Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Diced Pork

Many of my med school days (and nights) were spent in a generic cafeteria-style restaurant on P. Gil called Orchid House. "Orchid," as we fondly called this place, was where we went when we wanted decent food in a comfortable atmosphere for a fairly reasonable, student-friendly price. For us, it was kind of like "Cheers" where "everybody knows your name."

Sadly, Orchid is no more. They changed their name a few years ago and I'm not sure if the familiar faces are still there. But Orchid is and will always be part of my med school memories. And their "diced pork" will remain in my culinary consciousness forever.

This is my tribute to that dish...

400 g lean pork, diced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Knorr liquid seasoning
2 tbsp. minced garlic

Marinate pork in the next 4 ingredients for 1-2 hours. In a large pan, fry the garlic and set aside. In the same pan, put 1/4 cup of oil and add the pork. Boil on high heat until almost all the marinade has evaporated. Turn the heat to med-high and fry the pork in the remaining oil until all the marinade is gone and the pork pieces become slightly crisp on the outside. Drain well. Put in a serving platter and top with the fried garlic. Serve with lemon/soy sauce/chili oil mixture and eat with copious amounts of rice.

Banana Pudding a la Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery in New York is credited for starting the cup cake craze that seems to have taken over the baking world. People line up outside for their vanilla, chocolate and red velvet cupcakes, frosted with sweet buttercream icing. But their banana pudding and caramel cheesecake have a loyal following as well.

I found a recipe for the banana pudding here and decided to make half a recipe. It was very good, but not mind-blowing. I think there was too much cream for my taste. So next time, I think I'm going to use half the cream/pudding mixture but make more layers of the banana and Nilla wafers.

I must say though, that the combination of pudding, bananas and softened cookies is a delicious mix. This recipe is extremely easy to make and I'm sure will make a repeat performance in our household :-)

Crispy Beef Shank

Last year, during our trip to the Bay Area, we went to Union City looking for Jollibee. But as we were driving around, searching around the strip mall, we came across a miracle. Right in front of our eyes was the recently opened, first international branch of Gerry's Grill!!!

After 2 years of living in Toronto, longing for sisig and crispy pata and crispy tadyang, we couldn't believe we had a Gerry's Grill, right in front of our very eyes! We excitedly ordered as much food as we thought we could finish and more. We closed our eyes as we savored each and every bite of ulam with garlic rice. Yum, yum, yum!

I had a whole beef shank sitting in my freezer so I thought I would try cooking it "Crispy Tadyang" style.

1 whole boneless beef shank, cut into 2 inch thick pieces
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 onion, quartered
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tbsp. salt
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. fice spice powder (or 3 pieces of star anise)

Put all ingredients together in a large pot. Cover with water and boil until beef is tender. I used a pressure cooker and cooked the beef for 20 minutes.
Once beef is tender, drain well and pat dry with paper towers. Fry until outside is crisp. Top with fried garlic

Serve with sauce made of 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 tsp. sugar and 1 small chopped onion.

The beef was crisp on the outside and juicy and meaty on the inside. Perfect with the sauce over steaming white rice.

Chinese vegetable v. 3 (Damn You!)

When we eat in a Chinese restaurant, Tito O likes to order this vegetable which he calls "damn you." Dou Miao or snow pea shoots is a wonderful vegetable that has a sweet, nutty flavor. It tastes best when quickly stir fried with garlic but today I decided to vary the prep a little.

For this dish, you will need 4-5 handfuls of snow pea shoots, washed and drained well.

For the sauce, stir the following together and set aside:

  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 5 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 heaping tsp. crab paste in soya oil

Saute garlic in wok. Add snow pea shoots. Add sauce and stir fry until shoots are done but still crisp.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Steamed Fish Fillet with Garlic

This dish was inspired by a restaurant we used to frequent back home in Manila. Hap Chan started out as a small hole in the wall serving food that was reminiscent of the food in Hong Kong tea houses. The restaurant became so popular, which resulted in many branches and copy cats, but the original one in Malate will always remind me of the many lunches I spent there :-)

Steamed Fish Fillet with Garlic

3 white fish fillets, skin removed (I used cod but the Hap Chan version uses grouper)
4 slices ginger, cut into matchstick pieces

  • In a shallow bowl, spread ginger pieces and put the pieces of fish on top. Steam for 10 minutes. Pour off the excess liquid which accumulates in the bowl after the fish is cooked. Set aside.

1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp grated ginger

  • Simmer ingredients together just until everything blends together. Set aside.

