Tinapa, Tomato and Truffle Linguine

I know, I know, sue me for fading into relative obscurity every now and then. It hasn’t been easy, you know, lounging and purging myself of all worldly pleasures before I dive into my internship. Yes, that was the plan – give myself a month to addle around, before all focus shifts to making sure that I survive this career. (Which reminds me! A year ago today, I wrote this, and it has made all the difference. I’m amazed)

But apparently the universe has its own time-table, and a string of events made my vacation drag on a longer than I intended it to be. Jad happened, among other things. You might be wondering how I’m holding up. It’s been more than a month now. It still hurts, my friends and I are still reeling from what happened. But we find ways to move along, which, I think, is vastly different from moving on. Life waits for no one.

So, I’m in a celebratory mood right now. For almost a year now I’ve been religiously going to the gym, and it has paid off. When I started I was at 21% body fat, a little over the normal for me. Then it went down to 17%, and just this morning after a session with my trainer I’m at 14%!

I’ve always struggled with my weight. I didn’t feel good and I didn’t like how I looked. Things got better in college, but it was still a battle of fluctuations.

It was only last year that I decided to hit the gym and keep the weight off. That was the initial goal, but it eventually evolved from a mission of pure vanity to simply self-improvement. It’s about feeling good by feeling strong, surpassing old goals and creating new ones and always challenging yourself. That mindset isn’t too farfetched, and is actually pretty helpful considering the industry I want to dive right into.

And I choose to celebrate this little victory by making really good pasta. Yes. Yes. Yes.
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It has all the good stuff: linguine, shiitake and button mushrooms, olive oil, garlic and onions, dried tomatoes, a little bit of pesto, smoked tinapa/milkfish. For absolutely good measure, a nice little glug of truffle oil.

I had that for lunch and it was a tasty little thing. What you have before you is not much, and that’s because I ate most of it already. I was too eager to dig right in.
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Tinapa, Tomato and Truffle Linguine

serves 2

  • 80 – 90 grams linguine
  • 1 piece smoked fish/tinapa, flaked
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes (sold in a jar with oil)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil from the bottled sundried tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon pesto
  • half a garlic bulb, peeled and minced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • olive oil, as needed

In a medium sized pot, boil pasta in salty water according to package instructions, reserve around 1/8 cup of the starchy water.

In the same pot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pot. Add the oil from the tomatoes. When it’s hot enough, add the garlic and onions and saute until fragrant. Add the tinapa, tomatoes and pesto. Season according to taste. Mix well and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Add the pasta water and the pasta. Mix everything together and transfer to a plate. Drizzle with parmesan cheese and truffle oil. Serve and enjoy!

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Risotto

I’d like to believe I’ve come a long way since my first botched attempt at risotto. If there’s one nugget of wisdom cooking school has given me (actually I’ve learned so much in three months!), it’s how to cook risotto the right way. It’s actually a simple process, albeit a little meticulous. Tasting the rice via random sampling to make sure everything is cooked al dente is essential. But it can be done. I don’t think I’ll botch it ever again.
I never realized we had a box of arborio sitting in the pantry here at home until we used the exact same stuff in school for our kitchen lab. Hey, everything was in Italian and I was too lazy to google a translation so I never attempted to use the stuff. I’ve been known to buy and keep a lot of useless stuff, or things that I only use once. Fortunately, that isn’t the case with the arborio.
I hit two birds with one stone today. Roasted tomatoes are a treat: sweet and tart and definitely great. I had it with pasta once and it was a home run. Today I had it with risotto and of course, another home run. Roasted garlic and tomatoes add a nice depth of flavor to the risotto, and finishing it off with parmesan is the icing on the proverbial cake. This plate of risotto will accompany a savory meat dish (preferably beef) pretty well but today I just had it as it is and I’m not complaining. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, especially when I’m given a plate of something as good as this. I had it with ice-cold coconut water, and oh man, that worked for me. It really works.

