Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good Morning, Vietnam!-Day 2

The boy didn't get to enjoy yesterday's cancellation of classes as he was grounded from using the computer because he behaved like a five year-old (and not thirteen) Monday night.  That day, I baked this Chocolate Fudge Cake with a Classic Natilla (Spanish Custard) Filling and the icing kept weeping so I decided to not deliver that cake to my friend.  Instead, that cake remained at my home and the boy ended up eating way too much of it for his own good which I had realized only after we had this argument.  Usually he would just accept the sentence and be mumbling to himself like any grounded kid. This time however, it was horrid and horrible replete with flailing arms and screaming made worse by mother nature's apt musical scoring of perfectly timed thunderbolt and lightning (really).  Too much sugar does that to him.  It was just nasty, nasty, nasty.  Then when the sugar rush was done and tears were wiped off, he hugged me and said sorry.  I just hate days like those.

Before I realized he was having a hyperglycemic attack (if there were such a thing), I even extended his grounding to the weekend which was pretty harsh.  So when the dust settled, we spoke and I took it back.  He is a really good kid, you know.  Very obedient and follows rules even if I'm not there to remind him.  Always asks permission before leaving the house and is a sweet and thoughtful Kuya (older brother) to his sister (well--not always).

So days like those are more exception than the rule in our home--usually due to a sugar overdose, in the case of my boy.  Do your kids have hyperglycemic attacks like mine?  Try to recall the times of such bouts and maybe you can trace it to an overwhelming amount of sugar intake in the form of sweets or soda.  It may help you curb such episodes next time.  :-)

Today's make-up lunch box: Tom Cang Rim đưa tươi (Shrimps in Coconut Juice, recipe from Vietnamese Home Cooking For Everyone), Steamed Rice and a wedge of Lime

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Good Morning, Vietnam!

I usually go to WikiTravel for my translations of most common phrases and it's interesting the way because list down stuff you can say in emergency situations like if you get mugged or held-up at gunpoint like "Don't touch me!" or "Can you tell me where the police station is?" or "Leave me alone!"  Really?  Like if you were in Russia being held-up, you are to say "Я вызову полицию! (yah VYH-zah-voo poh-LEE-tsyh-yoo!)--I'll call the Police!"  What about "You sonuvab*tch!  Then run and scream  "Help!"  like (actually it does) your life depended on it--that's what the Nicole Phrasebook would say.:-)

Kidding aside, the Wikitravel phrasebook pages can help you too.  Especially when it comes to dining.  And of all the lists of phrases for dining, I think the one they have on Vietnam is one of the more lengthy ones--and rightfully so.  Which is why I love my mother's home, Vietnam.  I say any place that has French Baguette (crunchy outside, tender and soft crumb) and fresh pressed coffee listed as street food is a place worth going to again and again.  Agree?  And believe me, if you haven't been to Vietnam, the street food culture alone will definitely make it worth your while.  So this week, this is precisely where we are going.

I went there a couple of years back to meet up with my mother who is now based in the United States.  She's been there since I was 7 but even though she's been in America for a long time now, she remains to be a Vietnamese girl in her heart and mind.  Not to mention palate.  Of course she's the best Vietnamese cook I know, and I say this with no biases at all.  Mom and I--we're not so very close, not with the distance and with the absence of so many years.  I'm really more of a Dad's girl, if I'm being honest with you.  So food (her native food, that is) is the one thing that could keep us on the same page for at least a couple of days.  And that is why I have this deep love, understanding and respect for the food of Vietnam.

Today's lunch: Bún chả hà nội (Vietnamese Pork Tenderloin Barbecue), Rice Vermicelli and a tiny bottle of Nuoc Cham.

