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The Theoretical Cook


Monday, March 27, 2006

Quick Vegetable Soup from the Salad Bowl of the Philippines

The enchanted broccoli forest....

Here's a simple vegetable soup that I concocted today out of the vegetables that we bought at La Trinidad. Its fairly easy to make. I made this inside the office, not enough cooking equipment, I had to use a rice cooker. Basically, there was P300 worth of vegetables in the office, and no meat whatsoever in the ref. I could not make chopsuey, unless I used the dried small shrips. I spied on a Cream of Chicken sachet and decided to use that as the 'stock'.

Quick Vegetable Soup

1 pack of Cream of Chicken
1 L of water
1 piece of carrot (diced)
1 piece of potato (diced)
a cup of cabbage (shredded)
1 pc of green bell pepper (diced)
1 celery stalk
a dash of ground pepper
2 tbsp patis
bread croutons


1) Dissolve the Cream of Chicken powder in a liter of water. Let the solution boil. (Or if you have chicken stock, use it!)
2) When the water is on a rolling boil, put in the celery, diced potato and the diced carrots. Let simmer
3) Let the potatoes and carrots soften, then add the bell pepper and the shredded cabbage.
4) Add the bread croutons to thicken the soup
5) Season to taste.

The vegetable soup was a smashing hit with the office people:). Lessons learned: 1) Always stock 'Cream of Chicken' you never know when you'll get desperate to show off your culinary skills, I mean, when the need will arise; 2) Its difficult to ruin the taste of fresh vegetables, even when you use instant 'mixes' such as this.
While I was consumed with my guilt, observing the instant cream of chicken simmering in the rice cooker, I remembered a 'lecture' delivered by Chef Bel during a Vanishing Foods Symposium. Her lecture was about "Where has Sinigang Gone?" or something equally urgent in tone. Her thesis was something like this: in today's age of convenience, traditional cooking methods, such as for instance the slow cooking of sour tamarind for the authentic sinigang, have taken a nose dive because of the rise of synthetic commercial innovations such as the 'sinigang mix' and its ilk. She lambasted the creators of a Filipino cookbook (I forgot what that book was exactly) for endorsing the use of these commercial mixes in the cooking of traditional Pinoy food. Unfortunately, during the open forum, it became clear that the creators of the cookbook were also in the audience, and they defended their work with some aplomb. Anyway, Chef Bel won the first place award for foodwriting during that forum, I guess that was enough vindication for the discomfort of realizing that the object of your culinary contempt is in the audience.

Strawberry Fields Forever

These are the flower plots next to the strawberry plots in the 'strawberry farm'. Could not resist not posting since they were such pretty orange flowers!

The strawberry plots have a protective black plastic casing. This is to avoid direct contact of the berries with the soil.

If you have never seen a strawberry field, how would you imagine it?
Last Sunday, I found myself on my first trip to the La Trinidad strawberry fields. La Trinidad is the provincial capital of Benguet. In the 1960s, the province became one of the leading vegetable producers in the entire country. By the 1980s, there was an agriculture shift to the cultivation of strawberries and cutflowers. As far as I know, the only other area in the Philippines where strawberries have been successfully cultivated is in the Bukidnon province, and this was through some EU-funded efforts to promote the crop.
I was brimming with excitement. This was how I imagined the strawberry fields: the strawberry plants would be growing by a hillside. Then there would be an entire hillside covered with the crawling strawberries, as far as your eyes can see. Since its still the season of strawberries, there would be specks of red, where the strawberries would be peeking out of the leaves. I have heard of the La Trinidad fields long long ago but my idea of how it would look like comes from the following: 1) That Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever" - whenever I hear this song, I imagine hills or some mountainous area. Somewhere windy. Somewhere where youre out of breath. ; 2) The film Wild Strawberries - let me explain the content of the film then.
A few months ago, I watched a film be Fellini entitled "Wild Strawberries." Its about this old professor who is about to be conferred with some honorary doctorate/academic award. Its this really prestigious award and his daughter-in-law is taking him to the place where the ceremony for the conferment is to be held. The daughter-in-law is the one driving the car, and throughout the long drive, a lot of things happen: the old professor sneaks some catnaps, some hitchhikers hitch with them, they stop for a visit to the matriarch of the family. Now the important thing here concerning the strawberries is this: during the old professor's catnaps, his mind goes back to a period in his youth, a period covering his 'young love'. The venue of this young love is in the rolling meadows surrounding their family estate, a place where the wild strawberries grow. Nothing really came out of this youthful lost love but it seems to have determined all subsequent relationships of the old professor: his torturous relationship with his wife; and his equally problematic relationship with his son. So the memory of the wild strawberries is pre-Angst; it represents the idyll before the Fall, the happiest he ever was.
So the strawberry fields in my imagination was a place of wild abandon. A place where you would be happy picking the strawberries and putting them in the baskets.
Anyway, enough about my imagination. This is how the strawberry fields look like.
They may be in neat plots but I immediately realized why they had to be in neat plots. Nevertheless, if I get to own a plot of land in a colder region in the country, I will endeavour to plant strawberries to suit the fields of my imagination.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Baguio- Are you ready to sizzle?

