30-minute New Year Feast by Ina

We usually spend New Years’ at one of my uncles’ so our family went gaga when that did not happen. I went crazy in the kitchen and prepared a 5-course feast out of random food items in the fridge in a little less than 30 minutes.

  1. The soup was easy because there was a packet of chicken and vegetables and all I had to do was heat it and serve it with parmesan cheese.
  2. I was also lucky that we had half a loaf of whole wheat bread. Toasted bread is already fancy with butter but I just had to add truffle honey.
  3. the salad was simply made of wansuy, mandarin oranges, spiced almonds and honey (all of which were leftovers I had to live with)
  4. I sliced morcon into small pieces and just tossed it with cooked pasta before a drizzle of chili oil and sprinkling of truffle salt.
  5. The tomato-based pasta with slivers of fresh garlic and chopped onion also had a drizzling of truffle oil.
My family left to eat out and went back home with Chinese takeout (Kowloon specifically) because all of the establishments were close. Haha papa! That’s what you get for not listening to your eldest who knows everything. and I mean everything!
I used up a pair of red candles I’ve been saving for about 7 years to make this meal more special. Happy New Year!

Learning Recipes in Sariaya

 There were a few surprises in the 4-weekend trips to Sariaya (our province) and one of them is learning recipes.IMG_2097

  • Leche flan by Lala and Len’s mom
  • Shawerma by Nolan and Len
  • Nanay’s embutido (a kind of meatloaf)
  • Nanay’s utak na sopas 
  • Instant Chicken Fajitas



I guess this shouldn’t count as a recipe because it’s instant. But, it seems simple enough and I think I can easily manage my own recipe so it’s all good. I was happy to try it out because I kinda lack chicken recipes. Plus with my white onion sauce


it would be gastronomical.

It’s daunting for someone who is not into baking but I promise to try making a batch of Leche flan real soon. I should have taken advantage of the free eggs we got from uncles but it was just too soon. Meanwhile, their version of shawerma with longganizang Lucban is a sure winner. People in Manila go crazy over longganiza so any dish you incorporate it with is good.

Ahh. I can’t believe I pulled off making nanay’s utak na sopas in one try (You should have seen how fast people devoured that evil evil soup). It’s a heartwarming dish yes, but it’s hard to get by in Manila and thinking about cholesterol is quite discouraging. Oh but I am proud and maybe I’ll try it again on special occasions.

It was all enjoyable but it was making nanay’s embutido that I found most interesting. I prepared it together with my sister, my cousins, my aunts while being pestered by know it all uncles. We weren’t able to perfect it but it didn’t matter. It was the first time the 9-year old twins “mooshed” meat with their hands and that alone made it worth it. Maybe it was most exciting for them!
TotalCollage_WDZE7-L9XQBIt wasn’t well-documented but who cares, it was grand. Food surely brings people together. Since you’re busy and stuck in the kitchen, you’d end up chatting and laughing together, maybe even have a beer or two. I do hope I get the chance again to spend time with my family “learning recipes”. Speaking of which, Tita Baby also is a wondrous cook and these two here will also be a part of my list along with her chame with isaw. I look forward to cooking and tasting all those.
I’d have to post another one for the sweets part okay? Cheers!

Basics of experimenting in the kitchen

Here’s what I’ve got to say to people who wish to tinker around in the kitchen more often.

Taste is not one-dimensional

So there’s sour right? but the tang of calamansi can never be the same as vinegar. When we talk about Filipino dips for barbecue, you think of garlic and vinegar with a kick care of siling labuyo and red onions right? Once I saw calamansi seeds in the vinegar dip of a barbecue stand in a street corner (isawan sa kanto) so I tried it at home and boy was I surprised of the difference! My point here is that sometimes a taste can be complemented by the same taste.

Fresh wins

When I was younger a lot of my kitchen adventures made use of canned goods, processed foods and insta-meals partly because that’s what was available and partly because I didn’t know any better so when I started trying out fresh goods, it was already the best thing that ever happened. You don’t even have to be a good cook. If it’s fresh, it’s good! Can you compare canned green peas alongside fresh ones? No. You think fresh tuna can be contested by those salty canned ones? You think garlic can ever be replaced by garlic powder? I didn’t think so.

