New Items on the Menu

Drafts are way outdated and I don’t really have anything new so here, I will write random food items from different food joints in Manila that I recently tried and enjoyed.

Let’s start with Dunkin Donut’s Quezo Duo. While it’s more expensive than their regular donuts, it’s still cheap when you compare it to fancy cheesecakes and other donut places. It’s still sweet but the cheese somehow made it taste more like real food. It’s like a donut ensaymada. Or is it ensaymada donut? Having said that I bet it is perfect with black coffee.
Next, Bulgogi Noodle Soup from Bon Chon is also new. It’s expensive yes and ordering the large bowl still is not filling for the average hungry Filipino. However the taste is far form the salty and soups thick with flour you often have in fast food joints. It has tofu, sweet onions, carrots, string beans and thin slices of beef. I like its toasted sesame seeds and sweet tones because it’s refreshing.
I was lucky enough to notice new additions in Shi Lin’s menu when   we ate there. We tried Black Truffle Xiao Long Bao. I was intrigued as I have always associated truffles with Italian and French cuisine. I never imagined it can be fused with Asian food too. It opens a lot of possibilities for someone like me who does a lot of experimenting in the kitchen. Yes of course I loved it. It can easily be added to the list of happy food!
Early in the morning after a night of drinking, I ended up having one of Yellow Cab’s breakfast items. I’m not sure if it was a folded pizza but it had mango, scrambled eggs and bacon in it. I knew it was something I would love because I often use mango in salads and dishes if I want something sweet with a bit of tang.
I started with cheese so I will wrap this up with Pizza Hut’s 7 cheese. I seldom eat pizza anymore as I rarely eat fast food. I got to try it when my relatives had it delivered a couple of weeks ago. It was not as salty as other pizzas I know and the cheese was also nothing too exotic (if you know what I mean). If there is such a thing as perfect junk food, it’s a pan of that. hahaha. It’s best paired with beer. Go order and watch The Simpsons or something.
I’ve no photos so here’s one from Shi Lin’s Facebook page.1530406_660571157320065_1923076851_n
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Sampling Red Velvet Cheesecakes (10)

IMG_2629 One time 5 titas and a nephew went to Sebastian’s, an artisan ice cream joint. Each of them ordered a different flavor so that they can try six in one go (of course they were able to sample more mini spoons care of the shop). One of them flavors was red velvet cheesecake. As you may know it, coffee is what dessert means to me that I am mostly clueless when people ask me about dessert. Oh but how lovely all the flavors, textures and other sensations that helping was! I never expected to enjoy ice cream that much so I thought the cake must be good too. I’ve decided to sample as many red velvet cheesecakes as I can.

  • Poco Deli deserved to be the first slice because I liked it very much. Actually, I shared it with about 5 people so I should restate… We loved it very much.
  • Borough’s was also a contender. It was quite a hefty slice and the walnut made it fancier but I think it’s a bit too pricey.
  • Cab Café’s was very cheap at 50 pesos but unfortunately the cake was too dry and the icing was too stiff. It also lacked that cheesy frosting I crave for.
  • Café Dolce Amore’s cupcake had superb semi-sweet, cheesy and tangy frosting but the velvet was not “velvety”at all.
  • Portobello’s cupcake may not be as bold red as other red velvets but all in all it’d probably win the best among those listed here. It’s not too sweet, the rich frosting was not too cloying and everything just blended together (it’s also priced right!).TotalCollage_21V1I-MQ7QL
  • Slice’s cake I think was not exactly a cheesecake but the cake sure was perfectly moist and the frosting was flawless. However, it’s the cheesy taste that I want to counter the sweetness. I need it. Plus, cakes from Slice are so expensive. They’re about as expensive as a hearty meal (or more).
  • Their cupcake (Slice’s) which I believe is a cheese cupcake was more affordable than their cake at 85. My boyfriend and I shared one in about 4 bites.
  • Sugar Mommy House’s came in squares. We got two for the price of one which is 120. Not bad for its size. While it’s sweeter than the average, I’ve no qualms as the frosting was cheesy rich. It melted on my way home and it looked even more so appetizing. Haha.
  • Cukay’s cupcake was also cheap but the frosting was misleading. It was all sugar and not cheesy at all so both Phil, my boyfriend, and I scowled at the sweetness that shocked us.
  • Goodies n Sweet’s cupcake had very faint cheesy tones for their frosting and mostly I tasted sugar. At least the cake itself was good.

