April 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Credits: Papers by Sarah Bennett; Hearts element by Happy Scrap Girl and Designs by Tater; Journaling Snippet by Crystal Wilkerson
“Irashaimase!” they called out in unison as soon as they spotted us at the door. We were led to a low table, chairs sans the legs with tatami mats underneath. We took off our shoes as we are supposed to. We chose to order from the menu in Japanese over the English version. Kiang, our Korean server, helped us decide on the meal. She spoke a little English, and we ordered almost all of what she proposed, even the sake.
We are in an “izakaya” after all – a type of Japanese drinking establishment that serve food and as Wikipedia puts it: the name izakaya is a compound word consisting of “I” (to stay) and “sakaya” (sake shop), indicating that izakaya began from sake shops that allow customers to sit and drink on the premise. So how can you not have sake, right?
The sake, fruity and refreshing, paired well with the meal, which I must say is quite excellent – the Agedashi Tofu winning hands down.
Jo Jo is within walking distance to the JR Kyoto Station, so if you find yourself in the area, do drop by and see if Kiang is still around to help you. We owe this wonderful meal to her.
Though more complex cuisine exists, none comes close to matching Japan’s culinary aesthetics. ~ Howard HillmanJõ Jõ Shimogyo-ku, Nishinotoin Shichijo-sagaru +85 75 371-2010
March 9, 2013 § 4 Comments
I spent sleepless nights working on the itinerary. It is an extensive trip – in my books, at least. Spanning 3 countries for a whole month. One. Whole. Month… with my brother. He and his wife, my sister-in-law will be joining us for the first time. Yes, we’ve done short trips together with the whole family but never one that is complicated. We’re excited, it’s going to be fun, I can feel it, but the way we travel is not exactly how they travel. So, working out an itinerary for the four of us is nerve-racking. Would they mind staying in hostels, share bathrooms, or travel by bus, perhaps? Would they mind splurging on food? Would they like the same food? Because really, food is a fundamental part of our travels and I will eat well in a country known for its exotic flavors – does Morocco sound exciting?
So here they are at my place discussing the trip while the chicken roasts in my oven. Marinated in buttermilk and a handful of fresh herbs overnight, the ambrosial aroma emanating from the kitchen had not only whet our appetites but gradually turned us into attention deficits – it makes it devilishly hard to concentrate when the rooms smells of yummy-ness, yes?
Succulent – crispy skin with “meat falling off the bones” tender, a result of the buttermilk and the glorious herbs. It is the easiest thing to make, really. I had potatoes too, sprinkled with EVOO, salt and pepper then inserted around the chicken. So crisp and tasty.
And with salad greens tossed with lemon vinaigrette, a simple dish of pasta with pesto and tiramisu after, we happily agreed on a travel plan. All is well that ends well.
(adapted from Jude Blereau’s Flattened Buttermilk and Herb Crispy Chicken)
What You Need:
- 1 whole chicken, preferably organic
- 500ml buttermilk (400ml plain yogurt combined with 100 ml milk works well too)
- 4 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs (I often use thyme, parsley, sage and rosemary – whatever is available in the market)
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Potatoes or sweet potatoes, and roughly cut into medium chunks
What You Do:
Cutting the backbone of the chicken allows you to flatten it, and thereby cook faster. For crispier results and even faster cooking, I cut the chicken into pieces. I find this yielded the best result. The method differs slightly.
For whole chicken: lay the breast side down on a chopping board. Cut the backbone (using a kitchen shear is the easiest way to do this). Turn the chicken over and flatten. Combine buttermilk with a handful of herbs and pour over the chicken in a dish. Cover and keep refrigerated for 24 hours.
For chicken pieces: combine buttermilk with 4 tablespoons of herbs and lemon zest. Pour over chicken, cover and keep refrigerated for 24 hours.
Preheat oven 200º C or 180ºC if fan forced.
For whole chicken: prepare the herb mix by mixing the herbs and lemon together. Transfer the chicken to a baking tray. Roughly pat chicken dry but leave some buttermilk on the skin. Gently loosen the skin from the breast and stuff 2/3 of the herb mix under the skin.
For chicken pieces: Transfer chicken pieces to a baking tray. Roughly pat chicken dry but leave some buttermilk on the skin.
For whole and pieces:
Sprinkle the rest of the herb mix on the chicken, with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
Toss the potatoes separately in an olive oil and herbs and scatter on the tray, close to the chicken.
Bake for about 40-60 mins, until the skin is crispy and golden and the juices in the thigh come out clear. If you find the skin burning, reduce the temperature.
Remove from oven and leave to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
I’ll see you in a month or so.
