Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cooking tips for Filipino and Asian food, 1

I found a webpage offering cooking tips for Philippine cooking, very helpful for beginner cooks like me.

A sampling of what you'll find on the page:
  • Grate a quarter of a small onion and add it and a dash of sugar and salt to the water in which you boil frozen or canned vegetables to improve the flavor. Or add a dash of MSG, garlic powder, pepper and onion flakes or powder to the salted boiling water before adding the vegetables for a richer flavor.

  • When broiling steaks or chops, put one cup water in the bottom of the broiler pan to prevent grease burning on the pan, eliminate smoke, make pan easy to wash and catch the drippings for the gravy.

  • If a dish is too salty, slices of raw pared potato added to it while cooking will absorb excess saltiness. When cooking adobo and it turns out too sour, add sugar.

  • To eliminate fishy odor, rub fish inside and out with a slice of lemon.

  • To keep raw fish fillets fresh and odorless in the refrigerator, rinse in a solution of 1 tbsp. lemon juice and 1 cup water, dry thoroughly, wrap and refrigerate.

  • To avoid tears when cutting onions, leave them in the refrigerator for a few days before using them. (Or peel and cut them in half under cold running water. Keep under running water for about a minute or let soak in cold water for a time before slicing.)

  • Roll lemon with palm over a hard surface or heat lemons before squeezing to get more juice.

Read the other tips here. If you noticed, I numbered this post "part 1," because I do hope I can add some of my own cooking tips in the future.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Kitchen must-haves

Since getting married I've been scouring the blogosphere for kitchen "must-have" lists.

Then today, this post on Just Hungry inspired me to write my own must-have list for our kitchen!

First I need to describe our eating habits. We're Filipino and therefore all our eating habits are Filipino through and through. However, between Mike and me, we eat a lot of cuisine from around the world.

Here's our list, so far. I'll add items as i think of them.
  1. A rice cooker. I am truly Pinoy: rice for breakfast, rice for lunch, and rice for dinner. As is the case in many Filipino kitchens, then, the rice cooker is the most-used appliance in ours. We actually have two rice cookers! We got two as wedding gifts but decided, under my elder brother's advice, not to return the extra one. Two reasons: (1) rice cookers don't last forever, and (2) a second rice cooker is always useful for parties.

  2. Pots and pans: a few frying pans (both "stick" and non-stick), sauce pans, a stock pot, a big casserole (which I often use for pasta) ... I have too many pots and pans, actually. Our kitchen also has a pressure cooker (used most frequently for karekare), a fry basket (for deep-frying), and ...

  3. A wok. I put this on our wedding registry (to replace my mom's old one) and was delighted when it arrived! Chinese food just isn't the same when it's fried in a pan rather than stir-fried. I've also used the wok for steaming.

  4. Corning Ware. For serving and for baking entrees.

  5. Tiny bowls for "sawsawan," dipping sauces.

  6. Many serving spoons. For some reason, almost all Philippine dishes have a lot of sauce.

  7. Knife and chopping board.

  8. Pyrex measuring cup.

  9. Mixing bowls. More than one!

  10. Wooden spoons.

  11. Mortar and pestle. For crushing garlic and nuts.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Easy apple pancakes

Our apple conundrum continues. For lunch I decided to have apple pancakes, or in German, Apfel Pfannekuchen (naks, I looked it up). I actually don't know how Germans make authentic Apfel Pfannekuchen, but I figured -- pancakes and apples, how difficult can it be? I just used store-bought ready-to-cook pancake mix for this. And Fuji apples.


1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
pancake mix, enough to make 2 small pancakes
2 tbsp butter


Follow the instructions to make the pancake batter.

In a separate bowl, combine the apple, sugar and cinnamon. Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a large non-stick skillet over moderate heat. Put apple mix in skillet and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, until apple has slightly softened. Remove apples and set aside.

Heat the remaining butter in the skillet. Pour 2/3 of the pancake batter into the skillet. When underside has begun to set, add apples onto the pancake. Cook for a minute then carefully pour the rest of the pancake batter onto the apples. Cook for a few minutes, allowing center to set then carefully flip the entire pancake over to cook the other side.

Serves 1.

Unlike regular pancakes, this does not need to be served with butter or syrup. The sugared apples are already sweet and tasty. Of course, no one's stopping you ....