Sẽ quay lại sớm.  Be back soon.  :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pinoy Cravings

That's the Boy's finger, tapping on his lunch
I can be a very frou-frou girl at times, wanting to eat long and well while sipping some bubbly (pinkie raised) under a fabulous starlit sky.  But most days, I am a very simple girl (some camps will beg to disagree) happy to be reading a good book with a good cup of Joe often times accompanied by simple Pinoy cravings which I happen to have a ton of.  Among these native cravings would be Cassava Cake (Sticky Pudding Made of Grated Cassava and Coconut Milk, topped with a Custard), Pichi-Pichi (Rice cake but made of Cassava and rolled in Shredded Coconut).  Not to be eaten with coffee cravings are any of the following: Chicken and Pork Adobo (Vinegar and Soy Based Stew flavored with Garlic, Whole Peppercorns and Bay Leaves), Chicharon Bulaklak (Like Pork Rinds except is made of innards?), Children's Party Spaghetti (Sweetish and full of Red Hotdogs), Tira-tira (Local candy made of muscovado), and Guinataan (Coconut Cream Stewed Cassava, Yam, Sweetened Bananas, Jackfruit and Tapioca flavored with Pandan Leaves).  The most powerful Pinoy craving I have, however, is Lechon (Whole Roasted Pig) preferably cooked in the manner of Cebu.  With this particular craving, resistance is futile.  Countries like Russia, China, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, America, Mexico have their own styles of roasting but I think our style of roasting can give any of them a run for their money.  Even Anthony Bourdain thinks so!
I have pledged my undying love for the pig in another blog and it is also there I mentioned that Lechon, in my humble opinion, ought to be our national dish.  Admittedly, it is not and should not be everyday food for one will certainly keel over if he ate this on a daily basis.  But that shouldn't count as a point against this glorious, festive food.  And today, we are having this in the kid's lunch box because yesterday's Math mid-terms was a success! 
For this version which I started to make around 5 years ago, I choose a boneless, skin-on belly that has never been inside a freezer.  I pound together, sea-salt, black pepper, lemongrass, shallots, 2 pieces of star anise, and garlic.  I put it on the belly and roll as I would a jelly-roll.  Then it is thrown in the oven until I can tap and hear the magical sound of it's golden, crispy skin as if singing "I'm ready!".:-)

Today's Lunch Box: Lechon Pork Belly scented with a ton of Lemongrass, Native Shallots, Garlic, Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, Star Anise (Filipino-style Porchetta) with a dipping sauce of Soy-Vinegar-Chili-Calamansi and Steamed Rice.

Here's to more celebrations of the Math kind!  
Kain na!  :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kain Na-Part 2

Today is the boy's Math mid-terms so you could understand if I'm a bit antsy.  If you have been reading this blog for a bit, you would already know that I am not the best Mathematician in the world (what an understatement!) and that the subject causes the reverse tilting of the axis in our little planet called home.   Yesterday though, math review happened without much incident.  However, in my anticipation of such imagined problems, I grew myself I nice, plump, paroxysmal yet continuous migraine--the three day kind that you can feel even in your sleep.  So our Yaya (nanny) of 13 years is mumbling under her breath that I should get off the computer already being that I've been complaining of this headache since last night.

Lunch for today is a simple fish dish again of Spanish origin.  They say that it's like a cooked version of Ceviche because it practically has the same ingredients.  When the Chinese arrived upon our shores, they brought with them vast culinary ingredients and skills that have been likewise adapted in our country say for example the addition of soy sauce in our adobo and Escabeche (which is what's in the lunch box today).  In fact, I initially thought that this dish was an early Chinese version of Sweet and Sour Fish, because that's how it tastes--sweet and sour.  But it turns out it is Spanish.  Nice. You learn something new everyday.  :-)

I usually put all sauces on the side, but this time, I just poured it on the fish.  This particular meaty fish (Black Cod) benefits from sitting with the sauce for awhile so that it remains moist the whole time plus it gets to absorb all the sweet-sour flavor.  Also, since the sauce is vinegar-based, it is virtually immune to spoilage which makes it okay to put together with the fish.

Hopefully when the kid gets back from school, he'll have some good news about the mid-terms that will take all this migraine pain away.  Or at least he'll say he enjoyed his lunch.  Hopefully.  :-)

Today's lunch: Black Cod Escabeche (pronounced as es-kah-bet-che and not es-cah-besh), Steamed rice

Kain na!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kain Tayo?

