Saturday, December 31, 2011

angry birds (promdi version)

before the proliferation of "angry birds" (which, btw, the church officials here are suggesting to ban because of unsuitable values being imparted by the game), there was of course the multicolored chicks of our youth, usually sold by itinerant vendors outside school gates or in churchyards during sunday masses and fiestas. (yesterday was our fiesta, so the nephew got a couple.)

you know there's reason to worry that the kids are spending too much time in front of their computers, instead of being out in the yard, when they got worried when the chicks started eating the ants on the ground :( this, even after they have watched "a bug's life" many times :( they had to ask if it was safe for the chicks to eat the ants. ha.ha. :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

pan de sal with torta

my mom tells me this story about how when she was a young woman, she used to help out at the small restaurant of a distant relative. it wasn't a big restaurant. served mostly treats and snacks. she said it was a favorite of the NBI agents who were working undercover in the area at the time. i want to say the actor charlie davao was also a customer but now i'm wondering if it was my dad who actually knew him. anyway, one of the items on the menu was pan de sal with torta. it's literally just that — a whole pan de sal sliced down the middle, with a little bit of the bread inside scooped out to make room for more torta. to seal the deal, the sides of the bread are dunked in egg wash and then fried. 

when i opened the fridge door this morning, i found i had the makings for this treat. so i made a couple of sandwiches. in recognition of my rising cholesterol level, i tried to use as little oil as possible to seal the sides. i'm not sure you can really tell that from the photo.

ho ho ho

i drove from the province so i came in a bit too early to the office a few days ago, too early that it was still locked, but not too early for the donut shop (krispy kreme) across the block to be closed. so it was there that i killed some time. ho.ho.ho. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

christmas table

my family hosts a christmas lunch every year and many of my cousins come. it makes for a rather raucous — almost everybody is part kapampangan — but thoroughly enjoyable meal. my mom used to slave over the hot stove a couple of days before the big event but lately we've been relying mostly on the culinary efforts of fil-am businesses in NJ. not that mom has totally given up on cooking. no, these days she just picks one or two dishes to add to the feast.

this year, since we decided to get lechon, my mom made fresh lumpia. she says that's the complementary dish. makes sense now that i think about it. lumpia is sort of a veggie side dish — although the way my mom makes it it's almost a meal in itself. oh, i have to mention that the wrappers or crepes were made by my dad :)

we also bought dinuguan from BBQ at Legal Beans, the folks who made the lechon i featured on this post. their version is more "soupy" than my mom's. as far as i could tell, there weren't any "laman loob" (intestines, stomach, etc.). i guess that's because it's for catering.

my dad also ordered a tray of pancit from another fil-am restaurant, blue ribbon kitchen. it's bihon and was actually pretty good ... until you get to the bottom, which didn't have any sahog at all. *sigh

i had planned on making tibuk-tibuk (maja blanca) but didn't get the chance, so when one of my cousins asked if she could bring anything, i immediately requested her popular turon, or fried banana roll. i couldn't stop munching on these. they were really good. not too sugary and the banana filling had just the right amount of ripeness.

and last but definitely not the least, the piécé de resistance of the christmas table, the ham :) one of my cousins bakes one every year but she was so busy this year. this one we ordered from another fil-am restaurant whose name escapes me. i don't think they actually make the ham, though. they buy it from somebody else. i've been enjoying the ham with pan de sal since christmas morning.

christmas fruitcake

you know about that joke that there's really just one fruitcake in the world, right? yup, the one that's been passed on as a gift all these years and never eaten. he.he.

i've never liked spiced cakes (except the stollen bread in germany that an adoptive tita made), and i really don't like the heavy and dense fruitcakes. we had one, shown above, in the office christmas party. of course, since i'm masa, i much preferred the homemade crema de fruita graham cake (fruit salad in graham cracker layers) that an officemate made :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

heaven in a jar

i was so happy when i received this gift from our friend k. we've been talking about it way before christmas (about which brand/house produced the best one), so she got me this one :) i know chocolate milk is everyone's comfort food, but there's a special warmth in our tsokolate batirol mix (with ground peanuts included in the mixture, can you see the speckles in the jar?) that makes one look forward to happy mornings! :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

lechon and lechon paksiw

at BBQ at Legal Beans in Jersey City, NJ
one of the items i never thought i'd see on the christmas table was lechon. not the coal-roasted suckling pig we grew up with in the philippines anyway. the lechon i'd seen since i moved to the u.s. have been cooked in ovens. they were still good, but they weren't wasn't the same. fortunately, one of my cousins "discovered" this barbecue place in jersey city called BBQ at Legal Beans (i hear tell one of the owners used to be a lawyer and a coffee beans importer. no idea if that's true).

