Saturday, November 25, 2006

Vinegared thoughts

After that Vietnamese experiment, I'm wondering what the best vinegar substitutions are when cooking different kinds of Asian cuisine.

In the Philippines (as far as I know) there are three kinds of local vinegar:

(1) Sukang puti - coconut palm vinegar, whitish in color but not to be confused with the Western "white vinegar"
(2) Sukang paombong - nipa sap vinegar, brownish in color (traditionally from Bulacan)
(3) Sukang iloko - sugar cane vinegar, reddish or brownish in color (traditionally from Ilocos)

Aside from that, vinegar from other countries (balsamic, apple cider, etc.) are also available in supermarkets at a much higher price.

Of course there's also homemade sinamak (traditionally from Iloilo and Ilocos) which is local vinegar infused with various spices.

For that last recipe I replaced the rice vinegar (usually used in Chinese and Japanese cooking) with a mix of sukang puti and rice wine. I wonder if sukang iloko would have been better since it's naturally sweet and milder than sukang puti. Hmm.

Beef soup with lemongrass

Vietnam was in the news yesterday. ANC was doing a comparison of the growth of Vietnam's economy (incredible) with the Philippines' (lame). So from Singapore we now head to Vietnam with this recipe which I got from "Vietnamese Favorites" by Wendy Hutton, part of the Periplus Mini Cookbooks series available at National Bookstore. We adapted it a little.


200g sukiyaki beef (or beef sirloin sliced paper thin)
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp patis (fish sauce)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions, green and white parts separated, finely sliced
1 tsp oil
1 stalk lemongrass (thick bottom part only), outer layers discarded, inner part thinly sliced
2 thin slices ginger root
2 to 3 beef cubes dissolved in 6 cups hot water
2 tsp rice vinegar (can be substituted with 1 tsp rice wine and 1 tsp sukang puti)
1 tsp sugar
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
coriander leaves to garnish (optional)

1. Marinate beef in 1 tsp garlic, 1-1/2 tsp patis and black pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium heat and stir-fry the remaining garlic, spring onion white bulbs, lemongrass and ginger for about 2 minutes until soft. Add the remaining fish sauce, beef stock, rice vinegar, sugar and tomato and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Just before serving, bring the soup to a boil. Add the beef and simmer until just cooked, about 30 seconds. Remove and transfer to individual serving bowls. Garnish with spring onion greens and coriander leaves. Serve hot.

Serves 3 - 4.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 to 10 minutes

This is a yummy recipe and incredibly easy to make! It's like Filipino nilaga with a Vietnamese kick, and the soup is very Vietnamese-y. Mike suggested that I serve it with additional patis on the side as an option for the Filipino palate. We ate this meal with steamed rice, but we imagine it would also be great as a pho, with bihon (rice vermicelli) added. If you want to eat it as a pho, add the bihon before the last step, then wait around 2 minutes before adding the beef.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Curry fish head attempt

Growing up in Singapore was an exciting culinary adventure. One of my favorite Singaporean dishes is curry fish head, and tonight I will attempt to make one, for our department's potluck tomorrow.

Below is what I am going to attempt. I will let you know if it works, and what changes I am going to make. Updated 24 Nov 06: The original recipe I attempted was way too spicy for my lame Filipino taste buds. I made some alterations to neutralize the spice and got general good reviews from my colleagues (naubos!) though some of them also found it too spicy.

Nonetheless, here's a revised version. I'll let you know again when I try this version.


1 whole fish head (maya-maya), cut into 2 (about 1 kilo)
2 tbsp oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1-1/2 native onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp crushed ginger
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1-1/2 cups gata (coconut milk)
1 green chili, seeds removed and cut in half lengthwise
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tamarind cube
1/2 cup hot water
1/3 cup curry powder
1 tsp chili powder
5 okra
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 stalk lemon grass, finely chopped (use the stalk, discard the leaves)
3 tomatoes, quartered

Steam the fish head until barely cooked. Set aside.

