Monday, March 30, 2015


The best baked scallops I ever tasted was in a Chinese restaurant in Tacloban. If I recall correctly, it was called "Ocho Restaurant." It may have been damaged by Typhoon Yolanda but I read in tripadvisor that it has re-opened and continues serving fantastic seafood.

It was a decade before the catastrophic Yolanda typhoon that I found myself in Tacloban. It was small, idyllic and hot. You could go around the city in a day. And that's what I did for work. Market research meant going to different stores from the palengke (wet market) to the small department stores. Before the day ended, my colleagues and I found ourselves in front of a sari-sari store along Magsaysay Boulevard, facing the bay.

I saw a young by of about seven. He was selling small Ormoc pineapples, sliced and skewered, ready to eat. We asked him what he was doing, selling pineapples when he should be in school. "School just finished,"  he replied and he was selling pineapples for his baon (allowance) tomorrow.  After buying what we could eat of his pineapples, we offered to give him extra money. The young boy refused, adding that we should just buy the rest of his pineapples to eat for later. That boy, for me, was a perfect picture of what Taclobanons are- friendly and feisty and at the same time persevering and proud.

He was of course the topic of our conversation when we were having dinner at Ocho restaurant later that night. As we downed the garlicky scallops with beer, we silently toasted the inspiring story of the boy whom we may never meet again but will forever remind us of the people of Tacloban.

It may take some time before I ever find myself in Tacloban again.  Remembering that day inspired me to create my own version of the baked scallops.

6 sea scallops, rinsed and drained
5 tablespoons salted butter, melted
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp. mix of celery, salt,  black pepper, paprika
1/8 cup bread crumbs
1/8 cup parmigiano, grated
4 tsps. truffle oil

Wash the scallops in water and remove the white flesh also know as the "adductor muscle." I usually keep the orange bit right underneath the adductor muscle, which is the "gonad" and is commonly mistaken as roe. it is important to pat the scallops dry with a towel. Because otherwise you'll have boiled, not baked, seashells. Clean the shells and put aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Place the scallops, melted butter, garlic, and shallots in a bowl. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir gently to combine. 

In a separate bowl, combine the bread crumbs and grated parmigiano. Place the scallops back on the shell. Sprinkle the cheesy crumbs on top of scallops.

Bake until crumbs are brown and scallops are done, about 11 to 15 minutes. 

Serve while warm. Add a wedge of lemon on the side if you like a bit of added tartness.

Friday, March 27, 2015


These fruits look weird.
But don't be quick to judge. These are not seeds of alien conquerors from the red planet Mars. At first it looked like the local mabolo (Fuzzy apple) to me.  After extensive Googling, it turns out that these are Saturn peaches, which were first grown in China in the 19th Century where it is known as the the pan tao peach.

In Chinese Taoist mythology, it is the "peach of immortality" that grows in the mythical orchards of Mount Kunlun where the goddess Xi Wang Mu, the Queen mother of the West, resides. After 3,000 years, the peaches ripened and she invited eight lucky mortals to a banquet where the pan tao peach was served and the mortals were blessed with  prosperity, eternal bliss and immortality. They have since then been know as the Xian, Eight Immortals, who are supposed to be living in five islands in the Bohai sea in Northeastern China.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Meierhofer
Surprisingly, this relatively rare fruit has a lot of aliases: Doughnut peach, UFO peach, flat peach, paraguayo peach, saucer peach, belly-up peach, hat peach, or custard peach.

This fragrant fruit  has a hint of almond and can be eaten by simply breaking in half and sucking the meat off the skin and the pip. They are sweeter than the regular peach but the meat is whiter and firmer, so there's less juice dripping as you eat it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


If you're planning a trip to Vigan, you probably have a few items on your pasalubong list like the longganisa (garlic sausages), chichacorn (fried and flavored corn kernels) and bibingka (rice cake). 

Here's one more food item you should add to your list, Salapusop.
Pop Talk host and food blogger Tonipet Gaba, who brought me a box of these treats, shared that making  this delicacy is now a dying art in Vigan, and only one woman knows how to make this,  Corazon Regua of Barangay Mindoro. 
Click on the pic or here to watch the video
Like all traditional rice cakes, it is sticky, starchy and has a sweet sugary topping. Though it's best after being cooked, you can take home a box if you want. Just make sure to steam it before serving. You can also serve it with muscovado (brown, unrefined) sugar.