got a taste of the lechon during a birthday party for one of my nephews. his dad bought a whole lechon. that was my first taste of the legal beans lechon, and i gotta say, it was very, very good. the skin was crunchy, the meat very tender. one of the things i sometimes i hate with lechon is how parts of it become really dry. though thoroughly cooked, this lechon was still quite moist. also several bunches of lemongrass were stuffed inside and i thought it gave the meat a very nice flavor. i wonder how it would compare to the lechon you had here.

dad bought the lechon and my mom and i "fixed" some sauce because the folks at legal beans serve their lechon with achara (and not the kapampangan kind). while the achara and lechon made quite a nice pairing, we needed to give our taste buds a little more zing. so we added a couple of cans of liverwurst (we were told the philippine brand reno was the best for this but we couldn't findy any at the fil-am store), a cup of vinegar, a cup of sugar, some crushed peppercords and salt to 2 bottles of mang tomas lechon sauce.

the lechon was a hit, of course. but my favorite part is the lechon paksiw (pork stewed in vinegar) mom and i made later that night. looking forward to eating that well into the new year :P

Friday, December 23, 2011

bulalong lauya (aka nilagang kalabaw)

did you see that thread on my facebook wall about nilagang baka-manok-baboy as the most traditional capampangan christmas dish? apparently, this triple treat (threat?!) dish always appears on the christmas table, with some additions (like chorizo) for the extra holiday zing. knowing that kilo marches by its own pace (heck, you need a passport to get there, he.he.), i wonder if the same food tradition applied to your household, too.

it's christmas eve here in the philippines and even as i write this, the christmas nilaga is already boiling outside. it's gonna simmer for most of the day. my mom said she won't use the pressure cooker this time, but will take the traditional route of boiling it slowly under low heat for hours and hours.

for our christmas party this week, the same teammate who brought the sinigang sa pakwan that i've posted about recently brought another exotic soup to the table -- bulalong lauya, or simply nilagang bulalo ng kalabaw! i've tasted carabao meat in the form of tocino (it makes very good tocino!) but not in soup. so i was kinda curious how it will taste. lauya is an ilocano word for any meat-based soup (beef, pork, chicken, etc.) but this dish is unique because it uses, get this, ripe papaya! so it's like a cross between our traditional nilaga and tinola (without ginger)!

here's the recipe:
3 kilos carabao meat (bulalo part)
1 big onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 tbs. patis
3 tbs. vegetable oil
1 large (semi-ripe) papaya, cut into slices
8-10 cups of water (depends how soupy you want it)

for dipping:
2 eggplants
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. saute meat in oil, garlic, onion, patis and peppercorn
2. pour water and simmer for 1.5 hours under low heat
3. put half of the sliced papaya, let the papaya dissolve into the soup for another
1.5 hours
4. put the rest of the papaya, simmer for 10 more minutes.
5. adjust seasoning according to taste
6. serve with dipping sauce on the side

procedure for the dipping sauce:
1. roast eggplants over stove, cool, peel and mash
2. add minced garlic
3. add vinegar, salt and pepper for seasoning

my verdict? at first i was afraid to taste it, thinking it would be gamey - or maango. turns out it's as flavorful (actually more flavorful) than beef, because carabaos are more hardworking animals :D the meat was so tender, melt-in-your mouth. the soup was hearty with a tinge of sweetness from the papayas. (i didn't get to try the dipping, i thought it was good as it is. but if you noticed, the dip is similar to the one used for pochero, which is basically nilaga with tomato sauce).

