Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rest in Peace, Floyd

Just learned that Keith Floyd, one of tv's most beloved chefs, has died. Of all the tv chefs I regularly watch, Floyd was the most infectiously passionate about food (Jamie Oliver and Kylie Kwong come close). He was always genuine and unrestrained, as if his shows knew neither script nor outtake-- in one episode he absent-mindedly cooked a plastic bottlecap for about five minutes before he took it out.

I started to watch him when I was in undergrad, and on days I have to cook my own lunch I'll try out (i.e., bastardise) his recipes. My first forays into cooking foreign food-- Indian and African food-- was inspired by Floyd. And most of what I know (or pretend to know) about French wines was courtesy of the Floyd on France series, where he didn't really care for the practice of spitting out wine during tasting.

If there was anything Floyd was more passionate about than food, it would be alcohol. Rare is his show where he does not take a big swig of wine or beer. Alcohol will always find its way in the recipe, although not being on the ingredient list is no reason for alcohol to disappear. The only episodes where alcohol was absent was when he visited the more conservative Muslim countries where alcohol is banned, and in those episodes he harped about wanting to take a swig.

With all his rich foods and pints of alcohol, I guess it was just about time before the inevitable happened. Rest in peace, Floyd. Hope they have Bourdeaux, Riesling, and Guinness over there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Food Trips 2

Featuring food from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, and Turkey. In chronological order; i.e., as I ate them. See the pictures here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bishkek, Day 1

Erkindik (Freedom) monument on Ala-Too Square, Bishkek

Currency: Kyrgyz Som (KGS)
USD 1 = KGS 43.40; KGS 1 = PHP 1.11

It is Sunday today so I have one rest day in Bishkek before the work starts tomorrow. I arrived at FRU around 2:30am today but got out of the airport around one hour after because of the long lines for visa on arrival and immigration. Tourist season + inefficient immigration procedures = nightmare.

The weather here is very pleasant, around 30C right now but at night it's about 20C. As I wrote during my last time here, Bishkek is a very walkable city. We just spent the last few hours walking around the city centre and the main city landmarks, which are near the Silk Road Lodge in which where we are staying. Not a bad small hotel, although I think it's quite overpriced given its amenities (EUR 105/night). I would've liked to post more of the pics I took today, but the hotel internet is EUR 4.00 for every 100MB of traffic.

Had lunch at the Arzu Cafe, around five minutes walk from the hotel. It serves good Central Asian food-- we had plov (below), mutton shashlik, and shorpo, all washed down with Stella Artois beer made in Kyrgyzstan (much better than the original, in my opinion).

I also bought qute a few grocey items at the Beta Stores, which is a 15-minute walk from the hotel. Beta Stores is a relatively upscale supermarket/department store in Bishkek, but a lot of products are very cheap compared to the costs in Manila. Here are a few price indicators:

1.5 litres mineral water = KGS 17.00
95 grammes fruit yoghurt = KGS 11.00
50 grammes green tea (in 25 tea bags) = KGS 28.00
1 kilo shelled walnuts, unsalted = KGS 351.00
1 kilo dried sultanas = 208.00

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mass-Produced Goodness

Mass-production and good food are two concepts you don't often see in the same sentence, but here are a few products that made them compatible. See the pictures here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hung Wan Cafe & Bakery Shop

My Dear and I ate at a lot of places when we went to Hong Kong but the one place we miss the most is this bakeshop, located just across the Metropark Hotel Mongkok where we stayed. We were hooked on the place after I bought a few buns and an egg tart on a whim, and it quickly became our daily breakfast place.

The venue itself isn't really much: think old-school small Chinese restaurant complete with dingy never-been-scrubbed walls and tiles and, if they had a restroom, you'd probably not want to use it. Really a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, the kind that probably existed since the 1920s, possibly even earlier, and has never been touched by any kind of interior design. It's the kind of place that won't be on any tourist map-- the Hong Kong Tourism Board won't exactly consider its grimy interiors as the island's best representative-- but it is very popular with the locals, who we see every morning when we have breakfast. It's the kind of place that has been around forever making the same things over and over until perfection; unfortunately, cleanliness and ambience aren't among their priorities.