This is not meant for the vegetarians. If you want to read a post for you, read the previous post. This is for the meat lovers: the foodies who like hunks of meat. When youre in Baguio, you can choose to go veggie - and you have lots of choices - or you can go meaty. Today was my first time to be at the Sizzling Plate Baguio. We would have opted to eat a chopsuey at the Rosebowl but since we were with another family of meatlovers, we had to concede to their culinary tastes. So, we found ourselves having a very late brunch at the Sizzling Plate Baguio. And we ordered some pretty nasty meats: the Brat had a T-Bone Steak, I had Fillet Mignon (with bacon of course), and they had porterhouse steak, salisbury steak, and other equally meaty meals. To lighten the heavy meat overload, we also ordered some salads - which is a good idea when youre in Baguio cause the vegetables are always fresh. So I had lots of the tomatoes in the Caesars Salad and the Chefs Salad - the dressings were less than desirable but they weren't so bad - in any case, we were too hungry at 3 PM to even give a damn about the dressing.
So about the meat, we were too hungry to ask where they got the meat - but mind you, I am not a meat lover, but I liked their meat. It was well done, as requested, and quite succulent. The gravy made up for the inherent blandness of the meat. But the texture was good, and the vegetables in the sizzling plate were just lovely: very sweet, and juicy, and the potatoes were so starchy and good. Good accompaniment for the meat. They were quite generous with the servings, and even the males in the group had a difficult time finishing their Porterhouse and their T-Bone Steak.
Okay, so its past ten PM in Baguio, Im still under the influence of Fundador brandy because the cold is too much for my slight frame. Im wracking my brains to remember our meat experience earlier - but, strangely, what i remember with crystal clarity is the taste of the fresh tomatoes in the salad: why do Baguio tomatoes taste so good? Lots of tomato meat, and the acidity is so 'right'.
When youre in Baguio, and you want to have a meat fix, go to the Sizzling Plate. As they claim, "nothing beats our old sizzle". So dont skip the old sizzle, make it a point to visit the Sizzling Plate in Carino.

Sizzling Plate Carino
135 Abanao Extension
cor Carino St, Baguio St
Tel No (074) 443-8486

Baguio - Oh My Gulay!

If you think youve had enough of Session Road with its dense cluster of 'traditional' culinary musts - Swiss Baker, Star Cafe, Cafe Luisa, 456 Restaurant - think again. You may have to crane your heads a little higher, way above the first floor establishments along Session Rd, and check out what's cooking in the upper reaches of the Session buildings. Vegetarianism has found a strong foodie foothold in one of the rooftops along Session, and even if you are a meatlover, youre bound to visit and revisit this foothold not only for the food, which is good (fresh vegetables in Baguio make this possible), but because its such a fantastic looking place. Its called Oh My Gulay!, and if I were a brief and concise person, my review should consist only of an "!".
Vegetarians, within my immediate constellation of friends and acquaintances, fall under the following categories: 1) Ideological vegetarians - usually environmentalists or animal rights activitists; 2) Health buffs - health freaks who see vegetarianism as The Way to true health; 3) Spiritual vegetarians - Buddhists, or Hare Khrishna followers, or those who for spiritual reasons avoid meat; 4) Artists. For some reason, many of the artists I know dont eat meat - and I have a feeling that artists should be a subset of the third group, the Spiritual Vegetarians.
The Oh My Gulay restaurant in Baguio, housed on the fifth floor (yes fifth, and no elevators too) of the La Azotea Building along Session Road in Baguio falls under Category 3.5 in my Vegetarianism Schematic diagram, somewhere between the Spiritual and the Artistic.
They serve a mean iced tea at the Oh My Gulay. Its the best thing to drink - ice cold, with that herby flavor laced with calamansi - after all that hiking (5 floors!). They also serve native coffee in thoughtful cups ( I say thoughtful because the handles are well thought of), although it wasnt strong enough to jolt me out of my cold weather stupor. And the food? The food is good. Fresh is always good. The serve mostly pasta with vegetables and salads. They also have pretty pun-ny names so simply choosing from the menu is a fun activity in itself.
Beyond food though, the place is a visual experience. Oh My Gulay! is owned by the Baguio-based De Guia Family (thats what I heard from the folks in the area) - um, the family headed by filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik (he of the Perfumed Nightmare fame and the tour Europe in a jeepney rep, if my memory serves me well). And the place is so put-together. Everytime I go there, its like they've done additional work on some section of the place, and the place looks much better than it did before. Its difficult to continue describing since I might not be able to do the place justice. Suffice it to say that the place looks like the people who worked on the 'interiors' had time to kill, and plenty of imagination, and didnt give a damn about what the rest of the world thought of the resulting whole.
I brought some kids with me to the place, I thought they wouldnt really enjoy since it was such an adult digs, but they did. They loved the place! They were trigger-happy with their digital cameras. And as the youngest of them said, as she went traipsing along the spaces of the restaurant-cum-art space, "Astiiig."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pancit Canton, or a Variant Thereof

Yes, it's what you think it is. Closer, closer - that pretty picture there is the Lucky Me Instant Pancit Canton Original Flavor that you can 'enjoy anywhere, anytime.' Yup, its the Instant Pancit Canton that you can serve, according to the blurb in the package, 'while camping', during 'beach outing', 'party time', 'for unexpected guests', and - they really know their market - during 'group study time.'
I am part of the generation that grew up on instant food - remember 'Instafood/meal', the instant meal that you simply have to drop into hot water to have your hot lunch? I was too young then to pay attention to the brand of that one-hit wonder meal. The surviving classic of this generation of instant food is the Lucky Me Pancit Canton Original Flavor. Monde Nissin has since then given the original flavor other equally Pinoy twists: (1) with calamansi; (2) with chili. However, since taste is something nurtured, I have to admit that my tastebuds have been conditioned to the taste of the classic instant pancit canton. It must be the many late-night dormitory sneak eats. A decade later, I still have late-night cravings for this Lucky Me pancit canton.
To explain why eating pancit canton is a grievous health sin, here are the Ingredients of the Luck Me Instant Pancit Canton.

Instant Pancit Canton

Noodles: Wheat flour, palm oil, iodized salt, carbonates, stabilizer, phosphates, FD & C yellow #5 (tartrazine), FD & C yellow #6, antioxidant
SPECIAL SEASONING, SAUCE AND OIL: Soy sauce, coconut oil, maltodextrin, natural and artificial flavors, sugar, monosodium glutamate, iodized salt, hydrolized vegetable protein, spices, dehydrated vegetables (carrots and chives), flavor enhancers, caramel color, ascorbic acid, guar gum, iron, antioxidant, potassium sorbate.

To explain why we keep eating it anyway, heres the procedure.
1) Cook noodles in briskly boiling water for three minutes.
2) Meanwhile, mix special seasoning, soy sauce, and oil on a plate to form a paste. Set aside.
3) Drain noodles and place on the plate with the prepared sauce. Mix well. Enjoy!