As my contribution to the preservation of Manang Cora's heritage recipe, here is how you can make your own Salapusop.



Malagkit (Ground sticky rice)
Kinayod na niyog  (grated coconut)
Muscovado (unrefined, brown sugar)

You will also need to use a big palayok (red mud pots) and smaller palayok covers which you can also buy in Vigan.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Make sure  the sugar and coconut are evenly distributed.
Boil water inside the big palayok.
Fill the small palayok with the mixture and steam the salapusop mixture, one by one,  for about 5 minutes.    You read that right, one at a time.  I guess that's one of the reasons why no one makes this delicacy any more.

If you're not interested in making this delicacy,  just buy a couple when you're in Vigan. For a few bucks, you'll help a heritage recipe live on a little longer.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Early on in my life as a blogger,  I was a very angry soul because I worked in Makati, the root of all traffic. My oasis back then was Apartment 1B in Salcedo Village.

These days, working freelance I find myself less angry but more hungry for things that feed the soul. Like art.
This morning, I got a megadose of creativity at the Art in the Park in Salcedo Village. Despite the stifling heat, Velasquez Park was packed with socialites, celebrities, art collectors, artists, gallery owners and pretentious bitches like me whose lives depend on a budget but want to breathe in art they can't afford.

There were a lot of work that interested me but they were all dark and painful. Not the kind I was ready to bring home. After doing the rounds of the gallery tents, the hubby, along with friends decided it was time to find a place to eat. My go-to place in the area is my former jaunt, Apartment 1B. 

I was so glad to be greeted by Mang Aga, the whistling security guard who was my company most nights I spent in the restaurant while waiting for Makati traffic to die down.
Click on the pic or here to watch Mang Aga whistle
For starters we had Crabcakes (made of lump crabmeat, served with a nest of shoestring potatoes on top and salad greens with mustard dill sauce on the side)--

There used to be 3 pieces of these in 1 serving! Now they only have 2.
 --and baked Samosas (Mushrooms, Spinach and Cream cheese in a flaky puff pastry).
Consistently creamy, one of my favorites!
While I decided to just have the house salad (with greens, walnuts, grapes, blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette)--

the hubby lunched on Grilled Porkchops.
You can ask to have a side of rice instead of mashed potatoes with your chops
I noticed some of the serving portions have become smaller (the pork chop slices are thinner now) but I don't mind since the food still tastes great.

Address: G/F Unit 1-B, One Lafayette Square, 132 Sedeno St.,  Salcedo Village, Makati 
Telephone:  (02) 843-4075

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Do you remember Popeye the Sailor Man?
Image courtesy of
This cartoon character, invented by Ezie Crisler Segar,  was originally indestructible. When the brothers Max and Dave Fleischer when they made Popeye The Sailorman theatrical cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures in the 1930s, they gave him the power of awesome strength everytime he chowed down spinach which they believed to have a huge amount of Iron (which made Popeye strong). 
Eventually, scientists figured out that, although spinach is rich in Iron (According to the USDA Nutrient Database, a180-g serving of boiled spinach contains 6.43 mg of iron versus the  4.42 mg. Iron content of a  a 170-g ground hamburger patty), it is also rich in Vitamin A and other nutrients that are good for you. 

Not many people, kids especially, like eating spinach, though, because of its slimy texture and tends to have a bitterness when overcooked. Here's a recipe that you can serve with chicken or pork  and make as fast as Popeye can beat Bluto.


3 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 lb fresh spinach
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Pepper to taste

Prepare the spinach by soaking in cold water, drain and squeeze out the excess water. Separate the leaves from the stems. Set aside.

Toast the sesame seeds on a non-stick pan over high heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon so you don't burn the seeds. Set aside.

In the same pan, heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the shallots and garlic. Add the spinach and stir until the spinach has changed color and has wilted.
Stir in the brown sugar into the soy sauce and add to the pan. Add more soy sauce  and pepper to taste.
Top with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Summer is here and if there's one thing we Pinoys like to snack on during this season, it's green mangoes and bagoong.
In her essay "Culture Ingested: On the Indigenization of Philippine Food", the late Doreen Fernandez, noted food critic and author, observes that bagoong,  small fish or shrimps usually preserved in brine,  is "used not only to salt food but to give the food an acceptable Filipino taste."