Mix 1/2 tamarind cube with 1/2 cup hot water. Add curry powder and chili powder, and mix to form a paste. Set aside.

In 2 tbsp oil, stir-fry the garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric powder until fragrant. Add curry-tamarind paste and stir-fry until cooked. Put in 1/2 the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add the other half of the coconut milk, okra, chili, tomatoes, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil then add steamed fish head and simmer gently for about 5 minutes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Recipe Exchange Chain Letter

This is not a recipe but a message of thanks to my friend T who sent me a recipe exchange chain letter! The letter had two email addresses in it: the address of the person who had sent her the letter, and her email address. The instructions were simple: send a recipe to the person in number 1, then move the email address in number 2 up to the top spot, add your own email address to number 2, then forward to 10 friends. Sit back and hope the recipes come rolling in. :)

I forwarded the message this morning and have already received two recipes. :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Beef Stroganoff

Here's my experimental beef stroganoff. Updated on November 21. I'll keep trying to improve it.


200 g beef, sliced into strips
1 cup sour cream
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 can champignon mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp butter
dried oregano
1/4 cup beef broth


2 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/8 onion

Rub the beef with salt, then marinate for at least 30 minutes. Over medium heat, sautee the onion and garlic in butter. Add beef and beef broth. Simmer until beef is tender and broth is almost gone (around 1 hour). Add mushrooms. Season with dried oregano. When mushrooms are cooked, lower heat and stir in the sour cream little by little. Simmer awhile to thicken.

Serve on rice or pasta.

Serves 2.

Preparation time: 30 minutes.
Cooking time: a little more than an hour.
Estimated calorie count per serving (including 1 cup rice): 750 calories

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Spices and Flavors

Most Filipino pantries have the requisite soy sauce, native vinegar, patis, calamansi, native onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Aside from those, what other flavors and spices do you often add to your grocery list? Here's my list:

  1. rice wine -- useful for Chinese dishes
  2. sesame oil -- again, it adds that dash of Chinese-ness to Chinese dishes
  3. oyster sauce -- one of the easiest things in the world to cook is beef in oyster sauce
  4. ginger -- for fish, chicken, and many Chinese dishes
  5. chili garlic -- again, for Chinese dishes
  6. olive oil -- for cooking our steaks and most Mediterranean dishes
  7. extra virgin olive oil -- for salads
  8. Worcestershire sauce (by the way, the proper pronunciation is "WOOstersheer") -- for steak and other dishes
  9. mustard -- for steak and other beef dishes
  10. red wine -- we buy it for drinking rather than for cooking, but the left over wine always finds its way into some dish
  11. mesquite powder -- hard to find, but Mike loves this; yummy for steaks
  12. wasabi and kikkoman -- for the rare moments when we have sashimi
  13. all-purpose cream -- all purpose!
  14. dried oregano, dried basil, dried rosemary, and dried thyme (altogether sing: "Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!")
  15. meat tenderizer -- a secret I learned from Mike!
  16. bay leaf -- for adobo; my grand-aunt used to add atsuete as well though I haven't tried it myself
  17. spring onions or leeks or green onions
  18. bell peppers
  19. lemons
  20. curry -- I love curry but mike doesn't like it as much. :( Still I always buy a bit in case I can squeeze in a curry meal when Mike's not looking.
  21. tsokolate balls (tableas) -- I'm half-Batangueno, so every morning, I have to have my breakfast rice the traditional Batangueno way: with tsokolate poured on it!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Arugula salad with grapes and feta cheese

salad lettuce
feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
seedless red grapes, halved

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp red wine
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Arugula is good for you but it's bitter. In this recipe, the red grapes and feta cheese balance out the bitterness of the arugula. Toss well, so that every bite of the salad has a bit of everything.

I'm still trying to improve on the dressing, though (the basics of which I got from the Internet). It's okay, but not great.

Easy Stir-fried Beef in Oyster Sauce

The original recipe is called "Gold Coin Easy Beef Stir-Fry by Elvira Mesina-Broekhuizen." We made some changes for the Palacios kitchen.

