Ice Candy Duo: Lemonade & Milk Tea

Photobucket

I had a lot of vivid memories growing up, spending lazy days at home, far far from the clutches of school – watching Dink The Little Dinosaur, flying kites with my dad, playing “tumbahang lata” with the neighbors’ kids, starting an aquarium more than once, all of which ended in massive extinction, and a particularly graphic scene of a little calamansi fruit, literally frying with the juice boiling on the concrete, under the scorching heat of the sun. Yes, summers are more fun in the Philippines.

My childhood summers are one of the sweetest moments of the life, particularly because I didn’t like going to school, and there was always something to do at home or outside. That was the good life. I didn’t care for anything else, except that I wanted to have fun. Going back to school  takes those golden moments away. It’s also a part of life (and a fact) that growing up pushes these memories aside, making room for new priorities, interests, and even friends.
Photobucket

Moving on to happy thoughts…

Judging by the heat, the scorching  summer has definitely arrived. When I was growing up, summer also meant that ICE CANDY season has also arrived. Ice Candy, is basically any refreshing liquid of your choice, poured into thin, flimsy plastic ‘wrappers’ specifically made for ice candy, tied up and frozen. That’s it.
Photobucket

How is it supposed to be eaten? You bite into and tear off a little piece of plastic from the bottom, then suck away. The heat from your hands will begin to melt the ice, and it’s a venerable treat to relish the liquid that’s slowly dancing in between liquid and solid. I can’t get any better than that.

Because I was a wee fledgling when the ice candy craze kicked in, making it involved teamwork. I would pour the liquid into the wrapper, and my Mama Eng would tie it all up and place it in the freezer. Sometimes, the neighborhood kids would help out as well. We’re tight like that. Then we would sell it for 1 peso a pop. One summer, the craze was so popular, every single household in our extension was selling ice candy! A classic ice candy flavor would have to be Milo. Fruits juices only ranked second.
Photobucket

This month would mark my first attempt at joining Kulinarya Club’s monthly theme activity. I received confirmation of my membership around mid-February, and I’ve been looking forward to taking crack at the March theme: ice candy (thanks to Jun of Jun-Blog and Arnold of Inuyaki for this stroke of brilliance).

I put my own spin to this oldie-but-goodie by showcasing two flavors that I’ve fallen in love with recently: lemonade and milk tea.
Photobucket

I’m not really a calamansi juice person, though I won’t mind if it’s liberally drizzled over a plate of palabok. There’s just something…cleaner and fresher about the smell and taste of lemons that takes me away from the humidity and unforgiving heat of the day. My mom’s lemonade ratio really hits the spot each and every time – the flavor of the tart lemons and the sweet sugar marries perfectly. I can finish a pitcher in one day.
Photobucket

Milk tea has been a growing trend here in the Philippines and I’ve had my fair share of it over the past few months. But I’m proud to say that among the milk teas that I’ve tasted, Zamboanga’s own Zensonita (Zen-son-night-ta) is one of the best in my book. It shares the top spot with Gong Cha. That says a lot. Zensonita is unpretentious and serves it like it is, no gimmicks, no frills. Visit their store along Nunez extension and order all three bestsellers: original, tarik and strawberry. I tried to replicate their original flavor – basic black tea with a slurry of fresh and condensed milk.

Photobucket

And as the song goes: “summertime, and the livin’ is easy”. Ice candy might as well be the songwriter’s muse, maybe even the perfect symbol.

Ice Candy Duo

Lemonade

  • 6 cups  cold water
  • 3 – 4 lemons
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar

Mix everything in a pitcher and allow to chill in the refrigerator.

Milk Tea

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 bag black tea
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh milk
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk, or more to taste
  1. Boil water in a pot over medium heat. Once boiled, remove from heat and add the tea bags. Allow to steep for 10 – 15 minutes or until a strong tea flavor is achieved. When done, remove tea bags. When cooled, transfer the tea to a pitcher.
  2. Mix the fresh and condensed milk together in a small bowl or cup. Add to the tea and mix well. Adjust the taste to your preference.

