Asian Eats at The Podium

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By virtue of their facebook posts and photos alone, I’d say Pinoy Eats World looks like a pretty fun group. I haven’t had the pleasure of attending one of their food tours or guerilla dinners yet, but I did manage to head on over to The Podium where they organized a small food fair, World Eats “Asia”, just in time for the Chinese New Year. It’s actually an intimate gathering of a few up-and-coming food businesses with exciting (and tasty) products.

Here’s a rundown of the things I had, and really, the food speaks for itself. Make the most of it because WEA ends today!

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Delicious‘ artisanal wagyu corned beef ever since I had it at Mercato. This time, beyond the humble (haha) corned beef pandesal, Jeremy (Mr. D himself) has served up his version of corned beef sisig which is really just one part madness and two parts delicious. Toasted bits and pieces of corned beef were served with “artisanal” cheese, which is actually just Magnolia quickmelt “to keep it ghetto”, according to Mr. D. In between toasted ensaymada, this little sandwich is anything but humble.
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Next up, we dropped by Craft Coffee Workshop’s stall. I’m not really a fan of coffee because it makes my palms sweat more than the usual, but it’s fascinating to observe and listen to people who have so much passion for coffee-making that they’re also willing and able to share their expertise with other people. I got one of their bestsellers, the Nicaragua. I’m as shallow as it can be when it comes to understanding and appreciating coffee, but my friend said it was good. I’ll take her word for it.
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It was a great to know Chez Karine would be setting up shop there as well, and I’m a sucker for a good macaron. I didn’t have to blink to know I wanted the maple bacon (yeaaaahh!). Need I say more? Buy a pack of bacon flavored with maple syrup from the grocery, mellow down the flavor and you get the macaron. Their macaron “showpiece” was a sight to behold as well.
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The friendly lady (sorry, I forgot her name – I’m a goldfish that way) manning Asiong’s had us taste flavors I normally wouldn’t consume on a daily basis. They had leche flan, ube haleya, and strangely enough, another haleya made from tamarind or sampalok. I wouldn’t have known it was made from sampalok! Although it sounds strange, it was pretty darn good. The same goes for their kamias and malunggay juice. Both of them I’d probably find in soups – kamias being a souring agent and malunggay the ubiquitous leafy green. This time both of them went into a refreshing drink that I couldn’t resist buying a bottle to take home.
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I regret not buying anything from Ritual (hot chocolate!) but here are a few of their really cool products:
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Last stop would be the collaboration between The Ministry of Mushrooms and Edgy Veggie. Yes Virginia, everything is vegetarian. It took us a while before deciding on the mushroom burrito with chips, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. To put together a wrap with mushrooms and marry it with legit Mexican flair and flavor is exciting, to say the least. I wanted to try almost everything from their stall, including their clever rice mixes all seasoned and good to go.
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Also present are the folks from Theo and Philo artisanal chocolates (I’m a fan!), Pinkerton ice cream and Ha Yuan. Today is their last day and I hope I’m not too late to spread the “prosperity”. WEA is at The Podium, 12 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong.

So this is Binondo

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I’ve always wanted to explore Binondo (Manila’s Chinatown) before the year ends and I’m glad that I got to cross one item off my proverbial bucket list last week. It’s strange that sometimes I think commuting can actually deter you from going on the actual “journey”. Case in point: it took us two hours to get to Quiapo (the adjacent iconic bargain shopping district, has a train station and is a stone’s throw away from Binondo) because Manila’s traffic was especially harsh. The usual throng of commuters from dawn until dusk is commonplace, but it’s something I need to get used to.
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But the journey was worth it, although with all the conviction in the world I can say that the trip barely scratched the surface. Next year we intend to go on one of those food tours because as much as Binondo should be seen, it also must be tasted.

The funny thing is the real reason why we went to Binondo is for me to buy ham from Exelente, another icon in Chinese hams, or so they say. Although I found out that reviews are mixed, my chef instructor raves about it, so I assumed that to buy one was already worth the hassle of the trip. And the cosmic joke of the day was Exelente’s shop is in Quiapo, not Binondo! All I had to do was consult google and of course I didn’t do it. The trip to Chinatown wasn’t a waste of course, since our heavy lunch at Wai Ying kept me happy. As a lover of sio mai, their offering didn’t disappoint. Of course the dumplings have to be good! The duck could have been more tender, since a good piece of duck cooked properly just sings.
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After lunch, when we were still looking for Exelente (the crucial bit of info came much later), it was only natural for us to travel on foot to offset what we ate (a natural rationalization). I took a few random photos here and there.
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Then after three random inquiries (we were skeptical with the first two) that confirmed that the ham was in Quiapo, off we went. Getting there was easy, since people actually knew where Exelente was.
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I admit, I was amazed.
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The boneless hams cost roughly 100php/100 grams.