to be honest, if i were made to choose, i'd still prefer the sinigang sa pakwan over this one :)

happy christmas to you and your loved ones!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

barley juice

i know it's the season for barley juice (but of the fermented kind. he.he.) but this won't be about beer, but the more benign form of barley juice. i get it from wee nam kee (yup, the home of the hainanese chicken i've blogged about before). you can get it either hot or cold, but i prefer it cold. it tastes like buko pandan but not quite like it. not too sweet either, just the right hint. it's very refershing though, and you feel healthy drinking this. the barley grains at the bottom are not quite the sago or the gulaman or the nata de coco we're used to, but they're chewy so they add a nice contrast in texture. all in all this is a very good drink. i wonder if i leave it for a long time if it'll turn into beer. he.he.

Monday, December 19, 2011

sinigang na baboy sa pakwan

i assume you know sinigang na baboy (in sampaloc, santol, kamatis or bayabas). but i bet you haven't heard of sinigang na baboy sa pakwan. i went "huh?" when an officemate (who hails from rizal province) told me about it over lunch one time, when we were talking about food fed to us by our lolas. (i'm also curious about singang sa calamansi and sinigang sa mangga but those will live for another post.)

today the star of the story is sinigang na pakwan. there are types of dishes that you wouldn't think would work conceptually, but at first taste, you fall in love with, right? this is one of them. it's essentially sabo kamatis (nilaga/sinigang sa kamatis), which is one of my comfort food btw, only sweeter. at home we sweeten up the sinigang sa kamatis by adding saging saba. so it's the same principle, here you put in slices of ripe watermelon instead.

the secret, according to my officemate, is the slow boil. and by slow i mean two hours, over charcoal fire. who could beat that? here's the recipe.

2 kilos pork buto-buto (spareribs)
1 kilo pork liempo (the fatter the better)
10-15 cups of water (depends if you like it soupy)
1 large ripe pakwan, cut into cubes
3 pcs. tomatoes, sliced
2 pcs. white onions, sliced
2 pcs. leeks (stalks and stems)
4 tbs. salt (suit your taste)

Simmer everything except, pakwan and leeks, for at least 1.5 hours over slow heat. Put pakwan and leeks, continue boilling for 30 more minutes.

Serve with hot rice, and patis with chili.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

buko macapuno pie ala mode

last weekend, a colleague brought in a whole bunch of pies to work — apple, strawberry and blueberry. but while i thoroughly enjoyed those treats, i still craved buko pie. fortunately, i found this one at the fil-am store. it's from a place called berkeley bakery. not sure where it is based. not quite like the laguna pies you had posted about, but it was good. made even better with a couple scoops of ube ice cream (magnolia, of course!).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

spicy sampaloc

bought a bag of these spicy sampalok recently in laguna, shared it with people in the office, and have been eating them non-stop but they seem to be multiplying by the day :) i don't mind... the mix of salt, sugar and chili on the sour fruit always works. good for the digestive system, too, ha.ha.

remember when these were sold wrapped in clear or yellow cellophane, with each piece costing only 25 cents (at least during our time)? when i didn't have enough money it was a choice between dikyam (mansanitas), champoy, and this. when we didn't have any money at all, we went to the trees and picked these.

Friday, December 16, 2011

mushroom and tofu sisig

we had potluck lunch in the office recently and thoroughly enjoyed a spread of both the classics (chicken pastel, pork asado, chopsuey) and some unique but delicious finds (sinigang na baboy sa pakwan and the dish featured in this post, mushroom sisig).

i'm kapampangan so i know my sisig by birthright (of course, the classic recipe of roasted pig's ears chopped finely with chicken liver and dressed with calamansi juice, soy sauce and chili) so imagine my surprise when i read in the potluck menu that one of our team mates was preparing mushroom sisig. hmmmm.... interesting! it was nothing short of delicious!

here's what goes into the dish:

3/4 kilo oyster mushrooms (sliced thinly, note: i don't think button mushrooms will work here)
1/4 kilo fried tofu (cut into strips)
2 pcs. medium-sized red onion (sliced finely)
2 pcs. red and green chili (sliced finely)
1/2 cup mayonaisse
4 tbs. calamansi juice
2 tbs. vegetable oil
salt and peper to taste