Make the ice candy:

  1. If you’re working alone, it’s best to have a mug/cup with you. Place the plastic tubes/wrappers inside the mug with prop it in such a way that it’s resting on the rim of the mug/cup.Photobucket
  2. Use a small funnel to pour the liquid in, filling the wrapper a little over halfway to 3/4ths full. Take the excess plastic and tightly twist it to compress the liquid inside. Use your fingers to roll the excess plastic until it’s toothpick-thin, so it will be easier to twist.Photobucket
    Photobucket
  3. Twist the excess plastic around your finger, and loop it around to make a knot. Repeat the process until you have your desired number. Freeze until firm and enjoy!Photobucket

    Photobucket

    The 3rd one from the left is what you'll get when you won't twist the excess plastic enough

Photobucket

9 mornings: Milk Tea

(I spent the entire morning figuring out our internet connection problems and I’m exhausted moving mountains just so I can type this. Things aren’t OK just yet, but here I am blogging about it, so the universe must love me somehow)

It’s become a religious custom here in the Philippines to attend Misa De Gallo/Simbang Gabi/Novena Mass (that lasts for 9 days, hence a novena) to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. It’s a religious obligation/family tradition/great way to observe the Christmas season in the country that supposedly celebrates Christmas the longest – as soon as the -Ber months roll in.
Photobucket

Because I’d like to assume a more “active” role as a food blogger (hehe), I’m putting my own spin on my holiday posts! Inspired by the Misa de Gallo, starting today until the 24th, it’ll be a (hopefully) steady stream of holiday/Misa de Gallo inspired dishes. I know, it’s a tall order. Much like how I don’t know if this will be my year – as in the year I finally complete the novena for once, I also don’t know if I can complete this project. But with fingers crossed, I believe there’s hope for me. Tiny miracles can happen.
Photobucket

Is milk tea a traditional holiday drink? No, of course not. But since I’m a fan and I told you that I was on the search to find the right tea:milk proportion, I guess now is the perfect time to share my own version of milk tea. It’s punched with spice from a little star anise and cardamom. Spices are tricky because add too much of it in a drink and you basically have cough syrup. So my advice is go easy on the spices. But what makes this perfect for the holiday is the fact that it’s spiced. The aroma brings back memories of fruit bars laden with candied fruits and spices. Is it indulgent? No, it’s really light and easy and that’s what I love about milk tea.
Photobucket

It’s not traditional, yes. Heck i’m not even sure if this is the orthodox preparation for milk tea! But consider this your opportunity to start your own holiday traditions, unorthodox or otherwise.
Photobucket

Basic Milk Tea

  • 3 bags of black tea (I used Lipton)
  • 3 cups water
  • 5 tablespoons evaporated creamer/milk (I used Angel evaporada)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • Spices: cardamom, star anise, cloves, ginger, etc. (I used 1 cardamom pod and 1 star anise)
  1. In a small pot, bring water to a rolling boil.
  2. Add the tea bags and the spices and immediately reduce the heat to let the liquid simmer for 2 – 5 minutes, depending on how strong you want the tea to be. Remember you are adding milk so a stronger tea flavor is best.
  3. When tea flavor is achieved, remove from heat.
  4. Strain the liquid into a blender. Discard
  5. Add the evaporated and condensed milk. Blend for a few seconds. Adjust taste according to preference.

Photobucket

Mad for Milk Tea (part 1)

If I had to rank the best milk teas I’ve ever tasted, I have to say that Chowking takes the top spot, closely followed by Zensonita then Hong Kong’s gong cha. Now I’ll skip the milk tea circuit in Manila altogether because I haven’t immersed myself in their tea culture yet. It’s funny how I went from Zamboanga to Hong Kong completely bypassing Manila. But I know I’ll drown in the craze if and when I get there.

So today I wanted to have my milk tea fix but leaving the house was out of the question. I’ve been toying with the idea of making your own milk tea for a while now. After a few tries resulting in watery, bland, imbalanced end products, I kind of threw in the towel. But during the Ateneo Fiesta when I discovered Zensonita and the basic formulation of tea + condensed milk, well, I might as well give it a shot (again). I have no idea if theirs is the orthodox way of making milk tea but it sure tasted good so let’s bury the skepticism for a while.

Today’s end result isn’t spectacular. BUT IT’S GETTING THERE. More tea than milk next time. My harshest critic told me Earl Grey reminded her of cough syrup, just so you know. No recipe today, but it’s good to document the baby steps. 😀

My favorite things

In my little corner of the world, the school where I spent my best years in (Ateneo de Zamboanga, run by Jesuits) celebrates a week long “fiesta” (aptly called the Ateneo Fiesta) that squeezes in games/competition between the different departments/schools, alumni homecoming and lots and lots and lots of food booths. Basically students and teachers get a week to bum around, spend their money on street food, henna tattoos and become fiercely competitive in supporting the college/department/school they belong to.

Honestly what makes the Ateneo Fiesta what it is, is really the food. Well, that among other things (like the infernal heat). But come on, who can resist the smell of burning meat on a grill or the sound of ice being crushed in a blender to make a satisfying shake?

One of my favorite booths during the Ateneo Fiesta has got to be this one. I never paid attention to the name, but since time immemorial I’ve called it the Porkchop Place and my friends have taken to call it that as well. Their porkchops are amazing – salty, sour served with a scoop of rice. You can’t help but order another scoop because it’s so satisfying that way. Their booth is as iconic as the fiesta itself. Ever since I was in high school, I’ve been their regular patron during the fiesta. My fiesta experience isn’t complete without it.

