Yolanda and You: we need your help

The past few days have been extremely difficult for us here in the Philippines. The past few months have been heartbreaking, but this force of nature is something else entirely. In the Visayas region, especially in Leyte where typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) hit the hardest, graphic scenes of death and anarchy have been documented. At one point I found it difficult to swallow. The stories collected from the survivors sound so extraordinary that it might as well be a plot point from a disaster movie. But it’s not. It’s raw and real.

The next logical step is not to pin the blame on anyone, but to reach out. Please, we need your help. This is an appeal. People need the most basic of items: food, clothing, medicines. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you can give. Every single item counts.

The Philippine Red Cross, American Red Cross, Save The Children, World Food Programme are all accepting donations. (Click the links to redirect to their page)

Locally, here are a few ways to get in touch

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And on the dates indicated below, restaurants have also promised to donate a portion of their sales. Dine away!
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Oh, Zamboanga

Hi. If you’ll pardon me, I’d like to take a break from the usual decadence on my blog. It’s just that this is probably the only outlet I have right now, and I need to process feelings. I need to articulate it because I might never have the chance, since right now I’m in the moment.

A few days ago I woke up to some really bad news. My hometown, Zamboanga, is under attack. The Moro National Liberation Front, well a faction of the whole entity led by Nur Misuari, entered the city through coastal communities and began a standoff with the security force. The group began taking hostages – men, women, children, even a priest, and declared their demands. Why they did all of this is something I still have trouble explaining, because historically it has been a dispute about identity and sovereignty. This is not even an issue about religion. It’s about basic human rights being taken away from us.

There are no nitty-gritty details here. It’s currently day 4 of the standoff and I’m scared. I’m sick to my stomach knowing that my family is in danger. I’ve been talking to my mom every day and her tone suggests that the family is pretty safe but still. The fact that there are lawless elements with the capacity to kill, peppered around the city makes me so angry and frightened.

People have been downplaying the situation – that the government has “contained” the situation and there are only a few areas that are really high-risk.

But the thing is…everyone is afraid. If they’re not out volunteering (because hundreds of families have been displaced), they’ve locked themselves inside their homes. Banks and businesses are closed. People have liberties taken away from them. As far as I can tell, the whole city has been taken hostage.

Syria is a big deal. 9/11 was a big deal. The pork barrel scandal our government is facing is a big deal. In my heart I know that Zamboanga is a big deal.

Now I understand. Because of what happened to Jad, I’ve been holding a grudge against my hometown. He loved Zamboanga but Zamboanga couldn’t protect him. But here I am gutted, knowing that evil is trying to take my hometown away from us. Looking at photos friends posted, of people out on the streets lighting candles, saying prayers for the place I still call home, and reading all the status updates, I’m trying to process this feeling.

People still love Zamboanga, and are trying their best to protect her by protecting each other. What a comforting thought. What a sight to behold.

And I know more than half of what I’m talking about might not make sense to you – but hear me out. If you’ve ever felt that your family is in danger, that the odds of them falling in harm’s way are great, that it suddenly feels unsafe even in your own home…then that’s all you need to know.

What’s the point of me writing this? I just need to articulate my muddled feelings. And also to ask you to say a prayer for my hometown. I’d like to believe that good will always trump evil.

Foodgasm 3!

Foodgasm will always have a special place in my stomach because that was the first time I met Yedy and Eugene. We became fast friends and each other’s regular weekend fixture. Fat kindred spirits, we are. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the third instalment will happen a few weeks from now! I already wrote about my favourites from Foodgasm numero dos, and I’m pretty excited to see how this event will measure up. It’ll be on August 31, 7pm to 12mn at Mercato Centrale, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig (or Makati, it depends on who you ask).

Be there.

And maybe wear something loose and comfy. There’s going to be a big crowd so it could get pretty warm inside the tent.

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There’s soul in soup

If you’re a regular here you know by now that occasionally I’m hit with bouts of homesickness.

I can talk about it all day – how fleeting a week off can be, how it’s always hard give a straight answer to my gramps when he asks me when I’m coming home again, how comfort can sometimes be a foreign concept here in the city, and how food can never, ever, ever compare to what I have back home.