Photos: Portobello, Dolce Amore, Borough, Slice and Sugar Mommy, Poco Deli

I hope all cakes came in cupcake helpings because believe it or not, I find it hard to finish even a cupcake on my own.

Vegetarian Food in Manila

So technically speaking this omnivore has been to 10 vegetarian food joints in Manila. Why go on such a spree you ask? Well, I just happen to like collecting. Anyway, I haven’t sampled any dishes from Bodhi for a long time so maybe I have to try it out again before I can compare it to the new age vegan joints. It’s been too long ago for Green Halo too so let me visit again before I finalize this list. Chances to check out that carinderia in Coron is bleak especially that lately I can’t even afford to go out of town and finally that vegan joint in the third floor of C.O.D. has been closed for years so I have to scratch it out my list.

This leaves me with 7. My top pick is Greens. Their wide selection, clean taste and ultimately original recipes will impress you. When I say clean taste, I mean a dish is not cheated by overpowering a certain taste or flavor. For instance tofu sisig may be flooded in soy sauce and hot sauce. For burger steaks, it can be smothered in thick and salty gravy so you can’t really tell whether or not it’s beef or tofu in there. Their soups however are too thin and bland while their desserts need a makeover.

My next pick is Vegetarian Kitchen because even if it’s a bit pricey, the big serving makes up for it. The flavors are also adventurous so it’s far from being a boring vegan destination. Third, I pick Corner Tree Café. While the size of their serving does not justify the price, the ambiance of this nook in Makati is perfect for a spontaneous fancy eating place spree.

I like Cafeteria Verde too despite some confusion if they’re really 100% vegan. Pipino, Gandiva Café and Blissful Belly, all had promising menus and interesting dishes that got me curious. However all three did not deliver. It was either too bland, too thin, too watered down or simply too weird to be appreciated.

Again I’m not exactly a vegan, but I do love eating and I have enjoyed several vegan affairs. I also do a lot of experimenting in the kitchen and if I may say so I do just fine.

*I have recently tried Dr. Tam’s and I loved it so I’ll squeeze it in here somewhere in the future alright. I know I have posts of some of these restos but lemme put those links up another time. Cheers!

Fiery Dynamite (cheese sticks with green chili)

Dynamite is a kind of cheese stick. It’s deep fried with flour, breadcrumbs or lumpia wrapper with green chili for that unmistakable kick and explosive goodness only for the adventurous. Phil, my boyfriend, told me over breakfast that he wanted to try more of that dish which is perfect as a beer match. I told him it’s fine with me but before that we have to see how far we’ve gone.

  1. Gandivas  is the second best here. Despite not liking the other items on their menu. Their dynamite was quite perfect. The intensity of the chili was not as consistent (some are bland and some are super hot so it’s always a surprise) but the presentation, the texture and the perfectly melted cheese made up for it.
  2. Penpens got bits of tinapa in it and while I also do this little recipe at home it wasn’t that good because it needed more cheese and it was too damn greasy. (Draining it before serving might be a good idea especially that it’s too hot to eat right away anyway)
  3. Allys  is also wonderful with bacon wrapped around it but this is not for me. Cheese, which is commonly salty in the Philippines, simply is too much if you pair it with another salty helping. There has to be more filler in there (think Wendy’s baked potato served with melted cheddar with bacon bits, that’s one big potato right?).
  4. Gayuma ni Maria’s also uses lumpia wrapper in place of breadcrumbs for the cheese sticks. The taste was perfect but the texture wasn’t. It was more of chewy than crunchy so maybe they deep fried it without making sure the oil is hot enough for that crisp.
  5. Corner Pub (somewhere near Hundred islands) this, unfortunately, is the best in this list, the kick of the sticks were just right, it’s got the right amount of cheesiness and they nailed the texture, not overcooked crunchy but far from feeling rubbery and the serving was big for its price. I say unfortunate because it’s so far.

Phil tried Goodah’s but since I haven’t I’m not including it in my list. He says he didn’t like it that much because it had ground meat that kinda “interfered” with the creaminess of the cheese and the heat of the green chili and the whole point of “dynamite”. Fiery yes?!

Vinegar goes East!

