Saturday, December 12, 2009


I had a farm in Africa .

Haha! Unfortunately, not. And, sorry, Isak Dinesen.

What I do have are vivid and lurid thoughts of all the food I want to eat but can’t just yet.

As I lie in bed at night, I reconstruct all the minute details of meals enjoyed in the past. And then, I conjure not only the flavors and tastes of meals yet to come but also the atmosphere and environment in which they are to be eaten (“May ambience ba ang bahay ninyo?”, as I famously asked a good friend 25 years ago )

I’ve compiled a shortlist of everything I want to sink my teeth into RIGHT NOW. Very careful consideration went into this list . In other words, cinaneer ko ’to. Entries were written in and then taken out (in some cases, written back in again) . After all, much as I’d like to, I can’t eat everything (darn).

I don’t have a particularly sophisticated palate (veal, veal ka dyan). None of these are fancy stuff (well, maybe except for the Shang and Philippine Plaza buffets, but only because they’re relatively pricey) . However, these are all food I like , made even more special since they’ve been shared at one time or another with family and good friends.

Let me know if you think I missed anything or if there’s something new I should try.

From my Kitchen (must all be eaten in one meal to experience the full extent of my culinary genius)

a) One-Taste-of- This-and-You’ll-Love-Me -Forever Lasagna - which I make with ground sirloin generously seasoned with pepper, garlic salt and random spices; I sauté this in butter with even more garlic, mushrooms, onions, carrots, bell peppers and a bit of sugar then add real tomatoes and heaps of tomato sauce. I throw in generous slices of chopped chorizo to the mix then layer with al-dente lasagna sheets, basil pesto spread, at least 2 different kinds of runny cheeses and a buttery , creamy béchamel sauce that I make from scratch. As you bite into the finished product, each layer reveals a different flavor - – tangy, nutty, gooey, creamy, meaty, cheesy.

b) Copied-from-Yummy-Magazine-and-Then-Made-So-Much-Better Sinigang na Lechon - This is hard-core sinigang, not for the faint-hearted. I put in 1 ½ the recommended souring agent to balance the richness of the lechon. After trimming off some of the excess fat, I slow-cook the main ingredients until the broth is thickened by the mashed gabi (like yam, a Philippine root crop); and the meat shreds easily when poked with a fork. While simmering, the lechon skin separates from the flesh, curls up a bit and gets a silky consistency that yields to the bite yet retains just a little bit of fight as you chew on it - a reminder of its previous crunchy glory . I add a couple of crushed chili peppers for an extra kick and throw in more vegetables (eggplants, string beans, green leafies) during the last 5 minutes of simmering. These are to give the sinigang some crunch. And because, really, I’m conscious about my diet, haha. Something is wrong with the dish if you’re not experiencing all of the following at the same time – lips puckering, forehead sweating, body tingling, face smiling .

c) I’ve-Died-and-Gone-to-Pork-Heaven Adobo . This is “dry” adobo. You simmer all the ingredients (soy, vinegar, water, sugar, pork pieces coated in garlic paste , lots of extra garlic) in a large work until most of the liquid has evaporated then you fry the pieces in their own fat (or in butter, if you want to live dangerously). You get an adobo that’s dark and sticky on the outside yet white, juicy and tender on the inside. You HAVE to pour some of the remaining adobo oil with bits of caramelized garlic residue over the accompanying steaming rice. I serve this with a side salad of tomatoes and feta cheese.

d) PASTuBaLIGUE , my own concoction of angel hair PASta tossed with spicy TUyo flakes ( salted dried fish marinated in olive oil and chili) with a dash of BAgoong (sautéed fish paste) and aLIGUE (crab fat). Italian-Ilocano-Bisaya fusion cuisine at its best. How much of a dash separates the culinary artist from the poseur.

e) Award-Winning Fried Rice (third prize last year in a prestigious New York competition with three contestants) –rice slowly simmered in chicken broth with tomato sauce, different kinds of deli sausages (or canned meat, if that’s what’s available, we’re not picky. SPAM works really well ), left-over chicken, peas, bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, generous sprinklings of Tabasco and random spices and whatever else is in the pantry that’s no longer moving. This is a cross between paella, risotto, gumbo and Chinese fried rice. The dish becomes even better when re-heated for breakfast the following morning.

f) In lieu of dessert, fruit-flavored antacids will be served.

g) Click this link for an earlier blog entry on my attempts at cooking.

