A few years ago I planted a little calamansi fruit tree in our balcony… and then I waited… and waited… and waited some more. My tree never seemed to bear much fruit. If I was lucky, I would get three or four calamansi and I was ready to give up – the tree was taking up space but not giving me much to work with. I was ready to uproot the tree and plant something else.
A few months ago I noticed a few calamansi budding from the branches and so I waited a little bit more (after all, what was another month after waiting all those years) and suddenly the fruit just kept coming and wouldn’t stop! I managed to collect over 3 large bowls of the fruit, much more than I would immediately need so I juiced them and froze them in little ice cubes to be used in the future.
For those who are unfamiliar with calamansi, they are a native citrus very common in the Philippines. When I lived in the PHilippines I used to enjoy an ice cold glass of calamansi juice (sweetened with a little sugar or honey). I’ve also seen some people use it in desserts like a calamansi curd for macarons. Me? I prefer to use it as part of a “sawsawan” or dipping sauce. Usually the “sawsawan” will be some sort of combination of fish sauce, soy or vinegar which we then use to flavour our dishes. Think deep fried crispy piece of fish served with a dipping sauce of calamansi and fish sauce… or pork belly grilled over charcoal and served with soy, vinegar and garlic. Now you get the idea!
The recipe below is as simple as it gets. I’ve used the juice of the calamansi in a “Kinilaw” which the Philippine’s version of a ceviche. The dish is served a “pulutan” (which means to “pick up”) or appetizer and is usually made with fresh fish (I like to use snapper). For this recipe I’ve made it with some mussels which I’ve cooked first and then doused in the kinilaw marinade right before serving.
- 1 kilo mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 1 long red pepper
- 1 long green pepper
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 cm ginger, finely grated
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic gloved, crushed
- 3 tablespoons coconut milk or coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons coconut vinegar or cane vinegar (any Filipino brand will do)
- 2 tablespoons calamansi juice
- salt to taste
- Place the mussels in a pan and a splash of water. Gently heat until the mussels are cooked (careful not to overcook them)
- Once the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove them from their shells and place in the refrigerator until they are cold.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the mussels right before serving.
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My two sisters are great cooks and while I love to cook for everyone in the family, once in awhile I like to sit back and enjoy their great food. This weekend the family celebrated Easter lunch at my place and I asked my eldest sister to make her Leche Flan. This dessert is the Filipino version of creme caramel. I’ve always thought a great leche flan/creme caramel is very intimidating to make. I prefer one that has a very smooth texture and a dark, almost bitter, caramel sauce. My sister however thinks it’s the easiest dessert to make and hers comes out perfectly every time. The recipe was passed down from my Grandmother and it takes less than ten minutes to put everything together and around 40 minutes to cook. Very minimal effort for an impressive dessert.
Leche Flan (Filipino Style Creme Caramel)
- 1 cup sugar
- 375 ml evaporated milk
- 3/4 cup sugar (additional)
- 5 egg yolks plus 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla beans
- Boil the sugar in the sauce pan until dark brown and pour in a 23 cm metal cake pan and allow to harden.
- In a sauce pan, combine the evaporated milk, 3/4 cups sugar, vanilla beans and eggs, whisk lightly. Place over a gentle heat and mix gently for a few seconds (you don’t want the eggs to cook). Pour the milk and egg mixture into the cake pan. Cover with foil.
- Steam the flan over slow heat for 40 to 45 minutes until the flan is set.
- Allow the flan to cool. Refrigerate the flan for a few hours. When ready to serve, run a knife around the sides of the cake pan. Place a large serving plate over the cake pan and flip over. Pour the extra caramel over the flan.
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The other day SBS Food Safari did a feature on Filipino Food. It’s not very often that Filipino food gets center stage, so it was fantastic to finally see our cuisine getting some attention. I am very grateful to the team of Food Safari for doing such a wonderful job! All of the dishes and cooks who showcased our food made me so proud to be Filipino. It was a pity that the episodes are only 30 minutes long – a series on Filipino Food definitely deserves longer!
For those that missed the episode, it can be found here. My recipe for Pinakbet can be found here.
It also made me realize how neglected this blog has been in the last few months. A new job and a few new hobbies have left me thin for time but watching the Food Safari episode made me want to blog again… and share more of what Filipino food is all about (yes, contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about pork!).