February 5, 2013 § 9 Comments
What do you do when you’re on holiday, exploring the neighborhood and it starts to rain? We had lunch. Sometimes when the hassles of life make you stop and change course just go with the flow. You never know what lies ahead.
Preserved historic street of Higashiyama.
It was a choice between getting drenched and an early lunch. Albeit not on our list of many restaurants to try in Kyoto, it was an easy choice. We decided that looking for a restaurant on our list was not worth getting wet for. Suien will have to do. Great decision ever.
The Zen-like interior has splashes of neutral subtle shades, pale wooden furniture and shoji screens. The only other customers were 2 well-dressed women seated in a quiet corner, deep in conversation. But as soon as we entered, I had a good feeling about the place. We will be fed well, I thought. We chose a table opposite the ladies, the server in a kimono, gave us the only English menu they have. It was short and sweet, a set menu. Worth ¥2,500 ($26), it comes with 2 appetizers, noodle soup, a choice of 4 main course and Japanese sweets for dessert. We’re having a kaiseki-style lunch.
As Japan’s former capital and seat of the imperial court for over a thousand years, Kyoto is renowned for its rich culinary tradition. Diverse, its local cuisine ranges from aristocratic kaiseki ryori course to the smallest izakaya (pub). Kaiseki is Japanese haute cuisine served in carefully designed courses meant to please the emperors. Kyoto-style kaiseki puts importance on seasonal ingredients and is largely vegetarian, though fish is often served while meat never appears in a kaiseki menu.
Walnut Bean Curd and Roast (adducter muscles) Scallop. A great start to a wonderful meal. The bean curd silky and smooth, sweet and salty (from the soy).
Fried Sea Bream in Hot Noodle Soup. The light broth with a hint of lemon makes this rice noodle soup light and refreshing. The fish, similar to a sea bass, adds to the flavor. A delightful change to the usual miso soup.
For the main course, I chose Donburi with Sea Bream marinated in Miso. It tastes as good as it looks. Also called Japan’s king of fish, the sea bream is very flavorful, meat firm similar to sea bass. The miso delicately seasoning the fresh flavor of the fish.
And finally… the dessert. Brown Sugar Rice Cake. What a way to end the meal. This melt in the mouth mochi is smooth and creamy, not at all starchy. Unlike any I’ve tasted.
The price of a kaiseki meal can be steep but many establishments offer set menus at lunchtime at a considerably lower price. Whether lunch or dinner, it is an experience not to be missed.Suien Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 446 Le Kamibenten Town Under Torii Yasaka Shimogawaradori About 15 minutes walk from Hanky Kawaramochi Station / 7 minutes walk from Gion Shijo Station Contact: 075 551-0035
January 15, 2013 § 1 Comment
Sick during the holidays – how sad is that? A week after and I am still nursing a bad cough, nose still pretty clogged. I have so much food from the holidays but appetite eludes me. So, I ended up with more food than ever before. I bet the people at reception, maintenance, even the guards won’t ever forget me – either they love me to pieces for all the holiday goodies I brought their way or they are avoiding me by now for dumping so much food on them.
I trekked to the doctor’s clinic last week. “I need to be well by Saturday”, I told him. And like a good doctor that he is, I am feeling better now, thank you, although I am still not in creative cooking mode. Until last night, when I whipped up a pleasant meal of leftovers, which I ate with gusto – and that is a wonderful sign that I am on the road to real recovery.
I had some fresh mozzarella that needed to be consumed soon, what to do? I didn’t feel like a pizza or a sandwich. I didn’t have fresh basil and tomatoes so a salad is out too. Besides, I wanted something more filling – a first in weeks!
So, I beat to combine a couple of eggs and a couple of tablespoons of milk. Sliced the mozzarella. Washed some leftover spinach my mom sent my way before she left for abroad. Threw some bacon bits on the pan – I always have bacon, no mater what!! Then I threw in the spinach, seasoned with salt and pepper. Poured the egg mixture into the pan as soon as the spinach starts to wilt. Before turning over, I added the mozzarella cubes. It’s smoky with a mild cheesy taste. I think it’s awesome.
A very belated New Year greetings to everyone. May you cook more and eat more healthily, be blessed with more opportunities to try new foods and flavors this year.
December 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
Batanes – a more off the beaten destination that offers a unique combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Credits: Papers and elements taken from ScrapMatters Life’s Little Surprises kit. Papers by Denise Beatty Originals and Designs by Sarah Bennett; Elements by Scrapmuss Designs and Gwenipooh Designs.
Not as easy to get to as many other destinations in the Philippines but the journey is worth it.
The place is undeniably charming with breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, old stone houses and despite the remoteness, an abundance of good food, my kind of food.