The hams are pricier that what you would normally see in the groceries, because after consuming 90% a kilo in three days (YEAH), it was pretty obvious that Exelente’s hams are legitimate meat, and are a notch higher in taste. The holiday season must bring out the best in these hams. But I’m still on the look-out for other brands that are just as good or even better.

So there you have it. This trip is really the tip of the iceberg and now that I know what’s in store for me next time, I’m more than excited to dive head first in a food tour come 2013. It’s going to be a good year, I feel it in my bones!

Excelente Ham, Inc
155-157 Carlos Palanca Sr. Street
Quiapo, Metro-Manila

Fresh pt. 2

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Because I documented the first few steps of my three herb pots here, it only seems right that I continue to chart their progress. I’m not even sure I have a green thumb, but the sweet basil, rosemary and mint haven’t died yet, so I think I must be doing something right – daily watering, and that’s just about it. After a few weeks, even I was surprised at how well they’ve taken to the environment!

The least bit temperamental of the three would have to be the rosemary. The soil doesn’t dry up as fast as the other two. And I have yet to experience problems with this one.
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On the other hand, the mint has been giving me a few problems lately. For one, starting out it was the only herb that has obviously been attacked by a few minute predators – as evidenced by the white specks on some of the leaves. It hasn’t been a problem for a while, only to be replaced by a new one – the leaves keep on shriveling up and dying. It’s almost become a daily habit of mine to pick off leaves that have turned yellow. Consider this as a meek cry for help. Is anyone out there?
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The basil has grown in height substantially. Small branches have become main stems in their own right, and I did notice a single purple flower bud perched on top of the apex. Now, it photographs well and is kind of pretty, but I’ll eventually have to cut that out because I part of basil care is removing any flowers that might grow because it would inhibit the leaves from growing.
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Because I don’t see any reason why I should stop myself, I’m beginning to consider expanding the ‘collection’ to include a few more herbs. The only problem is the herb grower (on sulit.com.ph) who I was counting on hasn’t been contacting me lately, so I have a feeling it’s a dead-end. That’s where you come in. Yes, you. I need a pot of parsley/kinchay. If you happen to know someone who knows someone who has a grandmother who knows someone who can send me a pot of parsley – I would appreciate it so much. This is a long shot but I’m counting on you. Yes, YOU!!!!

That’s all for now. Hopefully the next time I’ll be blogging about the herbs, the basil would have become a tree, the rosemary a burning bush and the mint would overtake us and wrap the house in its vines (which I know is impossible, because mint doesn’t have vines). And I’ll finally be tending to a little pot of parsley. 

A Case of Bad Service

I am not paid to do resto reviews. All the opinions are mine. Sorry for the photos – I used my camera phone. 

It started out simple enough: after watching The Avengers (thumbs up, btw!), my friends and I were hungry. We were in town, so there was bound to be a place that wasn’t a fast food joint that could satisfy our boiling hunger. But after throwing around a few ideas here and there, we settled for a place that wasn’t within walking distance because we wanted to try it out in earnest. And Cafe Avenue it was.

I’ve been there two times before, but it was only today that we actually sat down and ordered something. The place seemed decent enough: spacious, air-conditioned and actually pretty inviting. The menu wasn’t extraordinary: sandwiches, frappés, warm and iced coffee. I settled for the spicy beef sandwich with a vanilla frappé. My friends ordered a clubhouse sandwich and a buco pie, with their respective frappés.