Filipinos love the sour flavour and Sinigang is one of the Philippine’s most loved dishes. In fact, the late Doreen Fernandez, who was one of the most respected food writers in the Philippines once argued that sinigang, rather than adobo should be considered the national dish of the Philippines, after all, Filipinos are the champion lovers of sourness…
Sinigang is a soup whose flavor is soured with fruits abundant in the Philippines like tamarind, guava, green mangoes or bilimbi (kamias). My personal favourite is the guava sinigang. The dish is easily adaptable depending on what protein is on hand, but most frequently made with pork, beef, or prawns. The soup is also rich in vegetables that are easily available in the Philippines like daikon, eggplants, snake beans and water spinach.
I had been craving guava sinigang for a few months. So much so that I bought my own guava tree but was told that it would take at least another two years to bear fruit. I search everywhere for guava only to discover it is quite difficult to source in Australia. Finally, I found a supplier of pure guava puree online and was so relieved that I ordered five kilos to freeze for future use. It you are lucky enough to source the fresh ripe fruit, that’s even better. Boil the fresh fruit until soft and then use a blender to mash the guava into a puree.
Sinigang na Bayabas (Seafood in Guava Sour Soup)
- 12 large prawns
- 500 grams firm white fish fillets, sliced (like ocean perch)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 300 grams guava puree
- 1 long green chili
- 1 piece radish, peeled and sliced
- 1 bunch snake beans (sitaw)
- 1 bunch water spinach (kang kong)
- Peel the prawns and place the heads and peel in a pot and add 1 liter of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, devein the prawns and set aside.
- Sprinkle some salt on the fish and set aside until ready to use.
- Place the oil in a large pot and add the onions and add the tomatoes. Saute until the onions are translucent, around 5 minutes.
- Add the guava puree, green chili, sliced radish, snake beans and shrimp stock and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- When the soup is done, set the green chili, radish and snake beans aside. Place the broth in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- Strain the soup and add it back into the pot and return the chili, radish, and snake beans. Finally add the prawns, fish and water spinach and simmer until the seafood is cooked and the vegetables are warmed, around 3 to 5 minutes.
- Serve while the soup is still hot.
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Posted in Cook, tagged ampalaya, bagnet, crispy pork belly, filipino food, kulinarya, mixed vegetable stew, okra, philippines, pinakbet, sbs, sbs food safari, talong, vegetable stew, vegetarian on March 6, 2013|
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Preview to SBS Food Safari:
Last year I was contacted by the producer of SBS Food Safari, only the best food show ever, asking if I would consider featuring a recipe for an episode on Filipino Food. I think it was on the back of some of the posts they had seen on the Kulinarya Cooking Club. There was certainly no way I would pass on this chance!
As we tried to decide which recipe to feature, the producer suggested Pinakbet. When I asked Georgie why she was interested in that recipe, she mentioned that it was one dish that really stood out as featuring unique ingredients that Australians wouldn’t have normally cooked with. She was right, Pinakbet is a traditional vegetable stew usually made up of okra, talong (eggplant), ampalaya (bitter melon), and shrimp paste. I could understand why the dish would be worth showcasing but at that time it was not exactly a dish I would consider as a top choice. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have even been in my top ten favourite Filipino dishes.
I didn’t grow up enjoying vegetables. In fact, as a child I used to think that whoever invented Pinakbet must have really hated children because it had all the bitter and slimy vegetables I detested. The only saving grace, I thought, was the crispy bits of pork belly that was sprinkled throughout the dish. But I was determined to make sure that I would practice making the dish several times before the actual filming date.
The funny thing is, I started to appreciate the slimy okra, the bitter ampalaya, and the eggplant. The tastes started to grow on me and I thought of it as an acquired taste. The same way I learned as an adult how to appreciate a beautifully bitter dark chocolate, where as a child I would have preferred a sweeter milk chocolate.
The day of the filming came and I can honestly say I was a convert to Pinakbet. I cook this dish regularly nowadays. Sometimes the prejudices of our youth prevent us from enjoying something special.
And about the show? Maeve, the host of SBS Food Safari, and her team were fantastic! They do so much to promote the many cultures and cuisines of Australia. I was worried that Maeve would have the same reaction to Pinakbet as I did when I was a child. I was so wrong. She absolutely loved it! And in case you’re wondering, Maeve is every bit as nice and beautiful in person as in the show.
Food Safari airs in Australia on 7 March 2013 on SBS One at 7:30 pm.
