Clam Curry

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I’ve taken it upon me to download whatever torrent file I could get my grubby hands on when I was home a few days ago. Having lived for two months with a plug-it that’s mediocre at best made me more appreciative of the blazing fast internet I have at home. It’s good for the soul, coming home to country comfort.

My mom and I went to the wet market on Saturday to buy some ingredients we need for a little picnic the following day. Before I left, I wanted to have a picnic with my family but things got in the way and it didn’t happen. This time, we made sure that our schedules were wide open. Anyway, there were mounds and mounds of clams in different sizes, (around 5 – 8 per mound) for sale that morning. I didn’t pass up the chance to buy around two mounds because I was inspired by Kumar (of MasterChef AU fame) to cook clams with curry. I’m a big fan of MasterChef Australia, so much in fact, that this blog has thrived after feeding off the show’s happy juju. Thanks to incredible download speeds, I was up-to-date with this season’s offering. The latest season is an All-Stars edition, pitting 4 fan favorites each from season 1 – 3 against each other for charity. In one of the challenges, where it was season 1 vs 2 vs 3 in an all-Indian challenge, Kumar from season 3 cooked mussels (tahong) in coconut milk flavored with a homemade spice mix. We don’t get a lot of really good mussels but clams were in abundance.

Clams and mussels taste like the sea so much that the flavor is unmistakable. It does wonders to soups, rice and now, I can curry to the list. Like most of my kitchen experiments, it was the first time I cooked clams with curry so I just went with gut feel on taste and seasoning.

The garam masala was still in the pantry, albeit a little milder in flavor, and mom always keeps a supply of coconut cream in tetra packs for convenience. I was home…and it was game time. Another home run for the clams.

Clam Curry (serves 2 – 3)

  • around 15 clams
  • 400 ml coconut cream
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder (what I used: 1 1/2 tablespoon garam masala + 1 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder), or more to taste
  • one 1-inch knob of ginger, minced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (preferably 1 red and 1 green), sliced into thin strips
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch pechay or bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1 finger chili, sliced, or red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. In a medium-sized pan or sauce pan, preferably with a lid, add a splash or two of oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger. Allow to toast until fragrant then add the onions. Cook until onions start to go limp. Add the lemongrass and bell peppers and stir everything together.
  3. Add the coconut cream and the spices (and if you’re using it, the chili). Mix everything together until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer.
  4. Add the clams and cover the pan.  Allow to cook, making sure to discard the clams that do not open.
  5. Add the pechay at the last minute, stir everything together , let it cook for a bit then remove from heat. Serve warm and enjoy!

 

A plateful of Katsutei

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I can’t say that I know my tonkatsu well enough to properly describe what it should and shouldn’t be. However, there are certain points that need to be present in order for a piece of breaded pork to be remotely considered tasty, delicious – “authentic” Japanese, even. “Authentic” is used loosely because I haven’t been to Japan to savor tonkatsu the way the locals prepare it.  Basically: the breading needs to take to the meat well. The meat in turn, has to be tender, moist and flaky. Above all, it should be tasty enough to dampen my inclination to dip everything in soy sauce and vinegar just so I can appreciate it. That’s just how I roll!

It also makes sense that katsu places can find their niche in the Metro. It’s a natural tendency for Filipinos to appreciate anything fried and breaded, especially if paired with rice.

Katsutei is a relative newcomer in the katsu area. We just happened to pass by their restaurant without the slightest intention to have dinner there, but my friend was intrigued, especially having dined at Yabu recently, and hey, it didn’t hurt that at the time, they slashed 20% off their meals as a welcome treat for customers!

The industrial-ish theme works well to give off a sense of casual, no-frills dining.
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What drove me to order pork tonkatsu curry (240php with miso soup and a regular sized drink) instead of the usual tonkatsu meal with shredded cabbage? Well, I’ve had a tonkatsu meal at Yabu before, plus Fish and co.’s seafood curry has been on my mind since I tried it. Since my order would still have with it a piece of breaded and fried pork, there was no harm in trying it out.

Basic verdict: The tonkatsu curry is good. The pork is perfectly breaded, soft and flaky, not tough at all. I’m beginning to appreciate curry even more if it’s paired with a breaded piece of happiness. Come on, I love pork! They can get stingy with the side vegetables, but I think that’s expected given its price.
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They serve iced green tea with their combo meal – I like anything remotely related to green tea, so I had no problems with it. I’m not sure if they actually used chilled green tea from actual tea leaves or sweetened green tea powder to make their drink though.
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Sure, 200 – 300 pesos isn’t exactly a budget meal, but what you get with that amount is a plate of what good tonkatsu should be. It’s a notch cheaper than Yabu’s offerings, and strangely enough, after discussing it with my friend (same friend dined with me at Yabu and Katsutei), she would gladly go back to either restaurant. Go to Yabu for an emphasized authentic Japanese katsu experience; go to Katsutei to get your quick and simple katsu fix sans the frills. Either way, you will be satisfied.

