Lemon and Pepper Chicken

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If there was a battle between lemons and calamansi (the small native Philippine lime), I’d be rooting for the lemon. My friends think it’s strange that I don’t like calamansi, considering that I’m Filipino. Sometimes when we’re eating out, and we would be given tiny saucers so we can make our own dip out of soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi, they would grab my pieces without hesitation. What’s exactly my beef with this little defenseless humble lime? Well, I would always rationalize that this ‘loathing’ doesn’t have any rationalization. I just don’t like it. But maybe, if I need to give concrete insight, maybe the calamansi’s citrus scent doesn’t appeal to me, the way the fresh clean lemon scent does.

The lemon’s scent and acidity lend themselves well with chicken. I decided to make this on the fly because people were coming over (another story altogether, sorry if I’m being evasive!), and I was supposed to serve this to them, but the chicken ended up wrapped in foil for  them to take home. The first batch ended up pretty dry but still flavorful, probably because I left them too long in the oven. As soon as the chicken hits the one hour mark, that’s when my paranoia sinks in, because I still want the chicken to be moist. I think I achieved it with the second batch (the ones pictured), because it tasted just the way I imagined it to be  – the fresh tartness of the lemon absorbed by the meat, with delicate, paper-thin skin, and yes, it’s flavorful down to the bones.

But of course if you’re a calamansi purist, I see no reason why you can’t use it instead of the lemons. But if you do have lemons lying around, well, you know what to do.

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Lemon and Pepper Chicken (serves 6 – 8)

  • chicken leg and thigh, 6 pieces each
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a generous dash of freshly cracked black pepper, around 2 -3 tablespoons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons salt (or more, to taste)
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add in the chicken and marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  2. When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Arrange the chicken pieces in a baking pan, preferably with a rack, with the bottom of the pan lined with foil to catch the drippings.
  3. Place the pan in the oven and bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. flipping halfway. Bake until chicken’s skin is golden brown and the meat is done.
  4. When done, remove from oven and serve warm. Enjoy!

Baked Binagoongan

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The fact that most of my blog posts reveal my proclivity with pork could be a cause for concern. Could be. I do miss the days when I’d have most of the morning or the afternoon to myself, the kitchen in a total frenzy, and the smell of freshly baked bread, or even cupcakes filling up my nostrils. It’s been a while. Maybe a self-imposed exile from posting anything purely pork would do me (and my arteries) some good.
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But for today, since I do have to post this, I’m going to be indulgent. Pork punctuates my idea of a Filipino celebration. That’s relative and subjective, of course, since there are Filipinos who don’t eat pork. But from my neck of the woods, lechon spells something grand, estofado means a day is special, dinuguan implies a prelude to lechon, and so forth. It’s only fitting that since this month’s Kulinarya Club theme is a meal fit for a celebration (during a fiesta or Santacruzan), it has to be something made with pork.

It worried me that I couldn’t really think of anything regional in time for the reveal date. I was supposed to go for Arroz Valenciana, a cousin of the paella and bringhe, except that it doesn’t use annatto seeds (paella) or turmeric (bringhe) for color. But time was limited and I couldn’t get my grandmother to teach me since she thinks herself busy.

Improvisation works, because I did manage to whip up something festive that doesn’t need a lot of preparation. During fiestas in our house, preparations are physically taxing. Any dish that can be baked is a winner in my book, and when I thought about making pork binagoongan, it just made sense.
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Pork Binagoongan, a dish where pork is cooked with salty bagoong gata (shrimp paste coconut milk) and tomatoes, isn’t really a typical dish found at the table during our fiestas. It’s comfort food, more than anything. But I couldn’t get it out of my head and I knew I was on to something.
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The flavor comes from the marinade, which has bagoong gata in it. You might want to add more of the bagoong if you want a full-bodied taste, not just a hint. I have to admit that I might have scrimped on the bagoong a tiny bit, because I didn’t want it too salty, but in the end I realized that I needed to be generous with the marinade. Also, letting it marinate overnight is key. The taste of oven-roasted tomatoes is really something else, and since binagoongan usually has tomatoes, it was the best of both worlds. Tomatoes and basil also go well together…and well, it was the icing on the cake. Baked pork is also a treat in itself, with perfectly tender meat with fat that almost melts in your mouth.