My first meals in Batanes go a long way back, at Mama Lily’s in 1997. There were no restaurants to speak off then so she serves meals at her guesthouse. Simple dishes cooked the Ivatan way left an impression to this day. I remember flying fish cooked every way – fried, dried, sinigang, with soy… simple yet memorable. I also remember fish roe sautéed in tomatoes, onions and garlic. It was the first time I had bihod and every bihod dish thereafter reminds me of Mama Lily.
Fast-forward to 2012, Mama Lily has long migrated to the US, her children no longer accepts visitors and a few eating places have emerged. I have likewise found a new Mama Lily in another mother, Nanay Laura. Laura Larez lives in the farthest inhabited island of Batanes called Itbayat.
It’s a 4-hour grueling boat ride from the main island or an easier 12-minute ride on an 8-seater plane. Both only operate if weather permits.
A grandmother to 13 kids, a craftswoman and a hell of a good cook, Nanay Laura runs a carinderia (canteen) beside her house in front of the town plaza.
She makes the best Turmeric Rice in Batanes, in my opinion at least. This yellow rice is a specialty of Batanes and is popularly served all over the islands.
The rice is cooked with garlic, onion and ground turmeric delivering a subtle ginger flavor that is meant to complement rather than clash with any viand. What makes Nanay Laura’s special is the addition of pork, not too much, just to flavor.
She serves her dishes on leaves of the fruit bread tree, which shades and decorates the outside of her canteen.
It is widely used in Batanes in place of the usual banana leaf used in other parts of the Philippines.
The way Nanay Laura uses these leaves however conveys her eye for detail and beauty. A simple root crop made more appetizing by her talent in styling. With a canteen so well maintained in Itbayat, Larez Carinderia is a force to reckon with.
While Nanay Laura reigns in her small little corner (for now at least), the competition in the main island is stiffer. Once Mama Lily’s territory, Batan has since seen a sprouting of places worth trying, some even going out-of-the-way for.
While going around Southern Batan last May, I was pleased to find a nice restaurant in Vatang.
I remember 6 years ago, we hung around a small canteen waiting for our ride (for more than half a day) to nearby island Sabtang, had lunch there as well. Gone were the days of watered down sweet spaghetti (sans the tomato sauce) meals because Vatang Grill and Restaurant serves delightful Ivatan dishes.
Not far from the port of Ivana but a bit out-of-the-way if not touring so it is a good stop when in the area.
Much of the island’s terrains are rolling hills – excelletnt for raising livestock and Batanes has become a major producer of cattle.
So a burger joint is not so far-fetched, is it? No it isn’t. Not so far from where we stayed, in fact just right beside Shanedel’s Inn is where you can find good organic Basco burgers – a pretty good burger that will hold up on its own in any big city.
Juicy and slightly seasoned, this burger with (sweet potato) fries and a soda goes for P100.00 (roughly US$2) at Zantan’s Canteen – not really a burger joint but their burgers are bestsellers.
If good burgers have started to impress, in nearby La Fuerte St., is an unlikely place to find good pizza – dough baked fresh upon order, ingredients consisting of mozzarella cheese, anchovies, pepperoni, fresh homegrown herbs, etc. Yes, excellent pizza in the northernmost island of the Philippines. I first learned of Casa Napoli in 2006, it was a newly opened pizzeria found on the 2nd level of a grocery (if my memory serves me right) in Abad St. Wary (after the sweet spaghetti experience), we entered the place out of curiosity. It was a simple room with a few tables inside and 2 more at the balcony with a view of the town. When the pizza came, we were pleasantly surprised.
Baked on a pizza stone, the crust was crispy with a bit of a bite. Not too thin but not bread-like thick as well. A nice change from the local cuisine.
The new place in La Fuerte St. is not much bigger
but has its own identity in a white Mediterranean inspired establishment. They deliver too.
But if lobsters and other local fares is what you are after, try trekking to Bunker Café in Naidi Hills one evening.
Open only for dinner as the owners have day jobs, this place is the perfect end to the day. They start serving at 5, and the first night we were there,
I had this lovely turon with my coffee.
Naido Hills with the lighthouse in the background is magical at night. The owners couldn’t have chosen a better spot.
An impressive dish of Lataven — Ivatan’s version of kilawin.
Enchanted, we went back the next evening to an enjoyable dinner of lobster and other local fare. It did not disappoint.
Great ambience and wonderful company is a winning combination in my books.
Ivatan Cuisine is characterized by a variety of seafood. During summer, dorado and flying fish are abundant. So are lobsters and cuttlefish.
