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The Theoretical Cook


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Baby Back Ribs Adobo

Adobo is the easiest dish to make. I just learned a new adobo trick!
Spent Saturday with my sister who was craving for chicken adobo. She had found a recipe of the famous dish in Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, and I was curious to see what Bittman's version was. It seems like Bittman has lots of Pinoy friends because he described adobo as 'probably the tastiest chicken dish'. The curious thing about his recipe is that it called for grilling or roasting the chicken after you have poached it in the classic vinegar-soy sauce-garlic- bay-leaves marinade. As far as I know, you poach the chicken and then you saute it in garlic again to come up with the delicious adobo. Well, nothing wrong with trying a new technique, so I followed Bittman's recipe to the letter. The results were truly outstanding (although I dont have visual proof). Bittman's opus is such a trusty, reliable, simple cookbook - and so far, not one cooking disaster from his recipes. If you can buy only one cookbook, then let his be it.
I've decided to do the same trick, poach meat-then-grill, with baby back ribs. Here's the result of my culinary experiment:

Baby Back Ribs Adobo

1/2 kilo baby back ribs

For the marinade:
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar (I used balsamic cause I ran out of the native vinegar)
4 pcs bay leaves
1 clove garlic
black pepper

1) Marinate the baby back ribs in soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, pepper, and garlic solution for 20 minutes.
2) Transfer the marinade and the ribs in a sauce pan and let simmer until the meat is tender.
3) Remove the ribs and grill until slightly browned.
4) Leave the marinade/sauce simmering. Reduce to a cup. Thicken with flour or cornstarch (optional).
5) Serve the grilled ribs with sauce.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Amy Sedaris in the Food Service Industry

I intend to join the food service industry someday. I already have a friend who works in a coffee shop (management engineer), another one who peels potatoes in a luxury cruise ship (and he had a degree in economics) - so the idea of me working as a waitress in a decent restaurant is not really so far out. It would be good if I owned the restauarnt too, but that's far out.
Amy Sedaris, who makes us laugh, is a waitress. Since I've already started this disgusting habit of cutting and pasting for the blog, I might as well continue. My fabulous gay best friend (FGBF) insists that I accompany him on the 28th for a book signing by David Sedaris. I don't care for D Sedaris; I only read him to gratify my FGBF's desire for talkathon on D Sedaris. But his sister, Amy Sedaris, is another matter. Amy is disgustingly funny. FGBF lent me his copy of Strangers with Candy and the entire madhouse-youth-hostel where I lived ground to a halt.

DAVID: You've had a long career in food service. How has that served as material for your comedy?
AMY: It helps with your timing, your memory, getting characters from people. I like jobs that deal with the public. I love when a customer gets in a really bad mood, gets cranky and treats you like shit.
DAVID: Have you ever based a character on a customer you've had?
AMY: Yeah, sure.
DAVID: Can you think of one?
AMY: Can't think of one.
DAVID: Maybe you just piece different people together to form one character.
AMY: Yeah, that's what you do. You just get an idea of how they are ... how they treat you. Treat you like a slave.
DAVID: Are women and men different as diners?
AMY: Women want everything on the side. I want the sauce on the side. What kind of dressing would you like? On the side. I want this, but instead of eggs, can I have onions? They change everything about an item on the menu.
DAVID: How do you think people differ in different parts of the country in terms of restaurant patrons? In the South for instance, it tends to be more chatty between customer and server.
AMY: They go for entertainment. People assume, Well the waitress is going to be there, she'll talk to us. And they don't tip as well, that's for sure. The whole eating-out experience is different. There, it's soup and salad, and salad bars, and iced tea with free refills, that kind of thing. Here's it's different. It's not rude service but you can just be a certain way and people expect it.
DAVID: I understand that you once submitted a list to your employer, Marion's, stating why you should be elected employee of the month.
AMY: Yes, I did.
DAVID: Can we hear it?
AMY: I, Amy Sedaris, should be employee of the month for the following reasons: 1. I'm the oldest and best looking waitress at Marion's. 2. I never have sex with customers during my shift (not even blow jobs!) 3. I've never showed up drunk except for the time I had the root canal and that was doctor's orders. 4. I have never put aspirin in the fish tank. 5. I don't sell drugs during work hours. 6. I once had a TV show. 7. I invented scotch and water which is a very big seller. 8. Even when it's hot I almost always wear shoes and panties. 9. I have a rabbit. 10. It was my idea to provide silverware and napkins so the customers wouldn't have to bring their own. 11. I'm smart, good with my hands, and people like me. 12. I've never been arrested in the state of New York. 13. I encourage people to drink. 14. I really love it here. 15. I'm honest. 16. If I get employee of the month and lose fifteen pounds they'll let me have my TV show back.
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Monday, July 10, 2006

Wong Kar Wai's "Story about Food"

I'm not sure if Wong Kar Wai was being sarcastic here:

liza bear How was the story of In the Mood for Loveconstructed? I heard this was a very long shoot because of the way you work, in blocks.
wong kar-wai Yes. Well, at first we called this film, Story about Food, and there were three stories in it. In fact, In the Mood for Love is only one of the three original stories. It’s about two people who meet each other because they’re neighbors, and they’re always buying noodles. So in the film we had noodles, the staircase, the restaurant and the house. And I realized that this story of the three was the only reason I wanted to make the project, so I expanded it. First I had to build the apartment, because I think the film is like chamber music–all the scenes should take place in the apartment. And so we spent a lot of time defining this apartment, and then we built it. But later on I changed my mind and thought, well, we should go outside and see something else. In Hong Kong now, it’s difficult to find streets or locations that are the same as the old Hong Kong. So we moved to Bangkok, and we shot all the street, taxi and Singapore scenes at the end of the film So were you changing the story during production?
wkw Yes, it’s like we started in a McDonalds for a quick lunch, but then it became a big feast.