So its very easy to prepare, its dirt cheap, and its available in your neighborhood sarisari store. Whoever concocted the recipe for this instant pancit canton really tapped into the collective taste of the Pinoy man-on-the-street. The Pancit Canton has spawned a host of spin-offs but none has endured in the market as the original classic. Or is it the original? How come the sign says Copyright 2003....Hmn.

So, if I may quote from the nifty package again, "Next time you are thinking of what food to serve, prepare a delicious and nutritious plate of LUCKY ME PANCIT CANTON...your hassle-free, energy packed fun snack."

And this is why I am a third world foody, bow.

Homemade Disaster: Tinkering with the template

Hmn... so this is what happens when an amateur blogger starts tinkering with the template... (and disregards warnings). Will read more "HELP" articles then. Meanwhile, how to deal with missing links, disappearing fonts, etc. Part of the evolution of any blogger is the desire to change the blog'skin'. And then, maybe have a personal domain name? Teehee. Meanwhile, I continue tinkering with the template, within Blogger-limits.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Balbacua brings back childhood memories. My grandmother used to sell balbacua in the afternoons and the house was suffused with the smell of simmering balbacua. Her small stall was packed with her loyal customers. Perhaps because I had balbacua most afternoons, I never thought of the dish as something special. It was such an everyday thing, and I remember the peppery beef broth as though it were only yesterday, unlike her karekare which came only on Christmas. My grandmother soon closed her little carinderia and the balbacua episode was forgotten. This was over two decades ago. Imagine my surprise when I later learned that my husband-to-be thinks of the balbacua as a special treat.
Balbacua is said to be a Southern Philippines recipe. It originated from Cebu. There are also very good balbacuahans in Davao City. Recently, I tasted delicious balbacua at the Oarhouse in Mabini St, Malate Manila. The balbacua at the Oarhouse was not the balbacua I remembered from childhood. I hate to say this, but it was better than my lola's version (and I think the world of my lola's recipes). There were certain ingredients that werent present in my childhood balbacua - such as the beans (definitely canned in the Oarhouse version), the peanut butter , and the banana.
How do you cook balbacua? I haven't tried cooking balbacua yet but from what I observed from my lola, this is how it is cooked. Again, this is all theory, I will report again when Ive tried this. Haha.


1 kg Oxtail (sliced)
Beef Skin
1 Can Pork and Beans
4 pieces saba (cooking bananas)
spring onion (minced)
black pepper
ginger (chopped)
peanut butter

1) Assemble the oxtail, beef skin, chopped ginger in stockpot. Pour around 5 cups of water. Add blackpepper. Bring to boil.
2) When the oxtail and beef skin are tender, add the saba, peanut butter, and the pork and beans. Let simmer.
3) Season to taste.
4) Garnish with minced spring onion before serving.

NOTE: This is how Im going to cook it when Im going to cook it. If you guys know how this is actually cooked, I would be quite happy to hear from you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pinoy Street Food Chronicles 1

Last Saturday night in the State University, the streets were alive with -- food vendors.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Homemade Mayonaisse and Pinoy Chicken Salad

It all began with the cookie recipe. The recipe called for 3 egg whites so I was left with 3 egg yolks. What to do with the egg yolks - that was the question that I had to grapple with. Not enough for leche flan. I was running out of ideas. And then suddenly, while flipping through Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, I saw it: Basic Mayonaisse. The recipe called for a food processor or blender. From the things that Ive read, the mark of a true home cook is making his/her own mayonaisse. I rose to the challenge, inspired by the simplicity of the recipe.

I dunked the three egg yolks into the blender and then added 2 tablespoons of vinegar plus 2 tablespoons of water plus one cup of canola oil ( I poured it in a steady thin stream). I then added salt and pepper to taste. The resulting substance looked smooth but watery. The original recipe looked like this: one yolk, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 cup canola oil, plus salt and pepper. You were supposed to pour 1/4 cup of oil into the egg mixture very slowly. Then pour the rest in a steady stream until the substance becomes firm. My version had three egg yolks so in order to adjust the proportions, I added another cup of oil, and when it still didnt look thick enough, still another cup of oil. I would have continued adding oil if it werent for the fact that I had ran out of canola oil. So I stopped. My mayonaisse didnt look like the Lady's Choice mayo. Mine was not firm, kind of pinkish- yellowish, felt oily to the tongue, and my sister said: Malansa. Well, it didnt taste malansa to me. It tasted like something that wanted to become mayonaisse. I put the mayonaisse inside the ref. Thirty minutes later, I checked on it, and I saw that it looked more mayonaiss-y than thirty minutes before. And so, there and then, I decided that I will not let the mayonaisse go to waste. I decided I was going to make a Chicken Salad.
Heres my recipe.

Pinoy Chicken Salad


1 whole chicken (cut into pieces)
2 cups mayonaisse (plus more if you prefer thicker dressing)
1 cup raisins
1 can pineapple chunks
1 whole onion
1 half cup processed cheese
2 cups elbow macaroni (the smallest packet)

1) Boil the chicken until its tender enough for flaking. ( I use this as an excuse to make chicken stock. Just add a cup each of carrot and onion, half a cup of celery, bayleaf, fresh parsley, and salt and pepper). This usually takes 45 minutes to 1 hour (Quick Chicken Stock)
2) Boil the elbow macaroni for 12 to 14 minutes. Then put the cooked pasta in a colander. Let cool.
3) Chop the onions and combine with the mayo. Season with salt and pepper.
4) Put the cooked pasta and the chicken pasta onto a bowl. Slather with the mayo mixture.
5) Add the raisins and pineapple chunks.
6) Add grated cheese (optional).
7) Serve.

