Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Cut, Err- 3 Dishes

Hello there.  As promised, here are the two other dishes I served for the boy's lunch box.  I originally planned to make four, but classes were suspended Tuesday because of the typhoon so here are the other two.

Babirang, Rice Spice (Korean)
Lunchbox #2 contained Beef Teppanyaki with Enoki Mushrooms which was really just a stir-fry with some onions, the mushrooms and a bit of butter.  The fried rice was seasoned with a sweetish onion sauce a la Pepper Lunch which I made by sweating finely minced onion until they were translucent.  I steeped them overnight with equal parts mirin and Japanese Soy, around 1 tablespoon each.  In the morning I used that sauce to season the fried rice and to that I added some sweet corn and spring onions.  I shaped it in a flat bottomed container, topped it with some more corn and Babirang, a Korean rice spice mix.  Also packed some fudge brownies I baked during the height of the typhoon the previous day.

Lunchbox #3 was transformed into Beef with Brocolli, another stir-fry.  I cooked the brocolli separately and just seasoned it in salt.  When it was done, I put it aside and sauteed in the same pan the remaining beef with 2 slices of ginger and a yellow onion.  And that's it!  If you want this dish to taste more Chinese, you can add some oyster sauce and finish it off with a few dribbles of Sesame Oil.  The rice in this lunch ox was again sprinkled with that yummy Babirang.  :-)

So, there you go.  One cut, 3 dishes.  There's a lot more you can do with this very versatile cut of meat.  You can try most anything to toss it with to make exciting stir-fries.  Just pay attention to the combination of taste, texture, color and you're well on your way to making a better lunch box for your dear kids.

Hope that helped!

Monday, September 26, 2011

One Cut, Four Dishes

This week I will share a very basic mother recipe for sukiyaki cut beef that can be tweaked and transformed in 4 ways.  It is easy, quick and very economical to make and will keep your kid excited as to how it will be transformed next.  As you know, sukiyaki cut is the thinnest possible cut of beef and as such, remains tender even when served cold.  It is also taken from a relatively lean part of the beast such that your child will not complain that the some fat has solidified on the surface of his lunch, in Filipino it's called sebo and it is that yucky powdery and greasy animal fat that clogs arteries.  Yikes!

Here is the mother recipe:
1 K Sukiyaki Cut Beef
1/4 Cup Japanese Soy
1/4 Cup Mirin
1/4 Cup Water

For this mother recipe, just boil the mixture covered until the meat is fully cooked while skimming as much dirt as you can every now and then.  Also, be sure to toss the meat around to separate the pieces so that there won't be just one clump of beef in your pan at the end of the procedure.  Cool then store the mixture in your refrigerator.  At this point, you can portion what you intend to cook the next day and freeze the remainder for future consumption.

For today's lunch box, I did again--as requested by the boy, last week's Teriyaki Tapa and served it with some Kimchi Fried Rice.  For the Teriyaki Tapa, I got a portion of beef from the mother recipe which I sweetened with a bit of honey (not too much, it is lunch remember, not dessert) and stir-fried it in a bit of oil until it was nicely browned with little bit of caramelization.  I finished it off with a teaspoon of butter.  This process takes all of five minutes and I'm telling you that after you've tried this, you will never again buy those heavily-nitrate laden, double-dead versions you find in groceries. 

The Kimchi Fried Rice was made with the help of some Korean-style Furikake which contains Kimchi, some dried nori, sesame seeds and other Korean spices. I think that  Moms should find as many healthy products in the grocery that can help make meals easier, more interesting and of course, yummier for our kids.  There really is a lot out there and I will be featuring some of them in the coming days.

Please do come back tomorrow and we will transform this same cut into a Pepper Lunch Style dish.  Hope to see you then!