Me - Methinks this merits wkw a foodie filmmaker title. I mean to create something so sublime out of a craving for chinese noodles! Would a movie with a title like "The Story of Food" win in Cannes? I mean, would In the Mood for Love be 'inthemoodforlove" if it were called "thestoryoffood"? I ask stupid questions. Lining up also for best foodie filmmaker is Peter Greenaway for The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.

And for Pinoy pride puffing purposes, Wong Kar Wai and Pinoy music:
lb To some people the emotions you displayed on screen may seem strangely Latin–a yearning that never really gets consummated physically. Does that come from your previous experience working in South America?
wkw No, no. I like Latin American literature a lot, and I always think Latin Americans and Italians are very close to the Chinese, especially the women–the jealousy, the passions and the family values. And the Latin music in the film, actually, was very popular in Hong Kong because the music scene at that time was mainly from the Philippines and all the nightclubs had Filipino musicians, so they got Spanish influences there. Latin American music was very popular in the restaurants at that time, that’s why I put it in the film. And I especially like Nat King Cole because he’s my mother’s favorite singer

Why am I thinking about Kar Wai? Saw his shortie The Hand on an empty stomach last night: so today im thinking film, food

Pilgrimage to Antipolo

Sinners and saints troop to Antipolo Church on Sundays. I purged my sins by loitering outside the Church, chatting with the old women selling candles, eating cashew nuts, and shooting the Sunday streetfood scene - from Pinoy lechon, to sotanghon, puto bumbong, bukayo, siomai, suman, and even small japanese cakes!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Attack of the Monster Tilapia:Ginataang Tilapia

I try to avoid cooking fish using water or other liquids. When it comes to fish, I prefer grilling and frying. A recent fish dish at a local resto convinced me to try wet methods though, with less than impressive results. This is one case where my culinary theories really failed me: my 'experimental' method of infusing the fish with herbs through steaming fell flat on its face.
Mangan, the sister restaurant of Ebun, serves Kapampangan fare in the malls. It's a little too pricey for a frugal foodie so I don't usually eat there, preferring the more authentic ethnic cuisine available in the small streets of Manila (outside of the mall). Last Sunday I did not have much of a choice, it was either Mangan or the mall fast food. I went for Mangan. I wasn't expecting anything special, I was there to order my favorite: mongo soup. Since the soup was only P19, I thought I might as well order another dish. They would certainly throw me out if I ordered nothing but mongo soup and rice. Having tried most of their other dishes already, I decided to go for ginataang tilapia. I was pleasantly surprised. I almost finished the tilapia!

Being the copycat that I am, I wanted to make my own (better!) version of the ginataang tilapia. I was determined to enhance the flavor with an assortment of herbs: steam it in water filled with ginger, green chili, spring onion! Poach it in coconut milk! Well, as I later found out, there are other more important considerations than flavor, doneness for instance. Oh, I made the saddest fish dish ever.

The others in the house seemed to take well to the finished product. But it is difficult not to like anything with GATA right? Gata transforms the most ordinary dish. What would happen to laing if there was no gata? I ask very stupid questions.

Ginataang Tilapia

1 pc tilapia ( I used a large tilapia but its not advisable)
2 cups gata ( 1 mature coconut, dessicated)
a bundle of mustard leaves
green chili (chopped)
3 pcs green chili (whole)
ginger (slivered)
garlic (chopped and sauteed)


1) Clean the fish thoroughly.
2) Stuff the fish with chopped green chili and ginger for flavor.
3) Boil 5 cups of water. Throw in some pieces of ginger and chili and other herbs. Steam the fish (this is where I went dismally wrong). Leave the fish to steam for 15 minutes or so.
4) Lift the fish.
5) In another medium sized sauce pan, pour the gata. Flavor with patis, ginger slivers, and whole chilis. Transfer the steamed fish when the gata is boiling.
6) Add the sauteed chopped garlic.
7) Add the mustard leaves.
8) When leaves are tender, serve.

The disgusting thing here, which shows that I was dismally wrong somewhere, is that when I was about to eat some of the fish flesh, there were parts which were a little pink. Yuck. I failed to turn the fish over. I was so concerned that the fish might break apart that I didnt turn it over. SO the side that was face up the whole time wasnt really cooked. I threw the entire thing back into the sauce pan and didnt touch it again. Well, it was gone the following day, devoured by the housemates. But pink fish flesh is something so revolting I resolve never to steam fish again. Poaching is the way to go, when dealing with fish and gata. So much for flavor-enhancing experimental cooking methods.