Juju Eats Podium: First Try!

I’ve been biased with Juju Eats since the beginning because I am not for extreme diet plans though I don’t want to preach so here I try to look at it from different perspectives. I found it too tasty and I found myself thinking if I should order more greens just so it won’t be as rich. Either that or I should have requested the dressing to be on the side. The ready-made salad I had was roast pumpkin.

But let’s face it, a restaurant/food joint that is all about salads catering to the mainstream is something awesome. I can complain about a hundred and one things but it is still far better than the regular fast food. I hope they do survive the competition.

This being all the rage is also good for introducing salads to people who normally wouldn’t eat vegetables and for kids it’d be a good start. I also love their DIY salad bowls. People who are finicky suddenly can enjoy salads because they can opt out of onions, celery, green pepper or whatever it is that they can’t take. For me however the best thing about it is trying out grains and veggies I am not so familiar with. I’ll experiment with those very soon.

I hope they can be more explicit about the nutritional content/caloric count though most especially that they have claims of “a well-balanced diet without rice and pasta” plastered on their walls. I think people can be misled. I don’t need to make calculations to know that the half order I had was fattening even with the kind of exercise I do. The greens were weighed down by bacon, walnuts, 3 tablespoons of feta cheese and 4 tablespoons of sweet balsamic dressing (I’m eyeballing here). And while I don’t care about calories, I think many people who will eat there would.

Still, it’s promising. Next time I visit I’ll have my camera with me!

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!

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.

cheese!

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!

Lent: List of Seafood Options for Everyone

We are going home to Quezon to celebrate nanay’s birthday, Samsy’s birthday and Samsy’s Christening and I am planning the menu for the 4-day vacation. It’s a bit tricky as I can’t exactly do anything with beef or pork because it’s holy week. We’d surely be reprimanded by tatay as they still pretty much abstain from meat during lent. So, I made a list of Lenten delights. Yay!

1 – shrimp/prawn

(steamed/gambas/sinigang/salad/kebabs)

You can simply steam it and pair it with either patis and calamansi, suka and bawang or lemon butter. Gambas is always a win because of the garlic and the chili. You can eat it with rice but serving it with rolls or pita bread will also be nice. Sinigang na hipon is just so refreshing in summer because it’s sour and because it has a lot of vegetables. There are a number of salads you can whip up such as one with mango mustard dressing and red capsicum. Another one is the Vietnamese spring roll that is not exactly a salad but you can experiment with its ingredients. Caesar can also be complemented with shrimps/prawns instead of bacon. Grilling Shrimp is always good because of its natural ocean flavor. Grill it with capsicums, onions, pineapples or use marinades to make it more Italian, Mediterranean, Thai and etc.

2 – squid/cuttlefish

(calamares/adobong pusit sa gata/pajeon/ihaw/curry)

Calamares may be a little bit complicated because the batter has to be perfect for the coating not to crumble. I still struggle with that but if you can pull it off, it’s something that almost everyone would love. Prepare wonderful dips with it too! Adobong pusit is a classic so I don’t think I’d expound on that. Pajeon (Korean pancake) is apparently made with those pancake mixes. The only difference is that you stir in leeks/green onions and seafood like squid. It’s a new and flavorful snack that can be dipped into vinegar and soy sauce dips. You can grill squids as is or stuff it with onions, tomatoes and ginger. Don’t forget to prepare dips for that and chili too! Curry is something that blends well with seafood. It’s not only for squid but also for mussels, clams, prawns and fish.

3 – mussels/clams/oysters/crabs/lobster

(baked/tahong soup/marinara/seafood paella/dwen jang)

If you have moolah go for crabs and lobster but mussels and clams will do. Anyway, baked seafood topped with garlic and melted cheese is a best seller so make sure you prepare enough for all even if it is just for appetizers. The classic mussels and clam soup with malunggay is very healthy but not everyone would enjoy it especially if it is a little bitter. Marinara can be a combination of mussels, clams and oysters. Fish, squid and shrimp can also be put into use for a flavorful seafood pasta. If you know how to whip up the traditional paella, skip some ingredients and prepare it minus the meats. Dwen Jang, a spicy Korean soup made with fermented bean paste and clams, is an acquired taste but people who are a little bit more adventurous will certainly love it once they have adjusted to it.

Ah! I think that’s enough for now. This simply means that I will have a separate post for the fish recipes that you can consider for Lent. Wish me luck and 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?)