1. saute mushrooms in oil, season salt and peper, set aside
2. fry tofu and cut into strips, set aside
3. combine all ingredients before serving, top with fresh green chili

a non-vegetarian option is to add slices of grilled pork belly, cut thinly.

it was so delicious that we asked our teammate to make this again for next week's christmas party lunch :D am looking forward to having this again :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

brasserie 292: awesome hearty meals

i enjoyed a nice day visiting with friends yesterday. drove up to poughkeepsie and had lunch with a couple of friends, then met up with E for movie and a dinner (saw "hugo" — martin scorsese's love letter to cinema. a must-see). she took me to this new restaurant on main street called brasserie 292. E said it used to be a chinese restaurant and i was stunned. this morning, i realized i'd eaten at that chinese place and i would never have thought it would look anything like this. love the look of brasserie. it's got a european feel to it. walls were covered in tiles. humongous mirrors hung on facing sides, making the room feel even bigger. we sat in a booth covered in red leather; a bunch of them hugged one wall.

we initially just thought of sharing an appetizer but the menu had so many interesting items, so E and i started with a green salad with roasted pear, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese, a plate of escargot with butter and fresh herbs and a half-dozen fresh oysters served with cocktail sauce and mignonette.

for the entrees, E got steak frites, in part because the fries were the best in poughkeepsie, she said. i got the braised short ribs and OMG, the meat was melting in my mouth, it was THAT tender. the service was really good, the server solicitous but not annoyingly so. the meal was a little bit of a splurge (i'm not going to tell you how much because you're going to start converting it into pesos!), but E and i haven't done that in quite a while and the food and company were definitely worth it :)

this photo doesn't do the braised short ribs justice at all

Thursday, December 8, 2011

backyard industry

talk about a literal backyard industry. these anahaw fans were strewn all over the backyards of the houses in a town i visited recently where the raw materials were in abundance (they say they didn't plant them, but just grew naturally). sometimes they occupied the roads too. i wonder if a big howling wind suddenly blew, and how the houses knew which fans were theirs :D

sometimes we forget that our bags, hats, brooms, and even houses (nipa) come from trees and plants, until we go back to the provinces, essentially back to our roots.

nourishing breakfast? taho!

loved saturday mornings when i was a kid. it meant no school. 3 full hours of entertainment with the "saturday fun machine." treats from my mom's weekly trek to the guagua market. and, best of all, taho (soya?) for breakfast! as soon as i heard the old man's cry of "taho," i ran down with my very own "large" cup, ready to partake of this yummy treat.

there's a ritual to having taho and the vendor can't be rushed. he puts down his wares, flips open one container, releasing the steam from the taho. using his scooper, he tosses out some of the excess water that accumulates on top. and then with a twist of his wrist, he begins to ladle the taho into the cups. layer by layer, the taho "grows" until two-thirds of the way, he stops. he flips open the other container. this time he uses a small dipper with a long handle and draws out sweet and sticky and yummy syrup. he swirls the saccharine concoction on top of the taho, once! twice! then he dips into the container again, this time drawing out tiny pearls of sago that he gently drops on top of the taho.

man, i miss those saturday mornings. the taho featured above came from the fil-am store in new jersey, which in turn bought it from somewhere in chinatown. the taho is the same as the one i had as a child, but the syrup is not. and it doesn't include sago. fortunately, i can get a bottle of tapioca pearl in syrup from the fil-am store :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

bayawak / barak

i'm sure you know that we officially have the world's largest freshwater crocodile (named lolong). heck, if we talk about politicians, we have the world's most number of crocodiles. he.he.

remember when we were young we'd hunt down ture barak / bayawak near the bamboo groves? i've seen quite a few of them, but never one as big as this (which i saw recently in a faraway island). this was actually caught in a trap (i don't know if they're endangered / if that thas legal) but it was already dead when i saw it.