Regardless of your race and stature and regardless of what he happens to be on his table, a true Filipino will invite you to join and sit with him to partake of the same meal uttering with a smile the words "Kain tayo?" (Let's eat?).  Even if you happened to walk in on a family with food barely enough for themselves, you will still get invited to squeeze in to share the meal--  that is true Filipino hospitality for you.    Now before anyone goes of their rocker to call me racist, let me stop you.  I am not.  I just love my country and people a lot.

Today's lunch is a common Filipino beef dish which obviously was of Spanish origin having been under their rule for more than 300 years.  Every Lola (grandmother) has their own version of it and this one is mine (no I'm not yet a Lola and I don't intend to become one anytime soon) because unfortunately, I was too young to have been a lucky recipient of our Lola's legacy who to me is the greatest cook of all time simply because she took care of 10 kids without help and still managed to cook every meal from scratch on a wood-fired stove.  Gordon Ramsay ain't got nothing on my Lola, see?  I know for sure that if I had to do that in this day and age, I'd be writing this blog from inside a heavily-padded room with a 24-hour security detail right outside.  I have only 2 children and yet there are days when they are able to drive me to the brink of insanity-- of course I'm saying this with nothing but love and affection in my heart.:-)

A tip for putting beef in a lunch box, it is best that you cook dishes such as the one here a day before because a.) the flavors develop fully and as a result tastes better the next day and b.) you can  actually skim off the fat so your kid can enjoy a grease-free beef lunch.

Today's Lunch: My Beef Calderetta (spiced with Pimenton dela Vera) topped with Homemade Crinkle Cut Fries, Steamed rice.

Kain tayo?  :-)


Monday, July 18, 2011

Kain Na!

We are doing my most favorite cuisine in the whole, wide world--Filipino!  It is one of the most nuanced cuisines there is, if you ask my opinion.  It is not predominantly any flavor say as for example Korean (which I also love though not as much as my native Filipino), which is either sweet and/or spicy or Indian--aromatic and full of spice (which is not the same as spicy).  Filipino food, like its people, is a literal melting pot of flavors as influenced by a variety of cultures that came upon our shores. And now, because of the influx of our brothers and sisters seeking to find employment abroad, our food continues to evolve as they constantly adapt to whatever is available wherever they are.
I can wax poetic about my country and my people and am known for getting all riled up with haters--more so, with haters who are actually Filipino (there should be a special jail built for traitors like this). And I try to pass on this love of country to my children as they grow.  Both kids speak and understand (Filipino) fluently even if the primary language in school is English--something which I fought hard to instill.  When the boy was in Prep, he asked me not to speak Filipino to him because I sounded like a "Yaya" (nanny) so you could imagine how I panicked while trying to keep a straight face in front of this six year old boy who managed to insult my native language, my household help and me all at the same time.  From then on, I started to speak to him more in Filipino. If people speak to my children in Filipino, they will respond that way too.  They are also both aware of some history (yes even the 5 year old) about current events, who's good, who's bad.  Well, the little one gets her ideas from me obviously but the boy is able to form his own opinions about known political personalities such that once I had to brief him that we were going to be in the same room of a certain politician we were not exactly fans of. I told him that he would have to keep his thoughts to himself unless he wanted to do jail time in his very young age.  I told him I will not bring him food in jail.  Needless to say, he kept his mouth shut.

Admittedly, Filipino food is one of the last cuisines I learned when I was beginning to cook.  Maybe because then, there were no real recipes.  The old ladies measured by gut feel and it was so difficult to replicate the same recipe having used only the feel of ones hands and fingers in measuring ingredients which roughly translated to an ounce of care and a gallon of love.  I think, that after 22 years of cooking, I finally got that part right.  :-)

Today's lunch: Crispy Bicol Express with Turmeric (Deconstructed-- Bacon Cut Pork with Stewed Chilies in Coconut and Turmeric), Crushed Dried Anchovies (For topping the sauce), Garlic Rice

Kain na!  (Let's Eat!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bollywood Week--Day 4

Last post for Bollywood Week today-- and I think we will do this again.  It was a wonderful, educational trip to the mystical country, India.  The boy enjoyed it immensely.  Yesterday, he shared some of the Kerala Fish Curry with his half-Brit classmate, who according to him, was blown away--even pretending he literally was.  So the boy says he's back to hiding his lunch box-- something he did last year, when we did mostly Japanese bento boxes. :-)

Anyway, today is the first screening day of the last installment of Harry Potter and I am so excited to see it, which is why I'll keep it short. I have to work on some stuff before I escape from this Muggle world, if only for a bit. 