Today's Lunch Box:  Teriyaki Tapa and Kimchi Fried Rice.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Japanese Tapsilog (Tapsirog II)

It is stressful Thursday once again and I've been up since 3AM to prepare some special arrangements for today's catering event.  Today was so stressful that I drove the kid to school crying because we had one of our usual arguments...*sighs*.  I think the tears came as a result of a combination of things: some staff drama, not being able to have my usual cup of Joe for the past few days since the other help poured water INSIDE the coffee bean grinder, and the biggest contributor of all--this low-carb diet that I got myself into.  It's driving my carb-addicted mind and body nuts!  I'm wondering if all the trouble it takes to fit into that dress is really worth it.  And to make matters worse, in about a month, we're going to the beach!  I think it's time write a love letter to my waistline:

Dear Waistline,

I don't know how much grovelling I need to do for you to come back.  I realize now that I was wrong and you were right.  All the sweets, cakes and chocolates...the pasta, the bacon and those grilled steaks and fluffy white rice were bound to keep us apart. You are so right for walking out on me as I put that lechon skin in my mouth. 

I know that now and I am sorry.  Please come back to me.

 P.S.  I dedicate Natalie Cole's Miss you Like Crazy  to you

And when I hold you in my arms I promise you
You're gonna feel a love that's beautiful and true
This time I'll love you even better, than I ever did before...lalalalalala)

Now if it were that easy, life would be wonderful.

Today's lunch:  Teriyaki Tapa, Japanese Style Omelet, Shio-Spiced Fresh Bacon, Garlic Rice with Furikake and some Korean Chapjae

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sleeping With The Fishes (And Some Homemade Mango Chutney)

The one thing you shouldn't be when you do the groceries is hungry.  You'll have the tendency to buy twice more than you really should even when you have a list. Believe me, I have stuff in my pantry I don't remember buying and have no recollection what to make of.  However, the hunger works when I am trying to develop a dish, a process I read about and learned from a much respected chef here in Manila, Billy King.  One becomes truly creative in designing menus and dishes when one is starving.  I imagine the guy who made that burger out of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, bacon and cheese hadn't eaten for two weeks.  Not only was he hungry, he completely didn't care if he died after a bite.  

Today's post however was not a result of me being hungry but rather me being too busy.  In fact I had just decided what to make for today after having half a sandwich for dinner last night (I'm on a semi-diet and don't ask me what that is).  The thing was, the boy had some pork for lunch yesterday.  And I hadn't gone to the grocery yet so what was in the freezer was more pork and some fish steaks.  Obviously, I had to work with the fish steaks which I'd been struggling what to make of a good part of the day.  So finally, I went on Tastespotting, typed in fish steak on the search button and bada bing, bada boom...Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.  (Sorry, nobody's dying here--just a little Godfather moment.)  We got us some lunch ideas.

Thank you to Kevin of Closet Cooking because that is where I got the recipe for today's lunch.  Fish steak?  Check. Mango Chutney?  Check. Lentils?  No check.  We had no lentils, so instead of that, I made curried fried rice.  And this is what we do with recipes, we let them inspire us and be creative to work on the stuff we have in the pantry.  You don't have to confess for not following it to the dot.  :-)

Today's lunch box: Fish Steaks with Homemade Mango Chutney spiced with Chili, Turmeric and Pink Peppercorns, Curried Fried Rice with some Homemade Vietnamese Ham

So which country do you think this dish came from?  :-) 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another Japanese Bento

I'm sorry but I think the Japanese are the bomb when it comes to lunch box making.  I don't think I'll have to convince anybody of this fact.  Y'all just have to look at the Japanese bento blogs to see what I mean.  They are not only beautiful to look at but lovely to eat as well.  Each box pays attention to an experience that is quite unique to every set and is built around a concept based on the perfect combination of color, texture and taste.

One day, I'll be just as good as them.