2 stalks green onion, sliced thinly on the diagonal

1/4 cup neutral cooking oil like canola, corn or peanut oil
2 heaping tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. sesame oil

  • Heat oils over medium heat. Add garlic and gently cook until garlic turns light brown. Watch carefully because garlic quickly turns from brown to burnt. Remove from heat.

To assemble:
1. Pour sauce over steamed fish.
2. Top with green onions.
3. As soon as the garlic-oil mixture is done, pour it over the fish. The hot oil will sizzle and will cook the green onions.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ginataang Sitaw (Long Beans in Coconut Milk)

Hailing from the Bicol region has taught me that practically anything tastes better with coconut milk. Bicolanos cook every imaginable vegetable in coconut milk, from sigarilyas to gabi leaves to unripe langka and even santol! We even have a version of dinuguan with coconut milk!

Coconut milk is such a wonderful ingredient and it's too bad that many people will never be able to try cooking with freshly extracted gata. The canned version is passable, but it never really measures up. When coconut milk is simmered for a long time, it gives off this magnificent oil that gives dishes such wonderful depth of flavor.

Unfortunately, fresh coconut is hard to come by here in Canada. I doubt that the coconut is among their major agricultural products :-P

Ginataang Sitaw (Long Beans in Coconut Milk)
1 bunch long beans cut into 2 inch pieces
200 grams ground pork
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 tsp. bagoong/shrimp paste
1 can coconut milk
3-4 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp chili flakes or a couple of chilis, chopped (optional)

1. Saute garlic and onion until fragrant.
2. Add pork and saute until pork is no longer pink.
3. Add bagoong and mix with pork.
4. Add coconut milk and fish sauce. This would also be the time to add chili, if using.
5. Turn heat down and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. When the coconut milk has reduced to about 2/3 its original volume, add beans.
7. Simmer for 5-7 minutes more until beans are done.
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Bacon and Corn Chowder

One of the bounties of summer is having fresh sweet corn for the ridiculously low price of $1.99/dozen. So we had 6 as corn-on-the-cob with pats of melted butter, and the rest I made into this corn soup.

Bacon and Corn Chowder

corn kernels, removed from 6 ears

200 g bacon, chopped into small pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

a pinch of smoked paprika

6 cups chicken broth

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

salt and pepper

1/2 cup milk or cream

chives for garnish

1. In a heavy pot, render the bacon fat until bacon is crisp.

2. Remove bacon and most of fat, leaving about 2 tsp.

3. In the same pot, saute onions until soft.

4. Add corn and potatoes and paprika.

5. Pour in chicken broth.

6. Simmer until potatoes are soft.

7. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Turn off heat and add milk or cream.

9. Use immersion blender to partly puree the soup. I like to leave in some larger pieces of corn and potatoes.

10. Serve garnished with bacon pieces and chives.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dried Beef Tapa

Yay! It's the weekend once again, which in our household means it's time for our favorite meal...BRUNCH!

My mom brought (smuggled, actually) some dried beef tapa from Lucena when she came to visit last year. She brought 5 bags and the one we cooked today was the last one :( :( :(

This tapa is different from the usual marinated beef slices. Because it's dried, it has a crunchy-chewy texture and the flakes of salty meat go so well with a simple tomato/green onion/vinegar/fish sauce salad on the side. Truly the ultimate tapsilog.

We savored each and every bite, knowing that this batch was the last of our precious stash. Ma, next time ulit ha!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rotini with Shrimp and Spanish Chorizo

It's Friday night. Time for one of my "throw together what's available" pasta dishes. My basil needed a "trim", I had some Spanish chorizo, shrimp, and sundried tomato pesto. There was a box of rotini pasta in the pantry. Yup, all I needed for a tasty pasta dish.

Rotini with Shrimp and Spanish Chorizo

450 g box rotini (or whatever pasta your heart desires)
300 g peeled shrimp
1 Spanish Chorizo
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. garlic
1 bunch italian parsley, chopped
12-15 whole basil leaves
3 heaping tbsp. sundried tomato pesto
1/4 cup grated sharp cheese (like pecorino or manchego or parmegiano)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. By the time the pasta is done, the sauce will be ready too.

2. For the sauce, chop or slice the chorizo into small pieces. Put in a large pan with about 1/2 cup water.

3. Simmer until chorizo renders its fat and the water evaporates.

4. When the chorizo has rendered its oil and is gently frying, add garlic.

5. Saute for a few minutes then add the shrimp.

6. Cook just until shrimp is opaque then add herbs.

7. Turn off stove. Mix in drained pasta and pesto.

8. Add cheese and mix everything together.

9. Done!

On the side, we had marinated goat cheese on slices of pane di casa from Cob's bread and a glass of South African Pinot Grigio. Simple, quick and satisfying...