Get to know ‘em condiments and spices

If the only thing you experiment with is Knorr seasoning, black and white pepper, Italian seasoning, oyster sauce and banana ketchup, Houston, we have a problem. These are what I call restrictions. Try both dry and fresh. Try a foreign spice every so often. Don’t let anything discourage you from trying a new one. For instance I’ve hated lemon grass in my tea, in my soup and in my stew until I found out it’s what they use as marinade for roasting pork and chicken. Suddenly lemon grass is fantastic. You can always surf for ideas or ask people who do overtime in the kitchen for tips and cheats.

Perfect fusion

Among the 5, this is the hardest to achieve. Perfect fusion for me is when your adobo tastes like adobo. What I mean is that it does not taste sour from the vinegar. It does not taste salty from the salt and soy sauce you added. The laurel leaf does not overpower everything else and the amount of black pepper does not make your tongue itch. It’s a simple dish with simple ingredients but it’s pretty hard to master. Perfectly infused tastes is what makes a dish.

A secret

What is a secret? It can be oatmeal used as breading, lime zest in your dessert, pureed mango in your pasta, the chili in your cocoa, cinnamon in your coffee, the coconut in your shrimp fried rice, the basil in your stir-fried veggies, the rosemary in your roasted meats or even the basic lemon in your fried fish. A secret can be the presentation, the serving size or the entire menu. It can be that extra bit, a flavor, a texture, a color, a perfect beverage, a feeling, a thought or even that rolled newspaper beside the breakfast tray. A secret can be one thing but it can mean everything.


I gotta love the enthusiasm! First post for year 2013. Cheers!

Menu: Karlos and Papa’s Tapas!

And so I prepared my camera and got ready to take a lot of pictures. It’s the first ever tapas party I mainly planned and executed and I ended up with a few shots of sliced vegetables in the beginning and the aftermath of barely there food platters in the end. So, just like any other party I have planned I’ve no photos to brag about. And like all those other instances, I hate Phil for knowing I want pictures of everything and not doing anything about it. No matter. As much as I sucked in the documentation part, Papa and Karlos’ joint celebration was a huge success. I’m good! Haha.

I – nuts/laing over French baguette and Focaccia/Spanish sardines

II – sliced meats platter (salami, chorizo, pepperoni etc)

III- shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes + olives + cheeses

III – baked mussels and stove-top gambas

V – twice cooked rosemary beef, fried eggplant and potatoes, green capsicums and white onion served with sour cream

VI- coffee (care of Phil) and leche flan (something I really want to learn!)

The good news is that I did take photos of half of the food served but not on the day itself. I have no photos of the platters I arranged but more or less this post can illustrate the gastronomic affair. Enjoy!

Missing from the pictures: gambas, potatoes, eggplant, Leche flan

Irene prepared laing and Phil took care of the coffee.

The rest is me with a bit of assistance from Irene and Mylin. Also I’d like to point out that I also took care of the layout/setup. (Yes naghugas din, as always). Cheers!

Ways to enjoy Binagoongang Adobo – Classic Filipino Dish

I can say I am very close to perfecting binagoongang adobo. Sometimes it’s a bit tangy or a little bit too bland for most people’s taste but more or less I know where and when I make mistakes. Tita Maxi never taught actual measurements so my recipe and hers are not one and same. Plus she also uses MSG and the like which I just had to omit as those aren’t allowed in our household. Tita Maxi tend to make helpings swim in oil and sometimes it gets a little bit too salty so I’ve adjusted rations too. On top of those changes I also tried cooking it twice. Baking or frying adoboto a crisp makes it a different dish altogether. Anyway this post is about ways of enjoying this classic Filipino dish.