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Risotto (serves 2)

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 – 4 cups warm chicken stock
  • half an onion, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the tomatoes and garlic
  • 1 garlic bulb, top part sliced open
  • 5 tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh basil, chopped, for garnishing
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Arrange the garlic bulb and tomatoes in a pan (optional: with a silicone mat). Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place it in the oven and allow to bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until tomatoes are shriveled at the sides and the garlic has softened. When done, remove from the oven.
  3. Remove the garlic from their skins and mash with a fork. Reserve around three pieces of roasted tomato for garnish if desired.
  4. In a pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and allow to sweat. Add the rice and mix well to coat everything with the oil.
  5. Add the stock one ladle (around one cup) at a time. Allow the rice to partially absorb the liquid before adding in the next ladle. Stir everything together with a rubber spatula. Repeat the process until the rice is cooked to desired doneness (al dente).
  6. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Mash the tomatoes and mix everything together. Add the parmesan. Stir and season with salt and pepper. The risotto must still be creamy.
  7. When done, remove from heat and top with more parmesan, the roasted tomatoes and the chopped basil. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Peach Marmalade and Tomato Braised Pork Steaks

Weekends are golden days for me. As soon as Friday creeps in, that feeling of having a few uninterrupted hours to catch up on all things mundane excites me. I think you might know by now that I’m a geek who loves children’s fiction, and I’m currently halfway done with The Mark of Athena. Usually I can devour a book in a day, but I choose to savor the third installment since the next one will be out in the fall of 2013.

This weekend was a good one for me. After a long while, this blog’s pulse has been racing again, with a few updates on my life as a would-be glorified cook, the new header image and I think I boldly declared that I’d be posting a recipe soon. I couldn’t post a recipe without actually cooking something, and cook I did.
My routine doesn’t involve a lot of cooking at home. The horror, I know. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to cook something for my survival – and because the place where I live doesn’t run out of places to eat (thank you, my friendly neighborhood ihawan/barbecue place), I find it pretty convenient that my needs are satisfied.

It’s funny that it took making a proper home-cooked meal to realize just how I missed myself. By “myself”, I mean the food blogger. And not just the blogger who writes about what he ate, but the blogger who writes about and shares what he cooked. The latter has always been who The Hungry Giant is.
This is a simple recipe that involves only a few ingredients. I needed to practice my tourne abilities, hence the shaped carrots and chayote. They were simply steamed while the rice was cooking, using the steaming basket that comes with almost every rice cooker.

I wanted something other than the usual adobo (not that there’s anything to hate about adobo), and the idea of braising something in a thick tangy tomato sauce made me not miss adobo that much. And thanks to that trip to the Pancake House, where I had peach waffles, I asked myself why it took me this long to appreciate the sweetening power of anything made with peaches. A few heaping tablespoons made all the difference.

Not all weekends are like the one I had recently, but at least I milked it for what it’s worth.
Tomato and Peach Braised Pork Steaks with Steamed Vegetables (serves 3 – 4)

  • 1 carrot, tourneed (or just slice it like you would thick fries)
  • 1 small chayote, tourneed (or just slice it like you would thick fries)
  • 1 -2 tablespoons butter
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 6 pieces pork steaks (choose a cut with good marbling; this is roughly a kilo)
  • one 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water/stock
  • 5 – 6 heaping tablespoons peach marmalade
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  1. As you cook the rice in the rice cooker, place the vegetables in foil or in a bowl with the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Place it in the steaming basket and place it over the rice to steam. Once the vegetables are cooked (not too soft that it becomes mushy), remove.
  2. Pat-dry the pork and season it pork with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. In a pan, heat a little bit of oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until aromatic. Remove from pan. Turn up the heat to high. Add around a tablespoon of oil.
  4. Sear the pork steaks on both sides, until they start to brown. Remove from pan.
  5. Add the tomatoes (together with the liquid in the can), marmalade, garlic, onions and water.
  6. Place pork back into the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the pork is tender and the sauce has reduced. If the pork is still not cooked through and the sauce dries up, add more water. Season to taste with salt, pepper and the cayenne.
  7. Serve with rice. Enjoy!