Now this fiesta’s breakout star would have to be this one:

Zensonita – milk tea among other things. I’m a sucker for milk tea. I tried Gong Cha in Hong Kong and Chowking’s Nai Cha, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. Now their milk tea “formula” is pretty straightforward: tea + condensed milk. The plastic cup needs to be shaken to mix the components before being punctured with the straw.

On a very humid morning, my first sip of it was magic. No joke. After my first sip, it convinced me to order two more for take out. Then the next day I ordered two more. I am that hooked. I never even read the things below line two. The milk tea and coffee are bestsellers. They have been doing business for a while now (for more than a year I think) along Nunez extension, but it was my first time to try their milk tea during the fiesta. And I’m glad I did!

If you’re wondering where’s the picture of the product, well, I forgot to take a picture of it. It was good enough to make me forget.

So if you’re lucky enough to be in Zamboanga during the fiesta, don’t miss it! 😀

 

Hello Hong Kong (part 5)


The weather’s gloomy. Like my mood. It’s our last day in Hong Kong and a part of me doesn’t want to leave. A part of me loved the metropolis that was fast paced like the movements of people in and out of the MTRs yet interestingly slow, like steamed dimsum…as you open that bamboo steamer, a soft cloud of steam billows and blankets you with that distinct scent that I couldn’t really put my finger on.

But I wasn’t sad anymore when we went down to the buffet area. The hotel’s breakfast buffet was amazing. The croissants were freshly baked – flaky, like Macau’s egg tarts. That taste will linger in my tongue for a while. Buttery, velvety, melt in your mouth awesomeness. Google, give me a recipe already!


And this time, I won’t really rave about Hong Kong Ocean Park per se. I didn’t really experience the rides that much because all of us were tired and it was blisteringly hot.

I’m just happy that we went to the The Panda Cafe because I HAD PEKING DUCK AGAIN! This time it was a combo with the poached chicken (pictured here).

And these panda shaped custard cakes were nice to look at, but I didn’t really care for the taste.

It was a physically exhausting day. We were riding the MTR on our way to Austin Station when we were contemplating on going to Mong Kok to shop for cheap clothes. But no, it was too much for us already. Luckily the guide at the hotel told us that we just had to walk out of the front doors, go straight and we’ll be at the Temple Street night market in no time. So at least it was a good alternative. I was glad that we had the chance to experience that facet of Hong Kong – hole-in-the-wall restos and the bustling retail air.

The hole in the wall we went to was pretty amazing, simply because a single family owned the whole expanse of the area where food was being served.


Cream Soda – if only I got to take a 6-pack of that home with me. I could make butterbeer in no time.

Scallops with black bean sauce. This was so good. It was my first time to try scallops and it had this meaty texture that I liked. It wasn’t slimy at all.

And I forgot who insisted that we have the Sweet and Sour pork – something to remind us of home. Pffftt fine.

Yang Chow fried rice. In hindsight, it was oily and bland, but we were so hungry. So it tasted absolutely delicious.

And yeah, we bought a few things here and there. But I wasn’t really impressed with the night market finds since the items among the stores were a bit repetitive. And one store actually had this interesting sales person.

And that’s basically it for the night. My last night in Hong Kong was a good one. Heck, every day was amazing.

So what did I choose to do to cap off the experience?

Of course, I just had to drink milk tea! I had the Green Tea and my mom had the Earl Grey. I liked the Earl Grey more – it had this nutty flavor to it that was nice and smooth. But I’m still a believer of all things Green Tea.

It was a great four-day vacation. We managed to squeeze in the things we needed to see and do. Though we couldn’t really explore what other wonders Hong Kong had to offer but the four days were a wonder in itself.

And I went home with so many pictures and so many memories. The best part about it was that the tastes of what I ate still lingered in my mouth. I miss the Peking Duck already, the meat of which felt like I was eating lechon. I’m still craving for the stir-fried eggplant I had at the Plaza Inn in Disneyland, which I think I can replicate. And I’m obsessed with the flaky texture of Macau’s egg tarts and the croissant I had for breakfast.

Despite the trip being physically exhausting, the beauty of it was that at the end of everything, there I was – a wide eyed little child, taking in the sights, allowing the milk tea to soothe my bones and spirit. The feeling still lingers.

And the scent I keep talking about? Well, I finally found it. At least, I hope I did. It was a light bulb at the same time a “no duh” moment. When I opened the spice package and smelled it, I knew that was it.

And it’s called Chinese Five Spice. Go figure.