Filipino-style Spaghetti

Filipinos love their spaghetti sweet. That kind of preparation is as “pinoy” as adobo. Growing up, I would watch in awe as grandma would take out her large wok, and arrange the ingredients for the spaghetti on the table: lots of tomato sauce, ground pork or beef, hotdogs (it had to be Tender Juicy!) and the condensed milk. Yes, our household believes that the key to a great sweet spaghetti lies in the condensed milk. Let’s not forget the cheese. Lots of it. I actually thought that spaghetti is always prepared this way. Jollibee underscored it even more. But then as time and experience chipped a few notions away, I began to appreciate just how diverse pasta could be.

Lately my birthdays would always mean that paella would be the center of attention (aside from myself.ha!). But a younger me would be happy to see two or three pyrex dishes filled with spaghetti, generously topped with cheese. Even if pasta comes in various shapes, presentations and flavors…sweet spaghetti hits the spot because it tugs at the heartstrings.
Photobucket

Just this afternoon, after my routine of taking a few photographs of the dish I made, I sat on the floor with a plate of my version of the good stuff grandma makes. There was something missing – the cheese perhaps. But that didn’t matter when I finished all of it. And the package of pasta says it was supposed to serve four. Let’s just pretend I’m not aware of that tiny detail.

It’s sweet, it’s savory, it’s a little fragment of home….it’s the spaghetti we all know and love.
Photobucket

Filipino Style Spaghetti (serves 3 – 4)

The name alone couldn’t contain just how diverse the ingredients and methods Pinoys employ to make their sweet spaghetti. Just because it’s supposed to be sweet doesn’t mean you should go overboard. It has to have the balance of sweet and savory. I used smoked longganisa instead of ground pork, and coconut sugar as a “friendlier” sweetener.

  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, sliced
  • 175 grams pasta noodles, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1/4 cup salty, starchy water used to cook the pasta
  • 250 grams tomato sauce
  • 142 grams vienna sausage (I use Libby’s), drained and sliced
  • 411 grams canned diced tomatoes, with the liquid reserved.
  • 5 – 7 pieces sweet longganisa, sliced into bite sized pieces.
  • 3 – 5 tablespoons coconut sugar (or use brown sugar)
  • dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until onions start to sweat and garlic is fragrant.
  2. Add the longganisa and cook until the fat renders and it is starting to brown.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes together with the liquid. Add the tomato sauce and simmer until the sauce has reduced and has thickened. Add the vienna sausage.
  4. Mix in the sugar, season with salt, pepper and thyme.
  5. When the sauce has reduced, add the starchy water and raise the heat to high. Add in the pasta and mix well. Serve immediately and top with grated cheese (optional)

Longganisa and Atsuete Sinangag (Fried Rice)

The weather has been unforgiving, and I learned that the hard way. I woke up with my throat sore and head throbbing. The body malaise flushed any intention to make the day productive, down the drain. Flashbacks of moments where I let myself be bombarded by the weather without any form of defense kept nagging at me. Now I understand the beauty of a hoodie, or at least an umbrella. It’s strange how being sick lets you sink deep into a pit of self-pity – how I’m alone and I need to take care of my defenseless self. That’s just me being a (bleep) of course.

I went to the McCormick event probably still under the weather. I might as well be patient zero. Did me going home with free bread spread make me feel any better? Not really, but I did feel good after finally cooking something worth posting about. And yes Virginia, I used the garlic bread spread on something that isn’t bread!

There was a pack of longganisa sitting in the freezer, and I was raring to try it out. It wasn’t just any longganisa – the label says it’s ‘alaminos longganisa’ which means it’s hopefully a regional specialty of Pangasinan, one of the many provinces in the Philippines.
Photobucket

I was probably going in blind: I didn’t know what it tasted like, and what effect it will have on the rice. So after patiently mixing everything together, I was eager to finally taste the finished product and, well, it was delicious, delicious, delicious. And I’m not just saying that because of my affinity for unreasonably large servings of rice. It was delicious.

