Asian Eats at The Podium

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By virtue of their facebook posts and photos alone, I’d say Pinoy Eats World looks like a pretty fun group. I haven’t had the pleasure of attending one of their food tours or guerilla dinners yet, but I did manage to head on over to The Podium where they organized a small food fair, World Eats “Asia”, just in time for the Chinese New Year. It’s actually an intimate gathering of a few up-and-coming food businesses with exciting (and tasty) products.

Here’s a rundown of the things I had, and really, the food speaks for itself. Make the most of it because WEA ends today!

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Delicious‘ artisanal wagyu corned beef ever since I had it at Mercato. This time, beyond the humble (haha) corned beef pandesal, Jeremy (Mr. D himself) has served up his version of corned beef sisig which is really just one part madness and two parts delicious. Toasted bits and pieces of corned beef were served with “artisanal” cheese, which is actually just Magnolia quickmelt “to keep it ghetto”, according to Mr. D. In between toasted ensaymada, this little sandwich is anything but humble.
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Next up, we dropped by Craft Coffee Workshop’s stall. I’m not really a fan of coffee because it makes my palms sweat more than the usual, but it’s fascinating to observe and listen to people who have so much passion for coffee-making that they’re also willing and able to share their expertise with other people. I got one of their bestsellers, the Nicaragua. I’m as shallow as it can be when it comes to understanding and appreciating coffee, but my friend said it was good. I’ll take her word for it.
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It was a great to know Chez Karine would be setting up shop there as well, and I’m a sucker for a good macaron. I didn’t have to blink to know I wanted the maple bacon (yeaaaahh!). Need I say more? Buy a pack of bacon flavored with maple syrup from the grocery, mellow down the flavor and you get the macaron. Their macaron “showpiece” was a sight to behold as well.
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The friendly lady (sorry, I forgot her name – I’m a goldfish that way) manning Asiong’s had us taste flavors I normally wouldn’t consume on a daily basis. They had leche flan, ube haleya, and strangely enough, another haleya made from tamarind or sampalok. I wouldn’t have known it was made from sampalok! Although it sounds strange, it was pretty darn good. The same goes for their kamias and malunggay juice. Both of them I’d probably find in soups – kamias being a souring agent and malunggay the ubiquitous leafy green. This time both of them went into a refreshing drink that I couldn’t resist buying a bottle to take home.
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I regret not buying anything from Ritual (hot chocolate!) but here are a few of their really cool products:
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Last stop would be the collaboration between The Ministry of Mushrooms and Edgy Veggie. Yes Virginia, everything is vegetarian. It took us a while before deciding on the mushroom burrito with chips, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. To put together a wrap with mushrooms and marry it with legit Mexican flair and flavor is exciting, to say the least. I wanted to try almost everything from their stall, including their clever rice mixes all seasoned and good to go.
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Also present are the folks from Theo and Philo artisanal chocolates (I’m a fan!), Pinkerton ice cream and Ha Yuan. Today is their last day and I hope I’m not too late to spread the “prosperity”. WEA is at The Podium, 12 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong.

Emperor’s Beef Stew


I’m halfway done with The Girl Who Played With Fire, a novel with as much grit as the first novel that I’m left dumbfounded how I never picked up the series earlier. Suffice to say I have time on my hands, because Mindanao (the large island in the Philippines where my city, Zamboanga, is located) has been going through a power crisis that has apparently pushed it a few hundred steps backwards and into the dark ages, literally. When I’m not doing anything productive (which is most of the time), I read.

And I’m enjoying this laziness a lot – too much apparently that I’m relying on spontaneity to determine what to cook and what to blog about. Time is definitely divided, and I’m actually pretty glad I don’t have to fuss over this little blog too much. Not that fussing over something is inherently bad – but in my case, it has sometimes been counterproductive and counterintuitive.

Have you ever used a pressure cooker?

(My off-tangent paragraph flow construction amazes me)

I’ve recently made friends with it. Usually it’s my dad who uses it and he always talks about how improper usage will literally kill you. No joke. According to him, opening it without releasing the pressure will apparently cause an explosion. I’ve been perusing youtube for evidence to support his claim, but I realized that even if that were true, I’m not stupid enough to mishandle it in any way.

The point is, because I fear for my life – that little noisy spindle on top of the pressure cooker lid needs to be lifted in order to release the pressure before I open it. Because the heat is scalding, I use tongs to lift the spindle. I haven’t died yet.

