Only in the Philippines

June 27, 2012 § 5 Comments

Or is it?  This is about a dish I recently made and instantly fell in love with.

When I saw mustard greens (mustasa in my part of the world) in my favorite Saturday market last week, I dropped everything, went for it  and got myself a bundle.  I love that peppery tasting vegetable to pieces.  Excited, I stormed my little library of ideas on what I can do with it… then I stumbled on Mr. MM’s recipe.

I first tasted this vegetable when I was a teenager.  My grandmother used to make a Chinese version of the pickled mustasa, the name of which I loosely translate as “salty vegetable” – not exactly love at first bite but more of an acquired taste.  I have yet to get my hands on that recipe, for now let me share this with you.

This month’s Kulinarya challenge (hosted by Cherrie and Tina) was a daunting “Only in the Philippines” theme, featuring uniquely Filipino dishes.  I wasn’t planning on joining this month until this beautiful recipe came along.  Why do I think it daunting?  Because the dish that came to mind was Kare-Kare and that to me is a major production and can’t consider making in the near future with my busy schedule.  Anywhow, I am posting albeit late, a dish for this challenge.  I figured that this could be uniquely Filipino because the ingredients used are “very” Filipino.  I call it Esaladang Mustasa at Lechon sa Bagoong.  Stay with me here because this is one heck of a side salad.  Ingredients and flavors scream Pinoy through and through.

Mustard Salads are not as popular in Manila as it is in the province, often eaten with fried dishes.  If you like strong flavors then this dish is definitely worth a try.

Ensaladang Mustasa at Lechon sa Bagoong

(adapted from Market Manila’s Mustasa Salad with Bagoong and Kalamansi Dressing)

What You’ll Need:

  • Mustard Greens
  • Lechon, shredded and fried till crisp

For the Dressing:

  • 10-15 Calamansi (in this recipe, I used 4-5 pieces of dayap)
  • A dallop of Bagoong Alamang or Fine Shrimp Paste
  • Chili flakes
  • Patis or Fish sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper

What You Do:

  1. Wash mustard greens carefully; wrap in paper-towel to dry and store in the ref for 2-3 hours to keep crispness and freshness.
  2. Chop them about 1/3 of an inch and put in a salad bowl.
  3. Make the dressing by squeezing the calamansi; strain out seeds.
  4. Add bagoong, siling labuyo, a dew dash of patis.
  5. Top with shredded lechon meat and season with freshly ground pepper.

For more inspiring recipes, visit other KCC members listed below:

Palitaw  from Day of Chef by Day 

Avocado Shake from Malou of Skip To Malou

Pinais na Isda from Iska of Iskandals.com

Grilled Panga ng Lapu-Lapu from Erwin of Iskandals.com

Tapsilog from Cherrie of Sweet Cherrie Pie

Kutsinta  from Tina of Pinay In Texas Cooking Corner 

Kare-kare from Adora of Adora’s Box

Kulawong Talong from Elizabeth of Asian In America

Kalamay na Pinipig from Jun of Jun-blog

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What to Eat in Laos: Laotian BBQ

June 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

In a sidewalk eatery, a man brings to our table hot coals on a brazier where he affixes a dome shape griddle similar but not quite the ones used for Korean BBQ.

This one has an annulus around the bottom of the griddle, where he poured some broth.

He then came out with a plate of thinly sliced meat of beef, pork and chicken.  And a basket of vegetables, tofu, mushrooms and some glass noodles.

It is a cross between shabu-shabu and Korean BBQ – the veggies, noodles et al. goes into the soup while meats are grilled on the dome-shaped griddle.  The meat I dip into a sauce that I customize to my liking – on a base of peanut sauce, I add some chopped garlic, a bit of fresh chilies and a squeeze of lime juice – beautiful complement to the grilled meats.

The key ingredient, me thinks, is the pork fat provided to grease the griddle as the meat cooks.  This plus all the drippings of the meat goes straight to the soup, making one glorious soup by the end of the meal.

This BBQ meal known locally as Sin Dat is best devoured on a cool evening as the heat of the hot coals can zap the energy out of you on a hot day.  Although I extremely enjoyed both occasions (once in the middle of summer and more recently in January, the coolest month in Laos), I realized that the hot coals, not to mention the hot, flavorful soup can soothe ones senses on a cold, rainy evening.

One can’t possibly call a trip to Laos complete without experiencing this wonderful Laotian BBQ.  Make sure not to miss this.

Satisfaction guaranteed.   🙂

Bed Weather Soup

June 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Well good-bye summer and hello rainy days.  It rained most of the day the other day and on a holiday to boot.  We stayed home and the cool “bed” weather called for comfort food.  What’s more comforting on a rainy day than hot chicken soup?  Not any kind of chicken soup mind you.  I was craving for my childhood favorite, Tinolang Manok, a staple in many dinner tables in my neck of the woods, including ours.  A bowl of this light ginger based soup never fails to make me feel all warm and fuzzy.  So I trooped to the supermarket next door for some essential ingredients.

Tinola is a Tagalog or Cebuano term for soup based dish and is traditionally cooked with chicken.  Unlike the chicken soup of the west, this soup uses ginger and lemon grass to flavor.  Core ingredients would be chicken (but of course), ginger (lots and lots of it), green papaya, lemon grass and this new super food called malunggay, scientifically known as Moringa.  We sometimes alternate it with green pepper leaves – both have the peppery kick.

You may serve it as a starter course but it is perfect as a main dish, me thinks.  I like my rice soaking with the soup almost like congee and each spoonful of chicken, green papaya and the rice is absolutely soothing.