I call it longganisa and atsuete fried rice (sinangag in Filipino) because these two components are primarily responsible for imparting the delicious flavor and color to the rice. It’s a no-brainer and well, I’m not creative with names.
Photobucket

If ‘alaminos longganisa’ is too obscure for you, if you know of a variant that is more deliciously sour than sweet, then use that. And I’ve recently found out that atsuete or annatto can also be sold in powder form! No joke. Then that means it’ll be easier for you to make the atsuete oil by just heating the oil, adding the powder and let the color bleed out. You don’t have to remove the seeds anymore because there are none!
Photobucket

By all means, use the bread spread to add another dimension of flavor to the dish. I can vouch for the garlic variant by saying that it does wonders to fried rice. Sure, it might be counterintuitive with being an advocate of the slow food movement, but well, heck, I won’t apologize.
Photobucket
Longganisa and Atsuete Fried Rice (Serves 3 – 4)

  • 4 ½ cups day old rice
  • 6 – 8 pieces alaminos longganisa, casings removed and crumbled (if unavailable: just use regular longganisa and just sauté the rice in atsuete/annatto oil)
  • 1 carrot, sliced into small cubes
  • 4 pieces sitaw/string beans, stalk ends trimmed, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (or atsuete oil if using regular longganisa)
  • 3 tablespoons McCormick Bread Spread (garlic flavor)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a pan/pot large enough to hold the rice, place the crumbled longganisa with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cook over medium heat, until the water boils and has reduced. At this point, add the carrots and the string beans. Cook until beans are tender and water has evaporated.
  3. Add oil/atsuete oil to sauté everything together. Add the garlic Bread Spread and mix well.
  4. Add the rice, fry and mix well. When done, remove from pan and serve warm. Enjoy!

And just to give you a quick glimpse of how I’m running things lately, this is my makeshift studio:
Photobucket

Yes, that’s my bed frame, and a few linens I bought at The Landmark (on sale, of course), and that blue thing on the side is my mattress that I had to remove. How’s that for going the extra mile?

Like ‘The Hungry Giant’ on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thehungrygiantblog

Follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/giooraay

Spreading some goodness with McCormick

I love herbs. In fact, I have an herb garden growing a thousand miles away back home. I just hope that as of writing this, they haven’t died yet. Fingers crossed that my instructions haven’t fallen on deaf ears.

Before I dove into the practice of using fresh herbs, McCormick has always provided me with a good supply of dried ones to use in everyday cooking. My go-to selection would have to be basil, rosemary, paprika and thyme. It’s amazing that this company can do so much to introduce the world to a variety of flavors neatly packed with convenience, made available in your everyday go-to supermarket at reasonable prices. This time, they take it a notch higher by introducing their new line of…….wait for it…….SUNSCREEN LOTIONS.

Photobucket

spf 30 anyone?

I kid. McCormick, please forgive me, I just had to say it. But seriously though, who would’ve thought sandwich spreads could taste even better? Apparently they did. And here they are with their new line of Bread Spreads, which were launched at Fully Booked Top Shelf to a crowd of bloggers and media representatives.
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

Photobucket

rosemary lemonade (!)

Every table was provided with a generous serving of breads and crackers, together with the three Bread Spread variants: Pesto, Herb Parmesan and Garlic.
Photobucket
Photobucket

On bread, herb parmesan and pesto work best. Both have natural textures in the spread: parmesan and basil bits, respectively. The garlic wasn’t bad, on the contrary, it does taste pretty darn good, but we were impressed with the first two more.
Photobucket

Even if I was not impressed with the garlic on bread, I can imagine the garlic to work with meals like barbecue, fish and chips, even tempura-style vegetables. And just to prove how versatile these spreads can be, McCormick also invited Chef Stephanie Zubiri to demonstrate three dishes flavored with the bread spread line. Even if these 75-gram 0-trans fat squeeze bottles are geared particularly as an in-between for sandwiches, they can do wonders to flavor other dishes as well – think pasta, stuffed chicken breast, and naturally, salads!
Photobucket
Photobucket

Photobucket

Chef Stephanie Zubiri with host Patricia Hizon

Photobucket

Clockwise from right: Garlic Herb Lemon Zest Carbonara, Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Veggie Millefeuille and Pesto Orange Salad with Balsamic Dressing

After the demo, a few lucky members of the audience were also treated to two games. The first one was a 20-minute team challenge to whip up three dishes using the spreads. The next one was easier – a sandwich tasting game where you had to guess what bread spread was used. All in all, people had a jolly good time.

Photobucket
Photobucket

Personally I’m excited to see how far I can stretch the Bread Spread’s versatility. You get the convenience of not having to worry about digging deep into a jar just to get most of the spread, the versatility of having another flavoring element in your mix of ingredient arsenals, and of course, the great flavor that the brand always promises.

