Saturday, February 28, 2015

FOUND: THE BACON SCARF

Designed by Natalie Louder,  the digital print of sliced, cured meat on 100% Silk Crepe de Chine can be confusing.
Designed by Natalie Louder,  the digital print of sliced, cured meat on 100% Silk Crepe de Chine can be confusing.

For sale at the bza.co website, the designer shares a short historical narrative of her design inspiration.

 "The French word for a silk scarf is foulard. The word is composed by fou (insane) and lard (bacon).
About 1500 years ago a Chinese silkworm found his way to France to produce silk in Europe. In the country of the bon vivants it accidently landed in a butcher’s shop on top of a slice of bacon. 

Hmm, so soft and tasty, thought the vegetarien (sic) with surprise and with verve started to build a cocoon. As the cocoon grew more and more the butcher’s wife, a sophisticated lady, catched (sic) an eye on it. Is this bacon going insane, she thought but shortly after she spotted the little worm who found itself in a new paradise. I will make the most beautiful scarf from your silk, she promised and kept feeding the silkworm with the best bits of bacon she could find. After three month she was wearing proudly the most shiny silk scarf that she would call with affection my "foulard."

You may believe her story. or not.

The question is, will you wear it?


Thursday, February 26, 2015

KITCHEN QUICKIE: STRAWBERRY AND WATERCRESS SALAD

There's nothing like Baguio to inspire a carnivore like me to eat veggies.
Was recently there and got the chance to buy a few veggies for a fab looking salad you can make in a jiffy.

STRAWBERRY & WATERCRESS SALAD

Ingredients:
Lettuce
Watercress
Strawberries
Beetroot
Cherry Tomatoes

To make:
Prepare the beetroot first.
Cut off the stems and boil in water for 10-15 minutes or until tender.
Put in cold water to cool it down. When it's not hot to the touch anymore, pull (or slice the skin off) and then dice.
The beetroot might look nasty and will "bleed" a little but it tastes good and is a good source of folate and manganese. The red colour from its betanin compound is not broken down by human digestive system so if you eat too much of this, you might experience beeturia.
Wash the strawberries and cherry tomatoes. Slice off the bottom end of the strawberries and slice into thin vertical pieces (so they still retain the heart shape).
Wash the lettuce and watercress.  Soak  both in ice cold water to make it crispier.  Before serving the salad, drain and dry with a paper towel.

Tear the lettuce into bite size pieces with your hands. 
Select the nice leaves and stems of the watercress and add on top of the lettuce.
I like adding the watercress to the salad because it has a bite, similar to but less mustardy than arugula. It's a semi-aquatic plant that humans have been consuming since we discovered that no one died from eating plants. It's rich in vitamin C and also contains a good amount of iron, calcium, iodine, folic acid, manganese and vitamins A, B and K. Yes, you get all of that from a small leaf.
Add everything else and pour the roasted sesame dressing.
Serve and enjoy!






Wednesday, February 25, 2015

FOUND: Jack Daniel's Fudge

Here's something I found at the supermarket recently.

If like me, you like to drink your whisky (or whiskey, if you're Irish)with a little cola, you might like this.  It's sweet, soft caramel fudge laced with lots of Jack Daniel's. A whisky purist will probably gag on it. A recovering alcoholic may want to stay away from it.

These days, when I do drink socially, whisky is my poison of choice.
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Thompson
This distilled alcoholic beverage is made from fermented mixed milled grain (commonly barley with sorghum, rye or wheat) that is aged in oak casks. It only ages in the cask, where the chemical reaction between the ingredients and the wood mellows the whisky. Most whiskies have 40% alc/vol  which is why a first timer may be overwhelmed by it. 

Here's  some tips how to enjoy your first (or next) glass:

IT'S A GLASS ACT.  Whisky needs room to breathe. Use a wide, tall glass.  Swirl your whisky in the glass or blow gently into the drink. This allows the alcohol to evaporate and the woody scent to surface.

KEEP IT SMALL. The alcohol in the whisky can burn you so it's best to take it in small slow sips so you can savor it and feel the warmth of the alcohol in your tongue. 