Today's lunch box: Buta No Kakuni (slow-cooked pork belly stew), sauce in the middle (Soft, sweet and umami), Ebi Mayo (crispy fried shrimps with sweet mayonnaise based sauce) (crunchy, spicy, salty, sweetish sauce) recipe from, Steamed Rice with Furikake (crunchy, salty and umami)

Good Morning!  :-)

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Ode to High School and Garlic Steak

Last night, I introduced the boy to an iconic meal in my alma mater--Garlic Steak. Nobody in my school and batch did not know or love this meal. And I was just beyond myself to see that the boy loved it just as much.  Of course I'm not sure if I did it quite the same way as the concessionaire did but if memory served me right, I think it was pretty spot on. However, the boy expressed a little anxiety over it being his lunch the next day knowing that it would turn cold in his lunch box.  I replied that that was exactly how I ate it many school years ago.  

Let me just tell you off-hand before you begin imagining thick, juicy, well-marbled expensive cuts of meat: this steak was no wagyu. It was this thin and dry cut of beef from an unidentified and undeclared anatomy of the cow (though I suspect it was sirloin) that wasn't a Ribeye or a Porterhouse or a New York strip.  It was served in room temperature, not freshly grilled or off the pan, on a military type (not the shiny kind) mess hall plate--the one with compartments with a side of rice and gravy on which they dribbled some kind of garlic oil and some toasty garlic bits.  Okay, so cold steak doesn't sound so very appetizing but this has got to be the only exception to that rule.  It was cold, dry and served without special accoutrements but it was really good. Really good. Did I mention it was good?  In fact, I think my school mates would defend this steak and beat up in the "field" (where most fist fights occur) whoever dares say anything ill of this steak. What can I say?  We were a crazy bunch.  And those were pretty d*mn, crazy, good times.

High school was this great roller coaster ride for most of us where the highs were really high and the lows, super low.  Of course the cause of both highs and lows were as inane as ones crush having a crush right back on you or whether they had recently acquired a new girlfriend.  Yes, we were a whole shallow bunch.  And sometimes I have to remind myself that the boy is going through that very same roller coaster ride right now.  I have to make this conscious effort to remember how silly, shallow and carefree I was when I was his age.  And I know I have to do this because I think sometimes, I could be quite unrealistic and unfair with my expectations of a 13 year old.

How I wish he would enjoy high school as much as I did. I wish that he be able to look forward to each day no matter how shallow the reason be (crush, shortened periods, movie day, whatever).  I wish that he nurtures his inner comic that he will much need to help survive some of the more difficult moments in his grown up life.  I think that this ability to laugh at the world and at oneself is a life skill that people should truly learn no? But most of all, I hope that he be able to develop the friendships I was able to when I was his age.  After all, my girlfriends, the ones who I know without a doubt has my back at ALL times, the ones I know will not sell me out even for a million bucks, I found them all in high school. Of course I met a couple of treasures later on in life, but the ones from high school share a common history and for that alone, the bond can never be duplicated.  

Here's to my girlfriends, my high school and Garlic Steak.  Possibly the best steak in the whole, wide, world.  :-)

Today's Lunch Box:  Garlic Steak, Pan drippings with Toasted Garlic, Buttered Vegetables, Leche Flan made of Carabao's Milk

Thursday, September 15, 2011

From Vietnam, With Love--Day 3

I was fretting leaving the 2 little people here alone with our yaya (nanny) for a couple of days fearing that the younger one (5 years of age) will be crying herself to sleep without me by her side.  My fear regarding the boy on the other hand was mostly anxiety over the idea of him not getting up in time to have some breakfast before he leaves for school.   I got more anxious on my way out because the girl bawled her eyes out such that the nanny had to bring her out to play.  Enzo on the other hand was fooling around the car as the driver pulled out of the driveway.  He was making funny faces and googly eyes like he was just three years old and then right before we were to drive away, his face became both serious and sad.  I pulled down the window and said: "I told you, you will miss me."  And then he stuck his tongue out, ran away and proceeded acting crazy.