I think this will be another submission to presto pasta nights.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sinigang: the ultimate comfort food

Nothing brings back happy and warm memories of the Philippines like a hot, soothing bowl of mouth-puckering, saliva flow-inducing sinigang. Even here in The Great White North, sinigang remains one of our staple meals, making an appearance on our dinner table at least once a month.

It's so quick and easy, I even consider it "emergency food." The pressure cooker makes quick work of frozen pork bones and in half an hour, a perfect meal is ready. I also consider it "budget food." $2.70 for 3 pounds of neck bones, $1.29 for the kang kong, another few cents for the gabi, a couple of tomatoes, an onion, sinigang mix --- a nutritious, delicious dish that feeds all of us for less than $7.

I do use ready mix pang-sigang (gasp!!!) but I tweak it a little by adding tomatoes, onions, whole peppercorns and patis :-)


3 pounds pork neck bones
2 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 medium onion, quartered
1/4 cup fish sauce
3-4 pcs. gabi (or edo as it is known here), peeled
1 tsp. black peppercorns or siling pangsigang (if you have some on hand, which I usually don't)
1 bunch kang kong (look for tung choi in the chinese market) or spinach
1 to 1 1/2 packets of Knorr Sinigang Mix with Gabi (my preferred brand)

1. In a pressure cooker, cover pork bones with enough water.
2. Add in tomatoes, onion, fish sauce and pepper.
3. Seal pressure cooker and cook until pressure cooker whistles.
4. Lower heat to maintain whistling. Cook for 12-15 minutes.
5. Release pressure.
6. Skim off fat then add gabi/edo. Simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until gabi is almost done.
7. Add sinigang mix. Adjust seasoning according to taste.
8. Finally, add the green veggies.

9. Simmer a few minutes more until veggies are done.

Other vegetable options include sitaw/long beans, eggplants, radish, or any other green leafy veg. The possibilities are endless...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Garlic Kutchay

Three bunches for a dollar. That's how much kutchay costs here. This lovely, slightly sweet, crunchy relative of the onion family can be had for almost nothing. I love it.

Stir fried with garlic, with a simple sauce of chicken broth sprinkled with a touch of sugar, thickened with a cornstarch slurry, and finished with a few drops of sesame oil, the beautiful garlicky flavor of this vegetable shines through.

Kimchi Fried Rice

During our recent Chicago trip, we got together with Tito L's kids and they took us to dinner at this wonderful pan-Asian restaurant called Joy Yee. We had soooo much food and we enjoyed every single dish, from the eggplant, to the chicken wraps, to the bubble milk tea and fruit slushies. J, J, J, and B ordered for us, so unfortunately, I didn't know what any of the dishes were called. But the Kimchi fried rice, served with grilled skewers of shrimp, chicken and mushrooms, stood out in my mind.

I had a stash of Kimchi in the fridge so I thought, why not give it a try...

FRIED RICE with KIMCHI (inspiration by Joy Yee, execution by me)

---don't know it, but I'm a poet

4-5 cups cooked jasmine rice, preferably cooked a day ahead, grains separated
2 eggs, lightly beaten in 2 separate bowls
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
2 stalks green onion, sliced into pieces
6 stalks garlic chives, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup dried shimp
4-5 slices cooked ham, chopped into small pieces
3 heaping tablespoons of kimchi
1 cup iceberg lettuce, chopped into smallish pieces
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

1. In a bowl, mix together one of the beaten eggs, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Set aside.

2. In a large wok or non-stick saute pan (which I prefer when cooking fried rice), heat a small amount of oil and cook one egg, making a flat omelette. Chop this into small pieces and set aside.

3. In the same pan, heat some more oil and saute garlic, ginger, and green onions for a minute or so.

4. Add in the chives, ham, dried shrimp and kimchi.

5. Add rice, breaking up the clumps until the grains are separate and mixed well with the other ingredients.

6. Pour in the egg mixture.

7. Mix/stir until egg mixture is thoroughly dispersed.

8. Lastly, add in the chopped egg and lettuce. Stir a few more times.

9. Serve hot.

Thanks J & B and J & J! It was great to spend some time with you guys!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Holy crab!