Did I like the Pinoy Chicken Salad with my homemade mayonaisse? I like Chicken Salad and I think no one can really 'murder' Pinoy chicken salad for me. The texture and taste of pineapple and raisins and chicken go so well together. Pineapple gives a tartness and sweetness which makes a good contrast too the saltiness of the chicken. The raisins also provide a pleasant taste, a sweet richness. I was thinking I should add some nuts, maybe cashew, in my next version. However, I had serious issues with the mayonaisse: 1) I kept thinking of salmonella, 2) I kept thinking of 'malansa'. My sister said the salad was great though and that the mayonaisse tasted like true mayo (Secret: I added Best Foods Salad Dressing).

POSTSCRIPT:The fate of the leftover Homemade Mayonaisse. 12:27 PM today while at work, received message from housemate: "Ummm, 'te, may kasalanan kami. Akala namin soup, na-consume namin yung mayo in a wrong way...Minicrowave. Patawad! Patawad! Patawad!!!

Raisin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are quite popular at home, and only a few crumbs are left standing in the cookie jar at the end of the day. The recipe is taken from the Booklover's Cookbook and originally called "Tempting Oatmeal Raisin Cookies." I have modified the recipe to suit the available ingredients in our pantry...

Raisin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


3 egg whites
1/4 cup butter (unsalted)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup raisin
1/2 cup chocolate chips


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) Mix butter and sugar, vanilla, and egg whites in a bowl
3) Add spices, flour, soda, and salt and mix well
4) Stir in oats. Stir in raisins and chips.
5) Scoop tablespoon-sized amounts onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes.

Its really delicious. Even non-cookie lovers like it!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Longganisang Tuguegarao and Mongo with Tinapa Flakes

Mongo with Tinapa, Longganisang Tuguegarao, and Ilocos vinegar with crushed garlic.

You have to try longganisang Tuguegarao, it's so good. I like mine a little burnt, so its crunchy in the outside and then succulent and sharp and garlicky inside. For over a month now, we have been enjoying longganisang Tuguegarao, scrimping on the sausages (with quotas to boot, 3 pcs each per meal etc), afraid that the supply will run out cause then we would have to contact out source for our next fix....And we like eating the longganisa with hot Mongo soup. Its such a perfect match....
Anyway, the longganisang Tuguegarao you can get from anyone whos from Tuguegarao. This should be their pasalubong when they come from the province (Insist! Ha.). I dont know what the secret of the longganisa is - but you just wont get tired of the taste. The Longganisa is certainly a Spanish legacy...or so I thought.
Longganisa vs Chorizo. I always believed that chorizos were the fat sausages in the South (where I come from) and the longganisas were the relatively smaller ones from the North (Luzon). According to one guide to sausages: Fresh Sausages: The Mexican chorizo is a rusty red sausage flavored with garlic, chili powder and other spices, There are several regional variations. Spicy and Coarse textured. Cured Sausages: Spanish version of this sausage is flavored with cayenne, pimiento, or other hot chili peppers. Resembles pepperoni in size and shape. Longaniza is the Portuguese version.
So there, the name doesnt really matter, longaniza is the Portuguese term. The difference in taste is a matter of culinary evolution/history. Even in the places where the chorizo/longaniza originated, there are regional variations.

For the Mongo with Tinapa flakes, heres my modified recipe:

Mongo with Tinapa Flakes:


2 cups mongo
5 pcs tinapa
1 head of garlic (minced)
2 pieces tomatoes
1 cup of dried shrimp
ground chicharon


1. Soak the mongo beans for 30 minutes and then boil in 5 cups of water until the beans are tender. Set aside.
2. Fry the tinapa. Set aside to cool. Flake it (himay?).
3. In a sauce pa, heat a table spoon of oil.
4. Saute the minced garlic. Add the sliced tomatoes.
5. Then add the 1 cup of dried shrimp and thenadd the flakes of tinapa.
6. Add the softened mongo beans.
7. Let simmer. Add powdered chicharon.
8. Season to taste.
9. Serve

Note: Mongo beans tend to soak the water so I kept adding water while the mongo was simmering. Also, best to use smaller tinapa than the big ones. The big ones have bigger bones and it can be irritating to eat the soup when the fish bones get in the way.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kapeng Barako - Dimapilis Coffee in Cavite/Tagaytay

Coffee selection: Kapeng Barako (Liberica), Arabica, Robusta.

When youre in Tagaytay, on your way back to Manila, take a short detour to the Dimapilis coffee house.
Turn left at the ____ Street (Not sure, but its the street you take when you want to reach the Nurture Spa) and then when you reach Collette's you just have to go a little further. On the right side of the street theres a lone building standing with an illustration of a coffee cup on its facade and the words "kapeng barako". Its a very homey place - when youre inside - you feel like a lot of love was involved in creating the space.
They not only also serve a good cup of coffee (which you can drink in the tables outside while viewing the coffee beans drying in the sun), they also sell good coffee beans. Im tempted to say 'artisanal' just so I could use the word. They have an old coffee plantation and they gather their coffee beans from their old (decades old I gather) coffee trees. In this age of one coffee hybrid replacing another one with fancy coffee names, I find comfort in the fact that the coffee beans come from old coffee trees and that these coffee trees have been with the same family. And that they dont put the coffee beans in fancy packages but in this straightforward sensible plastic bag. No fancy names either just Dimapilis coffee and the coffee variety.
The Dimapilis coffee shop also sells a lot of other stuff: mountain sugar, vegetarian meat. There are also coffee mugs for sale. They also sell this device that you use when you make espresso: the cute metal thingy that you put on the stovetop so you can extract the coffee essence through the steam. Or something like that. Its the kind of device that coffee snobs would want to have, for a very good reason - cause they dont want their coffee extracted through the drip method (eg normal Krups coffeemaker method).
The Figaro group of companies recently released a book on coffee. I browsed through it. Would like to buy it if only to read up more on the barako. I once attended a symposium on food where Figaro was one of the sponsors. They have a rather admirable GPOA (general program of action) for Philippine coffee - and its great how they intend to help coffee farmers. Its just that when something becomes a strong BRAND like Figaro, it just leaves me a little cold. Its still Figaro over Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for me - but when you stumble on a darling little place like Dimapilis - you just feel warm all over. Like you just drank a cup of very good coffee.