Seriously, this dish gave me a lot of reasons to celebrate.
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Baked Binagoongan (serves 4)

  • 1 kg pork belly (OR 1 kg chicken legs and thighs)
  • 10 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
marinade
  • 8 – 10 (slightly) heaping tablespoons bagoong gata (shrimp paste with coconut milk)*
  • 1 whole garlic head, roughly chopped
  • 5 – 10 fresh sweet basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup white cane vinegar
  • a dash of salt
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  1. In a bowl large enough to hold the pork, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the pork and allow to marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 C. When ready to bake, carefully add the tomatoes to the marinade and lightly toss to coat them. 
  3. Arrange the pork in a roasting pan, preferably with a rack. Arrange the tomatoes along the sides of the pan and a few on top of the pork. Bake for 1 hour – 1 hour and 10 minutes. After around 40 minutes of baking, turn it halfway. Bake until done. Photobucket 
  4. Slice the pork into bite-sized pieces and serve warm with rice and possibly, more bagoong. Enjoy! 
*The bagoong I used was Montano’s Ginisang Bagoong Gata, which we bought from their main store when we were in Dipolog. That has to count as something ‘regional’, right? 

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Honey Rosemary Pork + 10 facts

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OK, digressing from my spiel, I think it’s good to inject a little bit of cheese into the blog. The Food and Wine Hedonist (and his other persona, Sir Mix-a-Lotta-Ingredients [did I get that right man? haha!] awarded me a ‘Kreativ Blogger’ badge, along with a few instructions. I don’t really pay attention to user-generated blog awards, but I might as well indulge it this time since, honestly, I can’t really say a lot about today’s recipe except to say that it’s incredibly delicious.

Since I accepted the award, here are 10 facts about me:

1. My name is Gio. Yeah, that’s a fact. I’m an only child, so I have issues (wink)

2. I used to be incredibly overweight growing up! ‘Used to’, because it was in college that I began losing weight. But it’s been a constant struggle ever since. Constant. Struggle.

3. I love pork fat. I love pork. You might find this disgusting but vivid childhood memories of me eating would mean requesting that my rice should be liberally drizzled with my ‘special sauce’ — COOKING OIL! (The oil used to fry the pork or bacon of course!).

4. My friends can vouch for this: I suck at math. Computing simple change, is my downfall.

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5. I blink more times than the average person.

6. I hate hate hate eating liver and other innards. I have this sudden urge to vomit when I do taste liver. To illustrate, I once walked out of a family dinner when they didn’t tell me that the dinuguan (blood stew) had liver and I accidentally had a spoonful of it.

7. When I’m pissed at someone, or when I have this sudden urge to stab/murder somebody but can’t, I snap my fingers.

8. I have a potty mouth. People have word crutches and default responses when they’re shocked, scared, happy, angry etc. Well, I cuss. And this bad mannerism also rears its ugly head during inappropriate occasions, like…during birthday parties when we’re about to pray.

9. If it’s not a dog, I’ll probably end up killing my ‘pet of the moment’.  First it was fish, and my teeny aquarium held more than the usual number. They didn’t survive. Next it was rabbits. I probably force-fed them to the point of obesity, and well, they lived a miserable life. Right now I have a two year-old dog, and she’s alive and well. (Praise!)

10. Since I told you that it’s a constant struggle to maintain my weight, I usually jog in the late afternoon. After a heavy meal for lunch. Then I’d have a heavy meal for dinner. Constant. Struggle.

So, there you have it. If you have any other questions you’d like me to answer, just leave a comment and if it’s not inappropriate, I might get back to you. :)
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On to the recipe: this was conceived the day before Mother’s Day, when I was daydreaming about baking pork until the fat caramelizes and becomes extremely rich and gooey. I can’t really say anything else. It was perfect. We loved it. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
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Honey Rosemary Pork (serves 6 – 8)

2 kg pork (shoulder, belly or chops)

marinade for every 1 kg:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼  cup honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Rosemary leaves from two 4-inch sprigs
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the meat.
  2. Add the pork and ensure that each piece is evenly coated with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and let it marinate overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 220 C.
  4. Arrange the pork on a baking pan, preferably with a rack to let the fat drip. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes – 1 hour, turning halfway.
  5. When done, remove from the over and allow to rest for around 3 – 5 minutes. Slice into bite-sized serving pieces and serve with rice. Enjoy!

Pancit Guisado

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There’s no excuse for it, so I might as well just put it out there: I’ve been deliberately avoiding my blog. I haven’t been in the kitchen for a while, my posting schedule is pretty much zilch, and…well, I didn’t really care. I think, or at least I’d like to believe that every writer/blogger has gone through a period where…inspiration isn’t really there. You feel parched, tired and done for. Does that sound familiar?

A few things first:

1. I finished reading The Millennium trilogy (ie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels) and, I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Stieg Larsson just has this ability to draw you in, and I was sucked into a ‘happy’ black hole for a while, hence I took a respite from hardcore writing.