It is a pasalubong many migrants and OFWs take pains to bring back to the US and Europe. My Lola Pacing used to have her stash of Guinamos, the Ilonggo version of bagoong, canned so the US customs won't stop her when she went back to San Diego where she retired with my lolo.

I do have family who have trouble eating this condiment. Not because of the smell but because they have developed allergies to shellfish.  

I found a solution for those who find themselves in the same situation- the Vegetarian Bagoong.
Mitos, the owner of Hill Station in Baguio where I got this shrimp-free condiment shares that it's made from vegetables salted with tausi, salted and fermented black beans, a flavoring that originated in China as far back as 165 BC. 

Tried it out today with my eggplant salad. The bagoong texture is almost the same as bagoong alamang (fermented krill or minute shrimps). It is salty with a little bitterness and smoky flavor. You'll find bits of tomatoes in it, too.

3 pcs. eggplants,  cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 cheek of green mango, cut into slivers
4 pcs. medium -sized tomatoes
1 onion, sliced into slivers
1/2 cup sweetened fresh fruit juice (I use pineapple or orange)
1 itlog na maalat (red egg), cubed
2 tbsp.vegetarian bagoong
1/3 cup sukang paombong (White vinegar)
1/3 cup honey
salt and pepper to taste

Over high heat, boil the eggplant. Once the eggplant is tender, drain and allow to cool. 
Chop the onions and soak in the sweetened fruit juice.  Later, drain it before adding to the salad. Chop the tomatoes, green mango and itlog na maalat (red egg).
To make the dressing, mix the sukang paombong and the honey. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the eggplant has cooled down, shred it. Add the minced garlic and mix in the vinegar and honey dressing.

Add the tomatoes, onions, green mango and red egg in layers. Top with bits of vegetarian bagoong.This goes well with any grilled or fried food.

Address: Hill Station, Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road, Session Road, Baguio

Thursday, March 19, 2015


This not the spawn of a sea cucumber and a Lastikman.
Love me tendon, love me true.
This is Suan Bao Niu Jin, entirely made of litid (beef tendon), braised in a savory sauce of scallions, oil, aniseeds and gingers.   The tendon, also called bone gristle, is a 'soft' cartilage that connects the muscles to the bones of bipeds and quadrupeds . It's tough and takes a loooong time to cook and has a gelatinous texture (translate: slimy) which makes it fall under the "acquired taste" category (read: weird). But is rich in collagen which purportedly promotes better skin, hair and joint functions, giving you one good reason to try it.

I found this at the  Little Store on the Hill in San Juan, a hole-in-the-wall destination for foodies who like Chinese dishes.

When I find myself in the area, I make it a point to go there to have some sariwang lumpia (fresh spring roll).
The filling of crushed peanuts, garlic, nori (seaweed), fried rice noodles, carrots, singkamas (turnip) and togue (bean sprouts) are wrapped in a thin, egg-based spring roll wrapper.  
The mix of crunchy and soft textures, and the leafy and tangy flavors in one roll is put together by the viscous dark brown sauce made with soy sauce, brown sugar and lots of garlic.

Address: 2 Jose Abad Santos Street Little Baguio , San Juan, Philippines
Phone: (632) 721-2359

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Chicharabao. Something interesting from an unexpected place, Tugegarao City.
Lest you're lost, Tugegarao  is the  capital of the province of Cagayan, north of the Philippines. It's one of the hottest places in the country with temperature reaching as high a 38 °C (100 °F) during summer.

And yes, you guessed it right, the chicharon is not made of pork rind but deep-fried carabao skin. It is  has less fat and all the crunch. The one I got to taste was also a bit spicy.
It's for sale in most pasalubong stores in Tugegarao but it was developed by Lighthouse Cooperative which hires locals to make the crunchy treats as part of the local government's One Town One Product (OTOP) efforts.