The first sign of impending doom came with the frappés. My two friends ordered different  frappés (mocha and chocolate), but in all honesty, the two glasses looked the same. My friend asked which was which, and the server cut her off, and said (in Tagalog, in a know-it-all tone) “I was about to explain that one glass has a lighter colored  frappé than the other”. It seemed harmless enough, but when he left I did mention that the way he said it was an inappropriate way to answer a customer. We shrugged it off.
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We now come to the food. The second sign of impending doom. The spicy beef sandwich looked appetizing – I would assume the minced beef was on a bed of toasted ciabatta, with a mayo and ketchup sauce. At that point I was already hungry. My first bite was a surprise: Nice crusty bread…but the beef was weird. I kept on wondering about the beef. Yeah, it was spicy, but the taste reminded me of something that I couldn’t even consider to be associated with the flavor of beef in the first place. When my friend tasted it, she was more expressive: she made a face and said, “bagoong” (shrimp paste). The beef tasted like bagoong, which meant it was “salty” and “fishy”. Was it expired? I don’t think so. They just probably (with a passion) bathed and pounded it in salt.
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My friend’s clubhouse sandwich wasn’t impressive either. The takeaway was the mayo – it was incredibly sweet, which made us realize that they don’t use good mayonnaise.

Now, why all the fuss talking about food that made us unhappy? It’s actually pretty simple. The price ranges from around 60 – 75 pesos. That makes a pretty expensive sandwich. My beef sandwich was priced at 65php. The clubhouse was a little over 70php. The expectation is that the food needs to be good, at least, even so-so. But it shouldn’t leave us wondering why it was worth that much.

Now before this becomes snooty, I’d like to leave the food comments at that, because there’s not much to talk about anymore. This is where it gets interesting/doomsday has arrived:

We paid at the counter as soon as we ordered. The one manning it told us he would bring the change later on, when we were done eating.

When the server brought us the change, he gave as a whole bill. We told them beforehand that we would pay separately. And so we asked if he could give us separate change. He told us that they didn’t have loose change anymore, but there was a store nearby that could probably help us. Then we politely asked him if he could change the bill for us.

Then he said, “Why me?”

Ok….that doesn’t sound right. 

My friend told him that the establishment is theirs, he works here, and it’s only fair that since they don’t have change, they should take the responsibility to meet the needs of the customers.

He responded with, “Ah, ganun ba..” (Oh, is that so?). He wasn’t challenging us, but I take it is was more of an…internal realization.

After a few seconds of deliberation, he eventually agrees. He did have the bill changed into coins, and we did thank him.

The only thing that kept us talking about it was how they were not responsive to the needs of the customers. Basically, our takeaway would be his initial hesitation to have our bill changed. Not only that, but the way it was said it made unprofessional. If he only said it in a nicer way, we could have responded to the situation differently.

Can we blame the management? Probably. Are we making a mountain out of a molehill? Not quite. We are, after all, consumers who pay for a good or service that an establishment provides. We can express our satisfaction and dissatisfaction. If we feel that what we’ve been given isn’t our money’s worth, it’s only fair and logical to complain. We just told him to do his job, which was fair enough, because he is paid to serve customers.

Would we go back to Cafe Avenue? After the doom and gloom, probably not. Wait. On second thought, NEVER AGAIN. It doesn’t offer much, and it’s not worth the trip. To each his/her own, of course, so you might want to give them a chance. It’s just that for us, they blew it. Enough said.

Cafe Avenue is located at QNS Building, along Veterans Avenue Extension, near Western Mindanao Medical Center 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The title says it all. Not everyone is committed to a particular person right now (including me), but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it with friends and family. This whole Single Awareness Day idea is overrated.
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Anyway, I did prepare two dishes (one main and dessert) for a “Valentine’s lunch” I had. In the next few days I’ll post the recipes here. Not right now (as in today), because honestly, I’m drained. It was like prepping Christmas lunch all over again. Well, not really, but today left me pretty tired and sleepy.

Plus the whole food blogosphere is probably flooded with red velvet cake recipes (from pancakes to cheesecakes) right now, so I’m not joining the bandwagon. BUT I DO MAKE DARN GOOD RED VELVET (ask my friends!!!), just so you know. Pardon the immodesty.
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These red velvet cupcakes are from a local bakeshop called Aunty Nitz. I think I raved about them making pretty amazing egg pie (the filling of which tastes like a Macau egg tart) and their pastries are good as well. But sadly, these cupcakes didn’t deliver. The “hint” of chocolate wasn’t there, and it was pretty dry for my taste. The revel bars weren’t as chewy as I wanted it to be. I think they spent a few more minutes longer in the oven, as it had this crunchy crust that I didn’t like.

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Because she requested it, I also made cinnamon rolls for my mom’s officemates. I finally topped it with cream cheese frosting and I have to say, it tasted really good. For better presentation, serve these warm so the frosting melts and drips down the sides by popping it in the microwave for 40 seconds – one minute.