Other details:
Barako - 1/2 kg - P105
Arabica - 1/4 kg - P90
Robusta - 1/4 kg - P95
They give generous discounts when you buy in bulk.
Delivery - One more thing, they deliver! Yes, they deliver to Metro Manila. They charge P250 for delivery. These are their contact details: (046)8602302/ 0917-5517206

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tiula Itum (Black Soup)

Tiula itum is a Tausug dish. It is exotic even to me. I just had my first taste of the famous Tiula Itum today at Khisna's Muslim Cuisine in Zamboanga. 'Itum' means black. So don't be surprised if you're served a piping hot black broth. As L put it, the blacker the better. Also, the hotter the better, the spicier the better.
Its a black broth of beef or chicken flavored with ginger and turmeric and burned coconut meat. Yes, burned. This famous dish is served during special occasions: weddings, religious festivities, and other celebrations.
The tiula itum is mentioned in a section on Tausug culture website on Filipino weddings:
"The wedding feast is prepared on the eve of the wedding. The quantity prepared depends upon the number of guests expected. The more affluent parents slaughter two or more cows and cook several sacks of rice for the occasion. The tiula itim (black soup) is a favorite dish and is prepared in large quantities in a cawa (vat) or big pot. Rice is cooked in a big cooking pot or in empty kerosene cans. Native cakes are prepared some days before the wedding day. Food served on this day is similar to the food served during the pag-turul taimah, such as kurma, sati, kari-kari, piassak, tiulah, sambal, and tiulah itum. Prepared viands are placed in a room where some women are signed to facilitate the allocating and serving of food on the trays. The native cakes served with coffee before lunch are bulha (small cakes of different shapes and designs), hantak or kukus (small fried cakes in various shapes) and bang-bang paklud (banana fritters and the like). The feast is served on long tables arranged in the panggong (temporary shed) constructed adjacent to the house for the occasion" (Abdulla, Dr. Norma Abubakar. The Food and Culture of the Tausug. p.90-91 )

Here is the procedure for making the dish as relayed to me by L. I have yet to try it.

Tiula Itum (Black Soup)

Mature Coconut Meat
Beef Stew Meat
Green Chili

1) Roast the coconut meat until its black. Pound the burnt coconut meat to powder.
2) Pound turmeric ginger. Then mix with the coconut dust.
3) Use mixture to rub the beef cuts.
4) Saute onions.
5) Add the beef cuts.
6) Add water. Let boil then simmer until meat is tender.
7) Add chili.
8) Season to taste.

Browsing Slow Food - Philippine Culinary Traditions, I found a dish that used a similar cooking method, the burning of coco meat. In the article, "Favorite Bicol Dish: Adobong Manok sa Sinunog na Gata", the author Elizabeth Romualdez, waxes nostalgic about her favorite dish that 'involves the tedious process of burning freshly-grated coconut". In the case of the Bicolono adobo, the goal is just the extraction of the coconut cream (gata) which has become grayish in color and with black specks due to the burning.
Bicol and Northern Mindanao cuisine share one thing: coconut in all its culinary possibilities. I was surprised to see that the burning of coconut meat is also one of them. Somehow, I wonder about the health repercussions of this dish.
So, did I like my Tiula Itum? I took many tentative sips but I think it falls under the category of 'acquired taste.'

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How to Make Bibingka the Ferino Way

Inside the Granada St branch of Ferino's Bibingka, you will see this painting. I dont know who painted it, but it does represent clearly where bibingka stands in the Filipino way of life. If you look closer, there's a small sign there which says "Ferinos Bibingka - the Country's Best Bibingka." The small nipa stall is illuminated by Christmas lanterns (parol) hanging from the beams, we know that it is misa de gallo. From a distance, people are coming out of the church, another one is alighting from a calesa. The bibingka stall is buzzing with activity: one lady is serving a fresh-from-the-oven bibingka to a customer. One of them is lifting the burning coals off the clay pot. Another one is mixing the galapong and still another one is grating the coconut. In the foreground, a little boy is urging his mother to go to the stall. A mother and child team is also on their way to the bibingka stall.

PROCEDURE (As far as my eyes can see)
1) Assemble the ingredients.

Red Eggs Galapong

2) Pour the galapong over the banana leaf inside the clay pot.

3) Scrape the red egg and place it in the galapong mixture in the clay pot.
4) Cover the pot with the contraption containing the live coals so that the bibingka is heated from above and below. (Called 'bibingkera', another one of the Chinese legacies to Filipino cuisine)
5) After x number of minutes, the bibingka should be cooked. Dont leave the bibingka in the stoves for long.
6) Serve!
Anyway, to continue with the bibingka story, like I said before, this blog might be better off as Ferino's bibingka is so bloody famous, I sent a bare pic of the bibingka to a friend in the US, no captions, and he said: Oh, Ferino's, like it was common knowledge what a Ferino bibingka looked like . Well, before I started eating at JT's I never even knew Ferinos existed. This blogging thing is making me pay attention to things that normally escape me. But I tell you something, the "best bibingka in the country" is no empty boast. I have yet to taste a bibingka that can dethrone Ferino's.

So as you can see in the pictures, there seems to be no secret about how the bibingka is made. You just need the right ingredients (galapong, red eggs, banana leaf etc), the right equipment (note the authentic bibingka equipment), and voila! the bibingka!!! Now, I dont know if they put anything special in the galapong. And I didnt taste the raw galapong to know what they put in there. I didnt ask for secret ingredients as I thought that might be a useless exercise. I just know that Ferinos bibingka tastes just right: slightly sweet bibingka, with the nicest texture, and everything is balanced by the saltiness of the red eggs. I think bibingka should be eaten straight off the stove, there's no other way to eat it. Its like if you eat it x number of hours later, you dont do justice to the bibingka anymore.