2. My barbecue craving hasn’t abated yet, so watch out for more barbecue dishes soon! (If the grilled pieces of pork and chicken haven’t been the death of me yet!)

3. At least three people wanted to send me herbs, but since international shipping is pricey, it’ll only remain a dream. This is still an invitation to any Filipino living in the Philippines, who might be interested in helping a fella out. (wink)

Anyway, am I back in motion? Hopefully. If there’s one thing I learned from my retreat, it’s that hope is a powerful word. So here I am, hoping for the best.

April rolled by and the first day of May came as a surprise for me. The Kulinarya Club holds a monthly challenge with a specific theme, and strangely enough I only knew of the April theme when the other members started posting their works. It turns out the notice got lost in the mail, so before I jump into the May challenge, here is my attempt at ‘Filipino Food Truck Fare’, brought to you by Louie and Nathan. The premise is that food from a food truck is portable and easy-to-eat, since apparently food trucks have a huge following in the US.
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When I was reviewing for my boards, the university’s newly renovated two-story cafeteria was opened. It was a far cry from the two small cramped canteens that served the entire campus. The cafeteria now had a reasonable number of food stalls that served ‘decent’ to ‘great’ food, depending on what stall you choose to buy from. There’s this one stall that serves ‘great’ dimsum – siomai (steamed or friend), rolls,  and fried rice and noodles. I go there for the siomai and the noodles, or sometimes both, because if I order the friend noodles, there’s always a siomai or two resting on top.

Observing how they put together the fried noodles is pretty straightforward. Pre-boiled/softened egg noodles have been measured and placed in small individual plastic containers. When somebody orders, all they have to do is get a container, dump the noodles on the pan with oil, then add a little bit of what I assume to be a soy sauce mixture, mix it all together, place it in a small serving bowl, and top it with siomai. That method can easily mesh with the whole dynamic of a food truck, because it’s easy and makes so much sense.
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I tried to bring back that ‘noodle love’ by making a simplified version of pancit guisado. Guisado in our context means ‘sautéed‘, and there’s a lot of it going on here. This is Chinese-Filipino happiness on a plate. The taste actually reminds me of the pancit canton of a popular fast food chain here in the Philippines that may or may not be called Chowking.

Oh, and we didn’t have any cardboard takeout boxes, so for a moment, let’s just imagine these ceramic bowls are light as a feather.
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Pancit Guisado (serves 1 – 2)

  • 100 grams dried pancit canton noodles
  • 5 – 6 pieces medium-sized prawns (deveined, head and shell removed), each sliced into 3 – 4 small pieces
  • half a medium-sized carrot, sliced thinly
  • 100 – 150 grams pork belly, sliced into bite sized cubes
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • half a garlic bulb, minced
  • 2 small red onions, sliced
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • spring onions, sliced, for garnish
  1. Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water. The noodles may cook fast, around 1 – 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Cook the pork pieces by placing it in a frying pan and adding the water. Let the water boil and cook the pork until the water dries up, pork starts to toast, and fat begins to render. Add the 1/4 cup soy sauce and cook until tender. Set aside.
  3. In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions. Saute until fragrant. Add the carrots and fry until slightly tender.
  4. Add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and the prawns. Mix everything together and cook until prawns are pink, around a minute or two. Add the pork belly and noodles.
  5. Mix everything together and fry for another 30 seconds. When done, remove from pan and serve in individual bowls or in a takeout box for that full effect. Garnish with the spring onions and serve. Enjoy!

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Salt and Vinegar Grilled Pork

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It’s 8 in the evening, and here I am, thinking about what I ate for lunch. And I’m hungry. I’m not sure if this is entirely psychological or somatic, or a little bit of both, but yeah, I can say that my tummy’s rumbling. It’s all in my head. It’s all in my head….

Let me make a confession: while I was on my retreat, I caught myself thinking about what I’m going to eat when I’m done with the silence. Don’t get me wrong, the Jesuits served filling, really really great meals, but I was craving. The craving for salty-sour grilled pork was so bad.

When we were in Dipolog-Dapitan a week ago, prior to my retreat, we went to their boulevard for dinner, and there, we were greeted by a proverbial barbecue mecca. There were rows and rows, stall upon stall of skewered anything – pork, chicken, chorizo, innards, even tocino! All you had to do was point or pick the meat, and they’ll grill it. I’ll devote a post to that, but as a prelude – I have been imprinted with this lingering obsession with barbecue. Hence, this post.
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Sweet or sour? That question profoundly affected me. For real. Would I ‘try’ to recreate the sweet smoky my taste buds were treated to when I was on vacation? Or would a more rough and tumble salty-sour taste pique my cravings even more? After careful deliberation – the taste of sweet grilled pork would have to wait. Salty-sour ruled the day.