From my Family’s Kitchen

a) The Concepcion Family’s super special fruit salad (OMG, the sensuous, decadent combination of fruit in syrup with heavy cream, cheese cubes and sweet corn kernels – no one else does this like the Concepcions). You savor this treat slowly, letting each spoonful linger in your mouth for a few seconds , teasing your tongue with hints of all the goodness about to explode in your mouth , then you chew ever so slowly, not wanting to miss out on any of the flavor notes. You may have to hold on to your seat as you savor each mouthful . You’ll need to steady yourself as your body goes into throes of spasmic pleasure.

b) My Manang Juliet’s:

**Chicken Afritada - chicken stewed in tomato sauce until the meat falls off the bones and the cubed carrots and potato wedges become soft but not mushy – you eat all the meat and veggies THEN you suck all the sauce and juice that have seeped into the bones. Ending: a clean plate and a pile of dried-out, masticated chicken bones, Yum.

****Pochero with beef still attached to the bones, green leafies, saba (plantains ) and gabi (again) to thicken the broth – whats the English word na nga for gabi? Best when each bite contains a little bit of everything. So, you dip a chunk of the tender beef in a sauce made of patis (fish sauce) and calamansi. Then you add that to a spoonful of the mashed saba and gabi and rice that’s wet with the hot broth. If you’re able to add some marrow from inside the beef bones –ay, syet, ‘tangina. For some reason, this dish is best served for Sunday family lunches. After finishing two bowlfuls (sometime around 2 pm), you look for a sofa and rub your belly until you fall asleep.

**Home-Made Chicharon - pork skin with plenty of pork flesh still attached, kept it in the freezer till it’s ready for deep- frying – this makes it extra crunchy; served with Manang’s ampalaya (bitter melon) salad (crunchy, sweetish, sourish with just a little bit of the bitterness left to balance the porky goodness - always copied, never equaled). Her trick, I think, is to slice the ampalaya thinly while its submerged in cold water (she puts in ice cubes pa). The vinaigrette she pours on it is just vinegar, salt, sugar and a bit of pepper.

** Sugpo sa Gata (big prawns cooked in coconut milk and chili), you pour a bit of the hot gata on a plate of rice then you deconstruct the prawns, first taking off the head from which you flick off all the prawn fat with your forefinger for licking; then, you take the shell off the body so you can reveal the succulent, pink flesh inside which you dip in vinegar (with garlic bits) and eat with rice using your hands. I’m trembling as I write this

**Chicken Arroz Caldo , cooked with plenty of ginger and until the meat is super tender (with patis and calamansi on the side, MUST be eaten only on Christmas and New Year’s Eves; not as good on any other days)

c) The Palentinos Family’s Menudo and Embutido (like meatloaf but 1000X better, the liver spread makes all the difference)

d) Auntie Puring’s Lanie’s kinilaw (ceviche, sabi ng mga sosyal), Lola Mang’s carne frita (Montana family version), Manang Alma’s fried lechon

e) Dessert from my cousin, Mickey – whatever it is, it’ll be good cause it will be made with love :-)

From other People’s Kitchens

a) TOP of the LIST. Carla O’s Papa’s laing with extra chili. Carla’s Papa – a retired military man - painstakingly personally makes this only upon special request (Mr. P, may I make a request, hehe) , eaten with plenty of rice and several pieces of tuyo (dried, salted fish) – best eaten at home using your hands and with one foot up on your chair.

