is ready to serve. Serve with patis and calamansi.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Discovery of the day: UBE MOCHI

Found this at the Unimart supermarket... Ube Mochi.
This one is manufactured in Taiwan where Mochi, a  traditional Japanese rice cake usually served during the Japanese New Year, is available year round.

Like the rice ball, the filling also varies. My favortie ones are from Dezato in New Manila where they have chocolate mochi with dark chocolate filling, green tea filling or the ones covered in crushed walnuts. Enjoy this sweet dessert with hot  tea.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Uhm, Excuse Me, There's Shit In My Coffee!

One of the many things I can't do without is coffee. I need it to start my day and I gotta have it right after my last meal for the day.

I grew up knowing only one kind of coffee- instant. the kind that came from the bevelled Nescafe  glass containers (that they marketed as "diamond glass")  that my Lola Pacing would rinse and scrub to turn into drinking glasses. Actually, she also used it as a coffee mug even if the glass was too hot to hold when she pumps out the hot water from the thermos. And if any of the grandkids broke a glass, she wouldn't mind so much as the replacement was just one grocery day away.
click on the photo to see the TV Commercial
The coffee experience in the 80's was pretty much just black, with sugar or with cream. Then the Frappe was introduced. Cold coffee was my introduction to coffee drinking. It was summer and there was nothing to drink but cold water from the fridge or lukewarm water from the tap. As I had no baon, I had no money to buy softdrinks from the sari-sari store. More so, the chocolate drinks of fruit juices in tetrabrick packaging from Glo-ri grocery. I still remember how I made myself a frappe and cleaned up the mess  I made in the kitchen, sat under an aratiles tree and drank my first glass of cold coffee.

Fast forward to 1997. The first Starbucks store opens in 6750. Now a working girl  (not that kind,  you green minded shithead) with some money to spend. I was astounded at the price of coffee. It cost more than my daily commute. But what the heck! Memories of my bootleg ice cold frappe came rushing back, steam rolling my feet all the way to Starbucks. After a few visits, Starbucks lost its appeal. Becoming more of a necessity for mornings when I needed a quick pick me up on busy, shitty Monday mornings. And when I got bored in the office I would schedule meetings at Figaro,  Seattle's Best, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Gloria Jeans (I so do not recommend the coffee in this joint), Bo's Coffee, etcetera, etcetera. My coffee consumption increased and so did my productivity. Any correlation there? I hope not.

Coffee drinking had gone on to be complicated. Now you had to choose between sizes (large, venti, schmenti), caffeine content (Decaf? Are you pregnant?), sugar type (brown, white, and the carcinogeninc suspect sugar-free sweetener), cream or milk, with froth or no froth, with cream or none, etcetera, etcetera.

When I used to train people in marketing, I used the Starbucks analogy every time I had to explain the power of choice. Back in the day, when life was simpler and all you had to do was say, "Miss, pa order nga ng kape" all you got was that, a hot cuppa Joe. Now, because you gotta feel empowered, you gotta make choices- starting with how you like your coffee.  And that is how people who have to have Starbucks in the morning start their day... the abundance of choices and decisions eating up their time, instead of having just a cuppa, so they can have some quiet time before they rejoin the rat race.

I have gone back to drinking my coffee the old school way. In mugs, black with just a little sugar. I now enjoy brews with blends I can distinguish. I'm no ubër coffee connoiseur  but I do like an occasional espresso from the Amici and the filipino in me never abides by the Italian rule of no milk in you coffee after 10 AM (because milk will leave you with a smaller appetite for lunch or dinner).

I also like the ocassional exteme coffee adventure. So when I got the chance to have Kape Alamid or civet cat coffee at Ritual at The Collective, Makati's latest hubbub for the artsy fartsy, I  swallowed my fears.

This benign dark amber is also known as Kopi Luwak in Indonesia, Kape Laku in East Timor, cà phê Chồn in Vietnam. And it doesn't smell or taste like shit at all.