Well, considering how my day went I couldn’t really complain (more than the usual).   I’m hoping for a more recipe-productive week so with that being said I need all the energy I can get from sleep. If there’s something I love aside from food and cooking, it’s sleep. I love sleep (I know I’m being corny but the premise of the holiday permits random declarations of mushy corniness on so many levels, so there.)

On Cookbooks + Bagnet

Since I got back from Manila I’ve been itching to modify my “to-cook” bucket list because I brought home with me two cookbooks to add to my nonexistent collection. It doesn’t make sense to be a food blogger and not have at least one cookbook under your arsenal. I plan to expand my collection to a hundred, or two, but for now I’m going to settle with what I have. I have to say, I think I made a smart choice in buying these cookbooks because not every cookbook you pay for is worth it.
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I’m taking baby steps with buying cookbooks. Though a lot of what’s being sold in major bookstores nationwide covers a spectrum of topics, I get discouraged with books that offer recipes that aren’t readily accessible given our context – ie ingredients are hard to come by; most of the time from Western publications.

It’s a good thing Manila has a burgeoning food scene and a lot of specialty shops and farmers’ markets now offer more variety, but here in Zamboanga…well, that’s another story. Since cookbooks are supposed to be an investment, it’s practical to know what you’e getting yourself into.
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That’s why I appreciate bookstores, like Fully Booked, that allow to you scan the contents of books before buying it. Since Zamboanga doesn’t have a real bookstore that doesn’t just sell textbooks, I made the most of my visit to Fully Booked and Powerbooks.

First off, “Bake Me A Cake” by Ginny Roces De Guzman with photography by Neal Oshima (a Fully Booked Publication). Now this is what I call accessible. Because this is a local publication, each and every recipe can easily be done using local ingredients. Even if I haven’t made any of the cakes here yet, I’d like to consider this book as my cake bible simply because you begin with the four basic cakes: sponge, butter, chocolate and meringue wafer and it takes off from there – Calamansi Muffins, Castella, Malacanang Roll, even a cake called “Impossible Cake” which according to the author, I have to try to believe.
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Plus I love a cookbook even more if every recipe came with a picture. Neal Oshima is brilliant behind the lens. I like how his aesthetic isn’t “in-your-face” photography and yet he brings out the best of the food through subtle blurs and simple shots. (woah, that was a mouthful)

It can’t get more straightforward than calling your book “Asian Dumplings”. Authored by Andrea Nguyen, who I presume is Vietnamese but resides in the US, this book basically outlines everything you need to know to make basic dumpling dough and the various fillings and methods of cooking it.
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Personally, it looks more intimidating than “Bake Me A Cake”, but I bought this book because the response at the back was great. I’d like to believe the information I’ll get from this book is priceless.

Lastly, I got this book from one of my best friends, Jam, a day after my birthday. This was her birthday gift to me because I kinda hinted I’m into collecting cookbooks now. “Great Easy Meals” by The Food Network Magazine, is, alright, an American publication but hey, I got this for free. Though I said I’m wary of cookbooks like this one, I’m glad I managed to peruse it enough to understand that a lot of these recipes can be adapted to suit local tastes.
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Every recipe looks simple enough, and I think I can easily make substitutions with some ingredients and methods. Plus, this has a great section on how to cook fish in a lot of ways. I haven’t really posted a lot of seafood recipes on THG, so the possibilities this book can bring really excites me. (Yes Virginia, I am a nerd).

Also this afternoon:

My dad did make this version of bagnet/crispy fried pork from merienda today. Let me just put it out there that we aren’t gluttons. We rarely have merienda and today just happened to be the day we did have merienda, and it was fried pork.
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He boiled the pork cubes in water, flavored with vinegar, salt, pepper and seasoning granules. He did that on Monday. I read somewhere that the secret to crispy pig skin is to let it dry. Some hasten the process by using paper towels, but for us we just really forgot about the boiled meat (my fault) and there it was, sitting and drying for 2-3 days inside the fridge.

But crispy, the skin was. We might do this again just to prove that it wasn’t sheer dumb luck, and I’m excited about pairing it with tomatoes and mustasa/mustard greens drizzled with fish bagoong just so it’ll remind us of what we had at Via Mare.
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No recipe today, but I’m juggling other ideas that involve non-recipe posts to expand my blog’s reach. If you’re out there, any suggestions? :D

MNL Snippets

It’s been a few hours since I got back from Manila, again. More pleasure than business this time, though I managed to squeeze in a day of productive school and accommodations inquiry. But I won’t go into the details, because nothing’s set in stone. But I am hoping, with fingers crossed, that the words ‘career shift’ will make 2012, my year.