The pressure cooker does wonders to soften tough cuts of meat. We usually use it to soften beef in less than an hour. I had a surplus of beef shanks that were used for soup last Sunday. I was thinking of making it into Osso Buco, but a little Del Monte recipe postcard latched onto our fridge door by ref magnets caught my eye. It seemed easy enough, and I wanted to get back to my reading as soon as possible, so I decided to give it a try. Osso Buco would have to wait.

The stew itself is savory and hearty, with hints of rice wine, hoisin, soy, and oyster sauce. The sweetness from the pineapples (It’s a Del Monte recipe after all) tempers the saltiness, resulting in something that’s almost like ‘endulsado’ (pork stewed/cooked in soy sauce and sugar), but not quite there yet. That’s a good thing, because endulsado can be cloyingly sweet.

This stew doesn’t need to beg to be wolfed down; it’s just natural to help yourself to a few more servings. Well, at least that’s what I did. I’m not ashamed.

Emperor’s Beef Stew (serves 4 – 6)

  • ½ cup chopped white onions
  • Half a garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 to 2 pieces dried laurel/bay leaves
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 1 ½   kg beef shanks, cooked and softened in a pressure cooker (make sure to read manufacturer’s instructions)
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • A scant ¼ cup rice wine or gin
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 pouches Del Monte Pineapple tidbits (115 grams each)
  1.  In a pot large enough to hold the beef, sauté onions, garlic, bay leaves and pepper in oil. Add the beef and sauté until lightly brown.
  2. Add oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine and water. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to soften the beef more.
  3. Add the pineapple tidbits with the syrup and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm with rice. Enjoy!

Pork Barbecue

I’m still reeling around what we had on the table for our New Year’s lunch. I promise, this’ll be the last post about decadence. In a few days, I’ll be posting healthier recipes – like grass salad, steamed grass, grass on a bed of lettuce and more grass, plus a grass smoothie.

I take that back, I haven’t really tested the waters of healthier eating yet. And I’m operating around the forces of procratination and the love of all things pork. You get the idea. But what I do to make up for all the fat I consume is that I jog. I try to jog regularly and I’m proud to say that for three consecutive days I’ve devoted time to jog. Yeah I know it’s not much of a stretch but at least I’m trying to offset the guilt.

Well, it’s not really guilt. It’s simply that bad feeling I get after eating a whole lot of everything. But I don’t want to dwell on the bad. After all, food is meant to be enjoyed, savored and loved. Sure, sometimes you wish you had another external stomach to digest what you’ve eaten lest it adds to your already expanding curvature. The mantra “all things in moderation” came a little too late.

But at that precious moment of biting into your favorite dish, the universe doesn’t matter. That probably happened to me more than once during lunch when I had pork barbecue.

What makes this barbecue special, aside from the taste, is that it’s skewered.

You must be scrunching your brows right about now. You see the only time we get to eat/make barbecue on a stick is during the New Year. That realization came when my dad and I had a conversation of why I needed to cube perfectly good solid pork. I told him that it’s the New Year, that’s the only time we get to do this. A  long second later he realized where I came from and said “Oo nga nuh?” (That’s a “yeah, that’s right” or something to that effect).

Now you hopefully understand why some laws of the universe don’t matter so much to me anymore.

This recipe is meant to feed a reasonably sized crowd. I mean it. I couldn’t really account how many sticks were produced but the point is it’s meant to feed a family of 12 with leftovers to boot. But you can easily cut this recipe by half and adjust the taste of the marinade to your liking.

I recommend buying whole cuts of pork and if your butcher can help you cube it, the better. Buying the pork whole gives you more control over the amount of meat and fat you want in your barbecue. A typical pork barbecue stick has around 4 – 6 pieces, 80% of which is lean meat while the rest is delectable fat. I used a combination of lean (shoulder) and fatty cuts (belly).

I’d like to believe this is really a Filipino barbecue. It’s sweet and salty the way our barbecues should taste. The usual components of a marinade include a mixture of ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar/kalamansi juice and sugar but I added a few other things to tweak the traditional marinade a bit.

The resulting pork-on-a-stick is full of flavor. Apart from the strong marinade to begin with, it was alternately brushed with garlic and ginger flavored annatto oil and a sweetened reduced version of the marinade to keep it moist.

This is so special I wouldn’t really think of doing this at any other random weekend of the year. This is a New Year’s barbecue. Enough said. But since you’re not me, you might want to try it this weekend, or the next, or the next time your father, mother, son or daughter comes home. Either way, this is great stuff. I hope you’ll love it as much as we did. And please, don’t feel guilty after eating a stick, or eight.