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Baked pork loin with apples

Because of the Christmas season, our house has an overabundance of apples. My aunt gave me several apples to bring home from noche buena, and I already had two apples in the fridge. So today, I decided to baptize our new gas oven by attempting a dish that uses apples. I used Fuji apples for this dish.


250g single piece of boneless pork loin
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 apple, cored and sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 cup red wine
1-1/2 tbsp sugar


1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

For the additional sauce (optional):

1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp sugar

Combine rub ingredients in a bowl. Rub over roast. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 165 degrees C (325 degrees F).

Heat oil in a non-stick pan and brown pork loin in the oil for about 4 minutes, turning every minute so that all sides are browned.

Place pork loin in a roasting pan and bake uncovered in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

While pork loin is baking, arrange 3/4 of the slices of apple and all of the onion slices on the bottom of a separate baking dish. Sprinkle sugar and cinammon powder on top of slices. Set aside.

After pork loin has baked for 30 minutes, remove from oven. Discard fat. Transfer pork loin to the other baking dish, on top of the apples and onions. Pour 1/4 cup red wine over everything.

Allow pork loin to bake uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes, until done. (The length of time will depend on how thick the cut of the pork loin is. Check to see that pork is cooked through. If you have a cooking thermometer--which I don't--the internal temperature of the pork should be 70 degrees C/160 degrees F.)

To make additional sauce, chop the remaining apple slices. Combine with 1/4 cup red wine, 1/4 cup water, and 1 tbsp sugar. (Adjust amount of sugar to taste.) Cook and stir uncovered over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Serve.

Serves 2.
Calorie count: 460 per serving (based on recommended portion size)

Do you have any tips for consuming your oversupply of Christmas food?

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Monday, December 25, 2006


Happy Christmas, everyone!

Over the past few years, the Philippines has become home to the largest population of Korean emigrants in Southeast Asia. One of the many great benefits of this is the explosion of Korean cuisine in the Philippines. Mike's parents' area, for example, is home to one of the biggest Korean communities in Metro Manila, and there are dozens of cheap Korean restaurants and Korean supermarkets in the area run by and catering to Korean immigrants.

After today's excellent Korean barbecue lunch at a neighborhood restaurant, Mike and I decided to attempt Korean barbecue at home, on our indoor grill.

The elements seem simple enough:
  • a tabletop grill

  • lettuce leaves (and sesame leaves too, if available)

  • Korean beanpaste (available from Korean the supermarket)

  • sesame oil dip (sesame oil, salt and black pepper)

  • garlic

  • green chili peppers

  • beef

We will try this over the next few weeks and if it goes well, I'll write a recipe.


Meantime, on a completely unrelated topic, Mike just YM'ed me the link to this recipe, asking if we could try it. Ok. :)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Vietnamese Shaking Beef Salad (Bo Luc Lac)

We still had some salad greens from yesterday's dinner party, so I made a Vietnamese beef salad for dinner this evening. I followed the original recipe by Wendy Hutton from Vietnamese Favorite of the Periplus series of cookbooks. However, the resulting beef salad didn't seem Vietnamese enough for our taste. I've made some minor adjustments in the recipe I'm typing below, adding more patis and adding a bit of lemon juice and chili garlic sauce as well. Note, though, that it hasn't been tested yet. I'll update this entry when I've tried this with the changes.


400 g tenderloin beef steak, cubed
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp vinegar
1 bunch watercress or other salad greens, coarse stems removed
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice


4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp rice wine
2 tbsp patis (fish sauce)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
1-1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

1. Combine the Marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Place beef in marinade and mix until beef is well coated. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Combine the sliced onion, rice wine, and vinegar in a bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes, then remove onions from the liquid.

3. Combine dressing ingredients and whisk well. Combine onions, greens, dressing and toss. Set aside.

4. Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Stir-fry marinated beef for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes until meat is seared on the outside but still pink inside. Remove from heat, then sprinkle 1/2 tbsp lemon juice on beef. Spread beef on top of salad. Serve immediately.

Serves 3 - 4 (based on recommended portion size).
Calorie count: 350 per serving.

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Sun-dried Tomato and Ham Omelette

Mike usually makes a breakfast or a brunch on weekends. Today, we woke up late and had omelettes for brunch. Here's what he prepared.