  1. Eat it with banana – I was taught to eat it with latundan but whatever floats your boat right? If you want to eat it with lakatan or saba I don’t see why not. The texture, the tang and the sweetness is a great side dish to this salty and spicy helping.
  2. Eat it with ripe mango – Pretty much the same banana! Spoonfuls of ripe mango will make you eat more of this sinful dish. A big good luck to you!
  3. Use as dip for green mango – I think summer has never been better with the sand, the beach and a plate of crispy and spicy binagoongan eaten with sliced green mangoes
  4. Pair with sinigang sa bayabas – Phil and his family also often pair binagoongan with sinigang na bangus sa bayabas even if they don’t really eat the bangus or the bayabas. It is the sourness they are after. But anyway we have tried it at home with various kinds of sinigang. Pork also works but since your main dish is already pork fish or shrimp will be better. If you want you can even skip the meat altogether and stick with kangkong and radish with your sinigang mix.
  5. Thai mango salad toppings-  shredded and fried to a crisp, it is somewhat close to Thai cuisine’s crispy catfish. It’s going to be phenomenal!
  6. Bagoong rice, what else – Because bagoong is so tasty and because it has a distinct flavor, using it for fried rice makes perfect sense.
  7. Gatang binagoongan – People who are tired of the usual blend can make use of coconut milk for variation.
  8. Experiment with chili – Using green chili, labuyo, jalapeno, and others will change the overall taste of the dish so be enthusiastic like me!
  9. Kinilaw– Serve it with vinegar, lots of onion, tomatoes, capsicums, chili and other ingredients you often use for making kilawin even if there’s no need to cook it.
  10. Thai pomelo salad toppings – Fried to a crisp all you have to do is toss it with wansuy, onions, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, pomelo or ripe mango and you are good to go.

I was aiming for 5 but 10 is just fine. A few more posts and perhaps I’ll put up the binagoongan recipe post? It is time to write it down don’t you think? Cheers!

Menu: Tea Party and Fondue for Jodi and Andre (TPFJA) haha!

Most of the time I am not too happy about not following the menu as planned. And no it doesn’t help even if I know few people take notice. But anyway, I have more hits than misses so I guess it’s not as bad as I think it is.

<-(what the fuck! this photo?! is that really the best I can manage)

The tea party was one big mess. The candles went missing and there weren’t any tea light candles available at the nearest marts and fondue without candles is no less a nightmare. Phil screwed up the coffee many times over. First he used ugly cups. Second he let the guests have their way with the sugar and creamer. Third he leaves out milk. I worked hard to clean the balcony and make it look as pretty as I could and my effort goes to waste with those mugs he used. I love coffee and I always make it either too bitter or too sweet but Phil sort of gets away with his random measurements but he didn’t do it for the guests at the time. and Coffeemate?! Seriously?


I missed out on making my tropical shrimp because I forgot to ask someone to get me fresh shrimp paste. I skipped making pesto cream because there’s no more time. I skipped making applets salad because the jalapeno we bought were too mushy. I also ended up serving pasta because all of them haven’t had lunch yet. There was a misunderstanding because I said it’s a tea party and I guess everyone assumed it was just a theme and not a real “tea party”. I served chicken fritters and forgot about the gravy and the dip. The mashed potatoes were served cold because our microwave oven is busted. Plus I think the hot and humid weather was really bad for the milk in the potatoes.

That’s a mouthful… Moving on to fondue.

The cheese fondue was a mixture of Edam, cheap quickmelt and parmesan. I thought it was perfect for first timers because I was a little bit shocked at the bitter tones of the cheese fondue we had at Old Swiss Inn when we had our first. I am really not as hot as mixing liquor or liqueurs. The selection included shrimp, slices of roast beef and steamed asparagus that I overcooked. haha. For the chocolate fondue, the choice was between dark chocolate buttons and a slice of semi sweet bar. I made french toast cubes out of whole wheat bread. There were also chilled slices of mango, melon, apple plus a banana bunch for some tang and texture. There was a huge pack of sliced almonds and an almost finished jar of maple syrup. Both would have been lovely only if they weren’t that full and if I did not take too long looking for the stupid tea light candles.

For drinks, there’s real iced tea with slices of oranges, coffee murdered by Phil and standby soda cans in the fridge. And oh, how can I forget, that as always I did not take much pictures of the food, what I did to the place and the people holding my big coffee cups because I was too busy cooking and looking for the candles. hahaha. Cheers tayo diyan!

Oh and Jodi brought cakes! (and pistachio ice cream spells greed!!!)

Menu: Breakfast for Dinner

I wasn’t at all ready to prepare for a grand feast so soon but as I felt we really had to, I opted for a simpler menu. That is precisely why I chose breakfast for dinner.

  • tapa
  • salted egg salsa
  • tinapa cheese sticks/ chili cheese sticks
  • sausage medley
  • saba & tapioca

The tapa was quite easy with garlic, soy sauce and vinegar. The most difficult thing about that is probably waiting for the meat to be tender. If you want it spicier, you can make use of chili flakes or siling labuyo. However, I am more sensitive of people who don’t dig spicy food so I just let them add their heat on their own.