I’d have to say grilling pork marinated in salt, pepper and vinegar is easier to manage. Because there’s not much sugar in it, it doesn’t burn as fast as when you grill pork with a soy sauce, ketchup and sugar marinade. But if you’re like me, I like a hint of sweetness, so a tablespoon or two of brown sugar does the trick.
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Memories associated with the sensation of eating salty-sour grilled pork would have to be with my family at the beach. We would buy the pork on the way, then grill it as soon as we arrive. The nuances are there: sometimes we only rub it with salt and pepper, then the vinegar becomes the dipping sauce, together with soy sauce (toyo), onions, garlic and tomatoes. But whichever way it’s been cooked, it always leaves us full, happy, and bathing in the sun.

So sour it is. And honestly, my cravings have been satisfied. But tomorrow’s another day, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be planning the next time I’ll grill again. I can’t wait (!)
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Salt and Vinegar Grilled Pork (serves 6 – 8)

2 kg pork belly, sliced 1 ½ inch thick

Marinade:

  • 1 cup white cane vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons brown sugar, optional
  • 3 tablespoons patis/fish sauce

Dipping Sauce

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Knorr liquid seasoning
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, minced
  • A dash of red pepper flakes
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons white cane vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients.
  2. Add the pork and make it is thoroughly coated with it. Marinate it overnight, turning once, after a few hours.
  3. Grill the pork on each side until golden brown, with grill marks. Make sure the meat does not burn. The time it takes for you to grill depends on how hot the grill is.
  4. When done, remove from grill and let rest for a few minutes. Slice into bite-sized pieces and serve with rice and dipping sauce. Enjoy!
  5. Make the dipping sauce: over medium heat, add oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic and toast lightly. Add red pepper flakes and toast for a few seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust taste to your liking. Remove from heat and serve with the grilled pork.

Emperor’s Beef Stew

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I’m halfway done with The Girl Who Played With Fire, a novel with as much grit as the first novel that I’m left dumbfounded how I never picked up the series earlier. Suffice to say I have time on my hands, because Mindanao (the large island in the Philippines where my city, Zamboanga, is located) has been going through a power crisis that has apparently pushed it a few hundred steps backwards and into the dark ages, literally. When I’m not doing anything productive (which is most of the time), I read.

And I’m enjoying this laziness a lot – too much apparently that I’m relying on spontaneity to determine what to cook and what to blog about. Time is definitely divided, and I’m actually pretty glad I don’t have to fuss over this little blog too much. Not that fussing over something is inherently bad – but in my case, it has sometimes been counterproductive and counterintuitive.
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Have you ever used a pressure cooker?

(My off-tangent paragraph flow construction amazes me)

I’ve recently made friends with it. Usually it’s my dad who uses it and he always talks about how improper usage will literally kill you. No joke. According to him, opening it without releasing the pressure will apparently cause an explosion. I’ve been perusing youtube for evidence to support his claim, but I realized that even if that were true, I’m not stupid enough to mishandle it in any way.
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The point is, because I fear for my life – that little noisy spindle on top of the pressure cooker lid needs to be lifted in order to release the pressure before I open it. Because the heat is scalding, I use tongs to lift the spindle. I haven’t died yet.

The pressure cooker does wonders to soften tough cuts of meat. We usually use it to soften beef in less than an hour. I had a surplus of beef shanks that were used for soup last Sunday. I was thinking of making it into Osso Buco, but a little Del Monte recipe postcard latched onto our fridge door by ref magnets caught my eye. It seemed easy enough, and I wanted to get back to my reading as soon as possible, so I decided to give it a try. Osso Buco would have to wait.
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The stew itself is savory and hearty, with hints of rice wine, hoisin, soy, and oyster sauce. The sweetness from the pineapples (It’s a Del Monte recipe after all) tempers the saltiness, resulting in something that’s almost like ‘endulsado’ (pork stewed/cooked in soy sauce and sugar), but not quite there yet. That’s a good thing, because endulsado can be cloyingly sweet.

