Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chinese-style Paksiw na Baboy

Paksiw is basically a stew with vinegar as the main "spice" or seasoning.  So Paksiw na Baboy is pork braised in a vinegar stewing liquid. 

I grew up with the Chinese-style paksiw, always with mushrooms and banana blossoms, occasionally with cinnamon and star anise.  But the dish as I knew it then was more sweet than tangy and to be honest, these days, I like it better when it's tangier and less sweet.

The recipe:

About 1 kilo liempo (pork belly), cubed, parboiled
1/4 to 1/2 cup native vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 to 3 pieces bay leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons smashed peppercorns (not ground pepper)
1 whole garlic, smashed
50 to 100 grams dried banana blossoms, rehydrated
5 to 6 pieces dried shitake, rehydrated
1 stick cinnamon
2 to 3 pieces star anise
about 1/2 to 1 cup water

Place everything in a pot.  For the water, initially add 1/2 cup.  If it is enough to cover all the meat then set aside the remaining 1/2 cup to top up later if too much liquid evaporates.

Simmer everything until tender, which for me was about 40 minutes - this will depend on the thickness of the cut of your meat.  If using pork pata (leg), it could be as long as an hour and a half.


1. pork pata can be used, the front part is meatier than the hind part.

2. I like a tangy, piquant taste, and it reflects so in this dish.  If you wish, use the lesser amount of 1/4 cup vinegar.

3. I also love banana blossoms so I always use the "larger" measure.

4. for the Filipino-style of paksiw, omit the cinnamon, star anise, and mushrooms.  Use the lesser amount of banana blossoms.  Chunks of saba (just ripe and still firm) can also be added towards the end of the cooking time.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ham, Egg and Pimiento Sandwich Spread

I've always made chicken sandwich spread, but after tasting a wonderful ham sandwich with not ham slices and vegetables, but rather with ham bits and spiced mayo, I decided I wanted to make my own version.  And mine would have ham, boiled eggs, pimiento and mayonnaise, as well as pickle relish and ground peppercorns.

It was yummy on bread -

The recipe:

200 grams smoked lean ham, diced
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
roughly 1/4 cup diced pimientos
about 1 cup of mayonnaise
about 1/2 teaspoon of pickle relish (or more, if desired)
about 1/2 teaspoon ground peppercorns

Just toss everything together and chill.


A cup of mayonnaise will result in a "chunky" spread.  1 1/2 cups mayonnaise is perfect if you like a "wetter" spread.

Personally I like a tangy spread so I always add more pickle relish, sometimes even up to half a tablespoon.

You can skip seasoning with salt because the smoked ham is usually salty already)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Halaan (Clam) Soup!

Hubby and I both love seafood...

So whenever I get the chance, I buy fresh seafood (shrimps, crabs, shells, fish, etc.), alive and kicking whenever possible.

Earlier, I was able to buy some live clams - the ones known as nylon shells.  So for tonight, it's clam soup!!!

1 kilo live clams
1 thumb ginger, smashed and sliced
2 medium sized tomatoes, sliced
2 red onions, sliced
about 8 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 chili pepper (the one used in sinigang)
2 to 4 cups of water
a bunch of sili leaves (optional)

Rinse the clams thoroughly and soak in water for about (at least) 1 hour. Drain and rise again.

Saute the ginger, onion, tomato, garlic and chili pepper until fragrant.  Toss in the clams and add 2 cups water immediately.

(I like mine soupy, so I add more water until all the clams are just covered with water).

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cook until the clam shells are open.  Discard any that remain closed.  Serve while hot.

Hubby says he really likes it - has a "kick" to it (that's because I used the actual chili instead of the "dahon ng sili".  Traditionally, however, the chili leaves are used.  They're added towards the end of cooking.  Also, sometimes I would add some coarsely chopped Baguio pechay, as it adds a bit of "sweetness" to the soup.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jumping Shrimp (Suahe) with Chili Soy Dip

I love shrimp!

And when I find them still swimming around in a tank, I find the urge to buy them almost impossible to resist.

My usual preparation and cooking style for these live shrimp is to blanch (or boil) them in a pot of water with sliced ginger, onion, sea salt and coriander (wansoy).  When the water (with the various seasonings) boils, I just dump the shrimps in (still struggling and jumping) until they turn red.  Then I strain the shrimp, put them in a serving dish and that's it.  It's perfect with chili soy dip on the side.