The salted egg, red onions, tomatoes and green chili were cut into smaller pieces before mixing in a bit of vinegar. I topped it with Italian cilantro and served it on a bed of shredded lettuce. Its a little bit salty but it was my intention as the taste of my tapa is not overpowering.

Flaked tinapa, chopped red onions and quickmelt made up my tinapa cheese sticks. Meanwhile the chili cheese sticks simply had a halved green chili along with the slice of cheese. For this recipe I used lumpia wrapper. I have tasted chili cheese sticks many times so I didn’t need to taste it. The tinapa cheese sticks however is something new so I am a bit annoyed I forgot to taste it. I was planning to make honey mustard dressing for these two. I guess I got too busy.

The sausage medley wasn’t really a part of the original menu. It was supposedly just for back up if ever the there wasn’t enough tapa. I still cooked it however for variation. It’s just basically made of three kinds of sausages (bilbao, Purefoods angus  & Swiss Deli’s mini hungarian). I just sauteed garlic and onion and mixed the sausages with a bit of Sriracha.

And finally I am quite happy with the dessert (a rarity for TSG affairs). Mylin prepared minatamis na saba and we served it with tapioca pearls for everyone’s enjoyment. I actually bought eggs for that evening and I was planning to ask how they want their eggs but… Well, most of the time not everything I plan unfolds. But it was alright. Krissy, Karlo and the rest chipped in for beer. It was just right for the occasion.

Paul who was out of the country for a long time came to visit. It was also the first time that Jat, Jonas and Gia joined us for dinner. Cheers for more! (No pictures of the food were taken. Damn.)

5: What to do with Etag (smoked mountain ham)

Roughly four months after visiting Sagada for the first time and I am already thinking about where I can get etag minus the 13-hour travel. Etag, or smoked mountain ham, is 4 parts meat and 1 part pork fat. Traditional preparation can take as much as 6 months although there are already shorter curing processes these days. Anyway, I bought two slabs which would have been too much if Choi didn’t do a lot of cooking. Choi, my sister’s boyfriend, does a lot of experimenting in the kitchen like me so let’s just say we had a lot of fun. Here, I’ll be enumerating a number of things you can do with etag. I’m thinking of putting up a link from my travel blog to this list of etag recipes as it’s related to Sagada.

Tinola or Nilaga

Although the most common recipe used with etag is tinola, Choi found out that it is just as good mixed with Nilaga. Thin slices of etag may be enough for the soup to have that smoky taste. You should especially watch your seasoning as it can get a little bit too salty. You would need to boil etag for at least 3 hours to make it tender if you are planning to eat it. However, you can skip the boiling part and not eat it especially that most of the flavor is already in your soup. It’s tedious but you can simply use a sharp knife and shave it as thin as you can.


Local sautéed vegetables may sound ordinary but with etag, Filipino dishes are completely transformed. Instead of mixing in pork or shrimp, kalabasa at sitaw (squash and string beans) can be sautéed with a slice or two of etag before stirring in gata (coconut cream). You can also do the same for kangkong, pechay, broccoli and any other type of legume or vegetable you want to sauté. Mushrooms will also do just fine. Basil, parsley and celery can also be put into use for more variation. Not happy? Make chopsuey!

Vegetable soup

I can think of about 5 pureed soups right now and give me about a minute and I’ll tell you 10 more. Anyway, pureed broccoli, squash, cauliflower, asparagus and carrot are only some examples of vegetable soups that can be transformed by simply infusing a shaving of etag while sautéing garlic. You can add water and vegetables and boil until tender. After that strain vegetables and set the broth aside. Use a food processor or a blender before mixing it with the broth. Sprinkle some spices cause it’s no magic.

Fried Rice

The smoky taste of etag is perfect for breakfast. Sauté garlic and shavings of etag before mixing in chopped vegetables. Carrots, cabbage and peas are only some examples of what you can make use of. If you want more flavor, add in shrimp and other kinds of meat. Just try not to overdo it as etag has a very distinct taste. I, on the other hand, will be quite satisfied with garlic, green onions, shavings of etag and pair it with good old scrambled egg for breakfast.


Sauté garlic and shavings of etag in olive oil. Once cool, strain olive oil into a bottle. Mix it with your typical salad dressings as needed. The result is something in between bacon and dried anchovies. Choose from mixing it with classic vinaigrette, mango and capsicums, honey mustard, Caesar, sour cream and onion and any other dressing you can think of. Have fun with a bit of heat like cayenne and chili. drizzle over salads, sandwiches or use as a dip for tacos and chips.