SIMPLE PLEASURE. Though these days I drink my whiskey with a bit of cola, the best way to detect the different tones of your whisky is to drink it straight. Coming from a tropical country where it's usually served with ice it's weird to know that the cold can lessen the bite as it mutes some of the flavors.

Friday, February 20, 2015

BIG IN JAPAN: KONAPUN

This is a bowl of ramen.

Not really.

It's konapun, an inedible food toy "cooked" in this awesomely cute miniature kitchen.
Manufactured by giant Japanese toy maker Bandai, konapun are miniature food "cooking" sets  that allow you to create mini, realistic food items with  (mostly) the aid of powdered sodium alginate, a brown seaweed extract used as a stabilizer for dairy products.

Kona, as I Googled it, means either  "flour," "meal" or "powder".

Konapun are labeled as inedible because you have to mix the powdered seaweed extract with additives and coloring to achieve the realistic color and textures of the food you want to recreate.

Like parfait.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA7wDe8SMYA
Click on the pic to see how these were made!
Burger and fries.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfAe0WSPcMU
Click on the pic to see how these were fried!
Curry and rice.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5ZOTIeOZS8
Click on the pic to see how this meal was made!
If you watched the burger and fries video above (which, as I write this,  is at 15 Million views) you might have noticed that the burger patty and fries were fried. This is because the "oil" actually contains citric acid,  which  reacts to the sodium alginate by forming miniscule bubbles, making it look like it was "frying."  For many enthusiasts, the fun is in the cooking.
Here is a one crazy video that uses real egg to make a konapun breakfast.
Click on the pic to see the video.

Now that's cooking in really small spaces!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

COOKBOOK: ANG KASAYSAYAN NG KALUTO NG BAYAN

During the recent Papal visit, the multitude of news stories included what the Pope had for lunch. He was served a  mix of traditional and modern Filipino food which he graciously said he enjoyed.

Whenever I read the words"traditional" and "heritage"  attached to Filipino food, one cookbook always comes to mind, Ang Kasaysayan ng Kaluto ng Bayan by the late Milagros Enriquez, a Bulaqueña who was recognized by the National Historical Institute for her extensive research on  Bulacan cuisine.
Courtesy of the US Library of Congress
I had met her back in 2000 when I was touring Bulacan for the travel agency I was working for. I was figuring out a way to get people to get people interested in Bulacan with a different kind of food tour. I met her in between visiting the Paombong suka makers and the San Miguel pastillas wrapper artists. She was a gracious simple, lady who welcomed me to their ancestral home in Bulacan, Bulacan and  gladly spoke to me about the specialties of the different towns. Seeing that I was overwhelmed by the wealth of information she shared, she gave me a copy of her cookbook, even writing a dedication on it.
I have lost all my pictures with her but  I was glad to find a Facebook page about Tita Mila, as she would like herself to be called.
Courtesy of Pamanang Kaluto ni Tita Mila Enriquez
This cookbook was one of my firsts and served me well when we made Piging, the first-ever food documentary on our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Her cookbook is not only a collection of recipes but introductions to every historic era and anecdotes behind some select recipes. 
She expounds on the different kinds of sinigang, based on the ingredient used to make the soup sour and which includes manggang hilaw (green mango), balimbing (star fruit) and alibangbang (butterfly flower). She shares that Jose Rizal cooked Gisadong Munggo for his visitors while he was incarcerated in Dapitan. She lists the foods that were available to most Filipinos during the Japanese occupation. Paksiw in any form was a favorite since you could keep them during the long  periods of air raids. 

She knew that Filipinos like to hear stories about food (You can't deny it. You're Filipino if you talk about food during mealtimes).  And it's a pleasure reading her stories while learning how to cook.

The book is distributed by Legacy Publishing and Communications Corporation (Telephone: (632) 871-7458.