This stew doesn’t need to beg to be wolfed down; it’s just natural to help yourself to a few more servings. Well, at least that’s what I did. I’m not ashamed.
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Emperor’s Beef Stew (serves 4 – 6)

  • ½ cup chopped white onions
  • Half a garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 to 2 pieces dried laurel/bay leaves
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 1 ½   kg beef shanks, cooked and softened in a pressure cooker (make sure to read manufacturer’s instructions)
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • A scant ¼ cup rice wine or gin
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 pouches Del Monte Pineapple tidbits (115 grams each)
  1.  In a pot large enough to hold the beef, sauté onions, garlic, bay leaves and pepper in oil. Add the beef and sauté until lightly brown.
  2. Add oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine and water. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to soften the beef more.
  3. Add the pineapple tidbits with the syrup and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm with rice. Enjoy!

Breaded Pork Cutlet with Pineapple-Lychee Sauce

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This week was a blur. After we were done with the Easter celebration, everyday felt like a strange shift back to monotony and admittedly, I purposely ignored posting anything new. When I didn’t have anything else better to do, before I started this blog, and especially during the summer, I’d read a good book. I surmise that no matter how old I’d be, I’ll always be a devoted consumer of children’s fiction.

But I really don’t think I can consider The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for starters) children’s fiction. No, no, no. It’s peppered with all sorts of things that, well, aren’t safe for work. But I really enjoyed reading it, probably because it’s a brilliant, intricate yet incredibly straightforward crime novel and I haven’t really immersed myself in that realm yet.

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So yeah, my week was filled with amble reading moments, and I think I needed that. But during the moments in-between reading, I remember that I had to feed myself too. And without a lot of intricate preparation, I managed to whip up something decent. Scratch that, it isn’t just decent…it’s really good.

This is just the standard breaded pork, which really becomes more flavorful if you let the meat marinate in vinegar, garlic and sugar (yes, sugar), overnight.

But now we come to the issue of the sauce. Sure, the standard soy sauce-vinegar-calamansi dipping sauce is a winner, but it was when I read the book Asian Dumplings that I found a little gold nugget. Towards the end of her book, Andrea Nguyen shares recipes for sauces commonly partnered with dumplings and beyond. One of which, she calls ‘Sweet and Sour Sauce’, but her description is far from the mental image that I know is sweet and sour sauce. The bottled kind is…reddish-orange, ketchup-y, slightly translucent.

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This one is (in her words) “a rich dark honey color, this tart-sweet-savory sauce does not resemble the cloying, sticky, bright red sauce that’s often served at Chinese restaurants.” She also hints that this can be a blank canvas for other flavors – tropical (use canned pineapple juice instead of water) and/or spicy (add ginger and chili to the mix).

What’s more tropical than pineapple? pineapple-lychee of course! But don’t count pine-orange or pine-mango out, because as of writing this, now I understand why this sauce is definitely a blank canvas.  I was sold.

(And….I’m about to read The Girl Who Played With Fire. Time is definitely divided.)

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Breaded Pork (serves 4 – 6)

1 kg pork chops or belly (if using belly, ask the butcher to slice it into uniform pieces 5 – 6 inches long)

Marinade:

  • ½ cup white cane vinegar
  • Half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Breading

  • Flour
  • 1 – 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt or liquid seasoning (Maggi or Knorr)
  • Breadcrumbs
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl or Tupperware and add in the pork. Mix well and leave in the refrigerator preferably overnight.
  2. When ready to fry, set-up a dipping station using 3 shallow dishes. In the first dish, add flour enough to coat the pork.  Begin with around ½ cup, adding a few tablespoons more when needed. Season the flour with salt and pepper. In the second dish, lightly beat the egg. It’s best to start with one egg, then if it runs out, beat in another one. Add a pinch of salt or a few drops of liquid seasoning. In the third dish, add the breadcrumbs.
  3. Using tongs, dredge both sides of the pork with the flour. Then dip both sides in the egg. Lastly, coat both sides with the breadcrumbs.
  4. Over medium-low to medium heat, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a nonstick pan. When the oil is glistening, add the pork pieces. You may need to work in batches, 2 or 3 at a time, depending on the size of the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry each side for around 8 – 10 minutes or until breading turns golden brown.

Sweet and Sour Sauce (makes 1 cup)

  • ¼ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (any kind)
  • ½ cup pineapple-lychee juice (Dole or Del Monte)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  1. Combine the sugar, salt, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar and water in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a near boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Give the cornstarch a stir and then add it to the pan. Continue cooking,  stirring, for about 15 seconds, or until the sauce comes to a full boil and thickens.
  4. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and set aside for 10 minutes to cool and concentrate in flavor.
  5. Taste and add extra salt, if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to prepare this sauce a day in advance.