The staff are friendly and they try to accommodate, but they don't speak any English. The menus aren't in English either. If, like us, you don't speak a word of Chinese, ordering will be done via pointing, gestures, and, mercifully, a few common English words. In our case, that one English word was "coffee". Regular tea is served on the house. Oh, bring a jacket-- the aircon is always on full Arctic blast even if it's 20C outside.

Its menu is not so varied-- noodles, baked buns (sweet and savoury), pastries-- but the few things they make they make very well. Our favourite is what we call in Manila as Spanish bread: golden brown top with sesame seeds; perfectly chewy texture; right amount of butter, sugar, and dessicated coconut for filling. They also make great egg tart (nice crumbly crust, subtly flavoured custard) and ham and egg bun (they don't scrimp on the ham or egg)-- in fact, everything we ordered was just superb. By some mysterious method, Hung Wan got the texture of their bread just right. Hong Kong, by the way, makes great breadstuffs, and Hung Wan was the best of them all. Each order of bun or pastry costs between HKD 4 to HKD 7; the Spanish bread costs HKD 5.

The coffee, which is the only drink we knew how to order, wasn't too bad either. Each order is freshly brewed using what looks like an old cheesecloth which has seen better days and some pre-War-looking metal pitchers and steamers. Only old-school coffee making here; no espresso machines in sight. Ordering "coffee" means you're served coffee with heavy cream and sugar already mixed in. I actually prefer black coffee, but I didn't know how to order it in Chinese. In any case, the standard coffee, which costs HKD 10 a cup, is quite thick and heavy-- the closest analogue I can think of is that thick Spanish-style hot chocolate. No coffee in Starbucks has this depth of texture. It was pretty good, actually, and really picked us up for a long day of walking.

Bottomline, best bakeshop ever. If you can get over the looks of the place. Here are the scores:

Quality = 9.0
Size = 7.5
Taste = 9.5
Ambience = 2.0
Service = 6.0
Value = P406.90
Price = HKD 20 = P133.60
Sulit Rating = 2.91 > 1

Here's their address and contact info, lifted from their takeaway plastic bag:

Hung Wan Cafe & Bakery Shop
726 Shanghai St., Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel. 2392-6038, 2393-7852

See the pictures (and this review) here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hong Kong and Macau: Food Pics

See the pictures on my Multiply site here.

Ferrero and Fraud

This is one tough case to crack: Ferrero accused in hazelnut fraud.  Ferrero SpA is the company that makes Ferrero Rocher, Nutella, and tic tacs.  In a nutshell, if the banks' lawyers are to be believed, it is a 22.8-million-euro shell game perpetrated by Turkish hazelnut companies with Ferrero's consent.  Ferrero denies the charge, saying it had nothing to gain from the Turkish companies' actions.  And this, of course, results in a big, er, Nutella-load of lawsuits and legal fees.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hong Kong, Day 2: Stinky Tofu

It's our second day in Hong Kong (see previous posts here and here) and our feet are killing us.  Started the day with some breakfast at a Honk Kong-style pastry shop then went up to The Peak, followed by some brief shopping at Causeway Bay, a long walk along Nathan Road, and a lot of shopping at Ladies' Market (see my Dear's post here).

We've had a lot of good meals here at the Fragrant Harbour and hopefully I'll get to writing about them soon, but as the title suggests this post is about my experience with stinky tofu.  I've heard a lot about this delicacy from travel show hosts, particularly Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain, and Janet Hsieh.  It's reputed to be one of the world's more adventurous foods, often placed in the same level of funkiness with balut and century egg. Now, I like balut and century egg, so I thought stinky tofu shouldn't be that bad.

So there I saw stinky tofu on one of the street stalls around the Ladies' Market, deep fried and sitting on a strainer-- two large, greasy pieces skewered on bamboo satay sticks cost HKD 15.00.  It was crisp and golden brown, not unlike the other deep-fried tofus we get at Chinese restaurants or at home.  It did start reeking its fermented smell at that point, but it's still ok.  Nothing horrid. Yet.

The real assault starts on the first bite-- it has the same texture as other fried tofu, but with the taste of what I think would be the taste of thick cotton socks used for one week straight on a trek through a humid jungle then left in a cupboard with raw fish for a month.  No, I have to correct myself-- the stinky tofu was worse than that.  