Apart from the pictorial of the method (as observed by yours truly), I suggest picking a copy of Nora Daza's A Culinary Life. There is a section on bibingka galapong there. You can also check out other sites that do contain a detailed procedure on bibingka making. You can also try reading up another story re bibingka-making such as Aling Rosa's, as The Joyful Cook has many insights on the methods of Aling Rosa. This includes a short discourse on galapong:

"Aling Rosa doesn't use an old quern, though, for making galapong. She runs grain and water through a corn grinder set to produce fine texture, but flour that is not as fine as wheat flour. That's part of the reason her cakes still taste old-fashion. They're a bit gritty-like biting into sand from Bohol resembling fine white granulated sugar rather than sand from Boracay that's like confectioner's sugar," TJC explained. "It's become a charming custom for her to still expect customers to send eggs if they want them in their cake. The number of eggs suggests if the bibingka is for a special occasion. Only slight fermentation occurs when the galapong rests, making the bibingka rise. By adding beaten eggs to batter, cakes rise a little more and get a lighter texture. Baking powder is definitely not in her heirloom recipe," Sandok said.

For those who want to try making this at home, if you have a bibingkera or if you dare to make one, here's a recipe taken from another website, Filipino Foods:

Bibingka Especial
1 cup thick galapong1/2 cup white sugar2 teaspoons baking powder2 tablespoons melted butter4 tbsps. sugar for topping3 eggs, well beaten1 cup coconut milk3 tbsps. grated cheese

To make Galapong:
Soak rice in equal amount of water overnight. Grind and let stand until the next day. Add sugar to the galapong. Add baking powder, melted butter and the well beaten eggs and coconut milk. Mix well. Pour a thin layer of this batter into hot (native clay) baking pan or molds lined with banana leaf which has been passed over an open flame. Cover each baking dish with a galvanized iron sheet with live embers on it. When almost cooked sprinkle grated cheese and sugar on top of each and cover again. Continue baking until brown; brush top with melted butter and serve hot with grated coconut.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Joy of Eating at Emiljoy's

Chopsuey with fresh Tofu
Mussels on fire!

A selection of fish and meat for grilling
Only four years in existence, Emiljoy's strong presence in the Manila street-eating scene is literally stopping traffic along Remedios St. It has certainly invaded the 'front yard' of its next door neighbors, De Cut Salon and Cinco Hermanas, as it sets up more monobloc chairs and tables to accommodate the increasing number of its loyal dining patrons.
What's the fuss all about? Cheap eats, fresh meat and fish, vegetables, and an al fresco setting. Grilled meats/barbecue is a usual occurrence in the Philippine street eating scene but at Emiljoy's, you won't gag on the meat as they also serve a mean vegetable chopsuey (with fresh hard tofu, carrots, and tenga ng daga) and a selection of soups (halaan, mussel, etc). If you eat there often enough, they will hand you a bowl of their chicken broth or whatever else is cooking in the soup pot without you asking for it. The halaan soup, with fresh shells, tofu, and wonderful broth is my personal favorite.
Their other popular items are chicken ass barbecue, tenga ng baboy barbecue (pig's ears), liempo, and fried tilapia. They also serve baboy ramo (wild boar), pancit canton, bijon guisado, grilled tuna belly, crispy pata, kambing, and even lomi.

#529 Remedios St. cor Mother Ignacia St
(in front of Tia Maria's)

What you will find in Granada St Corner Valencia: Bacolod Chicken, Sinamak, and Joel Torre's Manukan Grille

Joel Torre is a hero to indie filmdom. He appears in student thesis films without charging talent fees. For me, Joel Torre is the quintessential Filipino actor (OK, so Pen Medina too). If you're a Joel Torre Fan (Batang West Side, Oro, Plata, Mata), you might want to check out his restaurant too. We had late lunch at the Granada-Valencia branch yesterday, an unpretentious place, with posters from some of Torre's movies, plays, and social concerns (eg RockEd fundraising concert for Leyte landslide victims). Interesting area, by the way, it should be renamed Bibingka Country. The open air resto is next door to Ferrino's Bibingka and a few doors away is the Homemade Carrot Cake (that also sells bibingka galapong) .

At the Manukan Grille they serve Bacolod Inasal, Kansi (Ilonggo Bulalo), Kaldo (Kansi Broth), and of course, Batchoy. They also have atchara and you can have extra servings of Garlic Chips and Chicken Oil (stuff you pour over rice). Theres lots of sinamak and calamansi (Yey!). Chicken oil is a killer but it tastes like heaven so I suggest you request for extra. If its too greasy for you, try it with sinamak, the ubiquitous Bacolod native palm vinegar flavored with chili, garlic, onion, ginger, and other magic spices. Now, if youre dying for kansi, go there for dinner, as it is a night specialty. In the afternoon, its not so hot in the Valencia area. Eating inasal at the Manukan Grille transports me to my childhood in the province - delicious chicken dipped in flavored vinegar, greasy rice, greasy fingers, a van unloading San Miguel Beer and far away, the din of boys playing basketball in a court in the middle of the steet.

Manukan is open until 1AM in the morning.

Manukan Grille Granada Corner Valencia St, Ortigas Avenue Extension, Quezon City (7219025)

The best bibingka in the Philippines (and why bringing bibingka in the US is an imperative)

Im seriously considering renaming this blog to

Ferrinos Bibingka Granada Corner Valencia St, Ortigas Avenue Extension, Quezon City

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bitter Coffee at Cafe Puccini

Strangers drinking coffee at the Cafe Puccini in Fort Bonifacio. If people watching is your thing, theres something to be had about having late night coffee at Cafe Puccini. A friend swears she was rubbing elbows with Pops Fernandez there several months ago. Lots of elbow room at the coffee shop though. They have quite a selection of cakes (Mango Tango, Blueberry cheesecake, Kahlua Tiramisu), huge slices by the way, but at past 12 midnight the cakes had this frigid look ( Read me: there's a reason why Im still here at past midnight).
About the waitresses, I think they should get some Jollibee training first: Hi Maam! What do you want Maam? Care to have Double Yum? The one who gave us coffee had a perpetually pinched look, like she wanted us out of there. But then again, it was way past midnight, and the place was still packed. Maybe she was just tired.
Whatever happens, don't try their cafe correte. Its an evil, bitter concoction masquerading as expresso. It will ruin coffee for you for good.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Chocolate Castle Fantasy