Tonkatsu

Bringhe

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Grandma burst into song at lunch today. After lengthily praying, she burst into song – clapping while singing “This is the Day”. Look it up, I’m not singing it.

Mom was hiding silent giggles, uncle kept mouthing under his breath that he’s hungry, while I couldn’t really hide the fact that I was pleasantly amused. That doesn’t usually happen over lunch. She’s like that, my grandmother. It’s been an inside joke among family members that her lack of comedic timing makes her that more amusing. One time, during a party that we had at their place, with guests in tow, she burst into tears and extended the prayer before meals after my grandfather said his spiel.
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The amusement that happened over lunch offset whatever antsy feelings I had prior. I was flipping out because from my end, lunch almost never happened. We don’t have set Easter traditions, we don’t have Easter bunnies and eggs; it’s usually only a celebratory lunch and dinner. I decided to make two dishes – bringhe and roasted chicken.

Bringhe is a rice dish from Northern Luzon (specifically Pampanga), similar to arroz valenciana and paella, but the liquid used to cook the rice is a mixture of water and coconut milk, and it has a characteristic yellow color because of the turmeric. Think curry rice, without the curry. Roast chicken is, well, roast chicken.  I marinated it in soy sauce, vinegar, rosemary and lemongrass.
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Time wasn’t on my side that day. While I was in the kitchen, I kept glancing at the clock, mentally kicking myself for being a hot mess. I thought I started on time, but in my head there was still so much to do. We brought out the turbo broiler for the first time, hoping that it’ll do wonders with the chicken. At 11:00 AM, we discovered that the broiler had failed us. The chickens were barely warm even after preheating and cooking for at least 30 minutes. I felt like I was on a pressure test and something was about to spell my elimination. I quickly grabbed a roasting pan and the chickens by the neck (sorry, chickens) and hastily preheated the oven. But even I knew they would never make it for lunch.
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I cursed a bit, and resigned at the fact that something did go totally awry. I went back to the stove, telling myself that I probably burned the bringhe as well.

I opened the pot, steam wafted out and enveloped me for a nanosecond, and there it was. It was like a veil was lifted over me. I can tell. I can tell it was on its way to perfection with the broth slowly but surely being absorbed by the rice. I grabbed a spoon and took a bite of the rice. It was cooked (edible!). I didn’t break into song number, but I was happy. I will have something on the table at lunchtime. It felt like everything just fell into place. The timing was perfect.
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Grandma just finished her song, was a little bit emotional partly because my cousin lacks proper etiquette (that’s another story), and we dig in. The roast chicken is biding its time in the oven, and it’ll obviously be ready before dinner. There’s pancit bihon, dinuguan and of course, the bringhe. We were somehow together (dad was away and grandpa retired way too early), and I realized that I made a mountain out of a molehill.
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Today is Easter Sunday, the day hope was returned to us and a promise was fulfilled. There was darkness, but through it all, He lives. Jesus coming back from the dead can mean a lot of things, but I believe it means that God is stronger than pain, suffering and hopelessness. I try to pray because I believe I’m inadequate without Him. During lunch today, He sat with us and brought me back from whatever “death” had fallen upon me. I have a lot to be thankful for, Grandma kept repeating that.

I couldn’t agree more.
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Happy Easter everyone!

Beringhe/Bringhe (adapted from Inquirer Lifestyle)

  • ¾ kg chicken leg and thighs, sliced into serving pieces
  • ¾ kg pork belly or shoulder, cut into cubes
  • 150 g chicken liver and/or gizzard
  • 1 cup regular rice
  • 1 cup sticky rice (malagkit)
  • 2 tablespoons Star margarine
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 whole head garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons patis, or more, to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used a 200 ml tetra pack; go ahead and use the fresh kind if you can)
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 carrot, sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into small squares
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into small squares
  • 8 pieces Vienna sausage, sliced into halves diagonally (I used Libby’s)
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1½ c raisins, for garnish (optional; I didn’t like adding raisins so I didn’t use this)
  1. In a large pan, add the chicken and pork and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Generously season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and allow the water to evaporate and the meat to cook. Allow for the fat the render and stir to lightly toast the meat. Do not allow to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Combine regular rice and sticky rice and wash three times under running water. Set aside.
  3. Heat the Star margarine in a wide casserole, large pot or a paellera.
  4. Sauté onion until wilted. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown.
  5. Add turmeric and patis and stir in the chicken liver or gizzard. Add the pork and chicken. Cover and simmer for a minute.
  6. Add water and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Let boil around one minute, then add the two kinds of rice, distributing evenly around the pan. You may want to give the pan/pot a few through stirs. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is fully cooked and has almost absorbed all the liquid, around 15-20 minutes.
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  7. When the rice is cooked through but there is still some liquid on the surface, add peas, carrots, bell peppers and Vienna sausage. Stir lightly to incorporate and cover for 3 – 5 more minutes, cooking over low heat.
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  8. Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs and raisins, if desired. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Pancit Palabok

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I did not grow up eating palabok. Pancit bihon or sotanghon would usually be part of our party staple, not palabok. In fact, I could consider palabok an incredibly unorthodox addition to a buffet spread.