That's because the coffee beans that the Asian Palm Civet has eaten and passed though its digestive system has been washed, sun-dried, roasted and brewed. For something that's passed through a body part where the sun don't shine, the aroma of the Kape Alamid has a mild sweetness that reminds me of Benguet coffee.  The mildness doesn't seem to justify why its touted as the most expensive coffee.

The brew I was served was a bit on the watery side and arabica-based so I don't know if that's how it was supposed to taste. I guess, this coffee adventure will have a sequel. Until the next coffee adventure, then.

And I'm baaaack!

It feels so damn good to be cooking again! 

My last post was in January 28, 2011. I have been  out of commission in the kitchen and in this blogpost for more than a month now. I don't know why but February was such a bitch.  Got work, lost work. Met new people,  lost touch with some friends.

I had felt so stressed the last few weeks, not just about my freelance work but also about my dad being in the hospital,  my laptop casing falling apart  and my schedule going crazier than Ate Vi in "Tagos Ng Dugo".

Friends had noticed that my Facebook posts were becoming more and more belligerent. A. had been complaining about my extreme grumpiness despite my usual cup of coffee in the morning. And the kitchen always smelled like soap. Clean. Unused. Lonely.

Maybe I should have taken the time to cook and write about food because doing this relaxes me. Maybe I should have remembered that I quit my corporate job so I can do what I want. Maybe I should have remembered that this life I have is about me. 

Last week, I tried to write about my first experience drinking civet cat coffee. I sat in front of my computer, staring, not knowing what I should write about. I had nothing to share about wildcat shit and coffee.  I had no words. Despite turning script after script after script just days earlier.

Then Thursday came. I was doing some errands, coasting the streets of Pasig in a rented cab when a truck behind us made some screeching noise and careened to the right of my cab,  only a few inches away from my side, it rolled down the street, slamming straight into another cab crossing the intersection, then turned a bit and surged forward, crushing the iron gate of a townhouse.

The experience left me in a daze for a few seconds. When I realized that I was still breathing, I called A.  to tell him that I love him and to thank the heavens that I am still alive to love him. Had my cab driver turned a few inches to his right (which he said he was planning to do to overtake the  other cab crossing the intersection) this piece would have been posted from beyond the grave.

So that was my most recent dramatic epiphany. Filled with noise only Michael Bay's sound engineer could imagine (Hey, I did say it was dramatic) but , thankfully, none of Sam Raimi's special effects guys were involved.
It has taken me a week to get my affairs straightened and my psyche back to a place with sunshine and laughter.
Five hours ago, I started thawing the Rib Eye beef strips, the chicken and the Chorizo Bilbao and the chunky bacon bits. Yep, five hours ago, I knew that fat in different forms was going to be on the menu. The butter in the ref was quivering in anticipation.

On the menu: Rib Eye Salpicao, Roasted Honey Garlic Chicken and Quick Fried Prawns in Tomato Garlic Sauce. 

I was going to make Chorizo Bilbao pasta but decided to make it in the morning to send to papa. Instead I made scrambled eggs with Japanese mayonnaise and fresh dill.
It felt so right, holding the knife, hearing the blade slice through garlic, onions and tomatoes. The sound of the egg cracking made me smile. The sound of my bamboo siyanse against the Tefal-coated  pan made my heart skip a beat. And as the marinated beef hit the pan, the sizzle that came was like thunderous applause. My kitchen was welcoming me back.


Here's the recipe for the Rib Eye Beef  Salpicao. Cook it. Enjoy it.

350 grams beef sirloin (or tenderloin), cubed
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup butter, unsalted
 2 tablespoons olive oil
 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
 2 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
 1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1. Combine the beef, salt, pepper, and garlic. Mix well and let it stand for 10 minutes.
2. Pour the  olive oil and marinade for at least 30 minutes.
3. Put the stove in high heat. When the pan is hot enough,put in the marinated beef, sauce and garlic bits included.
4. Sear the beef until the color of the outer part turns brown. Try to toss the beef while searing so that all sides are uniformly cooked.
5. Mix in the oyster sauce and Worcestershire sauce and continue tossing until the liquid dries up.
6. Add the butter and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Serve hot.