 Both fears of course were unfounded as they did just fine without me.  There were no crying bouts and the boy left for school in time every time.  If anything, they behaved better without me fussing about.  I left little notes, cards and gifts for my daughter to open, read and play with every morning she woke up and each night before she went to sleep.  I also planned the boy's lunch boxes that were prepared by Yaya the days I obviously couldn't. They couldn't take pictures of the lunches though since I brought along the camera with me.  All in all, it was quite uneventful here at home while I was gone. 

A part of me was happy that they can actually survive without me--after a day, they wouldn't even reply to the text messages I sent them and relegated the task to their nanny.  They were busy with their little things, playing with friends, doing homework, going on the computer such that they didn't mind or notice that their Mother wasn't around.  I think I got a little sneak preview on how it will be like somewhere down the road and I think it's not so bad.  Of course I'll miss their little fingers and their belly laugh and the way they look at me like I was some kind of a hero.  But I think I'll get by when the time comes that they get to live their lives because then I'll also get to live mine.

But of course I am getting a way ahead of myself (again) because when I got home, I was still glad to see a great, big banner in my baby girl's writing:  Welcome home Mama.  She hugged me and told me how much she missed me.  The boy?  He hugged me and carried me and the first thing he said to me was, "So what did you eat?"  To which I replied, "I'll make them all for your lunch box next week."   

Today's Lunch Box: Ga Xao Xa Ot (Spicy Lemongrass Chicken), Nem Nuong (Grilled Pork Patties, Steamed Rice

As nice as it is out there, it sure is still nicer to be back home. :-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From Vietnam, With Love-Day 2

Hours before boarding my plane to Manila, I found myself on the backseat of a motor bike thinking that I was about to die.  No kidding.  It was rush hour and we were about 30 minutes (maybe 45 to an hour by a car driving normally) to the first district which we were going to in order to pay for my change in luggage weight.  Apparently, a 20 kilo baggage allowance wasn't enough and rather than paying the exorbitant fee at check-in, we opted to pay for the extra 10 via travel agency.

The boy driving this bike was also our driver around town so I trusted that he knew his way about because there was no way we could communicate with each other as he didn't speak a word of English and we didn't have any time to lose because it was already past 5 in the afternoon. The agency was to close at 6.  Okay, so we were in a hurry, but my goodness did he drive like we were being chased by Godzilla himself.  We keep complaining in Manila that motorcycle drivers here are nasty but compared to them, the motorcyclists here in Manila are angels, I tell you.  There was no street we didn't counter-flow. No "no left turn" sign we followed.  No intersection we did not dare drive through even with cars and buses bustling through from both directions.  At one point, I just covered my face with my hands thinking that we were surely going to be hit only to look up facing head to head this black car with the driver giving my driver the middle-finger salute.  "Oh so they do that too in Vietnam?"--were my immediate thoughts followed by "Oh we're still alive!"

We did get the job done but when we got back to the hotel, I told Mom this story that I just kept on smiling because at least if I had died, I would have died with a smile on my face.  This made her laugh like a mad woman.  I made this strangling gesture with the driver and said in English "I could kill you now.  Now that I did not die."  More laughter.  I told her too, that while we were driving,  I was thinking to myself that Ho Chih Min at night was beautiful as it was the first time I've seen the place after sunset except that at the same time, I was fearing that it might also be the last knowing for sure that we couldn't possibly get back to the hotel in one piece.  In the end I said that next time, I will gladly pay the $80.00 we saved because surely my life is worth more than that.  Still, more laughter...

It was indeed a trip that put a period on most of the questions I've asked and a journey that was short in the numbers of days but distant in the kilometer reading of my heart.  I would forever remember it as it ended as one of the many exclamation points of my life.  I am thankful for taking the ride to see, hear and hug my Mother again.

Today's lunch box: Chả giò (Vietnamese Egg Rolls), Ca Kho To (Fish Steak Braised in Spicy Caramel Sauce), Steamed Rice.