Being true to Zimmern's philosophy I finished one piece, which was all I could take.  I just had to throw away the other one, and if you know me you'll know that's something I do not do with a light heart.  The worst part was the aftertaste-- it stays with you in your stomach for a long time and, several hours and more than a few drinks and dishes after, I can still taste it especially when I have a burp.

So, yes, my adventurous tastebuds have met their match.  I wouldn't want to have to eat (or smell) stinky tofu again, but I have to say I'm glad I tried it.  At least I can relate with Zimmern, Bourdain, or Hsieh when they say how disgusting it is.  Being a foodie isn't all about gourmet dishes and haute cuisines.  Sometimes, well, stinky tofu happens.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ethiopian Pork We't

My version of we't (also written as wot or wat), the classic Ethiopian stew.  My Dear and I first tried this dish at Ziggurat, which was more authentic and made of chicken (doro we't).  According to this article, Ethiopians don't eat pork, so there's my first departure from tradition.  Second, this dish should be made with spiced clarified butter (niter kibbeh) and garnished with hard-boiled eggs.  What makes this pork dish we't-style, however, is the cooking method for the onions and the use of berbere spices.


1/2 kilo pork, cubed (menudo cut is best, but I used adobo cut)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup vegetable oil (avoid olive oil as it has a strong flavour)
approx. 1/8 cup berbere spices*, depending on taste
3 medium potatoes, cubed
3 eggplants, cubed
1 lemon
2 cups water

1.  Prior to cooking, marinate the pork in lemon juice.

2.  Cook the onions in an ungreased stew pot until their are dark brown and mostly dry, stirring often to avoid burning.  Remove the pot from the fire from time to time if the heat gets out of hand.  This process, which caramelises the onions that will form the base of the sauce, is an essential step in making we't.

3.  Pour in the cooking oil and berbere spices and mix well.  Chuck in the pork and potatoes and fry until pork changes colour.  

4.  Pour in the water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and leave to simmer.  Braise the pork for about an hour until most of the liquid has reduced.

5.  When the water has mostly evaporated put in the eggplants and continue cooking until they are done. 

For a more traditional we't: (1) use chicken or lamb instead of pork, (2) replace the oil with butter, and (3) put some whole hardboiled eggs during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.  This should be served with some injera bread, but pita bread will do.  Since we already broke more than a few traditions, we ate our we't with steamed rice.


* You can make your own berbere spice mix with cayenne pepper (or any chilli powder), paprika, black pepper, ginger powder, and ground coriander.  The cayenne pepper and paprika should make up most of the spice mix, then add the other spices according to taste.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Doenjang Jjigae (된장찌개)

Made this dish for my Dear a few weeks ago to help cure her colds.  Basically a spicy vegetable stew (jjigae) made with fermented bean paste, or doenjang.  Like most stews, proportions depend mostly on taste, so I'm not bothering with measurements.  Just throw everything into a pot, boil, taste, and adjust as you go along.


firm tofu, cubed
cauliflower, chopped

1.  Put everything into a pot and bring to a boil; cook until cauliflow achieves desired texture.  Taste from time to time and adjust flavours.  

2.  That's it.

Serve piping hot, ideally in a heated ceramic bowl like here.  Cook with some pork belly chunks or bone for a richer soup. 


* I got 1/2 kilo of good doenjang from Gourdo's for P80.

** Although kimchi jjigae also exists, my Korean colleague tells me they don't make a jjigae with both doenjang and kimchi as flavour bases.  To be more authentic, replace the kimchi with chilli flakes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jamaican Jerk Porkchops

"Jerk" does not refer to the one cooking but to the jerk spice mix from Jamaica.  "Jerk" in this case comes from the Quechua charqui, which means dried meat and is the origin of the word "jerky", that staple of, er, people who can probably relate to Larry the Cable Guy.  Jerk spices, whose main ingredients are ground allspice and chilli powder, are used to cure dried meat and as a dry rub for barbecues.


pork chops, butterfly cut
Jamaican jerk spice mix*
red bell peppers
soy sauce (optional)
Worcestershire sauce (optional)
vegetable oil (optional)

1.  Rub the spice mix on both sides of the pork chops.  For more flavour, marinate the meat in some soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce before rubbing in the spice mix.