Baked Binagoongan


The fact that most of my blog posts reveal my proclivity with pork could be a cause for concern. Could be. I do miss the days when I’d have most of the morning or the afternoon to myself, the kitchen in a total frenzy, and the smell of freshly baked bread, or even cupcakes filling up my nostrils. It’s been a while. Maybe a self-imposed exile from posting anything purely pork would do me (and my arteries) some good.

But for today, since I do have to post this, I’m going to be indulgent. Pork punctuates my idea of a Filipino celebration. That’s relative and subjective, of course, since there are Filipinos who don’t eat pork. But from my neck of the woods, lechon spells something grand, estofado means a day is special, dinuguan implies a prelude to lechon, and so forth. It’s only fitting that since this month’s Kulinarya Club theme is a meal fit for a celebration (during a fiesta or Santacruzan), it has to be something made with pork.

It worried me that I couldn’t really think of anything regional in time for the reveal date. I was supposed to go for Arroz Valenciana, a cousin of the paella and bringhe, except that it doesn’t use annatto seeds (paella) or turmeric (bringhe) for color. But time was limited and I couldn’t get my grandmother to teach me since she thinks herself busy.

Improvisation works, because I did manage to whip up something festive that doesn’t need a lot of preparation. During fiestas in our house, preparations are physically taxing. Any dish that can be baked is a winner in my book, and when I thought about making pork binagoongan, it just made sense.

Pork Binagoongan, a dish where pork is cooked with salty bagoong gata (shrimp paste coconut milk) and tomatoes, isn’t really a typical dish found at the table during our fiestas. It’s comfort food, more than anything. But I couldn’t get it out of my head and I knew I was on to something.

The flavor comes from the marinade, which has bagoong gata in it. You might want to add more of the bagoong if you want a full-bodied taste, not just a hint. I have to admit that I might have scrimped on the bagoong a tiny bit, because I didn’t want it too salty, but in the end I realized that I needed to be generous with the marinade. Also, letting it marinate overnight is key. The taste of oven-roasted tomatoes is really something else, and since binagoongan usually has tomatoes, it was the best of both worlds. Tomatoes and basil also go well together…and well, it was the icing on the cake. Baked pork is also a treat in itself, with perfectly tender meat with fat that almost melts in your mouth.

Seriously, this dish gave me a lot of reasons to celebrate.

Baked Binagoongan (serves 4)

  • 1 kg pork belly (OR 1 kg chicken legs and thighs)
  • 10 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 – 10 (slightly) heaping tablespoons bagoong gata (shrimp paste with coconut milk)*
  • 1 whole garlic head, roughly chopped
  • 5 – 10 fresh sweet basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup white cane vinegar
  • a dash of salt
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  1. In a bowl large enough to hold the pork, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the pork and allow to marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 C. When ready to bake, carefully add the tomatoes to the marinade and lightly toss to coat them. 
  3. Arrange the pork in a roasting pan, preferably with a rack. Arrange the tomatoes along the sides of the pan and a few on top of the pork. Bake for 1 hour – 1 hour and 10 minutes. After around 40 minutes of baking, turn it halfway. Bake until done. Photobucket 
  4. Slice the pork into bite-sized pieces and serve warm with rice and possibly, more bagoong. Enjoy! 
*The bagoong I used was Montano’s Ginisang Bagoong Gata, which we bought from their main store when we were in Dipolog. That has to count as something ‘regional’, right? 


Chorizo and Roasted Tomato Pasta


I’ve had my fair share of pasta problems. Usually, when I was starting out, the comments would be along the lines of, “It tastes good, but the pasta’s undercooked/overcooked/mushy”, or the other way around, “The pasta’s cooked perfectly, but I don’t taste anything else”. Take note, I’ve never made my own pasta from scratch before, since I don’t have the ingredients, and the equipment is exorbitantly priced.

I take comfort in knowing that there’s always a canister of ready-to-cook pasta noodles resting inside the pantry. So far my pasta streak has been pretty good. But of course, I’m looking forward to the day I might be able to press my own pasta noodles.