Address: 30 Luna St. cor. Taft St., Tugegarao City
Telephone: (078) 304-06-35

Thursday, March 12, 2015


I had always been intimidated by the thought of cooking ox tongue.  It's has always seemed to require so much work, and then you'd have to find people who would eat it. After all, tongue is not the prettiest ingredient in the world.
I figured I'd start out with something easy and simple like Lengua in mushroom sauce.

I got the tongue from the supermarket where it is, more often than not, sold parboiled.  This means the plastic-like coating has already been removed. All you need to do is soften the meat. Just make sure you choose a piece that's between 2-3 kg so it softens faster.
A warning before you make this dish. Don't be fooled. It may look lean and mean but it has high saturated fat content. A serving would give you about 6.9 grams of saturated fat (and about 241 calories).  Remember, don't eat the whole damn thing!

2.5-3 lbs. beef tongue, cleaned and thinly sliced
200 g.  white button mushroom, sliced2  onions, chopped
1 1/2  head garlic, chopped
2 pcs bay leaf
1 can cream of mushroom
250 ml all-purpose cream
½ cup butter
10 cups water
light soy sauce to season
Prepare the tongue by boiling it at high heat in a deep pot, for15 minutes, making sure it's always covered in water. Then, boil it for another 2 hours in medium heat. Remove the scum. 
Rinse in cold water and remove the outer skin.  If your butcher is kind, you can ask them in advance for tongue without the outer skin.
Return the tongue to the pot. Add the aromatics- onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Over medium heat, simmer for another 2 hours or until the meat is tender. Add more water as needed, making sure the tongue is submerged at all times.
Drain the broth, but keep about 2 cups  for later. Rinse the tongue again and set aside. To make the slicing easier, when it has cooled down, refrigerate it.
Blend the broth, cream of mushroom soup and all-purpose cream in a bowl. Set aside.

Melt the butter in the pan and brown the mushrooms. Set aside.
Take the beef out of the ref and slice into 1-inch thick cuts.

Sauté the onions and garlic over high heat and add the tongue. Stir it gently to let it absorb the taste of the butter for about about 2 minutes. Add  the creamy mixture. Bring to a boil then turn the heat  down to medium.  

Season with light soy sauce (or salt) and pepper before reducing the sauce. This should take about 15 minutes.

Serve while hot with steamed white rice or sides of baked potatoes and zuchinni.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Earlier this year, I wrote about Gourmet Gypsy Art Cafe.

Went back there with some friends to have coffee in the afternoon and tasted this wonderful looking sweet treat, the Pavlova.
This dessert merengue-based dessert was created in honor of Russian prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova when she visited the Australian continent for her world tour in the 1920s.
The origins of the dish has created confusion amongst culinary anthropologists (yes, there is such a job) from two of the most laid back countries in the world,  Australia and New Zealand.

In the book The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand’s Culinary History, professor Helen Leach claims that the dish was created in 1935 in New Zealand. In his 1982 book Pavlova: Her Life And Art,  Keith Money, writes that the light and airy dessert was inspired by her tutu, draped in green silk cabbage roses. The chef created a meringue case with whipped cream and topped with Kiwi fruit. 
A relative of the late Chef Herbert Sachse of Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia refutes Leach's claim. Actually writing to her to say that it was he who invented the dessert during the ballerina's Australian tour in 1929. In chefpedia.or,  Chef John Mangan Miller wrote on behalf of L’ Académie Culinaire de France Australie. Inc that he is more inclined to believe that it was  Sachse who created the dish  because "he was of Swiss origin and may have had knowledge of the vacherin," a meringue dessert filled with whipped cream (sometimes ice cream) and fruits.
Vacherin hoto courtesy of
The first published reference to the Pavlova was in 1927 in the sixth edition of the "Davis Dainty Dishes" published by the Davis Gelatine New Zealand Ltd.  BUT  refers to using gelatin as an ingredient which is not a key ingredient in the Pavlova.

As a gesture of dessert supremacy, students at the Eastern Institute of Technology,  Hawke's Bay, New Zealand created the "Pavkong" a 64-meter long Pavlova made of 300 kilos of cream and sugar, and 5,000 egg whites.
Photo courtesy of
While the issue remains to be settled between New Zealand and Australia, the rest of the world can enjoy this light airy dish.