McCormick Bread Spreads are now available nationwide and priced at 75php per tube.

Like their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/friendsandflavor

Like ‘The Hungry Giant’ on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thehungrygiantblog

Follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/giooraay

An Easier Boeuf Bourguignon

There’s this really amazing food blog that constantly fills my google reader with almost daily posts – Ang Sarap. That in itself is a feat because the voice behind it, Raymund, a fellow Filipino residing in New Zealand, is a working man whereas yours truly is currently bumming around (that’ll all change SOON) and I can’t even muster up the gumption to post frequently lately. His blog is filled with recipes I wouldn’t mind trying every single day, so early on I was sold.

Ang Sarap is currently hosting guest posts from food bloggers all around the world, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of that tight circle. My guest post is currently up on his site, so you might want to check it out.
Photobucket

Before I left for Manila I made Boeuf Bourguignon for a cozy dinner among friends. A few hours prior, I was staring in front of the black hole that is my pantry, trying to figure out what to cook. I’ve been known to hoard ingredients that I don’t get to use often. So sifting through everything was a challenge. Making a simplified version of Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon was always at the back of my mind. The last time I made it was for Christmas lunch, which was a hit with the family.

This time, I stripped it down until I was left with the core ingredients of beef and wine, and whatever remotely related to bourguignon was left in the fridge and pantry found its way into the pan.
Photobucket
(excerpt from the guest post)

But is what I made still Boeuf Bourguignon? I implore you to never second-guess this dish! Bourguignon or not, it’s still something incredibly special.

This still requires a few hours in the oven to cook, BUT if you ask me, I think cooking this in a pressure cooker for an hour would do the trick. I would do that eventually once I get my hands on a pressure cooker. Sometimes what we would do at home is to pressure cook the raw beef then place it in a container and just leave it in the fridge. When we need it for quick soups or stews, then it’s good to go!

I stumbled on a goldmine when I dotted the dish with butter before I placed it in the oven. Your kitchen will thank you. For a servant-less Filipino cook like me, this might as well be godsend. 

I wish I could make this dish soon but the tiny kitchen I have right now is making it a challenge. I’m still in the process of easing myself into this new lifestyle in the big city so you might notice that it’s been quiet here at THG lately. But because Manila’s food culture is amazing, you might see more of what I ate than what I cooked.

But for now, with a spoonful of nostalgia and homesickness, here it is….Boeuf Bourguignon 2.0
Photobucket

An Easier Boeuf Bourguignon (serves 3 – 4)

  • 500 grams beef rib eye
  • 115 grams canned whole or sliced button mushroom
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 beef broth cube dissolved in 1 ½ cup hot water
  • ¾ cup red wine (use wine that you would drink)
  • 6 bacon strips, roughly chopped
  • ½ tablespoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 teaspoons all purpose flour
  • Small cubes of butter

In a large nonstick pan, heat olive oil over medium heat then add the bacon. Fry until fat renders. Remove the bacon and set aside. Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Season one side with salt and pepper. Using tongs, place the rib eye on the pan, seasoned side down. Season with salt and pepper the side facing up. Cook both sides until it starts to brown. Remove from pan and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onions until limp. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 30 more seconds. Using the spatula, nudge the onions and mushrooms to the sides of the pan, and then add back the beef and the bacon. Add the beef broth water and the wine. Season with thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle in the flour and gently mix everything together.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the pan in the oven and allow to cook for 2 – 3 hours or until beef is tender. Remove from the oven and adjust the taste to your preference. Serve warm with rice or buttered toast and enjoy!

Breakfast: Homemade Tocino

Photobucket

Lately, my breakfasts were served to me in little boxes full of rice, microwaved and with a tall glass of pineapple juice, courtesy of our friendly neighborhood 7-Eleven.

It’s been a few days since I left my home and currently, I’m writing this in our 39 square meter unit that I share with two of my friends. I’m in Manila now, trying to slug it out and chase whatever it is my hometown can’t give me. I actually have a post that reads like a novela in the works, but no, now is not the time for that. I need to make room for breakfast, and for tocino, which has been sitting at the back of my head for a while now.
Photobucket

Growing up my mom would make tocino from scratch.  I gather that in some parts of the world, tocino means ‘bacon’ (another one of my favorites, hence my waistline). Tocino in the Philippines is cured pork or chicken slices and it literally spells a quintessential Pinoy breakfast (together with longganisa, beef tapa, danggit). Thin strips of pork are cured with a mixture of salt, sugar, saltpeter (sodium nitrate) or prague powder, and rice wine or gin. The salt to sugar ratio is important, because you can easily tip the scale between salty and sweet – flavors that a tocino must be must have in perfect harmony (Mom takes it very seriously!).

