Sunday, April 26, 2015


I am secretly addicted to these pepper cashew nuts.
First saw them in Unimart, a couple of years back. They're a bit expensive so I only buy one or two packets.
They roasted cashew are slightly salted and heavily peppered.  It goes well with sweet wine like this Beringer rose zinfandel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I know it;s been two months since the Chinese New Year but l just have to share this picture of one humongous lucky kumquat tree I saw in Singapore.
Oranges, tangerines and their smaller cousin, the kumquat, are traditionally grown by the Chinese to bring them luck. The Chinese words for "orange" (chéngsè) is similar to the word "auspicious" (xiáng), thus, the association.  To bring more luck, owners would decorate these shrubs by hanging small red envelopes, which are called ang pao in the Philippines but are more commonly known as hong bao.
The kumquat is a shrub that can grow as high as 4 meters and grows white flowers that eventually turn into cute, edible oranges smaller than your palm. Round kumquats are more commonly grown, not because of their shape (round objects are considered lucky)  but because they  are sturdier and can grow even in colder temperatures.

Don't change your luck by eating the fruit from these potted plants as they get more fertilizer than your average orchard kumquat.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


I never thought I'd ever say that out loud. Until I saw this at the supermarket.
This is the eggplant known as the "violet prince" grown under the Sweet Bee label by Dizon Farms.
It's a hybrid eggplant developed in Thailand, grown not only for eating but also to make flower gardens prettier.  Apparently, there's a whole range of colorful eggplant varieties that come in different sizes. Check out the listing of eggplants around the world by the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Another great memory of Osaka was the seemingly provident chance encounter with Helena, the gracious owner of Kyong Ju Restaurant, right beside the Family Owl Cafe in Tenjinbashi.

We had spent the whole afternoon walking the Tenjibashisuji Shotengai (Shopping Street) and we need to rest our feet. We were at the end of our wits and nearing the end of the 2.6 kilometer length of the shopping area when we spotted our destination but it was still closed. 
We decided to get a drink at Helena's restaurant because it had pretty cranes sculptures by the entrance. It was empty, except for Helena and a food server. She asked us if we wanted to have early dinner. We replied that we were only there for a drink as we were going to the Owl Cafe.  She served us a couple of sodas and offered to have us pay for the drinks after we got back from the Owl Cafe if we promised to have dinner at her restaurant after. It was so sweet of her, so we agreed.
The crane sculptures are made by her brother
It would have been so easy to run away from the offer. After all, a couple of Cokes wouldn't cost her much (In my very Pinoy mind, it was also possible that this was some sort of a trap to charge us with an overpriced dinner). When we went back to the restaurant, Helena was graciously thankful for the small business we were giving her that night. The restaurant was still empty.  She wasn't expecting much weekend dinner patrons as her clientele are mainly locals during lunch hour. (By this time,  guilt crept in... I did think about of leeching her for 2 sodas!)

She recommended several items, mostly dishes with vegetables, which the hubby, a professed carnivore, secretly balked at. She shared that she was Korean who got married to a Japanese. Her recipes are a mix of Japanese and Korean style of cooking which she developed as a home cook in her kitchen.

Her version of  Okonomiyaki, a 'pancake' popular in the Kansai and Hiroshima areas, had okra, leeks and bell pepper. This is more akin to the Kansai style of cooking where the ingredients are mixed in (versus the layered style of the Hiroshima region). The batter is a mixture of flour, tororo (grated nagaimo yam), eggs, shredded cabbage and dashi (stock made from kelp and fish shavings). I had never seen the hubby eat so much vegetables!
Okonomiyaki= Okonomi (what you like) + yaki (grilled)
For our main course, we had Beef Yakiniku (grilled meat) with chahan (Japanese fried rice) and a fresh Mizuna (Japanese mustard) salad with Kimchi dressing. Helena cooked the beef for us, sharing stories of her family and life in Japan. Her hospitality made this feel like a home-cooked dinner.
Beef Yakiniku
Mizuna Salad with Kimchi dressing

Address: 1-13-4  Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Telephone: +81 6-6242-8751

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Would you like to munch on a hot and crispy, protein-packed snack? How about some chichaworm?
Photo courtesy of Tarsier Conservation Area/ Tripadvisor
Saw this on the news today. I haven't tried it. Would like to, though.