easily 5 feet long, from tongue to tail. what will they make out of it? a food dish of course. didn't get to stay long for its slaughter and cooking. they said it tastes like chicken. didn't stick too long to find out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

old town hot pot: good, filling soup

this is the dinner portion of the post below ;) i met up with tina at old town hot pot, a restaurant in the west village (take 1 train, get off christopher street), before the play. it's been a while since i've done hot pot so i was glad tina picked the resto. tina and i got a pot of soup each, and we shared a platter of meats (there's beef, shrimp and fish in the photo above) and a bowl of noodles and veggies. we also had options for appetizers and dessert. i ordered the spicy mashed eggplant, which really wasn't smashed ... it was just cut. it had a slightly spicy peanut butter sauce. the appetizer reminded me of kare-kare, HA HA HA!

i really enjoyed the chicken soup, though i might try the spicy version if i ever get to go back.

the place has a rather modest facade but the interior is really nice. good choice if you're down in the village on a chilly night :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

review: 'asuncion'

went out to dinner with my friend tina the other night. she is the founding editor of the ezine The Fil-Am. one of her contributors had written about this play from jesse eisenberg ("the social network") featuring a filipina character (and actress). was so intrigued i immediately sent her a PM about it.

in "asuncion," edgar (eisenberg) is a wanna-be journalist who shares an apartment in upstate new york with vinny (justin bartha), a teacher. both vinny and edgar are rather smug in their open-mindedness about other cultures. after all, edgar kept a blog denouncing american imperialism and had traveled to cambodia, while vinny is almost african since he is very close to finishing his doctorate in black studies. of course, their way of thinking is challenged when asuncion, the filipina wife of edgar's brother, stays with them for several days. edgar's prejudices surface and he begins to think his sister-in-law is a sex slave.

doesn't sound it like it from the premise, but trust me, this play, especially the first act, is hilarious — and also rather sad. edgar thinks asuncion is a sex slave not because of the way she acts but because, as he says later in the play, that's what people from poor countries do; they do anything to survive. also, he couldn't believe a woman would willingly marry his brother.

eisenberg plays edgar with a manic energy. it's like his "zombieland" character times 100. bartha ("the hangover") is all superior and smug and rather sexy as the roommate who toys with edgar's perceptions. and camille mana, who plays the title character, is pretty cool. she plays asuncion, or "sunny," with the easy-going attitude of most filipinos.

the night we went, the theater was packed but as far as i could tell, tina and i were the only filipinos. i was very curious what drew the other folks to the play and what they thought about it. anyway, it seems pretty successful. the run has been extended to dec. 18. so i hope friends in the tri-state area can find the time to check this out.

fresh catch

i came from a trip near the sea recently and my souvenirs include a lot of red blotches on my arms, feet and legs courtesy of sand mites bites. they are so red and itchy that i'd rather be bitten by a lots of ants instead of these pesky mites (niknik in tagalog).

we passed by a group of spear fishermen who were cooking their catch for the morning. they had some shellfish, sea urchin, lobsters and small fish. talk about some fresh catch from the sea! reminds me of a tourism campaign (i think it was WOW Philipines) where "fastfood" was depicted as a fisherman running along the shore carrying a big fish.

their tools of the trade are spearguns, fins, goggles, and a plastic bottle used as a floater.

they also sold their catch of course. a lady who was in our group bought the fish with the blue dots. (forgot to ask what it's called, i was too busy scratching my bites.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

it's an explosion... (you know what follows if you grew up in the 80s)

both work and leisure invariably brings me to mountains and beaches, and i just realized some of the mountains i've seen or been to are actually volcanoes (devastating ones at that). while mt. arayat (a dormant one) is almost a constant, calming presence to us in pampanga, i just can't realize the havoc it'll cause if it awakens and gobbles sm and robinsons lying on its feet (har,har). in photo above is the majestic mayon (always covered by clouds the three days i was in bicol, hmmmp).

of course, there's the destructive pinatubo with its beautiful lake (above) and eerie crater (below)

from a trip from years back, here's mt. vesuvius near naples. i've been to pompeii and i am almost thankful bacolor and the rest of pampanga did not suffer as much as that italian town. so i guess that the next places to visit should be hawaii, sicily and indonesia :)

what's funny is i can't seem to find a photo of my trip to taal (yup, the smallest volcano, within an island within a lake within a volcano). if i find it, i'll post it later.