Everything else that follows is in random order.

b) Stephen B’s adobo with hardboiled eggs - when you’ve driven for hours and you’re tired and hungry and masungit– this is the dish you want to be waiting for you so you can be human again. This adobo version is “wet”, i.e. more saucy that my adobo (I suspect this is what makes Bisaya adobo different, Manang makes a similar version) but still cooked with a lot of garlic, just the way I like it.

c) Leah O’s twice-cooked adobo (must be with my version of scrambled eggs – about which, if I may so myself, wow) – best eaten for breakfast on a lazy, rainy Sunday, Disclosure: my adobo evolved from Leah O’s adobo.

d) Mimi D’s T-bone steak (and yes, Mimi, I really wanted the larger piece that time but I was too shy to ask)

e) Pearl A’s pochero with tomato sauce and pork and beans

f) Mike L’s wife’s fruitcake – very good even while standing in your kitchen feeding a 3 am snack-attack, WONDERFUL with cold milk.

g) Beng S’ Mom’s apple pie (ABSOLUTELY MUST be eaten with Arce’s Vanilla Ice Cream)

h) Renmin V’s bread pudding – made from something about to go stale, bubbling and caramel-y on the outside, soft and custard-y on the inside. Reminds me of myself, haha.

i) Erlene’s Mom’s inihaw na bangus

j) Juan C’s Mom’s pancit. I love, love, LOVE pancit. This is very good pancit.

k) Lanie L’s lamayo ( dried fish from Palawan, not as salty as its counterparts from Southern Philippines) with crushed tomatoes

From Various Purveyors’ Kitchens (all served with cold DIET COKE and plenty of ice, unless otherwise specified)

a) Kippers in Capers from Coney’s kitchen (with steamed white rice or buttered bread)

b) Sardines in Tomato Sauce from Zaragosa’s (MUST be eaten on top of steamed rice and sprinkled with parmesan cheese)

c) Chicken thighs, chicken liver, chicken butt and batchoy at Chicken Bacolod (planned to be my very first meal after getting off the Manila International Airport this April)

d) Tapsilog , king size at Tapa King (with vinegar for the tapa and ketchup for the eggs) – best eaten at 3 am before going home after a night of drinking

e) The flat pizza that you roll with arugula at Focaccia in A-Venue along Makati Avenue

f) Pinapaitan and buko juice at Chrisguard Carinderia in Pasig

g) Sausage McMuffin with egg and a large orange juice

h) Bola bola siopao with red egg from HenLin

i) Sukiyaki at that small place in Little Tokyo at the side of Makati Cinema Square that Mimi and Charlotte took me to

j) Steamed shrimps, crabs in chili sauce, inihaw na liempo, clam soup (halaan?) in any of the Dampas, but preferably the one in Metrowalk cause its near my house

k) Crispy pata, day-old lechon, stuffed chicken and pinakbet at Abe’s in Serendra

l) Radish cake, salt and pepper spareribs and salted fish fried rice at any Maan Hann or North Park branch – soy sauce and calamansi on the side

m) Lemon chicken, chop suey with quail eggs and yangchao fried rice in Emer’s in Makati Cinema Square

n) Greek-style lemon chicken adobo at Cyma’s

o) Four Seasons pizza at Yellow Cab

p) The kebab platter at Aria in Podium with the side salad in yoghurt dressing

q) The buffets at any of the Shangs or at the Philippine Plaza

r) The buffets at Dad’s and Tong Yang, this other place in SM (that’s like shabu-shabu and Korean barbecue together, same level as Dad’s, cheap-o but always hits the spot)

s) Sinampalukang Manok at O Kitchen in Libis

t) Jurassic Park and Dragon Roll sushi at Omakase in Libis

u) Chicken teriyaki, spicy tuna salad and tofu with ground pork at any Teriyaki Boy

v) Fried oysters, tonkatsu and fried rice at Sugi

w) Tomato soup and the grilled pork chops at the Dome branch behind Makati Med

x) Garlic chicken or Lechon Kawali (in fact - why not, both) at Big Brother in Legaspi Village (with Elvie at the counter, smiling)

That’s all, Thank you,

1 comment:

MamaGirl said...

Waaaah, ultimate foodtripping (kahit ini-imagine lang)! Gusto ko na tuloy sumakay ng eroplano pauwi sa atin nang makatikim ng kahit isa man lang sa listahan mo. Hey, buhey... now I can't stop dreaming about Pinoy food :/