PS Today is my Mom's birthday.  Happy birthday Mommy, I love you.:-) 

Monday, September 12, 2011

From Vietnam, With Love

I have just returned from a short break to meet up with my Mother in her homeland, Vietnam.  Needless to say, we will be doing this cuisine for a bit having been inspired by the sights, tastes and culture of the Pearl of the Far East.

I arrived in Ho Chih Min forty minutes past midnight and had slept very little until the time I left. It was a happy, tearful, yummy reunion filled with many sporadic bouts of incessant laughter mostly because of my imperfections as a human being.  I think it is not only healthy but also necessary to have a good laugh at oneself every now and then.  A person who cannot do this can't possibly have an all too happy life, no?  I will write more about this trip in my other blog (

In the meantime, here's what's in the lunchbox: Bánh xèo (Vietnamese Crepes filled with Pork, Shrimps and Sprouts.  I made this in a Tamago pan though, to fit into the lunch box), Hấp Với Dừa Tươi (Chicken in Coconut Juice), Steamed Rice and a bottle of Nuoc Cham for the crepes.

See you tomorrow! :-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Getting Out of The Zone

Every now and then I find that I begin to establish and settle into a comfort zone that is aptly comfortable but unfortunately breeds complacency. It happens to the best of us.  I personally become aware of such an event when I return to the same routines such as passing the same routes in driving, offering the same reliable menus, wearing similar type clothes as seen in the fact that I have too many nude colored shoes at the moment (it used to be too much black).  I definitely think it's time for a shock of color in my life.  

It isn't that I'm bored with it all because patterns and a degree of predictability in ones life is nice. Especially when one is living with children.  They need to have a familiar rhythm that makes them feel secure and happy at all times. So at this point, gaining stability isn't only a wanton desire on my part but an explicit need that must be fulfilled for a stress-free existence. However, on the other end of the pole, stability can be the very same thing that leads to getting old--not really physically old but old as in obsolete and dated.  I don't want to be that.  In business or life in general, nobody really wants to become a relic frozen and trapped in the rituals and routines of days gone by.

To help me get out of this zone, I do the following:
  1. Try to do something I don't like doing or something I've never tried before
  2. Learn a new skill and/or update the ones I already have
  3. Travel
  4. Read or surf the net for new things to try
I do the 4th one on a daily basis.  But today, I'm also trying out something which I actually said in previous posts I do not much enjoy, fusion.  I don't like it.  In fact, I'm still iffy about trying out this recipe from Oui, Chef which is this Vanilla Brined Pork Chops with Hot-Sweet Rub.  First, the brine has Vanilla AND Star Anise in it.  Two very distinct flavors and aromas you will never mistake for the other unless of course you're nasally incapacitated.  Looking at and smelling the brine increases my reluctance in going for it because it looked like petrol and smelled something of a witch's brew. But the voice in my head kept repeating "Relic.  Relic.  Relic."  So I went along and brined the chops for 4 hours.  

While waiting, I proceeded to make the rub which was comprised of:  paprika (both sweet and spicy), dry mustard, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, brown sugar and dried thyme. I become more anxious with the cornucopia of spices that filled the kitchen with a heady, intoxicating perfume.  And the voice spoke louder, "Relic, relic, relic."

But of course, this story had a happy ending.  The chops were moist and juicy despite its thickness.  It wasn't overwhelming in its aroma but instead had faint whispers from both the anise and vanilla like a gentle passing memory of a woman's mysterious smile.  It had the perfect balance of smoky and aromatic, and sweet and spicy all in one go.  It got me saying in the end: "Oui, Chef.  I will never doubt thee again."  From my kitchen to yours, a heart felt thank you, Mr. Steve Dunn.  :-)

Today's lunch box contains: Vanilla-Brined King Henry Chops with Hot-Sweet Rub (recipe from Oui, Chef), Mashed Potatoes with Leeks, Buttered Corn and Carrots