6 slices cooked Canadian bacon or ham, chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. butter
2 pcs. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 tsp. dried basil
2 tbsp. grated Quickmelt cheese
3 small eggs
pepper to taste


Combine ham and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Heat butter and oil in a pan over medium heat. Pour eggs into pan, and let cook until underside begins to set. Sprinkle grated cheese onto one half of the egg. When underside of egg has set, put ham and sun-dried tomatoes on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with pepper to taste. When filling has warmed, fold the empty half of the egg over the filling. Cook until egg has reached desired consistency. Serve with rice or bread.

Serves 2.

We served this omelette with garlic fried rice sprinkled with garlic salt and dried parsley. A very tasty brunch!

My favorite cookbook

I've only really been cooking for six months (save for a very short cooking obsession when I was in second year high school), so I'm no expert on cookbooks.

But of the seven or eight cookbooks in my collection, the most reliable, by far, in terms of the taste of its recipes and the ease of their execution, is the Assumption High School Class of '79 Cookbook.

I highly recommend this cookbook for beginner-cooks in the Philippines.

Since the recipes come from various sources, there is a good variety of them.

The ingredients of almost all the recipes are easy to find in the Philippines (unlike the recipes in a lot of foreign cookbooks, which have me turning to my laptop every few minutes to look for substitute ingredients).

Most of the recipes are easy enough for a beginner to attempt, and there are one or two more complex ones for savvier cooks.

And so far, the batting average has been very good: Mike and I have raved about almost all the recipes we've tried, save for one which wasn't too bad, just a bit bland for our taste. (I won't say which one it is.)

So if you need a last-minute Christmas gift for someone who is beginning to venture into the kitchen, trust me, this is a good one! (Hmm, I should get paid for this plug, haha!)

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Oriental Chicken Salad

We'll be having friends over in awhile, so I'm attempting a new salad recipe. I'm doing it almost exactly as described by Sarina A. Fores in the Assumption Cookbook. I just substituted the honey with syrup and added sesame seeds to the dressing. I also used salad-in-a-bag for the variety of lettuce leaves rather than the iceberg lettuce recommended in the original recipe; bagged salad tastes better and is better for your health. A doctor-friend told me that iceberg lettuce does not only, as some people already know, have zero nutrients in its leaves; to make things worse, eating iceberg lettuce is actually more harmful to your health than not eating a vegetable at all. Anyway, here's the salad recipe.


2 pieces chicken breast, boiled or grilled, then cubed
1 pack salad-in-a-bag (approx. 200g)
20 wonton skins, sliced 1/2" and fried crisp
1 medium red bell pepper, slivered
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

6 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey or syrup
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted


1. Make dressing: combine all ingredients and mix with wire whisk. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Deep-fry wonton skins over medium to low fire until golden. Drain on paper towel

3. In a salad bowl, mix together chicken breast, lettuce and bell pepper. Toss with a little salad dressing. Add the wonton skins and peanuts and toss again with a little more dressing. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 - 6.

Update: Yummy salad!! I declare this recipe a success. I just crossed out the instruction to refrigerate the dressing, because when I did that, the dressing coagulated and I had to microwave it for 20 seconds to turn it back into a liquid dressing. I also cut down the number of sheets of wonton wrapper. Twenty would've been enough.

The dressing is very tasty, and you may want to keep the dressing recipe on hand for simple green salads as well.

We served this salad with Easy Stir-fried Beef in Oyster Sauce, Stemaed Fish and Chinese Sauce and steamed rice, for a Chinese-themed meal.

Our new gas range!

This is the third major appliance that Mike and I have bought together (the first two were air-conditioners, heheh!):

It just arrived today. One item to cross off our kitchen wish-list.

Now we want a blender. :)

Longing for Lettuce

Mike and I only go to the supermarket once a month. It's more convenient, and it's cheaper in the long-run (because we buy in bulk). Apart from that, our housekeeper does a wet market trip, also once a month.

Our food cycle, then, is a two-week cycle; every two weeks, we have a new batch of fresh food.

The problem, however, is that Mike and I don't get enough fresh, leafy vegetables. We rely a lot on canned veggies (we go through a number of cans of corn a month), and vegetables that keep better like carrots, sayote or cucumber.

But we both do love leaves. The problem is that when we do try to buy, say, lettuce, we only get to eat half of it before the rest of it wilts.

So today I had a brainwave. I'm going to try to grow our own lettuce. We have the space for it, and I know it can be done (Mike's mom used to grow lettuce in their backyard). It's also a perfect time to grow lettuce; the cooler weather has finally arrived, so we might just be able to see three months of fresh lettuce from our garden before the summer heat and humidity make it difficult for the lettuce to thrive.