Coming from a family whose conceptual definition of pasta is a chunky, saucy spaghetti, it’s a challenge getting them to try anything that digresses from their mental image. I’ve haven’t really made major breakthroughs with them yet. One time, when my uncle suggested that my vegetarian tomato pasta would taste better with condensed milk, my ego was torn in half. My mom, however, is my biggest supporter and a fan of my garlic and sardines pasta, so I usually give everything to her.

But of course, when I saw my 12-year old cousin, who has known fried chicken and Jollibee spaghetti all his life,  devour his plate of my pasta, I had a feeling I was on to something.

Like I said, the roasted tomatoes I made are incredibly versatile. One classic preparation that I’ve always wanted to try is to add it to pasta. And the rest was history. The chorizos that I used were the plump, sweet, smoky variety, so it imparted a rich taste to the pasta oil. The tomatoes were the icing on the cake.

Imagine yourself swirling your fork to pickup the noodles, stabbing little chunks of juicy chorizo and a piece of roasted tomato, and putting it in your mouth, slurping the pasta – the sweet flavors of chorizo and basil, the acidity of the tomato, dancing and exploding in your mouth.  Does it feel good? Are you drooling right now? I thought so.

Chorizo and Roasted Tomato Pasta (serves 3 – 4)

If you noticed, there isn’t a lot of precise measurement involved. Just put it all together, and have fun dancing with generosity and restraint. 

  • 100 – 150 grams angel hair pasta
  • 6 – 8 pieces sweet smoky chorizo, sliced
  • roasted tomatoes
  • a few pieces of fresh basil leaves
  • around 1/4 cup olive oil, or more if desired
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a pan, over medium heat, cook and brown the chorizo until the fat renders. Season with salt and pepper. And the olive oil, tomatoes and the basil leaves. Allow to cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the reserved pasta water, then add the pasta. Mix well to coat the pasta with the seasoned oil. Add more olive oil if desired. Cook for 1 more minute, or until the water evaporates, it’s no longer soggy and the pasta has taken the sauce well.
  4. Remove from heat and serve warm. Enjoy!

Pork with Tomatoes


I’m a sucker for one-pot/one-pan wonders. This is probably the first one-pan meal I’ve posted, and it’s strange, considering that this is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. I’ve been consuming this for years now. When my love affair with this dish started, I haven’t the slightest idea. Before I started really cooking, my Mama Eng would cook this like no other person can, for lunch, dinner, sometimes even both.

It may seem extremely counterintuitive but when I was 10 kilograms heavier during my teens, I used to go home after a great game of badminton with a large bowl of pork with tomatoes and a steaming plate of rice waiting for me. Yes, that scenario made so much sense. Really.


This doesn’t have a fancy name. This isn’t even a fancy dish. Comfort food isn’t even supposed to be fancy. It’s simply a basic combination of pork and tomatoes, stir-fried together to make an incredibly satisfying dish. I just really love a simple, easy lunch that doesn’t involve a lot of technique. Don’t get me wrong, I have a list of “complicated” dishes that I hope to accomplish gradually.


But because I’m me, I appreciate quiet breathing spaces along the way, where one pan is all I need to feel good. Oh, of course, a good siesta won’t hurt as well.


Pork with Tomatoes (serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 kg pork shoulder or belly, cubed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 6 – 7 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons soy sauce/liquid seasoning (I used Maggi Savor)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  1. In a large pan/wok, add pork cubes and water. Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Over medium heat, allow to simmer and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until pork is tender. Add more water is necessary if pork is still not tender.
  3. When the pork is cooked and the liquid evaporates completely, the pork’s fat will render. Toast the pork in its own fat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, around 3 minutes.
  4. Push the pork to the side of the pan and add the garlic and onions into the cleared space. Toast the garlic and onions for 30 seconds. Afterwards, stir to incorporate it with the pork.
  5. Add the tomatoes, soy sauce/liquid seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix everything together and cook until tomatoes soften and go limp.
  6. When done, remove from heat and serve with rice. Enjoy!