Practice makes perfect, that's what they say. And in no other instance is this mantra true than when eating a whole crab. I mastered the art quite early :-) Thanks in part to the many Good Friday crab fests we had when I was a child. I'm trying to pass on the skill to my kids. Son #1 isn't too interested, but Son #2 diligently "practices" when the oppotunity arises.

I snagged these beautiful B.C./Dungeness crabs during my Chinese grocery trip this morning. Simply steamed, they are the epitome of perfection. I'm looking forward to having them for dinner with a huge plateful of steaming hot white rice and vinegar on the side. Yum!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Chinese vegetable v. 2

This is actually the third iteration of this particular veg. The first batch was used in sinigang. The second batch was used for v. 1. And now here is v. 2.

I love the fact that you can get these gigantic bags of veggies at the Asian grocery for a grand total of $1.29. Three different dishes for less than what half an hour of parking would cost in downtown TO. What a deal, eh?

Chinese vegetable v. 2
2 -3 handfuls of mystery veg
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shrimp, shelled
1/2 cup chicken broth/stock
1/2 tsp. salt (omit if using salted chicken stock)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. water
splash of sesame oil

1. Heat a bit of oil in a pan/wok.
2. Saute garlic.
3. Add shrimp and veggies.
4. Add chicken broth/stock and sugar
5. When veggies are almost done, add cornstarch slurry.
6. When sauce thickens, finish with a few drops of sesame oil.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Chinese vegetable v. 1

The huge variety of produce at the Chinese grocery lends itself so well to experimentation. Whenever I go, I pick up one two vegetables that look interesting (and are on "special") and we try them out at home. This is how I introduced the boys to snow pea shoots, kutchay, watercress, and many other unidentifiable leaves and stems.

This one was a cross between kangkong and gailan or chinese broccoli. It had the bite and crunch of gailan but the stems were much thinner. It also did not have that bitter undertone that you can sometimes get when the gailan is too mature. Needless to say, son #2 loved it.

3 handfuls of mystery vegetable (any other robust leafy veggy would work too)
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 heaping tsp. bagoong
3 tbsp. oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. water
1 tsp. sesame oil

1. In a very hot pan or wok, saute the garlic and quickly add in bagoong.
2. Add the vegetable and stir constantly.
3. Add oyster sauce and chicken broth and stir-fry until veggies are cooked but still crisp.
4. Add in cornstarch and sesame oil.
5. Simmer for a few more seconds just until sauce thickens.
6. Serve hot.

Ribs and Rolls

Another successful dinner tonight...Korean BBQ beef ribs and Vietnamese rolls. I had originally planned to grill the beef but alas, the weather did not cooperate. It's been raining on and off since 2 days ago. Not a very good start for the summer...

So I used the broiler and the ribs still turned out very well. We just had to contend with the smoke detector. Hehe!


3 lbs beef ribs (Korean style cut)
1 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar (dark brown, preferably)
2 tbsp. vinegar
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. grated ginger
1/2 tsp. chili in oil (optional)
1 tsp. sesame oil

1. Marinate ribs for a few hours.
2. Grill or broil until charred in a few spots
3. Serve with rice, lettuce leaves and kimchi. The lettuce is used to wrap a small portion of rice topped with some beef, like so...


For 6 rolls, you will need:

  • 6 rice paper wrappers
  • 9 pcs. shrimp, boiled/steamed, shelled then cut in half (butterfly style)
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • a handful of rice vermicelli, soaked in boiling water until soft
  • 18 very thin cucumber slices
  • 18 thai basil leaves
  1. Soak the rice paper wrapper in a bowl of water for several seconds until slightly soft.
  2. Wrap all the ingredients.
  3. Serve with dipping sauce.

For the dipping sauce, mix:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. sweet chili sauce
  • 3 thai basil leaves, sliced thinly
  • 3 slices cucumber, sliced into thin strips

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mystery Fruit

We celebrated Tita M and Tito O's 28th wedding anniversary last night with a wonderful Chinese meal at The Perfect Kitchen in Mississauga. One of their friends brought this mystery fruit from their backyard and we had some (along with many other fruits, ice cream and cake) for dessert.

The fruit resembled raspberries and blackberries but did not have the same tartness. Actually, it tasted very similar to aratilis. Anyone ever seen this fruit or know what it's called?

Tita M decided to baptize them Ulud fruit, ulud being the Bicolano term for worm. They just looked like caterpillars with the hair sticking out from the pale green/purple skin. Not a very flattering name, I think, but so what...I still ate a whole bunch :-)