Photobucket

the folded paper is the actual recipe that my mom kept for 20+ years!

Tocino sold in the supermarkets in the frozen section is more processed than usual, and I don’t really care for it. This recipe is so much better because at least I know how much salt and preservatives are in it which doesn’t make it more healthful but at least sinking my teeth into every sweet and salty morsel is more of a psychological treat (haha!).

I think it may be a while before I get my bearings and adjust to my even tinier kitchen, so I might as well fill this blog with more of what I do get to taste in the Metro. But for now, when I’m thinking of home and of uncomplicated breakfasts, this sits at the top of my list (together with another favorite, my bacon and egg rings).
Photobucket

Tocino (serves 6 – 8)

  • 1 kg skinless boneless pork
  • Curing mix:
  • 1 ½ tablespoons iodized salt
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon gin/rice wine
  • ¼ tablespoon prague powder
  • A dash of MSG

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the curing mix. Evenly coat the pork slices with the curing mix then transfer it to a larger bowl, large enough to hold the pork. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least one – two days before cooking.

When ready to cook, arrange the number of pork pieces you need in a pan and add water enough to cover the bottom. Cook it over medium heat, until the water evaporates and the tocino’s fat begins to render. Add a tablespoon or two of oil and fry until both sides take on a reddish hue and begin to brown. The pieces may burn easily so be careful. When done, remove from pan, serve with rice and an egg fried sunny side up. Enjoy!

Honey Chicken

Photobucket

My eating habits scare me sometimes. Sometimes. I was too full for lunch at 12 because I ate breakfast at 10. Then at around 2pm, I thought I was glued to the bed watching NCIS reruns, but no, I craved for honey chicken. I just had to press the pause button.

Truth be told I just went with my gut on this one. There was no recipe, just inspiration from a few odds and ends, particularly the vivid taste of Lotus restaurant’s iconic honey chicken masterpiece, and the sauce I made a while back for the fried pork cutlets. And the end result was devoured in record time, even by my grandmother who, today, also told me that she tried my macaroni and cheese and thought it was “walang kwenta” (worthless). But hey, don’t take her word for it!!! The rest of my family defended me of course, so it’s probably just grandma’s isolated and skewed opinion (but don’t worry I still love her to bits).

The only thing I wished I could have done was to make some more because it was the first thing gone from the table during dinner. Yeah, they really liked it.
Photobucket

Honey chicken (serves 4)

  • 1.5 kg chicken legs and thighs
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • Half a head of garlic, minced
  • 1 240ml can pineapple juice
  • 5 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white cane vinegar (apple cider vinegar works too)
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup honey (or more, to taste)
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Sear the chicken on both sides, until it begins to brown, around 5 – 10 minutes on each side. You might need to do this in batches.
  2. Make the sauce: Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large sauce pan (large enough to hold the chicken pieces as well) over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and allow to fry until fragrant but not burnt. Add the pineapple juice and the cornstarch mixture. Mix well.
  3. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir everything together over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Adjust the seasoning to your preference.
  4. Lower the heat and add in the chicken and cook, covered, for 30 – 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked tender.
  5. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, increase the heat to high and cook until the sauce has reduced, thickened and is slightly sticky. Frequently stir everything together to stop it from burning. When done remove from heat and serve warm. Enjoy!

Fried Bananas/Prito Saging

Photobucket

Sometimes when I’d hop on over to the kitchen next door, at my grandparent’s house, I’d see a bunch of bananas on the table, and I know it could become one of two things: sareala or prito saging. Sareala is bananas stewed in coconut milk and muscovado sugar, while prito/frito saging literally means fried bananas. Today was all about the fried bananas.