300g beef tenderloin cut into strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine, optional
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 tbsp oyster sauce

1. Marinate the beef in soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, rice wine and sesame oil for at least 1 hour.
2. Heat cooking oil in a wok. Fry tenderloin on medium to high heat until brown. Right before turning off heat, add oyster sauce to beef and stir quickly. Mix well and transfer to serving dish.

Serves 3.

Marinating time: 1 hour
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 - 15 minutes

Serve with steamed white rice and vegetables.

Easy Carbonara

The original recipe is called "Quick and Easy Carbonara" by Ina A. Ledesma, from the Assumption Cookbook.

Updated Nov. 26: I'm not sure why but for some strange reason when Mike tried to replicate this recipe it came out a lot more watery! I think it's because he used a different brand of cream of mushroom soup--I suppose that's the difficulty that comes with relying on instant ingredients. Anyway, I've made some adjustments below.

250g bacon
1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup plus 1/4 to 1/2 can water
1/2 small tetra-brick of all-purpose dream
1 half can button mushroom, sliced
500 grams spaghetti noodles
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the bacon into strips and fry. Set aside.
2. Begin boiling water for the pasta (about 4 liters of water for 500 grams of pasta). When water is at a rolling boll throw in salt and drop in pasta. Bring back to a rolling boil.
3. Saute onions in olive oil. Add the cream of mushroom soup and water. Add more or less water depending on how thick you want the sauce. Cook until blended. Add the cooked bacon and mushrooms. Simmer for around 2 minutes. Add cream little by little, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer awhile to thicken.
4. When pasta is cooked al dente, drain, then add pasta to the sauce.

Serves 3.

Total cooking and preparation time: 30 minutes

Steamed Fish and Chinese Sauce

The original recipe is called "Quick Steamed Fish" by Annie Lim-Kawpeng, from the Assumption Cookbook. We made some changes for the Palacios kitchen.

500 grams fish fillet: lapu-lapu, tilapia or trout OR 1 whole fish (500 grams)
slices of ginger
green onions or leeks

1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp Chinese soy sauce
6 tbsp water
4 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rice wine
1/2 tsp sesame oil

shredded green onions or leeks
1 tbsp oil
roasted crushed garlic (optional)

1. Put a few slits in the fish. Lay fish on green onion leaves. Insert sliced ginger in the slits and under the fish. Cover with more green onion leaves.
2. Steam fish until done OR microwave on high (2-1/2 to 3 minutes for fillets; 4-1/2 to 5 minutes for whole fish) until fish is tender. Do not overcook. Discard green onions, ginger and fish stock.
3. Combine all sauce ingredients. Heat in a saucepan over fire OR microwave for 35 seconds.
4. Put cooked fish in a serving platter. Pour sauce over the fish. Top the fish with shredded green onions and garlic. Heat oil until smoky and pour very hot oil over the greens. Serve immediately.

Serves 3.

Total cooking and preparation time: 15 minutes if you use the microwave; 30 minutes if you use a steamer

Chicken al'Orange

The original recipe is by Nina Lagdameo-Alba, from the Assumption Cookbook. Mike and I adapted it for ourselves.

8 chicken thighs, deskinned and deboned
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1-1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
1-1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/2 cup cream

1. Pat chicken dry and season well on both sides with salt and pepper.
2. Heat 2 tbsp butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Brown half of chicken about 2 minutes on each side and transfer to a plate. Add 2 tbsp more butter in the pan and brown remaining chicken. Return all chicken pieces to the skillet and add onion, rosemary and orange juice. Cover pan and simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken, transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.
3. Boil sauce uncovered until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add cream and simmer, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.
4. Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Serves 3.

Total preparation and cooking time: 45 minutes - 1 hour

We've tried this with a green salad and steamed rice -- yummy!

This recipe can also be used as a pasta sauce. If serving with pasta, chop chicken thighs (or chicken breast fillets) into small strips and adjust cooking times accordingly. Use an additional 1/4 cup orange juice and an additional 1/4 cup cream so there is more sauce.