Remember my post on how vinegar is used for marinades and dipping sauces in Filipino cuisine? This is like a second helping only it’s not limited to Filipino dishes. It’s quick, fast and not as fattening so how else can it not be perfect?

  • black vinegar, premium soy sauce and ginger shavings is a refreshing dipping sauce for various kinds of dimsum. The most the traditional is soy sauce, calamansi and chili and garlic sauce (at least in Manila) but you can try this for a change.
  • vinegar, chili and chopped Italian cilantro is the perfect dipping sauce for various dishes such as fried fish, fried chicken or pork fillets. It’s sour, spicy and it has that Asian touch which enlivens the otherwise boring fried food.
  • black vinegar, chili oil and garlic, chopped green onion is a world of interesting flavors perfect for the simple steamed chicken. If that sounds a bit ordinary, pair it with cheese sticks instead. It tastes different and is less cloying than mayonnaise based dips.
  • vinegar, chopped garlic and maple syrup makes perfect dressing for raw shredded vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, turnip, cucumber and others. Top with chopped nuts and you get a wonderful Asian side dish. You can also use sugar or honey in place of maple syrup. Either way it would be worlds better than the thousand islands dressing.
  • vinegar and sweet chili sauce is great with fried Vietnamese, Thai spring rolls or any other roll for that matter. It’s a little bit of everything with sour, sweet and spicy tones.

Diluting vinegar with water makes wonders in making the taste more balanced. If you have to you can also put salt or fish sauce to the dipping sauces.

I’m no traveler and I’m no chef but I like food and lists! Cheers!

5: Snack Items for Meetings

After a few meetings with the repeated Starbucks pastry snacks I started my tirade. So here I will try to list decent snack items which are just as accessible as Starbucks. Seriously I don’t want another cinnamon swirl especially if it is a 7-hour meeting.

1. Pan de Sal, Spanish sardines or canned bangus, cream cheese and peanut butter. Toss em in the toaster and you have savory snacks and dessert. Simple and straightforward.

2. Japanese platters – It doesn’t even have to be authentic. Think passing around chopsticks, Japanese mayo and roaring wasabi for your sushi and sashimi. If that does not sound stimulating to you I don’t know what kind of wasabi you’ve tried.

3. Beer-battered fish – It sounds like junk food and it is but at least it’s not your usual junk food. Make it wondrous with anything zesty like lemon. If they have it then get ranch dressing. You can even get fried potatoes for a more filling snack.

4. Pansit – It’s not as exciting sure. But it’s got everything going on; carbs, pork, chicken, shrimp and a whole lot of veggies. Don’t forget your spicy vinegar or calamansi!

5. BBQ – Think about it. It’s finger food yet you don’t use your fingers. It’s tasty and satiating. It’s cheap and readily available. As it’s quite affordable, why don’t you be a darling and get that bottle of atsara?

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!

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!

Lists: Korean Restaurants in Manila!

I wish to chase my frustrations away so instead of writing a negative review, I’ll just stick to this list. Lists make me happy!!!

Korean cuisine is a relatively young culinary experience for me. I admit that I am rather addicted to Woorijib because I feel at home there with their affordable rates and generous servings. This list would have been a lot longer if I was disciplined enough but I end up eating at worry every time. It’s hard because it’s nearby. Anyway I promised myself I’ll go out and and sample others because surely they’d also have something different or something better to offer. I’ll try to make this a quick one.