Saturday, February 14, 2015

OLD SCHOOL RAISIN & CINNAMON PANDESAL PUDDING

Pudding is the kitchen miracle of turning dry bread into a scrumptious dessert.  
I've never enjoyed throwing away stale bread. There's always that guilt. My Lolo Greg, whenever he saw spilled rice on the table, would always remind my cousins and I of the hours of long work the farmers and mother nature gave to make sure the rice gets to our table. His is the voice I hear at the back of my head whenever I throw away something.
Here's a quick and easy recipe that makes use of old bread and would surely make Lolo Greg proud.

OLD SCHOOL RAISIN & CINNAMON PANDESAL PUDDING
 

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups pandesal, torn into small pieces
  • 1 cup brown Muscovado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 cup raisins, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons Confectioner's sugar, optional
Butter an 11x7-inch baking dish. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

Combine bread, cinnamon, and chopped raisins in a bowl. Toss to mix.

Combine milk, brown sugar, and butter. Stir gently to melt the butter and warm the milk.

Whisk eggs and add the vanilla in a separate bowl and quickly add in the milk mixture. Whisk gently until evenly blended. Pour over the bread mix and toss to make sure the bread absorbs the liquid.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes. One way to check if it's done is to insert a knife near the center. If it comes out clean, your pudding is good to go.
You can sprinkle some confectioner's sugar on top if you want to dress up the pudding a bit.



Friday, February 13, 2015

TASTED: CRAB MARITESS at the RED CRAB

One of the downsides of living in the city is having to pay a lot for good, fresh seafood.

And if you like crabs, you know how much that's going to cost you.

A. Lot.

Whenever i find a special occasion, I usually use it as an excuse to spend on crabs and what I usually treat myself to is the Crab Maritess from Red Crab.
 
The eponymous recipe was supposedly shared by former actress Maritess Revilla-Araneta (who is a friend of the mother of the restaurant chain  owner) when the restaurant was being conceptualized. God bless her then!

I love it because of its simplicity.  The crab is cooked  in olive oil, white wine and heaps of garlic. It is served with shell on and you may ask the waiter what type of crab you want. I usually ask for female crabs because of the extra aligue or crab fat.  King crabs are best when you're a group but make sure to get to the claws first. (And yes, female King Crabs are not called queen crabs. They are simply female King Crabs. Tsk...tsk... tsk  even in the crustacean world, sexism exists).  The best way to eat it is with rice and a vinegar dip with freshly minced garlic.


MIX a little of the crispy browned vinegar and olive oil on your rice.  
CRACK the claws open, get a sizable chunk of the flesh.
DIP it in vinegar.
ENJOY.

Address: 104 Tomas Morato Ave., Quezon City
Telephone: (02) 374 8406




Thursday, February 12, 2015

IT'S A HOOT! OWL FAMILY CAFE IN OSAKA- MEMORIES OF JAPAN (Part 2)

In the busy streets of Osaka, you can have coffee and commune with one of nature's wisest creatures at the Owl Family Cafe.
This cafe is proof that the Japanese love to embrace the quirky and bizarre. It could be hard to find as it is located in one of the side streets at the end of one of the longest shopping districts of Osaka,  Tenjinbashi.
The place is a low structured building with simple signs on the door and windows. For about ¥1,000,   guests are ushered in batches at hourly intervals by young, friendly Japanese women. Apparently, the owls mingle in rotation, to allow the creatures some rest in between petting and picture taking with curious tourists. 
Don't expect fine-dining food, though. After all you're not there to just eat, you're there to get to know the birds of prey better. You can order coffee, tea or hot cocoa and some snack like cookies and bread. And no, you can't share these with the owls. They have their own scheduled feeding sessions. Servings are small, too. But it's okay since you'll spend the first fifteen minutes listening to an introduction to handling owls  (mainly in Japanese) and the next 45 minutes trying to have your photos taken with your new found feathered friends.
The young ladies will introduce you to the owls one at a time, assisting you and making sure that no on gets hurt (those talons and beaks can rip your eyes out if you behaved badly).  We didn't have time to take down the owl names because we found ourselves snapping pics like crazy.

This cute one was perched on my shoulder when it suddenly pooped on  me!
This one was a bit of a snob.
This big momma is fierce!
And this one's just plain creepy!
The whole experience is more akin to visiting a pet shop than a petting zoo, especially after finding out that the owls were for sale (the cheapest at ¥1,000,000.00).  