Of course the last bit is subjective. I’m talking about the inherent “soul” a home-cooked meal has. You’re nodding your head, yeah? Food that the goddesses of my kitchen (my mom, grandma and Mama Eng) have been cooking for years in a way, have steered my palate to where it is now.

Yedy, Eugene and I intended to go to Mall of Kitchens just to gawk but it was unfortunate (and annoying) that they were, strangely enough, closed on weekends. But we figured Eugene knew that already. And the ulterior motive was for us to check out Pat-Pat’s, which apparently serves a mean bowl of kansi.

Kansi is like sinigang with its sour broth, but the meat of choice would be beef instead of pork or fish. Their offering is a great hangover remedy and Eugene swears by that.

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It was a familiar sight to behold, arriving at Pat-Pat’s. It was nothing fancy. A few tables and monoblock chairs, electric fans mounted on walls and loud, endearing servers. That kind of fixture will never go out of style in the Philippines. Beyond that, you know that food will never be fancy but will almost always be good and cheap.

Of course we had to order kansi. There were two variants, one served with a big piece of bone with marrow (bulalo), and another with chunks of beef meat (karne). They all came with the same sour broth. It’s not that hard to decide that you need to order both.
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The broth was deliciously sour, but not overpowering. It was fruity, flavored with what we will only assume to be kamias. It’s that kind of natural tang that I love in a great soup because in a way, one cup of rice will never be enough for me to enjoy it. “More rice, more fun”, Eugene always says.

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Now it was time to handle the marrow. It came intact with the whole bone still encased around it. Of course they had to give us a barbecue stick to take it out. It was a challenge, because in a way it felt like a race against time. Marrow is just golden ambrosia made entirely of fat, and when it gets cold it really isn’t palatable anymore. But I prevailed!

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What I did was scoop a spoonful of the marrow and mixed it together with a generous drizzle of soup over the little mound of rice. It was time to dig in. The verdict?

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It was perfect. I was, in a word, home.

I then added a piece of the beef to the mixture but at that point everything else was just a frill. Delicious, mouth-watering frills.

I thought my night couldn’t get any better. Then coconut water came, and was served to me right out of the shell, very cold to boot. I know I’m getting too emotionally descriptive but if there’s one thing that reminds me of home, it’s drinking ice-cold coconut water. I drink it more than water. It was unadulterated, cold and cleansing. The way coconut water should always be.

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It’s natural for us to associate carinderias with good food. 97% of the time, that’s actually true. But there are a few places that raise the bar in their unassuming glory. These aren’t just carinderias but institutions.
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The food isn’t snooty. It is as real as the earth, and as steadfast as tradition. It’s not farfetched to imagine that it has been imbibed with the charm and soul of those who man our family kitchens with gusto and love. And because of that, even their humblest soup fills the soul, ignites the bones and of course, brings us home.

Mabuhay ka, Pat-Pat. Mabuhay ka.
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Foodgasm is upon us!

Hey y’all! It’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything new. I can’t think of an excuse other than I’ve lost the gumption to maintain this as frequently as possible. I need to soak myself in a tub of inspiration, preferably with a shot of gin and tonic while I’m reading a good book. Will this be a chronic illness? I hope not. As much as I think I’ve neglected this space beyond what is reasonable, I still believe THG can make a glorious, delicious comeback. How and when that’ll happen, I’m not sure yet. But true to form I’m just making it up as I go along because I thrive that way.

Anyway, I’d like to take this time to spread the word that on Saturday, March 9, 2012 at Mercate Centrale, Bonifacio Global City, the good people from The University of the Philippines Economics Society will be spreading some cheer with the return of FOODGASM. It’s essentially a food fair/competition that puts (up and coming) food businesses out there for public consumption. They had me at Foodgasm. This nice image says it all. For more information, visit their facebook page.

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That’s it for now. This isn’t really that much of an update but hey, it’s for a good cause. Later!