We are now entering the "Era of Worms and Insects" as sustainable food. Insects are now being harnessed as animal feed. The EU community has even set up a project, PROteINSECT, to champion the cause. While Discovery News reports that worms  have better protein content than beef.  It won't be long now until fastfood joints will serve McWorms.

Pinoys have started to join the squirming bandwagon. These mealworms, fried to a crisp and spiced with chili, are perfect for pulutan. When you've gone on to drink until you're almost passed out, these crispy creatures worms will definitely look delicious enough to put in your mouth.
Click on the link or here to view the video

Baclayon, Bohol
Tel: 0935125820/ 09323822345

Thursday, April 9, 2015


It's been a while since I've been to SM Megamall. Went to the newest wing to get me something cold at St. Marc Cafe, right across Tim Ho Wan, where people are lined up (crazily, 'til now) for the buns.
To entice passers by, the cafe has a fantastic sampuru display of its sundaes, pancakes drinks and sandwiches. Sampuru (derived from the English word "sample") are realistic food replicas usually made from wax or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Making fake-food has been a business in Japan since the 1930s and now, what with Japanese restaurants being franchised globally, has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Having these eye-candy on display makes good business sense. No sample food to waste, no paper menus to print and most of all, it's the effective foot traffic advertisement.
For diner, though, it can be a boon or a bane. While one is spared the task of having to  imagine what the food you're about to order is going to look like, one has to contend with the variety of choices which may take some time. Inevitably, the diner holds up the line.
Which is what happened to me at St. Marc Cafe. 

Eventually, with some help from the food attendant, I chose the Choco Berry Celebration. 
This is what arrived. Not an exact replica but not a far cry either. Fair enough.
Spot the difference
The thing with fantastic sampuru displays is that you elevate the expectation of the diner. So I put a bit of everything on my spoon, expecting some celebratory sparks (not even fireworks) but none came. It was ice cream with custard and bits of fruit in it. Pretty but average. Even the disappointment I felt was neither here nor there.
After the first few spoonfuls,  my thoughts were on the macha-flavored ice cream sundaes. Maybe, I should have gotten those. Next time, probably.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


These are the smallest tomatoes I have come across.

About two dozen baby tomatoes could fit in a cup. Saw these at Rustan's and immediately used them for my salad.

If you still don't believe me that these babies are small, look. One tomato is as small as a ten centavo coin!
To check if these tomatoes were reallr organically grown, I Googled Zacky's farm, the produce grower, and found out that they don't have a website or a Facebook page. Saw a blog and several articles about the farm though and found out that the 13-hectare organic farm,  located in Barangay Marawoy, Lipa City Batangas, is a business managed by a mechanical engineer who used to work in one of the top food corporations in the country. 
The articles tomatoes were grown without the use of pesticides and using only fermented plant juice compost to give the plants the minerals and nutrients. 

Wish they'd make a website to enlighten and encourage more people to buy organically grown local produce.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


I first set foot in Baguio when I was seven and I was told scared by older cousins that I'd have to kiss the 40-foot lion along Kennon Road, waiting for first-timers who want enter the city. Those who do not kiss the beast shall be eaten alive. This, naturally, in my fairy-tale addled mind, left me terribly troubled during the whole trip. It did not help that I was being teased tortured by my cousins  for six hours.  It was such a big relief to find out that the lion was made of stone and that I would live beyond my meager seven years on earth.

Often, first timers are told the same 'tradition' which I think started even way before the actual landmark was sculpted by Reynaldo Lopez Nanyac between 1968-1972. Where the tourist attraction now lies was a limestone rock naturally shaped like a male lion's head, a remnant of the 1905 American government road project led by Maj. Lyman W. Kennon. Its looming presence, like a guardian of the mountain city, probably started all that "kiss-or-be-eaten" tradition.
Image courtesy of Baguio City Host Lions Club
Earlier this year in my recent trip to the 'City of Pines', I had another first time.  Whenever I'm in Baguio, I make a trip to "Cafe By The Ruins" along Shuntug street. However,  it was the week before the  Panagbenga flower festival and the restaurant could not accommodate our party of four. We were directed to its new branch, "Cafe By The Ruins Dua" along Upper Session Road (right beside another Baguio old timer, Mario's).
The facade was less artsy than the original, and the interiors more utilitarian and urban.
But it did have signature touches like wooden bul-ul sculptures and the bamboo and paper lamps.