Recently, however, my mom told me that she prepared (or cooked) the jumping the same way, with one difference.  She added about a cup of Sprite or 7-Up (not diet or light since it did not exist during her cooking days), saying that it makes the shrimp sweeter.  So this time I decided to try it out.

Truth be told, there was a tinge of "extra" sweetness to the shrimp.  Personally, however, I feel that the "extra" sweetness was not necessary as the fresh (read as: live) shrimp is already sweet enough.  Although, if fresh (but not live) shrimp is used, perhaps this trick with the Sprite or 7-Up would help with the sweetness factor.

Hubby's comment?  He said it was delicious, as always.

But what hubby especially liked was the chili soy dip. 

The one I usually made was good enough (he says) but this one was spectacular (his words).  The secret?  A dash of rice wine!

Now my recipe is this:

2 tablespoons soya oil
dash of sesame oil
1 large thumb of ginger, sliced into thin strips
a dash of rice wine (i used glutinous rice wine)
3 to 4 tablespoons light soy sauce (good quality makes a difference)
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
fresh ground pepper
sili labuyo, sliced thinly (based on personal preference)
wansoy or coriander leaves (about a handful)

Heat the soya oil. Add the sesame oil and ginger. Saute until fragrant.  Add the dash of wine until it sizzles. Add in the soy sauce, sugar, pepper, and chili.  Remove from heat before adding the coriander leaves.  Serve.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pork Sparerib with Cogon Grass Soup

Once in a while we go to Chinatown.  In our last trip there, we found some fresh cogon grass.  When A-te J saw them, she asked what they were for and I replied it was for a medicinal soup that's common in Chinese cuisine, particularly Cantonese cuisine.  She held back a laugh saying that where she comes from, the cogon grass was used for burning not for eating.  I laughed along, commenting the weirdness of things - one man's trash is (quite literally) another man's treasure!

Anyway, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this grass (Rhizoma Imperatae, 茅根 ) has cooling properties, aiding to dispel heat and helping bladder function.  It has a sweetish taste.

I was told that the cogon grass can be simmered with water to produce herbal tea but this I haven't tried.  I am more familiar (and comfortable) with the soup version of it -

The recipe:

1 bundle of fresh cogon grass (about 30 to 60 grams)
or 15-30 grams dried
6 to 8 cups of water
400 to 500 grams of pork spare ribs
1 small onion

Clean the spare ribs, remove the fat.  Blanch.

Wash the cogon grass and blanch.

Boil the water.  Add the onion, cogon grass and pork.  Simmer for 3 hours (or use the magic cooker).

This recipe has alternate and/or additional ingredients:

1 chinese pear, sliced into large cubes and 4 honey dates, soaked in lukewarm water for 30 minutes.  Add the pear cubes and soaked dates together with all other ingredients. This results in a sweeter tasting soup.

The pork spare ribs can be substituted with 1/2 chicken or 1 whole native chicken or even black chicken.  In which case, a thumb of smashed ginger should be added to the soup too.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vietnamese-style Shrimp and Mango Curry

When looking for what to serve my family, my first consideration is what hubby likes to eat, followed closely by B.  Hubby loves spicy food.  My dilemma?  My tummy cannot stomach too much spiciness!  Solution?  Make traditionally spicy dishes a tad less spicy...

This curry was inspired primarily by a dish I recently had the pleasure of eating in an Asian-fusion restaurant.  It was sweet, salty and spicy, but not so spicy that I couldn't enjoy it...

The ingredients...