So that's going on my list of New Year's resolutions. :)

Now, the thing is, my thumb is far from green; it's more like a pale grayish-yellow. When I took gardening for home economics in grade 5, all my sunflowers died. When I had to do gardening again in high school (we grew medicinal herbs for health class), I wisened up and bought a plant rather than a seed; all I had to do was to keep it alive for the whole quarter.

So if there's anyone out there who has attempted to grow lettuce, please do share your tips.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Carrot salad

Here's an easy snack. So easy, in fact, that the story behind the recipe is going to be much longer than the recipe itself.

When I still working at Probe some years ago I did a story in Mt. Data, Benguet. I had two extremely memorable visits there: first, an ocular visit that lasted about three days, then another four- or five-day visit for the actual shoot. The residents (mostly belonging to the Kankana-ey indigenous group) were absolutely wonderful: cheery, friendly, and incredibly hospitable. Most of them made their livelihood growing vegetables, and I had the freshest vegetables I'd ever eaten while I was there. While visiting at one of the residents' homes, I was treated to this delicious snack.


carrots, chopped into bite-sized thin strips
condensed milk

Combine ingredients. Chill in your refrigerator. Ta-dah! There's your carrot salad!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Culinary Resolutions for the New Year

Here are some forthcoming projects....


I looove Southeast Asian food, and there are some flavors from my childhood that I painfully hanker for.

A few weeks ago, I attempted a curry fish head, a dish which brings back happy memories of Sundays in Singapore when our family would sometimes eat dinner at this yummy restaurant somewhere near Tanglin.

Over the next few months, I'd also like to try to make some more dishes:

  • crispy sotong - (my absolute favorite dish from Singaporean hawker centers!)

  • beef satay - (with peanut sauce of course)

  • Vietnamese fried spring rolls (cha gio) - (oooohhhh yummmmm!)

  • Singaporean chicken rice - (Mike's family has a very good Hainanese chicken recipe, but I'd also like to learn to make it the way I remember eating it a place called "Fatty's": with the chicken chopped into pieces and served in the rice)

  • Pajeon - more "East" than "South" but still Asian

  • Update, Dec. 25: Korean barbecue - It was Mike's suggestion that we try this at home, after enjoying a hearty lunch with his dad at a Korean restaurant in his neighborhood ... Yummmm, I suggested we buy some beanpaste at the Korean grocery this afternoon

Sigh, the memory of these flavors is making my eyes tear with longing. SIGH!!!!


I've also resolved to eat healthier next year, which of course means cooking healthier as well.

For Christmas, I asked Mike for ... half of a gas range (the other half to be paid for by me, dummy! :P )! I know; it's hilarious: who would've thunk that me of all people would someday aspire to domestic goddess-ness?!?!?! But lo ... pumuti nga ang uwak! Anyway, having a new gas range with a working oven means that I'll now be able to make baked food and more grilled food as well.

I'm not really a pastry person (I love to eat them when they're there, but I don't look for them when they're not), so instead of using the oven for pastries, I intend to use the oven for baked entrees instead. I've already whet Mike's appetite with the promise of mac and cheese (okay, maybe that's not very healthy but what the hey).

Sun-Dried Tomato Burgers

Grocery-bought sun-dried tomatoes are so expensive but they're sooo tasty that they add a punch of flavor in the simplest burger recipe. Here's a recipe that Mike likes to cook, adapted from our Better Homes and Gardens Indoor Grilling cookbook (purchased really cheap at a Booksale branch).


260 grams lean ground beef
1 tbsp finely chopped sundried tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 cup Italian salad dressing
1 tsp dried basil
1 egg
1 tbsp bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients and shape into burger patties. Grill until cooked. Done! :)

Serves 2.
Cooking and preparation time: 15 to 30 minutes (depending on thickness of the burger patties: for a 1/2-inch patty, grill about 3 minutes each side on a covered grill or 7 minutes each side on an uncovered grill)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mesquite Burgers

Mike ordered a bottle of mesquite powder from my mom in the US. The big bottle arrived a few days ago.

For dinner this evening Mike made this incredibly simple but incredibly flavorful dish.


260 grams ground beef
1 tbsp mesquite powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 small egg

Mix all ingredients together. Form into hamburger patties. Grill or pan-fry until cooked. Serve!

Serves 2.
Cooking and preparation time: 15 to 20 minutes