Today's lunch: Ginger-Chili Prawns (from the blog Hooked on Heat), Buttered Turmeric Rice, Wedge of Lemon.

See you next week!
नमस्ते Namaste...:-)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bollywood Week-Day 3

Namaste again my friends. We are still in India and today we will be visiting the most popular of its Southern states, Kerala.  It is erstwhile called "Gods own country" by both Indian and foreign adventurers and is likewise known as the Queen of The Arabian Sea Kochi which makes one's imagination go to places of vivid colors and song ala Moulin Rouge in the grand closing scene with Christian and Satine... it must be that beautiful and magical there.  

I'm a bit envious of my brother who has just been to Kerala (one of the many places he went to) last summer to shoot a documentary for he has seen this lush place and travelled there by train, much like the brothers Francis, Peter and Jack Whitman in the film The Darjeeling Limited.  If you haven't seen the film yet, I suggest you do.  It's a film about brothers, mothers and this crazy thing called life that happens in between and around them as they travel through India.  It isn't a heavy film at all, witty, vibrant, subtle and poignant at the same time if that's even possible-- very Wes Anderson.:-)

I made curry today with no advanced preparation.  I made this dish in less that 30 minutes based on a modified recipe from this site called Indian Food Forever.  I used Cream Dory and decided to add the spices to the flour which I used for dredging before frying it in a bit of oil.  While this was happening, I made the curry sauce in another pan.  I like packing the curry sauce separately because it has some coconut components in it.  I just do it this way so if the sauce went bad, though it has never ever happened before, his entire lunch won't go to waste.
So today's lunch is: Kerala Fish Curry (sauce on the side ala Sally of When Harry Met Sally, recipe from Indian Food Forever), Steamed Rice, Lemon and Lime Wedges and some Fried Shallots
नमस्ते Namaste!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bollywood Week-Day 2

Brought the kid to school today on the way to this workshop I'm running in Makati. Put on Coltrane on the CD player to help calm the nerves which I usually have before I go on board. Fortunately, it worked.  Didn't overwork my vocal cords fighting with rude drivers--Yey!:-)

It's Bollywood week as the post said yesterday and we're doing this because I'm tired of smelling the good stuff wafting in our house coming from our neighbor's (who happen to be Indian) kitchen.  It's like some magical, mystical, secret kitchen they've got over there that I have to stop myself from ringing their doorbell if only to ask what they're making.  I can even smell them heating Roti Prata--(YUM!) which I would have put in too in the lunchbox except that it's buttery goodness when cold will transform into some pasty, sticky mess. 

Maybe I should make friends with the lady of the house and ask her to teach me no?  In the meantime, I'm sourcing my recipes from these other wonderful blogs that I'm following.  I go to Tastespotting, type in the food I would like to cook et voila--these scrumptious pictures from a plethora of food blogs come out.  Some even share ancestral recipes could you believe it?  What a truly wonderful, generous culinary world this is!

Today's lunch: Black Pepper Beef (Pepper Lamb in the blog Hooked on Heat), Buttered Turmeric Rice.

नमस्ते-- Namaste!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bollywood Week--Day1

Quick post again.  I'm in the middle of running a workshop for a Japanese-owned pharmaceutical company so I'm just posting this picture. Talk to you tomorrow.

Today's lunch: Deconstructed Chicken Tikka Masala (recipe from the blog Rxforfoodies. with Naan Bread (store-bought).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's Shiok, Lah!

That didn't sound right.  Shiok lah?  :-)  

This is going to be a quick post because it is stressful Thursday and it is one of those extra busy days when I'm running around like a headless chicken (which is what's in the lunchbox).  I must apologize because I did say that this week will be devoted to Lebanese cuisine but I'm afraid it wouldn't be so.  I will continue that some other time.