It was in college that my appreciation for palabok really grew. Tucked away at the back of the university where I used to study at, there’s this little resto called Flavourite. It’s practically an institution here in Zamboanga, with branches around town. It’s known for its reasonably priced home cooked dishes, the burgers and of course, the palabok. I think it would be an understatement when I say that their palabok is delicious. In fact, if somebody would ask me what a great palabok is supposed to taste like, I would describe it along the lines of Flavourite’s version.
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“Miki, pork”, is my usual order. Palabok noodles can either use miki, (round or flat egg noodles), or bihon (thin strands of rice noodles). I enjoy eating it with miki. And since I have no aversion to pork, I don’t see any reason it shouldn’t be pork.
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The thick, gravy-like sauce is curiously orange. Before I read about the process of making it, I’ve always wondered what it’s made of. Of course, all of that curiosity vanishes with the first slurp. The taste is peculiar as well. It’s slightly salty, more than anything else. But it still lays the perfect stage to showcase the hotchpotch of toppings.
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I understand that toppings are probably as diverse as the regions of the Philippines, from all-meat, to seafood, but like I said, Flavourite is my benchmark (So if you want to point me to a plate of palabok that rocked your world, drop me a line!) The palabok is topped with little tofu cubes, chicharon (pork crackling), mashed adobo and if I’m not mistaken, pork floss.

Flavourite is so old-school they don’t have a website, not even a facebook page. It makes sense; through the years it has sustained itself well without any gimmicks. So to understand my enthusiasm, if and when you’re in our little city of Zamboanga, please, check it out.
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In the meantime, here’s my take on their palabok – with a few topping modifications. The real work is in making the sauce; the rest of the toppings can just be put together at the last-minute. But I’d like to think it was so good that after a few hours the big pot of sauce was polished clean, and the noodles long gone.

And I like it so much I don’t mind it with calamansi, my archenemy. Palabok does that to you.
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Pancit Palabok (serves 6 – 8)

Some miki noodles have been pre-salted already, so exercise caution when seasoning the sauce, tasting as you go along.

2 500-gram packs miki (egg noodles; the ones that I used were bundled but already soft and ready to use, with a shelf-life of only 3 days)

Sauce:

  • At least 8 – 10 medium-sized prawns, head and shell intact, but with barbs (the rostrum) and whiskers snipped
  • 3 – 4 cups water to cook the prawns
  • 1 30-gram pack annatto/atsuete seeds
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

Seasoning:

  • 2 tablespoons patis/fish sauce, or more to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 pork broth cubes, or more to taste
  • Cornstarch slurry: 6 – 8 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup warm water

Toppings:

  • ¼ kilo pork belly, sliced into small cubes
  • Pork chicharon, crumbled
  • Spring onions, cleaned and sliced thinly
  • Napa cabbage/Chinese pechay, cleaned and sliced into strips
  • 5 – 8 hard-boiled eggs, sliced in half
  1. Over medium heat, boil prawns in a pot with the water. When thoroughly orange all over, turn off the heat.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the prawns and place in a bowl. Allow to cool. Reserve the water for use later.
  3. Meanwhile, in a pan, add the pork with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Allow the water to evaporate and the pork’s fat to render. Sauté the pork in its own fat until lightly toasted.
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  4. Peel the prawns and remove the heads. Place all the prawn heads in a mortar and using the pestle (the heavy bat shaped object), pound the prawn heads until juices have been released and the mixture looks “pulpy”.
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  5. Place everything in the pot of water that was used to boil the prawns and mix everything together.
  6. In a small pot, make the atsuete oil by heating the vegetable oil over medium heat and adding the atsuete seeds. Toast until fragrant and the oil takes on a shade of dark orange.
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  7. Add the oil to the shrimp water, together with the seeds. Mix everything together and let the color bleed into the soup, leave for 3 – 5 minutes. You will want a slightly dark yellow-orange colored liquid.
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  8. Run the mixture through a sieve and into a slightly larger pot.  Heat the pot over medium heat. Add around 1 – 2 more cups water. Season with salt and pepper. Add the broth cubes and the fish sauce, starting with 2 cubes and 2 tablespoons, respectively. Add more if desired.
  9. When it starts to simmer, add the cornstarch slurry. Allow to boil, stirring frequently. Adjust taste and consistency to your liking. I personally want a liquid that’s thick and gravy-like, which may need more of the slurry, or not – it’s your call.
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  10. Place the miki noodles in a bowl of hot water to wash and soften it. Drain.
  11. Put everything together: In a plate, place a generous mound of noodles. Ladle an equally generous amount of sauce. Add the toppings (toasted pork belly, sliced spring onions and Napa cabbage, shrimps, hard-boiled egg) and sprinkle with the crumbled chicharon. Serve with calamansi on the side. Enjoy!