Fresh

This is just a quick post to fill in the empty space in my head. Recipes have been at the center of my posts since the beginning so it’s good to allow myself to have welcome respites in between. Random bursts of brilliance, this is not. And I’m not fond of posting personal photos because this isn’t really a “dear diary” sort of blog. Anyway:

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Remember the awesome lola/grandmother who was partly the reason why I made it to wordpress.com’s freshly pressed? Well, that awesome grandmother helped me re-pot the basil, rosemary and mint that I managed to buy from our local (and only) deli. So consider me a noob at herb gardening but as of the moment, they’re taking to the environment well.

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If you’ve also noticed, I tinkered with the layout a bit, and finally (!) I found one that fits me and my blog. It’ll take me some time to get used to the new look because the last time I tried to change it, I ended up going back to my first layout. That’s how attached I was.

I know what you’re thinking, the header looks out of place. In the next few days, hopefully my elementary photoshop skills will be put to the test once again.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I first heard of Sticky Toffee Pudding from Nigel Thornberry, you know, that guy from The Wild Thornberrys, one of the best Nickelodeon cartoons all time? I’m not sure who he was talking to, but I do remember a phrase from his dialogue, in his thick British accent, he said, “…faster than you can say sticky toffee pudding”. So I presume it sticky toffee pudding is an English dessert.
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Then I learned more about it when the Lifestyle Network aired a short reality show which pitted everyday American homemakers against each other to create “the new Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavor”, and by luck and taste would have it, the honor went to the genius who thought of “Sticky Toffee Pudding”.
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A dessert from across the pond – it’s a moist cake studded with prunes or dates, then topped off with a toffee sauce like molten gold. I actually made my first batch of pudding (the British sometimes call a sweet dessert ‘pudding’, without specific references to a custard) more than a year ago, and I baked it in muffin tins. This time I used a 9 x 3 inch cake pan because it was my grandma’s birthday and I also baked her something sweet, since she doesn’t get a lot of it on a regular day.
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But to be completely honest I did have a few moments where I did give myself a facepalm. The last time I baked a cake, I did have an issue removing the wax paper – and the cake from the pan. In my defense flipping it over a plate was not a great idea since it was baked with a topping. This time however, I did have to make heads or tails on how to properly remove the cake, sans topping, from the pan. Because I was banking on my novice skills, I had a few moments of hesitation. I didn’t know handling a cake involved rocket science.

But I did get it out of the pan by first lifting it using the wax paper, then flipping it over so the flat, even bottom layer was on top. Youtube helped the poor fella out. Note to self: go to battle sufficiently prepared.
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The pudding is everything good in a dessert – moist and packed with flavor but not too sweet. The fact that you can drench it in a heavy toffee-like syrup is an incredible thing to see and taste. It really reminds me of  Food For The Gods, except that this is more dense like a cake. But either way, I don’t have to wait for the holidays to get my fix.  So far, this recipe has never failed me. And I believe this’ll be a nice addition to your range of recipes as well. Scratch that, not ‘nice’. Not even ‘good’. This is GREAT.
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Sticky Toffee Pudding (makes one round 9×3 inch cake; adapted from yummy.ph)

  • 1 1/4 cups dates
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (In a pinch, I used fresh milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar to make 1 cup buttermilk)

For the pudding sauce

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Using a pastry brush (or a brush that you exclusively use for cooking/basting), brush the inside of a round 9 x 3 inch baking pan with shortening/oil. Do not use butter. Line it with wax paper all the way up to and beyond the sides, so there is an “overhang”. A different method can be seen here and here. I might try it next time. Photobucket
  2. In a bowl, steep dates in 1 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the water. Pulse dates in a food processor until roughly chopped.Photobucket
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt together butter and sugar on medium heat.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes. Mix in eggs one at a time. Stir immediately to incorporate the eggs. Transfer to a large bowl.Photobucket
  5. Mix in vanilla extract and dates.Photobucket
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add in to the egg and date mixture. Add the buttermilk, mixing until combined.Photobucket
  7. Transfer batter to cake pan and bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.Photobucket
  8. Make the pudding sauce: In a saucepan over low heat, combine butter, brown sugar, and heavy cream, stirring constantly until smooth and slightly thickened. Spoon over pudding. Serve individually on dessert plates with more sauce. Enjoy!