Recipe for Pinakbet can be found here.
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Posted in Cook, tagged bihon, chicharon, filipino food, food, noodles, pancit, pancit luglug, pancit palabok, philippine cuisine, prawns, recipes, shrimp gravy on February 22, 2011|
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Pancit Palabok - Noodles with Shrimp Gravy
Sometimes desperation drives us to do things we normally wouldn’t do in the right frame of mind.
A few months ago our bedroom door got stuck shut and I couldn’t enter the room. I asked my husband to try and open the door but he couldn’t.
“What about using a screwdriver?” I asked him. After a few minutes of fiddling nothing happened. Now please understand that this happened on a Sunday afternoon and all I could think about was how my clothes were in the room and I would have nothing to wear to work the next day.
Desperate, I told my husband “I think you have to break the door down.”
So he backed up a few feet from the door… ran… straight INTO THE DOOR! BANG!
Nothing happened. We looked at each other and started laughing hysterically.
“Please try again!” I pleaded. He happily obliged. BANG! This time, a small crack on the door.
“I have a feeling, the next one will take it down.” He said.
“Yes! Yes! Please.” I replied.
And so he went, straight into the door and he finally managed to break the door down.
We were doubling over with laughter and to be honest, quite proud of ourselves for getting it open.
That is, until one of the people I mentioned this to came up with a very valid comment “Why didn’t you just call the locksmith?”
That’s desperation for you…
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged alimasag, Christmas, crab, filipino food, kulinarya, philippine cuisine, recipe, relleno, stuffed crab on November 21, 2010|
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Relleno Alimasag (Philippine Style Stuffed Crab)
One of the greatest food writers in the Philippines was a lady by the name of Doreen Fernandez. When I was in the Philippines I took for granted her contributions to our cuisine and so I rarely paid any attention to her works which was a pity since I have been crazy looking for some of her books which are almost impossible to find. Last month in Melbourne I went to a store called Books For Cooks where tucked in a corner was one of Doreen’s books. I couldn’t believe my luck! The book is called Palayok (a type of native cooking pot) and while not a recipe book, is filled with valuable information on what and how our cuisine has come to where it is today. The chapter I’m reading now for instance, is on the Spanish influences on food.
This influence is of course inevitable considering we were a colony from 1521 to 1898 (I tell everyone we were colonized for around 300 years, but now I realize it’s 377!). The first Spanish settlers were officials and their families then later on, friars. Ingredients in the Spanish kitchen often make an appearance in our food like chorizo (sausages) and jamon (ham). Another example, is in our cooking methods. To saute in the Philippines is called “gisa” from the Spanish word guisar.
Another cooking process commonly used in the Philippines, is called relleno which means to stuff. With some types of relleno, the Spanish influence is much clearer, for example, rellenong manok (stuffed chicken) will typically be stuffed with pork, chorizo and ham. Other relleno has been adapted to the produce more easily available in the Philippines, for example, rellenong bangus or stuffed milkfish (milkfish is very accessible in the Philippines).
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I was absolutely crazy to want a December wedding. I had this perception that it would be more romantic to get married during the Christmas holidays. Two months before my wedding I went to fit my wedding gown.
“Tsk tsk.. You MUST NOT gain any weight until your wedding! You must do WEIGHT MAINTENANCE!” she said as she shook her head. “The dress is hand beaded, you gain any weight and I’ll have to repair the whole dress, you don’t want that!” she warned.
Oh my… What I didn’t realize was how hard it was to juggle holiday dinners, engagement parties and bridal showers.
So for the next two months, as part of my “weight maintenance”, I had oatmeal for breakfast. Now you have to understand that Filipinos take their breakfast very seriously. More often than not there is a large bowl of steaming rice, fried eggs and a protein of some sort like “tapa” (dried beef), “daing na bangus” (fish) or, my all time favourite longanisa. In its original form these are native Filipino sausages made with pork, a vampire killing amount of garlic and native vinegar. I would stare at my colleagues as they polished off their heavy breakfasts and swore that once I was hitched I’d eat longanisa like there was no tomorrow.
Sure enough, two months later we walked down that aisle and for the next few weeks I gorged on rice, fried eggs and longanisa sausages.
Sadly, I never had my longanisa once I moved to Australia. I didn’t know where to buy them and I couldn’t source sausage casings nor have a sausage maker.
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