Tinolang Manok (adapted from Namit Gid! Cookbook)

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 kilo chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, sliced
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced
  • water or rice washings to cover
  • 1 stalk tanglad (lemongrass), bruised
  • green papaya, seeded and cut into wedges
  • patis or fish sauce
  • crushed pepper
  • malunggay leaves

What you do:

  1. Heat cooking oil and sauté garlic, onion and ginger.  Add chicken pieces and brown slightly.
  2. Add water or rice washings and tanglad.  Season with fish sauce and pepper.
  3. Cover and let it simmer.  When chicken is half-cooked, add papaya.
  4. Cover and let it simmer until chicken and papaya are tender.*
  5. Just before serving, remove tanglad and add malunggay leaves.
  6. Cook for 2 more minutes.  Serve hot.

*  To remove the fat, let it cool until the oil floats and remove as much from the surface.

Where to Eat in Vientiane

June 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

Credits: Quickpage by Shabby Mis Jenn’s Design: Kayla’s Tin Album  

Armed only with a list of restaurants and a map, we walked the streets of Vientiane one January morning not quite aimlessly but with very loose plans.  We inquired at Papaya Spa on their treatments (we might want a massage later in the day), appreciated beautiful art pieces at a gallery (which we can’t afford space-wise and pocket-wise), admired some beautiful houses/guesthouses along the way… then we spotted 2 of the restaurants at the top of our list right beside each other.  Divine providence, I say, so we pushed our luck and actually got a table where reservations are usually required.

Makphet

Makphet is a charitable establishment that trains street children to acquire marketable skills – to cook and to wait tables.  Friends International, which also operates in Phnom Penh, teaches them the skills of the restaurant trade in trying to bring a sustainable improvement in their lives.  A good cause and more importantly, excellent modern Lao dishes is definitely a formula for success.

The server-students who enthusiastically served and replied to our queries charmed us so that we went for their recommendations.  Red Hibiscus & Lime Breeze caught my eye.  We call it gumamela where I come from.  The tangy, fruity drink is wonderful to quench off the spiciness of the dishes.

Sharing borders with Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, China and Cambodia, Lao food has strongly influenced (and vise versa) the neighboring cuisine of Thailand and Vietnam.

Their Grilled Beef Fillet wrapped in betel leaves is their take on a typical Vietnamese dish.  Seasoned beef wrapped in betel leaves and then grilled.  The slight peppery aroma of the betel leaves is a wonderful complement to the beef.

Next to arrive was a Crispy Fried Mekong Fish they call Ancient Fish.  It went really well with the Sweet and Sour Tamarind sauce (as fried fish always do) and the side of Green Mango Salad that came with the dish.

A winner in my books, the kaffir leaves and the side salad set it apart from all the fried fish dishes I’ve tasted.

Have you ever tasted sticky rice not as a dessert but just as rice?  A staple in Laotian cuisine – everything tastes so much better with it.  I’m actually missing it now.

The hibiscus (a favorite of the day, I swear) sorbet and coconut ice cream was the way to go to clean the palate after a medley of strong flavors.  Topped with delicious meringue, this baby had sweet, sour, cool and crunchy goodness all in one.  Love.

Reservations are recommended or like us, be there early and you might get lucky if all you need is a corner table for 2.

L’Adresse Cuisine by Tinay

Being a former French colony, the legacy is apparent in Laos such that French restaurants are common and popular.  L’Adresse de Tinay next door is the new kid on the block, so to speak. The French-Lao chef Tinay and French wife Delphine Inthavong are the couple behind this casual French bistro.  When we walked over to make our reservations for dinner, Delphine asked us to pick our table.

We were so looking forward to indulge in French food after a tiring afternoon.  We walked in at exactly 7pm; we were shown to our table.

Unbeknownst to us, this young gentleman in black who was taking our order was actually Chef Tinay who trained in France and came back home to open his restaurant.

Goat Cheese Rolls: Tinay’s Specialty has 7 crispy Goat Cheese rolls with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Tapenade, Pesto, Thyme, Honey, Cherry Confitures, and Sweet Chili Peppers

He has a seasonal menu, which might include his signature goat cheese rolls.

The restaurant is well-lit and has a modern yet welcoming feel; his seasonal menu is written on a huge blackboard on the wall.  A small room houses a selection of wines.   The seating outside is more casual and dark with only the light from inside and some candles lighting each table.

We were wowed from start to finish.  I thought that the bread with the tomato sauce dip was clever – simple yet divine.

We were ecstatic to see escargot on the menu – it has 6 snails on 3 bruschettas with scrambled eggs and topped with parsley cream.

I had Grandma Lydie’s Special cassoulet with home-made duck confit.  The cassoulet is made up of haricot beans, a superb tasting Toulouse sausage and simmered in a sweet garlic cream.  Thank you Grandma Lydie, your cassoulet was sublime.

The rack of lamb was juicy, tender, crusty and perfectly pink.  Herbs were not overpowering but rather complemented this beautiful piece of fatty goodness.

Need I say more?

And for dessert, we shared a crème brulee with vanilla from Madagascar.  I’m not sure now if both crème brulee and ice cream had vanilla from Madagascar.  Whichever the case, it was heavenly.

Anyone who serves Limoncello will always have a place in my heart and this one in particular came with the bill with their compliments– homemade by Delphine.  Beautiful restaurant, lovely personal service, excellent food, reasonable prices, a nice wine selection – I’m willing to bet that this neighborhood French bistro will go a long way.

Suffice to say that our day in Vientiane went really well particularly in the food department.  Only on our first day and we were already wowed.

Makphet
Parallel to Sethathirat Rd, Chanthabouly District (behind Wat Ong Teu)
Opens Mon-Sat 11am-2pm and 6pm-9pm only
+856 (21) 260-586
 
L’Adresse de Tinay
Parallel to Sethathirat Rd, Chanthabouly District (behind Wat Ong Teu)
+856 (20) 5691-3434

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