2.  Slice the bell peppers and lay them on the pork chop so they cover half of the area; fold over the pork chop (hence, the use of the butterfly cut).  You will have some pork chop "sandwiches" with bell pepper and spices in the middle.

3.  Grill until well done; better to use a contact grill so that you will blacken the pork chop.  For more flavour and added moisture, drizzle some oil on the pork prior to grilling.  Take care not to overcook them, lest they dry out.

Serve with steamed rice and a side of salad.


* Most important elements are equal parts allspice and chilli powder (e.g., cayenne pepper).  You may also add other dried herbs and spices such as black pepper, paprika, thyme, garlic, onion, ginger, or cinnamon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Estofado de San Miguel

Spanish-style pork stew with chorizos, potatoes, and three kinds of chiles (bell peppers, dried arbol chiles, and paprika), cooked in San Miguel beer.  I just made this up, but I'm sure there's a traditional recipe just like this somewhere in Spain.  Gave me a chance to use one of the Tefal stew pots we got for our wedding (thanks, Law friends).


1/2 kilo pork, cubed (adobo cut)
2 long links Spanish chorizos (raw, not dried), sliced into chunks
1/3 kilo potatoes, cubed
3-5 bell peppers (depending on size), chopped
1 bottle San Miguel beer
1 garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3-5 dried chile pods (dried chile flakes could also be used)
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
coarsely ground black peppercorns
fennel seeds
laurel leaves

1.  Heat up the cooking oil in a stew pot and fry the dried chiles, ground peppercorns, laurel leaves, and fennel seeds until you start to smell them.  Add garlic and onion until they start to brown.

2.  Add chorizos; this will cool down the pot so wait for the temperature to go back up.  Fry chorizos until lightly cooked and oil turns red; add bell peppers.  If you have time, it would be good to roast then peel the bell peppers prior to cooking.

3.  Add pork and cook until lightly brown or at least until the pork loses its raw colour.

4.  Add potatoes and paprika.  Bring the pot temperature back up and make sure potatoes are well coated with oil.

5.  Pour in vinegar and beer, making sure there is enough liquid to cover the pork, etc.  Quickly bring pot to a boil then bring it down to a simmer.  Cover pot.

6.  Let the stew simmer for about an hour or until most of the liquid has reduced and you are left with a reddish sauce.

Serve with steamed rice and some greens.

This dish is very amenable to reheating as the flavours become stronger after time in the ref; best to reheat in a broiler so you get some crusty bits. I learned to make these kinds of dishes during my severely budget-constrained MA days, but back then I'd put a lot more potatoes than pork to extend the number of servings.  After the pork has gone the tasty potatoes and sauce can be turned into an instant Spanish omelette.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Lunch

Sundays are a great day to stay in and cook, free from the busy hours of weekdays and the errands of Saturdays.  I usually set aside Sundays to make slow-cooking stews that we'll eat the rest of the week, sometimes in different reincarnations.  This Sunday, however, my Dear prepared for us a Filipino-Korean lunch, which, unholy as it sounds, actually worked.  I helped, of course, though it felt new to me to be relegated to prepping in what used to be my own kitchen.

For the Korean part, we had a side dish of sukjunamul (숙주나물), which is basically blanched mung bean sprouts seasoned with minced garlic, sesame oil, ground black pepper, vinegar, and soy sauce.  We put in a tad too much garlic on this one, resulting in a pretty pungent sukjunamul which I liked but my Dear found quite overpowering.

The main course was boiled-then-fried Tuguegarao longganisa, named after the capital city of Cagayan Province.  Compared to the more famous Vigan longganisa, the Tuguegarao longganisa has bigger links, a more yellow colour (thanks to atsuete), and a milder garlic taste.  To serve, they are first boiled in water to fully cook the sausage and render the fat; the links are pricked so they won't burst.  After the water has evaporated you are left with sausage links frying in their own fat, which then browns the longganisas.  