Guest Post: Golden Mushrooms with Broccoli and Dried Shrimps

For the first time in THG history, I’ve invited a blogger to guest post on my blog.With their shared passion for food and cooking, guest bloggers bring in a blast of fresh air to any blog.

Because Catholics all over are observing the Holy Week, this recipe is a welcome addition to your tables come Good Friday. 

Everybody, meet Raymund

Wow! This is my second time to guest post and I am really honoured that I was invited by Gio to do this for his food blog, I’ve been reading his blog posts for roughly 3 months now and I am always thrilled to see his new post and sometimes feel home sick especially when I see local Filipino dishes that I like which is impossible to make here.  Anyway, before we start with our post let me introduce myself first.

Well my name is Raymund and I am the person behind the blog called AngSarap (A Tagalog word for “It’s Delicious”) , I am a Software Developer / Architect by profession and my passion is to cook, travel and take photographs (isn’t that the best combination).  I’ve been cooking since I was 7 years old and since then I have been cooking my family dinners. I’ve travelled a bit and lived in different countries due to my profession hence I have a good grasp of local the different cuisines which is very evident on my blog.

The blog is nearly two years now and it has a good reception in the food blog circle as well as Filipino communities around the world.  It showcases dishes basically from everywhere but with Filipino, Spanish and Chinese twist which are the primary influence in the Philippine cuisine.  The goal of my blog is to educate people with what Philippines have to offer in terms of culinary arts and like I said in my past posts why Philippines is the only Asian country without an identity or even representation, what I mean by that is you have the Malaysian, Singaporean, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese and Thai but where is the Philippines? Is it even known? That’s what I want to change, and I hope I can start with this blog.  Now I guess that’s enough about me and if you want to know further please follow my blog and start learning about what you are missing if you haven’t tried Filipino dishes yet.

For this guest post I was initially requested to post any of the three options; something that I miss from the Philippines, a specialty food from where I live now or a vegetable dish, I had chosen the latter due to several reasons.  First, while I do miss a lot from the Philippines I guess Gio has a lot of very good Filipino food posts already, just look at his story on this adobo it’s the most authentic preparation of adobo you can get.  Next is some specialty where I came from, I guess this would be hard to make as what I consider a local specialty in New Zealand is what they call Hangi, a dish where pork cooked in an underground pit so it will involve digging a pit in the ground, then heating stones in the pit with a fire, placing baskets of food on top and finally covering everything with soil trapping the heat for several hours cooking what’s beneath.  I want to do this sometime though.  So it left me with the only option which is a vegetable dish which suits well with the Lenten season.  So for today we will be making some Broccoli and Golden Mushroom with Dried Shrimp’s a creation by yours truly.

This dish is a dish made out of broccoli florets mixed with some Golden Mushrooms, it is then flavoured with mixed Asian sauces and dried shrimps. The result is a good combination of different textures and flavours – just imagine the soft and earthy mushrooms, crunchy broccoli, salty crispy dried shrimps and the sweet and savoury sauce.  Words can’t just explain it further so I just leave you to try it and find out.

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Golden Mushrooms with Broccoli and Dried Shrimps

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup dried shrimps (hibe)
  • 1 bunch golden needle mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
  • 1/2 cup seafood stock
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • oil

Method

  1.  In a pot add water and bring it to a boil, once boiling drop the broccoli and cook for 1 minute. Remove from pot, drain then run in cold water. Set it aside.
  2. In a small bowl mix together oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, seafood stock and tapioca starch. Set it aside
  3. In a wok add oil then sauté garlic and shallots.
  4. Add dried shrimps and stir fry for a minute or until fragrant and crunchy.
  5. Add golden mushrooms and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  6.  Pour in the mixed sauce then bring it to a boil, once boiling add the broccoli and stir fry for 1 minute.
  7. Add sesame oil then turn heat off, serve while hot.