The stars of the show: shrimps -

and mangoes -

The recipe:

1 tablespoon each canola oil and "lite" butter
a large piece of ginger, sliced thinly and pounded
4 large cloves of garlic, smashed
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, sliced into 2-inch pieces
2 fresh green finger chillies, sliced diagonally
3 fresh red finger chillies, sliced diagonally
1 tablespoon premium fish sauce
2 tablespoon garam masala (or curry) powder
2 cups coconut milk
juice of 1 large calamansi (or lime)
a large pinch of sea salt or to taste
500 grams shrimps, cleaned and trimmed
2 small tomatoes, diced
small bunch of purple basil
3 to 4 small stalks of wansoy (coriander)

Heat the oil and butter together until butter melts.  Saute the ginger until lightly browned.  Add onions and garlic; stir fry until fragrant.  Add lemongrass, chillies, fish sauce and garam masala powder.  Stir fry a couple of minutes until fragrant.  Stir in the coconut milk and calamansi juice.  Season with salt as preferred.  Simmer for 2 minutes or so before adding the shrimps and tomatoes.  Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.  Adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Once the shrimps are cooked, toss in the basil leaves and wansoy.  Garnish with a sprig of purple basil.

Hubby's verdict?  Very good, he says!!!  Perfect as rice topping!  (I'm thinking it is good with flat breads too!)

PS - someone suggested to me that to have "more" flavor, the ginger and garlic need to be pounded to bring the juices out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pako Fern Salad

Pako ferns (or fiddleheads) are back in season.    We usually find these when the rainy season starts.  They're best eaten the same day that they're purchased as they deteriorate rather quickly.

I don't know any other way to serve this except as a salad and we used to eat them raw.  But I've since been told (by the market vendor, no less) that the pako ferns, while edible, should be blanched, as they have some form of mild poison.  Since then I've blanched them briefly in boiling water for a few seconds and then immediately put them in an ice bath.  Afterwards I spin them in a salad spinner to remove excess water.

The recipe:

2 to 3 bundles of pako fern, blanched and chilled
2 large tomatoes, sliced into slivers (seeds removed)
1 large red (Spanish) onion, sliced thinly
2 red (salted) eggs, chopped coarsely
kesong puti, crumbled (or feta)

Toss all ingredients, except the kesong puti, together, . Chill in the meantime.

Meanwhile make the "vinaigrette".  Place the ingredients in a shaker and shake shake shake!

1/4 cup native vinegar
juice from 1 calamansi
1 tbsp. olive oil (optional)
1-2 tbsp. crushed mixed peppercorns
2-3 pinches of Himalayan pink salt

Toss with the salad, top with grated kesong puti and serve!

Other ingredient suggestions include cucumber, slivered green mangoes, and/or garlic chips.

Chicken ala King

My first baking project were peanut butter cookies.  My first cooked dish was Chicken ala King.  I had just finished Grade 6.  At the time I thought it was such a complicated dish because it involved so much preparation and I had to do almost everything by myself!

But no matter how long it took me in the kitchen, I would make it over and over because my brothers loved it.  In those days I followed the recipe to a T, not daring to deviate or adjust.  These days, however, I usually play around with a recipe.  And sometimes I just get inspiration from a recipe (or a cookbook or even the internet) and then wing it as I'm cooking! 

Let's take this recipe as an example.  The original recipe called for canned pimientos but I decided to use red bell peppers.  Sometimes I would skip the green peas, other times I'd use thigh meat, and at one time, I actually used whole thigh fillets, which was great as rice topping!

The recipe:

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
about 2 to 3 cups reserved chicken broth (strained)
3 cloves coarsely chopped garlic
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 large potato, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (fresh variety preferred)
1/4 cup frozen green peas
1 red bell pepper or canned pimiento, diced
1 cup all purpose cream, room temperature
salt and pepper to taste
cornstarch slurry

Saute the onion and garlic. Add the diced chicken, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, peas, and pepper/pimiento.  Add about 1 to 2 cups reserved broth, just enough to cover all ingredients.  Simmer until vegetables are cooked through.

Pour in the cream and heat gently, stirring constantly. Do not allow to boil vigorously.  Season to taste.  I usually start with 1/2 teaspoon of salt (there are various kinds of salt that differ in their saltiness, and we all have different taste preferences so seasoning "to taste" is really crucial). Thicken with cornstarch water.

Serve in patty shells (I buy them from a popular bakeshop nearby).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Beginning - Peanut Butter Cookies

I started baking at the age of 10 and cooking at 12.  My first baking project?  Peanut Butter Cookies from The Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookies Cookbook (1975).  The recipe is on their website.

The ones I baked some time ago...

I used crunchy peanut butter and added a pinch of salt.

These cookies are still in my most favorite list.