Finally bought the wheat flour (coarse) from the Castle of Baking and Confectionary Supplies for the potato bread. I dont know who built this castle but he/she must have fulfilled a childhood fantasy (see picture). Its pure whimsy in the middle of the Cubao asphalt jungle. The Chocolate Castle also houses a training center for baking. They have reasonable rates for the classes, ranging from P800 to P1200. Cool fact: they have classes on making pan de sal, mongo rolls, empanada etc. And if youre too busy to visit the Cubao area on a regular basis for the classes, you can buy their DVDs on baking. Chef Annie has DVDs on making crinkles, cinnamon rolls, pan de sal (!), and other goodies. Its just P399.

Baking Soda
- Australia/U.S.A.
Baking Powder
- Calumet
- Magnolia, Anchor etc.
Chocolate Chips, Droplets Blocks etc.
- Available in different brands
-All Purpose Flour-Bread Flour(primera or first class)-Cake Flour (soft flour)-Corn Flour or Starch-Potato Flour or Starch
- Extract, Oil or Powdered Base
Food Coloring
- Local and Imported, in powdered and gel form
Margarine: Refrigerated
- Baker's Best, Buttercup, Dari-Creme, Butterfresh etc.
Milk: in powdered form
- Full Cream, Butter Milk, Skim Milk and Whey (Australia)
- Iodized from China/Asia
- a wide variety of fat/shortening: for greasing, for breads, for puff pastry, for chocolates, non-ref margarines etc.
- Granulated, Caster, Powdered (confectionery or icing), Brown, dark Brown, Muscovado and Powdered Brown Sugars

Chocolate Lover Inc - Cubao QC Check their website
MAIN: 45 P. Tuazon Blvd. Corner C. Benites St. Cubao Q.C. Philippines 1109Tel. Nos. 724-4964 / 724-5752 / 411-7474BRANCH: CLI WELCOME ROTONDA# 2 Kitanlad Corner Quezon Blvd.Tel. Nos. 732-8576

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (1984)

The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book
A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking
1984 by the Blue Mountain Center for Meditation, inc.

This bread bible is the product of over 15 years of bread baking by Laurel and company, thats an estimated 20,000 breads. And they use, take note, whole-grain pre-white flour. No white flour here.
My efforts at bread-making began and ended with banana bread, and I used white flour. Baking is an exact science so my koboy skills in the kitchen dont get me too far in this area. Still, my string of baking failures has not dampened my enthusiasm. Just last weekend, I baked sweet potato muffins. My housemates called them mukies, cause they looked more like cookies. They tasted more of cinnamon than sweet potato.
This weekend Im all set to have another crack at breadmaking. This time, I come armed with the Bread Book. So far, Ive read only the introduction by the author to the joys of breadbaking as well as the chapter on baking your first 'loaf for learning'. Already, Im sold on the idea.
On breadmaking, Laurel has this to say:
"Good breadbaking is much more, though, than just a good outlet. At certain critical junctures, you really have got to block out extraneous goings-on and attend meticulously to small details. Far from being onerous, these are more exacting phases of the baking process can also be the most calming - precisely because they do require such powerful cocnentration. And the very fact that so much of oneself is called upon, in the way of artistry and resourcefulness, makes the whole business that much more gratifying - enhances the quality of life overall. "
It gets more interesting as Laurel convinces the reader to reinstate breadbaking as a home-based activity as it 'changes the home too.' The kitchen then starts to 'exert its own gentle tug,a strong counterforce to the thousand and one pulls that would draw them out and away."
For this Saturday, I shall attempt pp 286 to 287, Potato Bread.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sopa Ajo de Corriente at the Casino

We had a very late lunch at the Casino Espanol de Manila. We had the garlic soup: a winner. Im not sure what the stock is made of but the soup was very flavorful. It had slices of garlic, croutons, and eggs as thickener. I just wrote a kilometric blog but being the blogbobo that I am, I managed to delete the entire entry. Will try to regain the lost equilibrium when Ive rummaged through the doggie bag from the Casino. I feel like having another forkful of the jamon serrano iberico (strange, I read in another blog that there is a jamon serrano and a jamon iberico and the latter is cured longer. At the Casino, there is a jamon serrano iberico). Ayayay.

Food at the postcolonial Casino Espanol
(To resume...) We were served with a plate of the jamon serrano iberico - pink slivers of ham with a very clean, almost cheese-like taste. I was reminded of the aftertaste of really good chicharon. I guess it must be the umami, that distinctive taste of glutamate. We also had warm bread with butter. We asked the very nice waiter whether they baked bread too but he said no and gave us the address of the bakery (Village Breadhouse). When the waiter finally served us the pollo a la sevillana, we were already quite full and we could only stare at the chicken.
There is an old world feel to the Casino. George, the really nice waiter, has been with the Casino for twenty years. The guy has mastered his art: I could picture him as a butler in one of those silent, intense butler movies (what was the last good one? the Henry Jamesian one?) - genteel, silent, and dignified. George told us that the Casino has been around for 112 years! Truth is, if I hadnt learned that the Instituto de Cervantes had transferred in the area, I wouldnt have realized that the Casino Espanol existed at all.
A quick research reveals that there are many Casino Espanols in the country. Cebu and Iloilo both had casino espanols. From the descriptions given, the casino espanol is an Spanish social club, it must have been a very chichi club during the colonial period. Although a recent article says that these Spanish clubs are simply called 'casinos' eventhough no gambling really takes place, I also came across another article where the Casino Espanol de Manila is mentioned in relation to gambling. In the "Specifications of the Grievances of the Filipinos", described as the most important Document the Filipinos have issued, there was a specific complaint against the reward given to the 'cowardly and miserable' Peninsulars who abused their position, in particular the Peninsular Rafael Comenge, President of the Casino, who exacted certain amounts from the gamblers of Casino Espanol.