I had guests for lunch yesterday and I did my Singapore set (Massaman Beef Curry, Hainanese Chicken, Cereal Prawns and Stir-fried Water Spinach AKA Kang-kong).  As usual, I prepared so much and ended up with an extra Hainanese Chicken which is what the boy is having for lunch today.  

Today's Lunch: Hainanese Chicken, Chicken Rice, Homemade Chili Sauce, Dark Soy

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shish Kebab!

Lebanon is a tiny Mediterranean country bounded by the countries Syria (on the northern and eastern borders) and Israel (on the south) and is part of the vast desert we know as the Middle East.  The Middle East conjoins Asia and Europe and as such is both a contributor and recipient of cultural gifts to and from its neighbors.  This is not to say of course that these wonderful people do not possess a culture of their own, for they do.  And how!  Shish kebab!  (I used to say this as an expression to replace some other word that can't be printed here.)

But.  I am not a historical nor a culinary expert.  Just an avid fan of food in all its form and origin. I am its mere student and as a student, I am curious to learn what people eat in other places of the earth.  I always ask friends what food they were able to eat in places they have visited especially when they have just arrived from a place I haven't been to.  I'm happy to say that the boy has acquired this interest too and has a very wide and varied, not to mention, grown up palate too.  

He likes wine in his stews, orders his steak rare and is used to eating food with more exotic spices.  Of course he still likes his pizzas and KFC, but I am glad he's got a very "open-minded" palate which allows him to experience the many different tastes out there.  Middle Eastern food is one of those cuisines he truly enjoys.  He even eats some I myself do not enjoy as much since I find some too aromatic for my taste.   Who knows?  Maybe one day, he'll even want to eat bread. 

Today I made this Lebanese dish the recipe of which came from the same blog, Taste of Beirut.  It's supposed to be this sandwich with Pita pockets for the bread.  He asked me to serve it with rice because the pita would get cold, it won't be so good, it's a mess to which I promptly replied "Ay Shish Kebab!"

Today's lunch:  Shish Taouk (Grilled Lebanese Chicken, done on a smokeless grill), some Buttered Rice with Roasted Peppers, Homemade Toom (Garlic Mayonnaise) and a Tiny bottle of Sriracha 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

(Sabah al Kair) صباح جميل

Good Morning!-- Sabah al Kair in Arabic.  Today's lunch takes us to that region specifically to a place that was once known as the original "Paris of the Orient"--Lebanon. This is probably why I was naturally drawn to this Middle Eastern country in the first place!  You see, my mother is half-French which automatically makes me a natural Francophile.  I love anything and everything remotely French including and especially Olivier Martinez.  :-)

Anyway, I would love to visit Lebanon one day if only for the food though certainly there is much history and art to see in this bustling oasis in the desert.  I imagine walking through the market and swimming in the heady perfume of exotic spices in the city's many souks. The cuisine is just beautiful I tell you.  I am getting acquainted with it now as I promised the boy we will do Lebanese cuisine for this entire week. 

Some years back, we stayed in Doha, Qatar for a couple of weeks to spend summer with the boy's Dad.  There were several Lebanese groceries there where I spent some hours just looking at produce, ingredients and asking folks about how they were used.  Thinking back, the people there probably thought that I was such a pesky customer what with my hundred questions.  But it was truly magical!  The Lebanese flat bread alone was something I wish I too could make because it was so good that I bought a luggage-full of it to bring home.

I found a wonderful blog about Lebanese food called Taste of Beirut.  Just looking through the pictures inspired me to learn more not only about their food but their colorful culture as well.  I made Fish Kibbeh inspired by her recipe which admittedly is not for first time cooks. Her recipe required pine nuts which I didn't have so instead of that, I filled it with almonds. For the sauce which required Tahini paste (which I had none too), I replaced with a yogurt based one which she fortunately had in her entries too.  I am not sure the combination I made for this lunchbox is acceptable in Lebanese practice but I am cooking for my boy--and by his standards, it looked pretty good.  :-)  

Today's lunch: Kibbet samak bel-tarator (without the Tarator or Tahini Sauce) with Yogurt Sauce, Lebanese Rice Pilaf with Roasted Peppers