I probably won't go back to an Owl Cafe next time I'm in Japan. I wonder if I should try the Goat Cafe next?


Address: 1-10-13 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Telephone: +81 6-6360-6205

 
 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

FUGU, EXTREME CUISINE- MEMORIES OF JAPAN (Part 1)



Danger. One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Japan.

Aside from riding this roller coaster...
video

I set a date with the fish of death.
Photo courtesy of animalzoo.ro
Fugu or pufferfish is the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world after the golden poison frog. Its skin and liver contain tetrodotoxin, a biological neurotoxin that's 100 times more poisonous than cyanide and causes the paralysis of voluntary muscles, a loss of sensation and a fatal heart rate increase.  A miniscule half milligram drop will make you stop breathing as your heart races to 100 beats per minute while you lose all your sensation. You will be zombified to a state of near-death, remaining conscious but paralysed until you say, "sayonara world!"

On the upside, it has high collagen and low calorie content, the perfect beauty food. And it has only killed 23 people  from 2000 to 2009.  That's a good number compared to the 24,000 who die from lightning strikes every year. 

Since I was going to risk my life for food, I did some online research and learned that only licensed artisan cooks can prepare the fish for public consumption. I found a restaurant based on blogs. After all, I'd like to eat at a restaurant where people actually survived from eating the deadly fish.

A. marched with me through the streets of the famous Dotonbori dining district of Osaka to find Gempin Fugu even if he disliked the possibility of losing me to a fish. It took us quite sometime (and a few "Lost in Translation" moments) to find the restaurant that was located at the basement of Comfort Hotel.
The place had several low tables over a recessed floor and paired with zabuton cushions. The food attendants would even help you remove your shoes. Like most restaurants we had been to, it was dimly lit and had smoking areas.
Luckily, the menu had English translation  and listed other ala carte items, mostly seafood, including the kani salad that A. ordered. It was the only thing he was familiar with. While he will only eat what he's tried before, I have sworn to eat the unfamiliar.
I ordered grilled snowcrabs. Which turned out to be disappointing. Three crab legs did not make a (possibly final) supper.
To calm my nerves, I ordered some liquid courage in the form of warm sake. A., who wanted to stay calm, just in case, had Sapporo beer.
Fugu is served diffent ways. It can be grilled, smoked or parboiled. The most famous way to serve it is as sashimi  also known as Tessa or Fugu sashi. The thinly sliced raw fish is served with a side of grated daikon (white radish) and gari (pickled ginger) then dipped in ponzu shōyu, a tart citrus-based soy sauce with a hint of freshly grated wasabi (a pungent green spicy root crop).
The time had come to face the fish of death. Served like a work of art, its pale white meat, fanned out and at its base was a colorful mix of grated vegetables and a slice of lime sitting on top of an  ooba, a big perilla leaf.
I took my first bite. No dipping sauce. It was bland. Nothing compared to tuna or salmon sashimi, more like raw squid or octopus. I wondered if I had ingested some poison and just lost my sense of taste. Not one to panic, I took a gulp of sake. I could taste the bone-dry alcohol. I had not yet lost my sense of taste. So I took another bite. It was still bland. A., who had been quietly watching me, could sense my disappointment. He urged me to dip the sliver of fish meat in the ponzu shōyu. The fugu just took on the taste of the sauce. Since I was still still alive, I coaxed A. to try some. He did.
After a few slices, I felt a bit of numbness on my lips, like getting some anesthetic cream at the dentist. I had read that this is something one should expect when one eats fugu because there will always be a small, non-lethal amount of the poison on the fish. But maybe it was just the sake.
This picture is proof that I finished the fish of death. 
 Post script: After reading this article. A. admitted the reason why he ate the Fugu Sashi- if I were to show signs of poisoning later on in the night, he would also be poisoned. We would die together in Japan. Isn't that sweet?

Address: Gempin Fugu (other articles may refer to it as Genpin Fugu)
Comfort Inn, Osakashinsaibashi B1F, 1-15-15, Higashishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, OsakaTelephone:  06-6245-5429