I’ll definitely go back to try their interpretation of the tonkatsu meal (215php with miso soup and regular drink), and perhaps the fish katsu with tartar sauce and fries (165php with miso soup and regular drink), and the crispy chicken teriyaki don (185php with miso soup and regular drink). But for now, there’s a steaming bowl of adobo rice with my name on it that requires my attention.
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Katsutei

Upper Ground Level, SM City North EDSA
North Avenue corner EDSA
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Spicy Prawn Curry with Roasted Tomatoes

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For the past few weeks Fridays have come to mean more than just the American Idol results show and the day where torrent files of my favorite shows come out. I took it upon myself to observe the season of Lent and abstain from eating meat and eat only one full meal every Friday until Easter, among other “restraints”.

Have I been faithful? No, I have taken afternoon snacks so adhering to one full meal has been difficult. Right now typing this, my stomach’s grumbling. Aside from that one Friday where it slipped my mind, I have been trying to avoid pork, chicken and beef. Self-discipline isn’t really one of my strong suits. Probably one of my fatal flaws, but nonetheless I’m proud of myself. Restraining myself, exerting a little measure of discipline during this season, is something that I’ve been trying to do. My cross is heavy but I’m trying to hold on.
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Lent is a season of reflection, of going beyond your usual call of duty and examine yourself in relation to how you treat yourself and others. At least that’s how I see Lent. I don’t claim to know everything about my faith – but I know it’s not perfect. Sometimes my roots are parched – the leaves wilt and fall, and what exactly I need to do about it, makes me wonder even more. But time and time again, my belief in a higher being will never die, no matter how misguided I can be.
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What does the prawn/shrimp* curry have to do with everything? Well, this is just my way of exercising that “restraint” without purposely depriving myself to the point of punishment.
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Have you ever tried to roast tomatoes? Try it, you won’t be disappointed. Have you ever tried to roast garlic? It was my first time to do that today, and I knew I had to put a few tender garlicky segments into the curry, just because I love garlic.
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I still had a little container of garam masala in the pantry from my chicken korma escapade. I didn’t want it to go to waste. Making this wasn’t a stretch at all. As much as I appreciate a spicy curry, the people around here don’t. A few dashes of chili flakes gave it the heat that it needed. To offset it, aside from the coconut milk, I added a few spoonfuls of peanut butter to give it that subtle sweet creaminess.
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A spoonful of this will give a gentle sweetness that  mingles with the bold curry taste, then there is that unmistakable heat that still lingers at the back of your mouth. The roasted tomatoes do their part by offering a sweet tang that gloriously blends with everything else. And there’s nothing wrong with mashing a few pieces of garlic directly into the sauce. Nothing wrong that at all.

Thank God it’s Friday.
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Spicy Prawn Curry with Roasted Tomatoes  (serves 4 – 6)

*Prawns and shrimps are semantically different but can be used interchangeably, though prawns are larger than shrimps. I used prawns for this recipe, but like you, I’m used to saying ‘shrimps’, big or small. That’s OK. I guess. 

  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • half a garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 15 – 20 pieces medium-sized prawns, peeled and deveined.
  • a few pieces of the prawn heads, the sharp pointy things (it’s called a rostrum) and whiskers snipped
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • a few dashes red chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 – 5 pieces roasted garlic segments (optional)
  • a few pieces roasted tomatoes 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Prepare the roasted tomatoes. If you want to roast the garlic, roast it will the tomatoes. I slice around 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic bulb to expose the flesh, then drizzle it with olive oil, salt and pepper. 
  2. In a pan, heat both oils over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, then the garlic. Saute until fragrant. 
  3. Add the coconut milk, then the shrimps heads. Lower the heat to low. Add the garam masala, turmeric, chili flakes and peanut butter. Season with salt and pepper. Adjust taste, color and consistency to your liking. 
  4. Add the roasted garlic and mash with your spoon to incorporate. 
  5. Add the shrimps/prawns and crank up the heat to medium, and cook until both sides turn orange in color, around 3 – 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp heads. 
  6. Add the roasted tomatoes at the last second and mix well. Remove from heat and serve. Enjoy!