They make a great all-day snack that’s really simple to prepare and really really addictive. I asked them what’s the banana that’s ideal for frying, they usual say, ‘Gardava‘, and would be quick to add, ‘not Saba‘. But it is peculiar to know that when you google ‘Saba Banana’, top sites would tell you that the Saba banana is also called ‘Cardaba’. Yes, it’s confusing. Photos of the Saba banana would show you a banana that is slightly angular, almost square-ish, and I can swear that the bananas used didn’t resemble the photo. Now as I’m typing this I realize how much of a dufus I am because I didn’t even think of photographing the banana in question. Nice one, Gio.

Anyway, don’t fret. If you’re lucky enough to have an abundance of fruit stands around your neighborhood, I’m sure the people manning it can help you out. But if the varieties are scarce, it’s reasonable to experiment. Who knows? You might stumble into your own little gold mine (of fried golden bananas).
Photobucket

Some recipes (and mothers, grandmothers, aunts) tell you to coat the bananas in flour, while some say just dump it in the hot oil right away. If the bananas are overripe and mushy, then it should be coated with flour to help preserve the structure. But if the bananas have peaked and ripened perfectly, then dump it in sans the flour. You’d want this kind of fried banana more – well, I would. They don’t mush too much even when they’re already golden brown. Sinking your teeth into it is a treat because if it’s perfectly cooked, then it’s going to melt in your mouth.

And slathering each piece with butter and sugar? Don’t get me started.
Photobucket

Prito Saging (serves 6 – 8)

This doesn’t even have a proper procedure.

  • 1 banana bunch, peeled, then sliced in half or quartered
  • enough oil for frying
  • butter and sugar, to serve
  1. In a pan/pot, heat enough oil to fry the bananas completely. Fry a few bananas at a time until golden brown. You may need to work in batches. If it’s possible, don’t use tongs to handle the bananas – use a spatula or slotted spoon.
  2. When done, remove from pan and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  3. Serve with butter and sugar on the side. Enjoy!

Pancit Guisado

Photobucket

There’s no excuse for it, so I might as well just put it out there: I’ve been deliberately avoiding my blog. I haven’t been in the kitchen for a while, my posting schedule is pretty much zilch, and…well, I didn’t really care. I think, or at least I’d like to believe that every writer/blogger has gone through a period where…inspiration isn’t really there. You feel parched, tired and done for. Does that sound familiar?

A few things first:

1. I finished reading The Millennium trilogy (ie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels) and, I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Stieg Larsson just has this ability to draw you in, and I was sucked into a ‘happy’ black hole for a while, hence I took a respite from hardcore writing.

2. My barbecue craving hasn’t abated yet, so watch out for more barbecue dishes soon! (If the grilled pieces of pork and chicken haven’t been the death of me yet!)

3. At least three people wanted to send me herbs, but since international shipping is pricey, it’ll only remain a dream. This is still an invitation to any Filipino living in the Philippines, who might be interested in helping a fella out. (wink)

Anyway, am I back in motion? Hopefully. If there’s one thing I learned from my retreat, it’s that hope is a powerful word. So here I am, hoping for the best.

April rolled by and the first day of May came as a surprise for me. The Kulinarya Club holds a monthly challenge with a specific theme, and strangely enough I only knew of the April theme when the other members started posting their works. It turns out the notice got lost in the mail, so before I jump into the May challenge, here is my attempt at ‘Filipino Food Truck Fare’, brought to you by Louie and Nathan. The premise is that food from a food truck is portable and easy-to-eat, since apparently food trucks have a huge following in the US.
Photobucket

When I was reviewing for my boards, the university’s newly renovated two-story cafeteria was opened. It was a far cry from the two small cramped canteens that served the entire campus. The cafeteria now had a reasonable number of food stalls that served ‘decent’ to ‘great’ food, depending on what stall you choose to buy from. There’s this one stall that serves ‘great’ dimsum – siomai (steamed or friend), rolls,  and fried rice and noodles. I go there for the siomai and the noodles, or sometimes both, because if I order the friend noodles, there’s always a siomai or two resting on top.

Observing how they put together the fried noodles is pretty straightforward. Pre-boiled/softened egg noodles have been measured and placed in small individual plastic containers. When somebody orders, all they have to do is get a container, dump the noodles on the pan with oil, then add a little bit of what I assume to be a soy sauce mixture, mix it all together, place it in a small serving bowl, and top it with siomai. That method can easily mesh with the whole dynamic of a food truck, because it’s easy and makes so much sense.
Photobucket

I tried to bring back that ‘noodle love’ by making a simplified version of pancit guisado. Guisado in our context means ‘sautéed‘, and there’s a lot of it going on here. This is Chinese-Filipino happiness on a plate. The taste actually reminds me of the pancit canton of a popular fast food chain here in the Philippines that may or may not be called Chowking.

