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!

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: Leftover Makeover for Fia’s Party Menu

This post is #1 under the category leftover makeover!

Alright. So for Fia’s surprise birthday costume party the menu comprised of pumpkin soup + baked mussels + mushroom and spinach in cream + classic spaghetti-oh + mexi chicken with sour cream and vegetables. As usual, I was too busy doing stunts in the kitchen to actually think of taking pictures of the food. Boo. Yep, no pictures for this post. But I have other tricks up my sleeve. For this post, I’ll give a sampling of what I do with leftovers.

  1. I used the leftover pasta sauce as filling. First I sliced some onions, jalapenos and tomatoes. Next, I grated a bit of cheese. Then I spread the pasta sauce over a tortilla before adding the others and folding it like a sandwich. I toasted it until I got the cheese melted. And there you have it, instant heavy snack of hot quesadillas from the leftover pasta sauce.
  2. As for the leftover pumpkin soup, I turned it into a different kind of sauce. First I sauteed finely sliced garlic and diced tomatoes then fried slices of ham to a crisp. I mixed the pumpkin soup and stirred the noodles in. I added a bit of parmesan. They say it tasted like palabok but I think it’s psychological because of the color.
  3. Some corn, red capsicum and yellow capsicum were still in the fridge so I mixed those with jalapenos, added some lettuce, then I drizzled olive oil, sour cream and a lot of sriracha before putting a bit of grated cheese on top. The result is a hot and refreshing salad.
  4. I also used the same set of veggies (red capsicum, yellow capsicum and corn) for a breakfast omelette. If you want something a bit more complicated, a bit of seafood such as squid or shrimp and a bit of sweet sausages are more than enough to whip up tasty fried rice.
  5. Lastly, the leftover pasta sauce can also be used as topping over hotdogs. Just like the quesadillas, I added tomatoes, jalapenos and onions but if you have more then you can make it fancier. You can add  lettuce, pineapple, green capsicums,  mustard and ketchup. It’s a filling snack for hyperactive teenagers like my brother.

I’m gonna prepare a grand dinner again next week so we’ll see if I can make a second post under this category. It’s quite challenging and it interests me so! Cheers!

Family Recipes: Maxine’s Morcon

Alright, let’s do this

meat carrots cloves big pot
eggs celery soy sauce string
hotdogs garlic calamansi foil
pickles onion lime
tomato sauce

Most if not all will know what you need in the wet market so just tell them you need a good piece of meat for morcon. You can specify that it should be whole so that it would be easy for you to roll and wrap the thing. Let’s go to the kitchen and start by making hard-boiled eggs. It’s the easiest part of the recipe so you better do more than fine.

Next, wash vegetables you need. Separate celery leaves from the stalk and put it in a bowl together with soy sauce, cloves and meat. set aside. You can now proceed to chopping garlic and onion and slicing carrots and pickles into long strips. When the eggs are ready, remove the shell and cut into four pieces.

Then it’s gonna be one hell of an exercise routine because after lining the meat with celery, hotdog, eggs, pickles and carrots, you would have to roll them and secure them with a piece of string as carefully and as tightly as you can. If you are careless, your morcon is gonna look bad (but I don’t care cause the taste is the same!).

Now let’s start cooking. Saute garlic until golden brown and then add onions before stirring tomato sauce in. Arrange pieces of morcon and pour all of the marinade into the pot. Add water and cook for about 2 and a half hours, turn the pieces halfway and always check if it is running out of water to prevent burnt meat. Wrap it with foil and keep it in the freezer. On the other hand, keep the sauce and refrigerate as well.

To serve, thaw the meat a bit, remove the strings, cut into pieces, arrange on a plate. The sauce can be served over the pieces but I prefer a gravy boat so guests can enjoy it the way they want.

This is the first time I perfectly cut it. I love Mama Maxi for teaching me this recipe (only one of many) and for making this treat for our noche buena. I am ready to cook it by myself and I will before 2012 ends. Just look at that!

Menu: Here’s to Vegetables! (Vegetarian)

Uh-huh… So I’ll try to be as brief as I can. I planned this in the last quarter of 2010. I wanted a vegetarian feast with all original recipes. I was aiming for a 5-course meal because I thought vegetarians always have to settle for something less and so I’d give them my all just so they can have a little bit more even for a night. It may have failed in the sense that I only had a singular guest and my fellow scientist (a greater one that is) who agreed to cook 5 more vegetarian dishes could not make it. Still, I am quite happy that it pushed through. All in all, I am proud of how it turned out even if I ended up with only 4 original dishes.

Of course I planned to dress up and take a lot of pictures and etc but… Anyway, here they are.

I – Tomyam in Coconut Cream


boil water, put in sliced onions and tomatoes, followed by sliced green chilis, stir in sour mix and gata

II – mushroom and wansoy stirfry salad

(tomato+mushroom+garlic+mango+nuts+wansoy+basil+sesame oil+vegetarian stir fry+olive oil+red capsicum)

IV – tofu and shitake in teriyaki sauce

(tofu+shitake+garlic+leeks+ginger+soy sauce+sugar+asparagus+bread crumbs)

III – lumpia wrapped burrito in garlic pea sauce and salsa over cabbage strips

(beans+cumin+oregano+sweetbasil+rice+lumpia wrapper+garlic+onion)

(pea+garlic+onion+salt+pepper+silken tofu)


V-dessert station

(banana walnut fr. Blissful Belly+ minatamis na saging + latundan + ripe mango + chocolate syrup + coconut in ricemilk + rice crispies + cornflakes)