Anyway.

I might as well post photos of what I ate, since at this unholy hour, photos and food are more interesting.
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first stop: Congo Grill at SM Mall of Asia. A nice family resto that serves reasonably priced and portioned food. Don’t forget to try their SISIG – laced with chicharon/pork skin cracklings, drizzled with a light and creamy white sauce that’s still, but also not quite, mayo.
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Random note: their iced tea is orange flavored. I didn’t like it, even if I knew it was Nestea.
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The next day: Cafe Via Mare at The Landmark. A restaurant inside a department store is ingenious. A plus considering it shares the same floor with the ladies’ dep. Dad and I were perfectly comfortable perusing the menu while Mom was busy enjoying the chaotic ambiance of sales and shoes.
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Noteworthy: Adobo flakes. Crispy and full of that salty-sour adobo flavor, this “all day breakfast” fare tasted pretty good; perfect for a hungry shopper. Ambiance was great. Basically any resto that serves great Filipino food is a winner in my book.
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The Ensaladang Bagnet/Bagnet salad was also great. Bagnet is deep fried pork belly, and the salad is a mix of mustasa/mustard greens, tomatoes and onions. Normally with a distinct bitter taste, the mustasa was pleasantly mellowed by the dressing and went really well with the other ingredients. I need to replicate this.
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Not to be outdone is their bibingka topped with salted egg. For some strange reason I needed to have my bibingka fix. Served hot, this heavy ‘dessert’ is perfect as it is.
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Also ingenious: Chatime sharing the same floor with Via Mare. I ordered the Original Roasted blend, Taro and Matcha Red Bean. Though I still think Gong Cha and Zensonita are amazing, Chatime’s Taro was a surprise. It was rich, dense and definitely starchy, like a heavy smoothie. All of these had half the amount of sugar. I think I should have ordered the full.
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The next day dad and I were left to our own devices. After checking out a school in Makati, we went to Lutong Macau, a Chinese restaurant that caters to Jupiter Street’s busy professional strip. It was a good thing we went there before lunch, because we were told that place becomes packed pretty fast when the clock strikes 12.
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To say it was a heavy lunch was an understatement. We each had a small plate of dim sum as an appetizer. Looking back I think it was a bad call because we almost had no room left to finish our meals.
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Noteworthy: Pancit Canton and Lechon Macau. Though I’ve tasted my fair share of pancit canton, I can’t really say that theirs was a dish I’ve already tried (that’s a good thing). I like my pancit canton dry, but I made an exception for their ‘soupy’ variety. They served it with kwek-kwek/breaded, deep friend quail eggs, which was definitely Chinese.

The lechon macau, pork belly with a crispy skin, with just a hint of five spice, was deliciously sinful. I couldn’t finish the rice that came with it. It’s funny that I only had lechon macau here in the Philippines and not in Macau, where it’s supposedly from.
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On our last full day in Manila, we found ourselves stranded at Bonifacio Global because of the heavy rain. And I couldn’t think of a better way to while away the time than to spend it at Fully Booked’s Starbucks outlet.

Cozily tucked inside Fully Booked’s 3rd (or was it 4th?) floor, it was a comforting haven for readers who enjoy the experience of spending precious uninterrupted time with a good read.
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What made it even more comforting was their crew, particularly the barista who took our orders. I’ve officially met the friendliest barista in the world. The way she carried herself with ease, and showered with attention everyone who came in really made the place better. And here I am gushing.

A cup of hot coffee, books, bed weather and friendly people – I couldn’t ask for anything more.
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That night, in another location that can’t be disclosed, I finally took a picture of a friend that took to me pretty well. I was sitting down as he approached me, rested his head on my lap, and looked at me with those big doe eyes. He doesn’t take too kindly to strangers, I was told. I think the massage I gave him helped quite a bit.

A few hours later we were boarding the plane that would take us home, and here I am a few hours later still sleepy but with enough gumption to post this. If I waited longer the memories might go stale and it wouldn’t have been as ‘freshly pressed’.

I think I wrote enough for one day. I need to give my brain enough time to catch up. To reach this point and not click on ‘save draft’, is a tiny miracle.