And please, don’t let me stop you. Cheers!

5: How to Cheesesticks!

Hmmm. This post is somewhat of a guide as to what you can do with the boring cheesesticks. I listed several ways you can transform your basic appetizer to something that you can serve at parties.

wrap: Flour/crumbs/ground crackers/molo wrapper (for siomai)/pastry wrapper (for lumpia)

Any of these can be used to coat your cheese before frying. Pastry and molo wrappers are easy ones. Flours and crumbs may be more demanding because you’d have to make sure it won’t crumble while frying. But really, it’s as simple as putting it in the freezer for a couple of minutes before frying.


Have you tried Magnet Cafe’s kesong puti cheesesticks? If you have then you know that just about any kind of cheese will do. From the basic cheap quickmelt that is readily accessible to not so cheap ones such as edam, mozzarella and monster. If you have the time and money for it, you can even experiment mixing cheeses in a stick. Think blue cheese, feta, ricotta and a big etc. For instance a kick of blue cheese will be magical with mozzarella if your dipping sauce is tangy.

heat: jalapeno/chili/garlic/hot sauce/sriracha/franks chili and lime/chili oil

If you want your cheesesticks hot, then put in some chili in there. If you are not a fan of chopping chili then you can make use of hot sauce and other spicy sauces to achieve that perfect level of heat. If you want something fancy, you can halve a green chili with its stem and put cheese in the middle before wrapping and frying.

tidbits: celery/onion/carrots

Others may not like the heat but it doesn’t mean a less adventurous option. Sometimes it’s also much about the texture. Chop celery, onion or carrots into itsy bitsy pieces and stir it in your cheese before frying. You’d have your guests guessing.

sauce : ranch/sour cream/salsa/garlic yoghurt/lemon/lime/mustard/ketchup/raspberry/strawberry/mayo

Go out of your way for the sauce. Forget the Thousand Island dressing and surprise people with something new. Remember that it should be something that complements your previous choices. For instance, if you went with the basic Quickmelt which is rather salty, salsa will be your best bet because of its tanginess and spiciness. Mozarella which has a strong flavor yet little saltiness compared to local cheeses can be paired with sour cream or ranch dressing. It can also be a combination of dips!

I know a lot of people addicted to cheese, like Andrea, Cheers!

5: We love Pineapple Recipes!

I used to hate pineapple in my food that I just had to scowl at my aunt’s compilation of pineapple recipes(a very thick book). Much later, I realized there will always be exceptions. For this post, I give you my top 5 most recommended dishes with pineapple.

5 – Potato salad

This basic recipe tops my list because my nanay (grandmother) always prepares it for special occasions. And I think it’s true for most Filipino households. This kind of salad simply can’t be missed in any of those grand fiestas. I actually tried preparing this without the pineapple and it’s not quite the same.

4 – Escabeche

A classic dish that I recently learned, it is certainly a great addition to your weekly menu. Being sweet and sour, this would be something new especially if all you do is fry fish at home. The sauce can also be used with meatballs if you don’t like to have fish too often.

3 – Tropical fried rice

This probably has some other name but anyway this experiment mainly with bagoong (shrimp paste), shrimp, and pineapple chunks may sound exotic to some but it really is something that Filipinos can easily fall in love with. It is the epitome of tropical countries most especially if you braved adding gata (coconut milk). For added kick, sliced green chili can also be added to this fancy fried rice.

2 – Hawaiian pizza

This earns a spot here even if I never ordered it from any pizza place. It’s just that it’s super easy to make! A layer of tomato sauce, slices of ham and pineapple chunks will already make your day complete. Kids also love it so it’s perfect for bake at home sessions as well as kiddie parties. If you want to make it fancier you can add bacon, sausages and other cold cuts that kids will also enjoy.

1 – Thai street kebabs

Lastly but definitely not the least, this is why I finally embraced pineapple. Marinated shrimp, squid, pork or beef on skewers topped with pineapple and green chili. It’s weird, spectacular and addictive! It’s what I loved in Thailand the most and ironically it was only grilled and sold on the streets. The kick of green chili and tanginess and sweetness of pineapple blend together wonderfully that you’d think it’s always meant to be.

Oh shucks, Cheers!

(perhaps I’ll put up pictures?)