Oh, and we didn’t have any cardboard takeout boxes, so for a moment, let’s just imagine these ceramic bowls are light as a feather.
Photobucket

Pancit Guisado (serves 1 – 2)

  • 100 grams dried pancit canton noodles
  • 5 – 6 pieces medium-sized prawns (deveined, head and shell removed), each sliced into 3 – 4 small pieces
  • half a medium-sized carrot, sliced thinly
  • 100 – 150 grams pork belly, sliced into bite sized cubes
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • half a garlic bulb, minced
  • 2 small red onions, sliced
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • spring onions, sliced, for garnish
  1. Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water. The noodles may cook fast, around 1 – 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Cook the pork pieces by placing it in a frying pan and adding the water. Let the water boil and cook the pork until the water dries up, pork starts to toast, and fat begins to render. Add the 1/4 cup soy sauce and cook until tender. Set aside.
  3. In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions. Saute until fragrant. Add the carrots and fry until slightly tender.
  4. Add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and the prawns. Mix everything together and cook until prawns are pink, around a minute or two. Add the pork belly and noodles.
  5. Mix everything together and fry for another 30 seconds. When done, remove from pan and serve in individual bowls or in a takeout box for that full effect. Garnish with the spring onions and serve. Enjoy!

Photobucket

Salt and Vinegar Grilled Pork

Photobucket

It’s 8 in the evening, and here I am, thinking about what I ate for lunch. And I’m hungry. I’m not sure if this is entirely psychological or somatic, or a little bit of both, but yeah, I can say that my tummy’s rumbling. It’s all in my head. It’s all in my head….

Let me make a confession: while I was on my retreat, I caught myself thinking about what I’m going to eat when I’m done with the silence. Don’t get me wrong, the Jesuits served filling, really really great meals, but I was craving. The craving for salty-sour grilled pork was so bad.

When we were in Dipolog-Dapitan a week ago, prior to my retreat, we went to their boulevard for dinner, and there, we were greeted by a proverbial barbecue mecca. There were rows and rows, stall upon stall of skewered anything – pork, chicken, chorizo, innards, even tocino! All you had to do was point or pick the meat, and they’ll grill it. I’ll devote a post to that, but as a prelude – I have been imprinted with this lingering obsession with barbecue. Hence, this post.
Photobucket

Sweet or sour? That question profoundly affected me. For real. Would I ‘try’ to recreate the sweet smoky my taste buds were treated to when I was on vacation? Or would a more rough and tumble salty-sour taste pique my cravings even more? After careful deliberation – the taste of sweet grilled pork would have to wait. Salty-sour ruled the day.

I’d have to say grilling pork marinated in salt, pepper and vinegar is easier to manage. Because there’s not much sugar in it, it doesn’t burn as fast as when you grill pork with a soy sauce, ketchup and sugar marinade. But if you’re like me, I like a hint of sweetness, so a tablespoon or two of brown sugar does the trick.
Photobucket

Memories associated with the sensation of eating salty-sour grilled pork would have to be with my family at the beach. We would buy the pork on the way, then grill it as soon as we arrive. The nuances are there: sometimes we only rub it with salt and pepper, then the vinegar becomes the dipping sauce, together with soy sauce (toyo), onions, garlic and tomatoes. But whichever way it’s been cooked, it always leaves us full, happy, and bathing in the sun.

So sour it is. And honestly, my cravings have been satisfied. But tomorrow’s another day, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be planning the next time I’ll grill again. I can’t wait (!)
Photobucket

Salt and Vinegar Grilled Pork (serves 6 – 8)

2 kg pork belly, sliced 1 ½ inch thick

Marinade:

  • 1 cup white cane vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons brown sugar, optional
  • 3 tablespoons patis/fish sauce

Dipping Sauce

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Knorr liquid seasoning
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, minced
  • A dash of red pepper flakes
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons white cane vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients.
  2. Add the pork and make it is thoroughly coated with it. Marinate it overnight, turning once, after a few hours.
  3. Grill the pork on each side until golden brown, with grill marks. Make sure the meat does not burn. The time it takes for you to grill depends on how hot the grill is.
  4. When done, remove from grill and let rest for a few minutes. Slice into bite-sized pieces and serve with rice and dipping sauce. Enjoy!
  5. Make the dipping sauce: over medium heat, add oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic and toast lightly. Add red pepper flakes and toast for a few seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust taste to your liking. Remove from heat and serve with the grilled pork.