There are two floors for dining, with the first floor partially occupied by the kitchen and the bakery. I understand, the big kitchen here now serves as the commissary for their baked goodies which are displayed on a station and can be had for take-away.

For starters, we had, the classic kamote  (sweet potato) bread and liver pate platter. The bread has a natural sweetness which goes well with the slightly bitter and buttery taste of the chicken liver pate, flavored with rosemary, thyme, sage and laurel.

We also had two kinds of salad: the Kesong Puti Salad  (fresh greens topped with fried carabao cheese) and the Chicharon Salad.
Kesong Puti Salad
Chicharon Salad
We also shared the traditional Pinipikan, which is described in the menu as "Cordillera ritual chicken soup with etag (salted pork) and ginger." This simple looking soup is controversial as it involves lightly beating a chicken to let the blood permeate the flesh so that when it is cut open, no blood will spill.  Before you start barfing and call this dish barbaric, remember that it is steeped in the indigenous belief of fate given by gods or spirits that inhabit living things.  
Since I am not familiar with the cooking process, I watched some videos on YouTube and read some blogs. I found an account by one Nico Cawed in  where he describes the ritual:

"Remove the chicken head and set aside for cooking. Slice the skin to dislocate the thighs, then slice under the neck to remove the innards (stomach, intestines and gizzard). Guide the knife to slice under the shoulder blade to separate the rib cage from the chest. Remove the chest, leaving the rib cage intact with the internal organs (heart, liver, lungs). 

The tribal priest is then called to read the bile and liver. Calub is when the liver is covering the bile, and Cherwey is when the bile is completely visible, which is a sign of good luck. This then determines the tribe's course of action (i.e. hunting, planting, etc.). If the prognosis is Calub, the whole process is repeated, and other chickens cooked this way, until Cherwey is achieved."

When described by someone who is intimate with the ritual, the whole process sounds spiritual.

Everything is used, even the singed feathers are used to give the soup a smoked flavor.  The beating process is called "pikpik," thus the name of the dish.

You will find the meat a bit dark and gamey as native chicken is used and the blood has been integrated into the flesh. With etag as its other flavoring, it  tastes like a saltier version of tinola.

Another highlight of the dinner was the Bagnet, served with bagoong isda (fermented fish), tomato  salad and red mountain rice. On its own, the deep fried pork is not salted, which is why you have to take a slice of the bagnet  (meat + fatty bits + crispy skin)  and a sliver of the fermented fish for saltiness and some tomatoes for the acidity. The starchiness of the rice neutralizes the salt and fat. You'll lick the plate clean with this one.
Address: Upper Session Road, Baguio City
Telephone: (074) 442 4010

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Having been born in Davao, fruits of all shapes, size and smell are not new to me.

Like the marang.

It certainly looks like a toilet brush with a fat rat's tail for a handle. But what it lacks in appearance, it more than makes up for in taste.

The marang is also know as madang, terap/ tarap, johey oak, green pedalai or timadang in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia where it is endemic. In the Philippines, the fruit is grown in Palawan and Mindanao. It is a cousin of the langka (jackfruit) and the breadfruit.

I actually like the fruit for its weirdness. When ripe, it is very easy to open. Just pull away the bristly skin  to reveal the white flesh covered seeds inside.
Don't be  discouraged by its similarity to monkey brain and the strong scent which, for me, is a mix of durian and langka. Many people might be repulsed but for someone who thinks durian smells delicious, the marang is a lightweight in the list of offensive smelling fruits.

The arils, the white flesh surrounding the seed has a slimy, cottony texture and is sweet and slightly tart.
Though the flesh around the seed is soft and tender, you gotta have a technique when eating the fruit. You have to pluck and suck.
Step 1: Pluck a fleshy seed
Step 2: Suck the flesh off the seed
And you have to remember not to swallow the seed and to consume the fruit once you open it because once the white flesh is exposed to air, the enzyme contained in it s flesh reacts with oxygen in the surrounding air. The oxidation browns the flesh and gives the fruit an overripe taste.