After cooking, we ate the sukjunamul and longganisa with steamed brown rice.  Although both dishes were strongly garlicky, they presented the ingredient differently-- raw and pungent on the sukjunamul while sweet and mild in the longganisa.  The fresh taste of the bean sprouts also complemented the fatty richness of the pork sausage.  For dessert we had some fresh
lakatan bananas, all washed down with senna leaf tea.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

E&M: Our Reception

So the big day was yesterday.  We had dinner with around 40 guests at Alba Restaurante Español on Tomas Morato in Quezon City.  Here's our buffet spread (photos to follow, courtesy of my friend johnnydu):

Tapas (Appetisers):
Tabla de Embutidos-- various Spanish cold cuts
Pescado Vinaigretta-- raw fish marinated in a vinaigrette (basically a kinilaw)
Coca Mallorca-- Mallorcan pie, quite similar to a pizza
Champignon al Ajillo-- mushrooms in garlic sauce
Croquetas de Pollo-- fried chicken croquettes
Calamares y Rabas Fritas-- battered and deep-fried squid (with tentacles)
Albondigas-- Spanish-style meatballs

Sopa: Caldo de Mallorca-- soup of chorizos, morcillas, beans, and cabbage

Ensalada: Ensalada Catalunia--salad of lettuce, carrots, jamon serrano, and parmesan cheese

Pasta: Espaguetis dela Casa-- Alba's house spaguetti; sauce of tomatoes and fried chorizos, topped with parmesan cheese

Verdura (Vegetable Course): Berenjenas al Horno-- roasted eggplant baked with anchovies and three kinds of cheese

Paella Valenciana-- Valencian paella with pork, seafood, and vegetables
Paella de Pollo Finas Hierbas-- chicken paella with fine herbs

Platos (Main Courses):
Lengua Sevillana-- ox tongue with mushrooms and olives in a sherry brown sauce
Cochinillo Asado-- oven-roasted suckling pig
Tuhod y Batoc-- stewed ox kneecap and chuck in brown sauce
Caldereta de Cabrito-- goat stew in a tomato-based spicy sauce
Pollo al Ajillo-- chicken in garlic sauce
Pescado a la Vizcaina-- fish in a tomato-based sauce
Rosbif Español-- sliced roast beef with gravy

Postres (Desserts):
Canonigo-- soft meringue (like the whote part of a brazo de mercedes) with a custard sauce
Torta de Sta. Teresa-- torte with almonds and yema (candies egg yolk balls)
Lemon Squares-- tangy lemon pudding on a thin crust
Frutas-- watermelon and pineapple

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Spice Trade

There was a time when spices were so expensive in Europe that they were more expensive than gold.  After centuries of subsisting on salt, herbs, and cheeses to flavour their food, Europeans couldn't get enough of exotic Eastern spices when these were introduced by Arab merchants.  This hunger eventually forced Europeans to find alternatives to the Arab spice monopoly, bringing in the Age of Exploration, the "discovery" of the New World and the Philippines, and eventually colonisation and all the problems it generated.

Fast-forward to today where mass production means spices are affordable by everyone and globalisation means they're potentially available everywhere.  Thanks to these economic forces of our day, here's what I got from my last Bay Area trip, and how I plan to use them:

7 Spices-- Arab spice mix, also known as bokharat; stews, rub for roasts
Berbere-- Ethiopian spice mix; stews, rub for roasts
Cayenne Pepper-- ground Mexican cayenne pepper (really a chilli powder); seasoning
Chile Arbol-- Mexican dried chile, hot; stews, sauces
Chile Chipotle-- Mexican dried chile, hot; stews, sauces
Chile Pasilla-- Mexican dried chile, mild; stews, sauces, for stuffing
Furikake-- Japanese condiment mix; rice topping
Jerk Spices-- Jamaican spice mix; rub for roasts
Kabsah Spices-- Arab spice mix; stews, stock base for rice
Ras El Hanout-- Arab spice mix, literally meaning "head of the shop"; stews, rub for roasts
Shichimi Togarashi-- Japanese seven-spice mix; seasoning, rice topping
Sumac-- ground Iranian sumac fruit; seasoning, stews, rice topping


By the way, for the English nuts out there, here's a guide on the proper usage of chile, chili, and chilli:

Chile refers to the pod of the Capsicum genus of plants; e.g., habanero chile.
Chili refers to the Latin American or Southwestern dish made with meat and beans; e.g., chili con carne.
Chilli refers to the ground spice sold as a seasoning or in a mix; e.g., chilli powder.