Pork Barbecue

  • 50 – 70 pieces bamboo skewers
  • 5 kg pork cubes (we used 2 kg skinless boneless pork, 2 kg shoulder, 1 kg pork belly, cut into cubes)
  • 1 ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 ¼ cup banana ketchup
  • 1 ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 240 ml/1 can unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons chili oil
  • 2 tablespoons chili garlic paste
  • 1 cup brown sugar + 3/4 cup extra for the sauce
  • 1 whole garlic head, minced
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup warm water (for the reduction)

Annatto oil:

  • ½ cup margarine
  • Half a head of garlic, minced
  • one ¼ – 1/2 inch ginger slice
  1. Put the pork in a large colander and clean it by running it through tap water. Allow the water to drain and set aside.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients (except the cornstarch and water) together in a bowl large enough to hold the pork.
  3. Adjust taste to your preference.
  4. Add in the pork and mix well. Leave it covered in the refrigerator preferably overnight.
  5. A few hours prior to grilling, skewer the pork pieces. Make sure not to overcrowd the skewer (We had around 4- 5 pieces per stick).
  6. 30 minutes prior to grilling, make the two basting sauces.
  7. For the annatto oil: in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine. Do not allow to burn. Add the garlic and ginger and toast until the fragrant aromas are released. Set aside.
  8. For the marinade reduction: In a medium saucepan, add the marinade and cook over medium heat. When it starts to boil, add the sugar and the cornstarch slurry. Cook until marinade reduces. Be sure to constantly watch over it because the boiling marinade might spill out of the pan. Set aside.
  9. When the grill is ready, add the pork skewers and grill until both sides are evenly cooked, slightly charred but not totally burnt.
  10. Alternately baste the pork with the reduced cooked marinade and the annatto oil, every 5 – 10 minutes. We baste only when one side starts to brown and sizzle.
  11.  When done, remove from the grill and baste with the remaining sauce. Serve warm and enjoy!


What I Ate @ ATOA

“Because I’d like to believe it’s important to tell the world what you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner”

To start a new angle for my blog, whenever I go to a restaurant, try something from a food cart or stall, I might as well post what I had and invite you to salivate with me. If you might grab the chance to eat where I ate, maybe you can use my visual guide to help you get started. I might include a “micro review” of the place as well. I have yet to really dive into reviewing an establishment, but if it’s important to simply have an unbiased opinion of what I ate, then maybe it’s not too hard. 

Two of my friends and I had lunch at this little resto that serves Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino) cuisine, aptly called ATOA (A Taste Of Asia).

ATOA is actually a memorable place for us because the last time we went here, it was the day our board exam results came out (we all passed). But we are all fans of the place because of its Japanese food. I don’t really enjoy sushi and sashimi, but as you can see we had our fair share of particular favorites:

California Maki – my favorite. Every time I go there, I always make it a point to order this. It tastes really fresh, and when paired with their soy sauce, is foodgasmic.

Ebi (Shrimp) Tempura – this (along with the California Maki) is a mainstay on the table. Sure, it’s just large shrimp drowning in breadcrumbs, but it’s delicious large shrimp drowning in breadcrumbs.

Tonkatsu – breaded pork. Nothing special, you can make this at home. But more protein is a good addition to the meal. You can forego this and order something else.

Chicken Teriyaki – this sings. This is amazing. The sauce, if i’m not mistaken, is simply soy sauce cooked with sugar and thickened with cornstarch but it’s really really good. The chicken itself is tender, moist and really tasty. I’m having a hard time deciphering how they made this but I’ll get there. You can’t go wrong with chicken thighs.

Yang Chow fried rice – a little bit stingy with the goodies. Plain rice will do, but this is good as well, albeit not spectacular. Hey, it’s rice.

Don’t you think this setup is so pinoy?. In our defense however, we were stuffed when we reached this point. Don’t worry, I managed to “grudgingly” clean this up.

Here in Zamboanga, choices are pretty limited. Most of the restaurants here are geared towards satisfying all markets, so restaurants that are exclusively fine dining virtually don’t exist. I’m not really complaining, this is where I grew up and my palate is hardwired to appreciate simple food. ATOA packs a punch, and that’s it. The second floor is also reserved for functions and they also cater. I’m not a fan of their catering, but the food they serve in the restaurant is what keeps me coming back for more.

A Taste Of Asia (ATOA)
Veterans Avenue Extension (fronting Western Mindanao Medical Center) 
(062) 992 – 4600