  1. Kaya – Food chains are always expected to have commercialized taste but this one is very close but of course side dishes will always be in smaller servings. However, if you don’t like any of those sides then it’s good news for you. Apart from their bbq I tried their japchae, pajeon, kimchi chigae and jjampong. They also play it safe so nothing ridiculously spicy or too exotic on their menu.
  2. Ye Dang near Metro Walk – This is one of the most popular ones I think because of its location and its approach (Jewel in the Palace tarps). They are quite reliable and their food is pretty much safe. Nothing is too weird or too spicy that you’d actually curse the place. Of course it’s expected that Korean food has a lot of heat red and all but you know what I mean. They’d give you free fruits in season after your meal. They are not as expensive as worry but ambiance-wise they are a notch or two higher.
  3. Woorijib at Kalayaan Ave. I’ll try not to be biased but they’re the best. haha. It’s nothing fancy. A lot of people complain about air conditioning and surely you’d have to wait if you were a bit late but it is the cheapest with the most generous helpings of barbecue, side dishes and lettuce/sesame leaf wraps. They require a minimum of 2 bbq orders which is fine unless you’re eating alone. Bbq orders come with 6-7 plates of side dishes and a bowl of dwen jang. Most of the time they give free hot or cold coffee after meals but sometimes there’s just too many customers! Read about my Woorijib here.
  4. Dae Wang at Kalayaan Ave. Generous servings of side dishes and ample serving of bbq meats but not as much as worry. They serve a nice lettuce salad but I find their kimchi too sour and for me kimchi is the most important. Side dishes are free for Korean restos so it shouldn’t really matter but sometimes if it’s too dry or too sweet or not perfect it also has an effect on the overall appeal of the meal.
  5. Go-Go Korean at Kalayaan Ave. Best Dwen Jang because of the perfect heat and flavor. I actually don’t understand why servings of this soup is so expensive when it’s made of miso, chilis and clam but anyway if you’re willing to shell out more for your soup this one is swabe. Sorry no other way of putting it. Their side dishes aren’t as good as my favorites but otherwise if you just want to satisfy your cravings then it’d be quite okay.
  6. Seoul Barbecue at Libis I’m not sure if it is also a food chain because they also grill bbq in the kitchen. It’s a little bit cramped so if you fancy staying longer after eating, it gets a bit awkward. They also have Korean ice cream there so after your delightful Korean fare you can enjoy some sweets too. It’s, of course a little bit more expensive because of the location and the setup but not bad.
  7. Kogi Bulgogi – One we ate at was at Eastwood so you can pretty much imagine how they repackaged the whole she-bang. Instead of a grill, you will be served with a plate of pork or beef, mounds of rice and lettuce leaves for your samgyupsal or kalbisal. This means simpler but it also means less meat and more rice. Small servings of side dishes are expected but you can pretty much request for more if there is a need. They have dishes that local/stand alone Korean restos don’t have such as salmon, prawn and etc.
  8. Korean BBQ at Pearl Drive – As this is near the old studio of Polecats we were also residents here. Their kimchi is one of the best I’ve tried and they offer dishes that are relatively cheaper compared to other Korean restos. However they do not have very consistent schedules. Sometimes you’ll drop by and they’d turn you down because they don’t have the grills or meat or whatever. Weird, I know.
  9. Kimchi Restaurant at Sagada – few side dishes, yes but nonetheless lovely if you happen to have a craving while you are in the mountains. haha. They have kimchi, sprouts, barbecue and ssamjang so you’re good to go. Lovely ambiance too with the wall decor, artsy wooden furniture, sculptures and posters. They serve alcohol, play groovy music and close very late. and I heard they sell more than just Korean food. haha!
  10. Bulgogi Garden at Kalayaan Ave – A newly opened Korean resto a few doors down from my worry. I think it is a big threat to worry primarily because it’s new and shiny but otherwise they are pretty much commercial. smaller servings of side dishes are expected and so far I haven’t noticed anything that sets them apart from the rest. they have that free sweet drink/dessert at the end of a meal but it tasted like cough medicine. hahaha.
  11. Silla at Tomas Morato Rotonda they have a ridiculously small serving of samgyupsal and oh so boring side dishes and they’re lucky that I did not go on a full blown ranting spree of their overpriced Korean food that is not any good.
  12. Song Do at El Pueblo – Their bbq orders come with generous servings of side dishes plus soup (but not dwen jang) just a clear one. Their ssamjang (the dip for barbecues) has that wonderful smoked flavor that made me finish my dip for the first time in my Kimchi-eating life. Their kimchi is another contender alongside Woorijib, Ye Dang and the one at Pearl Drive. They have the space, the atmosphere and the setup for a grand feast or a quiet evening to the point that it’s already intimidating (they will sound a gong upon your arrival, scary!). They also have a very wide selection of dishes on their menu with prime beef cuts and fresh seafood so I bet it’s the place to be if you want to splurge and experiment on Korean fare. I look forward to trying those!

I’ll consider this 10 because I won’t include Silla (because I was so disappointed) and Kimchi restaurant (because it is in Sagada). My target is 20 for 2012 so please do recommend other Korean food joints. Uh oh… someone started counting…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.

Stir-fry

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.

Salad

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!