The threatened coconut crabs can still be found and devoured but only in the island. To protect the species, a regulation prohibits it from being transported out of the island, live or cooked. Coconut crabs (locally known as Tatus)is a priced delicacy and is widely hunted, its population dwindling. The crab is said to climb coconut trees and husk coconuts with their powerful claws hence the name although not a significant part of their diet. When cooked, the claws are hard and needs a good bashing to break. The meat is sweet and firm but in all honesty, Alimango (mud crabs) and Alimasag (blue crabs) are still my front-runners.
We simply didn’t have enough days to sample all the good places, which means that a next time is likely to happen. In a few years perhaps, I have a sneaking suspicion that more interesting restaurants would come to light and I want to be there to try them out myself.
Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.
November 24, 2012 § 6 Comments
Albeit late, here’s hoping everyone had a happy thanksgiving. Mine was a quiet dinner with the folks and instead of turkey, we had Peking duck.
How have you been? I hope you have not abandoned me as I have abandoned this blog of late. It has been a wild few months in my real life lately… mostly work but I managed some very much-needed downtime out-of-town, the country even.
The food I’ve encountered during my respite is unbelievable and share with you, I will… eventually.
But for now, I owe the Kulinarya Club some sisig!
A friend gave me a beautiful tuna belly from General Santos. Not as fresh as it came anymore as I had to throw it into the freezer while I was away. I have however, put it to good use on this month’s challenge, which I am co-hosting with Iska, by the way.
So without further adieu, I present to you my version of Tuna Sisig.
It really is pretty straightforward pork sisig recipe (which I have yet to make) replaced with tuna – I call it the healthier sisig.
What You’ll Need:
- 500 grams tuna belly, sliced
- 1/2 can liver spread
- 1 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium size onion, chopped
- 1 pc. green sili, chopped
- 1/8 cup chicken or beef stock
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/8 cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. liquid seasoning
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper to taste
- a bit of cooking oil
What You Do:
- Fry tuna slices until slightly brown, drain on paper towel before flaking.
- In a wok, stir-fry garlic until fragrant, then add flaked tuna, liver spread, onion, stock, vinegar, soy sauce, liquid seasoning and green sili, cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the mayonnaise, stir and cook for another minute or until the liquids have dried out.
- Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve on a sizzling hot plate topped with an egg or serve on an oven-proof platter, make a well and top with egg (this is so the egg stays on top). Broil in oven at medium to high heat until egg white becomes opaque. Serve with calamansi.
Wonderful with ice-cold beer, especially on an unusually hot day. It’s nearing the end of November, can anyone tell me why does it feel like summer still?
Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture & its colourful cuisine.
Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.
October 16, 2012 § 1 Comment
More often what brings a smile to my face are the little things in life.
Beautiful blooms, the smell of coffee brewing in the morning, the whiff of fresh bread, a brand new day… So many things to be thankful for and those little things that life seems to take for granted are what we need to zoom in on.
I was up in Baguio for work recently and the cool weather was just perfect for a planning session. Freshly baked blueberry muffins, especially that of Baguio Country Club brings sunshine to my day. And sunshine always makes me smile. I love rain too for without it there would never be rainbows, yes? I love the sound of raindrops – it soothes my senses and makes me want to cozy up in my little corner with some hot tea
and this addictive lemon pie that can perk even the gloomiest person at one bite.
Using graham cracker crust makes it so easy to make – no need to labor over a traditional crust.
The touch of sweetness in the graham is a wonderful balance to the tart, lemony filling.
When life hands you lemons, lots of them, make lemon pie.
What makes you happy?
Credits: Papers and elements from Scrap Matter’s Life Little Surprises kit. Alphas from Akiloune Designs
What you need:
- 10 graham crackers or 1 cup crushed
- 1/2 cup almonds or walnuts
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- Whipped cream for serving
What you do:
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
- Break the graham crackers into large pieces and place them in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse several times, until you have fine crumbs. Place the crumbs in a medium bowl. Alternatively, if you can find crushed graham crackers in your grocery store, use about 1 cup – it makes life so much simpler.
- Place the almonds in the food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped, then add them to the crumbs.
- Mix the butter with the crumb mixture until well blended, then press the mixture along the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan.
- Bake the crust for about 12 minutes, until it’s lightly browned. Set the crust aside.
- Place the egg yolks in a bowl. Mix on medium until the yolks are pale yellow and slightly thickened, about two minutes.
- Reduce the speed to low and add the condensed milk. Slowly add the lemon juice, then turn off the mixer and stir in the lemon zest.
- Pour the mixture into the pie pan and bake for about 15 minutes, until the filling is almost set but still moist.
- Allow the pie to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate it for at least 8 hours. Serve with whipped cream.