In postcolonial Philippines, stigma seems to have gone out of being President of the Casino and it seems to be a badge of honor to be part of the club.

Anyway, Im sure there are other interesting tidbits to be learned there. What I want to know now is: what changes have been made to their menu since the last hundrer years? Were the Spaniards of old also enjoying the slivers of jamon serrano iberico? Most probably. Now that is an item for archival research.

Buy good French bread at
Village Breadhouse
1149 Estrada St., Singalong Manila
Tel 523-7915

Casino Espanol de Manila, A Century Hence

Casino Espanol de Manila
855 Teodoro M Kalaw St
Ermita, Manila

A sampling of what they serve:
Appetizers - Queso-manchego, Fuet Extra Sin Pimienta, Vienna Sausage, Angulas 'La Gula del Norte, Lomo Iberico Embuchado, Chorizo Pamplona, Chorizo Palacios, Chorizo Julian Martin Iberico, Jamon Serrano Iberico, Sardinas (escuris)
Sopas - Sopa de ajo corriente, sopa de ajo seca, sopa de champignon, sopa de esparragos, sopa de cebolla, gazpacho andaluza, consomme al jerez, sopa de maiz con cangrejo
Sopas especiales - fabada asturiano, pote gallego, potaje de garbanzos, potaje de habicuelas, potaje de lentejas, sopa bullavesa
Platos especiales - paella ala valenciana, arroz ala marinera, arroz negro, paella jampalaya, lengua ala financiera, callos ala andaluza, bacalao ala Vizcaira

Monday, March 06, 2006

Shawarma Snack Center in Malate, Manila

Shawarma Snack Center
Emil Salas St, Malate, Manila

Best kabbab in Metro Manila - Tender halal beef grilled to perfection served with charred tomatoes, native onions, chopped parsley, and a piece of warm pita bread. To complete the kabbab experience, you have to douse the beef with generous helpings of the homemade chili sauce and garlic sauce. Yum. I usually order sweet yogurt drink with the kabbab to neutralize the strong attack of the chili sauce. I dont know what makes their grilled beef so flavorful, since they simply grill the kabbab outside the snack house (in the sidewalk) in a makeshift griller made out of a drum. Interesting looking contraption, I must say.
Oh, they also have authentic Mideast 'budget meals' at P85. The beef korma and chicken curry are staples. They serve it with either pita bread or with rice. Skip the budget meal if youre really hungry cause the serving size might not be enough to sate hunger pangs.
Their cook is a Filipino who spent a long time cooking in Saudi Arabia.

Menu at the Shawarma Snack Center
Chicken Tikka - P165
Kabbab - P 165
Beef Tikka - P175
Mix Barbecue - P165

Sizzling shawarma beef - P150
Shawarrice - P95
Sizzling shawarma chicken - P150

Vegetable platter - P165
Falafel - P75
Hommous - P75
Hommous with Foul - P85
Foul - P75
Labaneh - P75
Motabal - P75
Yoghurt Salad- P75
Green Salad - P60
Tahina Salad - P75
Tabbouleh - P150

Cooked Dishes
Kabsah chicken - P200
Qurma - P120
Kheema - P120
Chicken Curry - P120
Bamya - P120
Kofta - P120
Mosaqah - P120
Oxbrain - P120
Shaksoka - P75

If youre in the Malate area, visit the Shawarma Snack Center along Emil Salas St. in Malate. Coming from Robinsons Manila area, take the Adriatico exit, turn left, and then turn right in the first corner. The next block is where the snack center is.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Intramuros - Pretty Flowers at the Flora Filipino Expo

Philippine Orchid Society (60th anniversary)
Philippine Horticultural Society (30th anniversary)
Intramuros Manila

I'm not a flower person. I've always maintained that I prefer gumamela over roses, nevermind the imported tulips. This afternoon we stumbled on the Flora Filipino Expo in Intramuros. Driven by the memory of Aling Nena's goto, we were looking for street goto somewhere in Intramuros but before we could reach the carinderias in the far end we passed by the all spruced up Wow Philippines tent (Clam Shell?) abloom with flowers and plants of various species. We stopped in our tracks, goto momentarily forgotten, and surveyed the beautiful blooms.
Unforgettable plants: I liked the bonsai kalachuchi plants from Thailand. They cost the earth: one particularly robust looking plant had a P15T tag. It looked like the baobab drawing in The Little Prince except that it had bright red flowers. There were also some bonsai kalachuchi that had white flowers. Imagine your normal kalachuchi but with a bloated trunk (ala-Baobab). They managed to propagate the species in numerous pots. I wager five years from now, the price tag will be less atrocious.
Of course, I cannot not mention the hibiscus. A guy also sold hibiscus (gumamela) in all its permutations. Pretty, pretty flower. He showed me the Filipino varieties - yellow, orange, etc. The local varieties carried reasonable price tags. He also showed me the Australian and Hawaiian varieties. These blooms had more intense colors and strangely looked delicate. Gumamelas have always struck me as sturdy looking, blooms, stems, leaves and all. Anyway, for those who are into gumamelas and who have green thumbs, the owner has a store in Calamba, Laguna. He said he realized early on the commercial potential of the hibiscus. "The gumamela is a very Filipino flower," he further added.
I wish I had a house with a garden where I can plant plenty of hibiscus.
My friends bought herbs which sold for 3 plants for P100. They bought oregano, basil, and sweet basil. Oh lala. So for those who intend to start herb gardens, you might want to check out the scene at the Flora Filipino Expo in Intramuros. The expo runs until March nth 2006.

Intramuros Gotohan etc.

Lasa ng goto sa me carinderia malapit sa WowPhilippines tent: Parang me Knorr beef cube. We were disappointed with the taste of the goto in the Intramuros carinderia. So if you see the above sign (see Pix 2) and the carinderia, skip the goto and try the boiled egg instead. You can't go wrong with boiled egg. Unless you are really famished, don't go to the carinderias here for goto.