Breaded Pork Cutlet with Pineapple-Lychee Sauce

Photobucket

This week was a blur. After we were done with the Easter celebration, everyday felt like a strange shift back to monotony and admittedly, I purposely ignored posting anything new. When I didn’t have anything else better to do, before I started this blog, and especially during the summer, I’d read a good book. I surmise that no matter how old I’d be, I’ll always be a devoted consumer of children’s fiction.

But I really don’t think I can consider The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for starters) children’s fiction. No, no, no. It’s peppered with all sorts of things that, well, aren’t safe for work. But I really enjoyed reading it, probably because it’s a brilliant, intricate yet incredibly straightforward crime novel and I haven’t really immersed myself in that realm yet.

Photobucket

So yeah, my week was filled with amble reading moments, and I think I needed that. But during the moments in-between reading, I remember that I had to feed myself too. And without a lot of intricate preparation, I managed to whip up something decent. Scratch that, it isn’t just decent…it’s really good.

This is just the standard breaded pork, which really becomes more flavorful if you let the meat marinate in vinegar, garlic and sugar (yes, sugar), overnight.

But now we come to the issue of the sauce. Sure, the standard soy sauce-vinegar-calamansi dipping sauce is a winner, but it was when I read the book Asian Dumplings that I found a little gold nugget. Towards the end of her book, Andrea Nguyen shares recipes for sauces commonly partnered with dumplings and beyond. One of which, she calls ‘Sweet and Sour Sauce’, but her description is far from the mental image that I know is sweet and sour sauce. The bottled kind is…reddish-orange, ketchup-y, slightly translucent.

Photobucket

This one is (in her words) “a rich dark honey color, this tart-sweet-savory sauce does not resemble the cloying, sticky, bright red sauce that’s often served at Chinese restaurants.” She also hints that this can be a blank canvas for other flavors – tropical (use canned pineapple juice instead of water) and/or spicy (add ginger and chili to the mix).

What’s more tropical than pineapple? pineapple-lychee of course! But don’t count pine-orange or pine-mango out, because as of writing this, now I understand why this sauce is definitely a blank canvas.  I was sold.

(And….I’m about to read The Girl Who Played With Fire. Time is definitely divided.)

Photobucket

Breaded Pork (serves 4 – 6)

1 kg pork chops or belly (if using belly, ask the butcher to slice it into uniform pieces 5 – 6 inches long)

Marinade:

  • ½ cup white cane vinegar
  • Half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Breading

  • Flour
  • 1 – 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt or liquid seasoning (Maggi or Knorr)
  • Breadcrumbs
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl or Tupperware and add in the pork. Mix well and leave in the refrigerator preferably overnight.
  2. When ready to fry, set-up a dipping station using 3 shallow dishes. In the first dish, add flour enough to coat the pork.  Begin with around ½ cup, adding a few tablespoons more when needed. Season the flour with salt and pepper. In the second dish, lightly beat the egg. It’s best to start with one egg, then if it runs out, beat in another one. Add a pinch of salt or a few drops of liquid seasoning. In the third dish, add the breadcrumbs.
  3. Using tongs, dredge both sides of the pork with the flour. Then dip both sides in the egg. Lastly, coat both sides with the breadcrumbs.
  4. Over medium-low to medium heat, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a nonstick pan. When the oil is glistening, add the pork pieces. You may need to work in batches, 2 or 3 at a time, depending on the size of the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry each side for around 8 – 10 minutes or until breading turns golden brown.

Sweet and Sour Sauce (makes 1 cup)

  • ¼ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (any kind)
  • ½ cup pineapple-lychee juice (Dole or Del Monte)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  1. Combine the sugar, salt, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar and water in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a near boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Give the cornstarch a stir and then add it to the pan. Continue cooking,  stirring, for about 15 seconds, or until the sauce comes to a full boil and thickens.
  4. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and set aside for 10 minutes to cool and concentrate in flavor.
  5. Taste and add extra salt, if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to prepare this sauce a day in advance.

Tonkatsu