Oh, the smudge you see here was supposed to be a plane. It just goes to show that my skill at capturing the moment is also extremely noteworthy (haha).

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The Stove

Ever since I tried bicol express cooked not just with chilies but with eggplant, many many years ago, I have become an eggplant convert. At first, the thought of eating something mushy, kind of like okra (so sue me for my poor descriptive skills), didn’t really appeal to me. But a lot has changed since the first time I tried and actually enjoyed eggplant.

Now, one of my all-time favorite comfort foods would have to be tortang talong or eggplant omelet. There’s something about biting into soft, slightly toasted, smoky eggplant meat that is an experience all on its own. I usually just use liquid seasoning to flavor it some more, but when Mama Eng is in the mood (and I encourage her), she makes a mean “pritong sawsawan” or fried dipping sauce. Toasted minced garlic, onions and a few pieces of sliced bird’s eye chili cooked in oil and soy sauce, paired with the omelet, is a winner.

Today I observed how she makes tortang talong and also helped out in the kitchen a bit, but I don’t have a recipe to share since I’d like to hone my eggplant omelet- making skills some more. I think I’ll let this post simmer a bit before I belt out my own recipe. For now, here’s something you standardized stove owning folks around the world don’t get to see everyday:

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Using this (I’m not really sure what to call it) traditional stove top (?) fueled by burning wood and dried coconut husks…she makes magic. This is also where we cook our paella, and it’s pretty much practical and economical to use.

Well, it’s probably more cumbersome than the regular stove, but it gets the job done.

 

My Weekend

This weekend I was supposed to be really really productive. I told myself I would bake my first cake on Saturday, then make palabok on Sunday (today). And here I am with no recipe to blog about.

Last night was also rough for me; I was tinkering with different theme options for my blog (the one thing i hate about wordpress.com (not self-hosted) is that free customization is difficult, blogspot is more flexible) so if you stumbled upon an uglier version of my blog last night, well that was me playing God/cosmetic surgeon. The funny thing was, at the end of it all, I ended up with the layout that I started this blog on! But I did somehow manage to delete the items from my sidebar so that’s something I have to construct again.

But I did go to the Tzu Chi One Mega Fair today. The local chapter organizes this annual one day event that gathers all kinds of merchandise under one roof. A portion of the profits, I believe, go to their charity. There were food and garment stalls, a dog show and a very emaciated Angry Birds mascot. So you can figure out what I was particularly interested in, and it wasn’t the mascot.
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I was a nice surprise that local under-the-radar dessert businesses did set up shop.
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Of particular interest is this squash cake from Emy’s Kitchen. It’s not really a cake. It’s more of squash puree probably baked/steamed in a mold. It tastes like squash (go figure), but it has the texture of a really solid bread pudding. Plus it’s studded with meat and shrimp on top, so it’s like you’re already eating lunch. This was interesting and really filling.

In other news, remember the shrimp gambas that I made a few posts back? Well opening the fridge yesterday I saw there was still a bowl that had all the shrimp heads + one piece of shrimp. Now instead of giving it to our dog, I decided to use it for the pasta dish I made for lunch!
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It’s incredibly simple: cook a handful of pasta (good for two) according to package instructions then make the sauce. Just melt a small square of butter (around 1/8th cup) in a pan. Add minced garlic and onions and red chili flakes. Then I added around 3 tablespoons of bottled pesto and a tablespoon of the same chili garlic sauce I used for my szechuan eggplant. Then add the leftover gambas. For good measure I added a few spoonfuls of the starchy pasta water so the sauce can adhere to the noodles well. Drain the pasta and toss in the pan and that’s it. It had all the right amounts of garlicy and pesto-y savoriness and heat. Really great lunch.
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 So I guess my weekend wasn’t as unproductive as I thought it was. 
 
Yellow Daisies Desserts – for the candy canes
contact: (63)9163720021
 
Emy’s Little Kitchen – tablea, cupcakes and squash cake
contact: Emy Gamboa @ (062) 955-3114 or (63) 933-6942-386
 
Ju D’s Products Philippines – for the cookies (the Tzu Chi people probably sourced these)
50 Greenmeadows Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines 
contact: (632) 633 – 1188 or email them @ jud_fruitcakes@yahoo.com
 
update: after a few hours I tried Ju D’s Ginger and Dark Choco cookies. WOW, it tastes great! you have to try it!