Saturday, May 31, 2008

Asparagus And Prawns in XO Sauce

Here in Manila, Asparagus is one of the more expensive vegetable. It is also a bit difficult to find really fresh ones. Most of the time, they are sold already dried and wrinkled. Is it because asparagus do not thrive well in warm ( make that really hot!) weather? We do not really cook it often because it is simply not readily available in the market. But when I am able to buy and cook some fresh asparagus, the kids love it. Primarily because of the "crunchiness." (We are not fans of the canned variety. Though sometimes I use the canned ones for soup.) So, when Wandering Chopsticks launched the Weekend Wokking event with Asparagus as the first main feature, I was not sure if I can have an entry.

I was so elated (make that ecstatic!) yesterday to find some fresh asparagus in the neighborhood grocery. They were still in their delivery bags, not yet individually packed (for selling) when I stumbled upon them. I immediately asked the vegetable section guy to pack some for me without checking the price. I figured this vegetable is worth the price because (1) it is not easy to find good ones (2) kids and Hubby love them (3) it is a nutritious vegetable, packed with folates, and potassium, fiber, Vitamins A and C (4) it contains no fat, no cholesterol and is low in sodium. For more detailed nutritional information on asparagus, please click here.

I should buy asparagus more often... :)

I would usually cook asparagus stir-fried with some seafood, like fish or shrimps. But for this event, I decided to make it more special. I added X O sauce. XO sauce is a spicy flavorful sauce made with roughly chopped dried seafoods like scallops, and shrimps. It is a special Cantonese "secret" sauce once exclusive to gourmet seafood restaurants. That is why it was given the name XO - taken from XO Cognac, which connotes luxury, special, high quality, etc. The good news is, this sauce can now be bought at the supermarkets and Asian groceries. I bought the Lee Kum Kee brand because, well, I am not familiar with the other brands... :)

400 gms fresh green asparagus

200 gms fresh prawns, shelled, deveined

3 Tcooking oil, preferably canola oil

some ginger slices

3 T garlic, minced

1 heaping tablespoon X O sauce

salt and pepper

1. Blanch asparagus in boiling water then immediately plunge in cold water. Drain. This method is used to ensure that your veggie will retain the bright green color and to retain its 'crisp' or 'crunchiness' quality.

2. Heat up the cooking oil in a wok or a cooking pan. Saute ginger slices until light golden brown. Add in the garlic. Saue until fragrant but not burnt.

3. Add the prawns. Mix lightly to cook the prawns evenly. Lower heat. When the prawns are half-done, add in the XO sauce. Mix everything well. Add in the blanched asparagus. Stir fry everything until prawns are done. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

This is my entry to the first Weekend Wokking event. This event was launched by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate different ways we can cook one ingredient. The ingredient featured this month is ... guess what? asparagus! There will be different ingredient featured every month, so stay tuned!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Grilled Pesto Fish

I bought some frozen River Cobbler Fish fillets from a membership shopping store. I had good experience with this kind of fish. I know it is soft, flaky and melt-in-the mouth. The children love this fish.

For this dish, I simply added pesto. I have to confess this is not my original idea. I saw some ready-to-cook milkfish in the groceries, marinated in pesto sauce. I simply 'copied' the idea.

This is a very easy dish to make. Using only 2 main ingredients. Perfect for those days when you want good food in a flash.

4 pcs fish fillets
4 T pesto sauce ( I used bottled ones bought from the grocery)
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 stalk green onions, chopped, for garnish

1. Cover the fish fillets with pesto sauce. Add as much as you prefer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Heat up the grill. ( I use a stove top grill which is very convenient for me.) Brush some olive oil on the grill to prevent fish from sticking.

3. Grill the fish until it changes color and is thoroughly cooked.

4. Dish up. Sprinkle with green onions for garnish.

So easy to do, so nutritious. Perfect for South Beach dieters. With dishes like this, it is quite easy to switch to low-carb diets.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Potato Salad

As CEOs of the kitchen, I am sure you are keenly aware that the cost of food is rising. This is a world-wide concern. Here in the Philippines, rice is our main staple on the table. And yes, the increase in the rice prices is enough to make our hearts palpitate and sweat even when we are not doing any heavy work-outs. What you read (and saw) in the news is true. Many of our people are lining up for government-subsidized rice. Otherwise, we have to pay almost double the price!

Mary Hunt of Everyday Cheapskates suggests we try potatoes. She said there are some who predict potatoes will emerge as the solution to world hunger. Potatoes will grow almost anywhere, require very little water and mature in just 50 days. They are nutritious, have only 5 percent of the fat content of wheat (provided they’re not loaded up with butter and sour cream). They also have one-fourth of the calories of bread and, when boiled, have more protein than corn and nearly twice the calcium, according to the Potato Center. They contain vitamin C, iron, potassium and zinc.

No wonder the United Nations named 2008 the International Year of the Potato, calling the vegetable a “hidden treasure.”

I saw some very nice potato marbles at the grocery and I could not resist the cute petite little balls. Is anyone out there like me? I do not know why I couldn't resist baby veggies. ie. baby bok choy, little potato marbles, baby spinach. Aside from the cuteness factor, I know the little ones taste better. Am I correct? Or do I just have a bias towards little stuffs?

Here is a simple Potato Salad recipe. The picture above was taken using natural light. The reason why it is yellow because I added mustard. I know many people don't like the taste of mustard. But I love the taste of mustard. If you do not like it, simply omit mustard from the recipe and you will still get a tasty salad. This will make a nice side-dish to a fish or meat entre.

1/2 Kilo potato marbles, washed very well

2 eggs, boiled

1 stalk celery, washed, chopped

2 T mustard

1/2 C fat-free mayonnaise

salt and pepper

1 stalk green onions, chopped, for garnish

1. Boil the potatoes in a pot of water for 15 minutes or until cooked. Drain.

2. Slice the potaotes in half (if you want bite-sized pieces). Slice the eggs.

3. Mix potatoes, eggs, celery, mustard and mayonnaise in a bowl.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Serve in individual platters. Garnish with chopped green onions.

This is my entry this week to the Weekend Herb Blogging Event where different herbs, vegetables, plants and produce are featured around the world. This event was launched by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week's host is Wandering Chopsticks. To see last week's round-up, please check out Sweet Nick's.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Seaweed and Watercress Soup

I know in most other countries, you can buy frozen shrimps that are already shelled. But in this country, most of the shrimps we get are still in their shells. That means we can choose shrimps that are really fresh. Heads and bodies should still be intact and the shells are still shiny. The meat of the shrimps can be used for a stir-fry dish or any other cooking style you prefer. What do you do with the head and shells of the peeled shrimps? Make a broth!

Saute some ginger in a little oil. Add in the shells and the heads of the shrimps. Sometimes, I mash the heads a little to squeeze more shrimp juice out. Then add water. Let it boil and simmer for around 20 to 30 minutes. Strain and you have a fresh, flavorful shrimp broth! Homemade broths are better than canned ones. For one thing, you are sure there are no additional chemicals that might harm your health. They are also less salty yet more flavorful. Plus, you get to save more money!

For this batch of shrimp broth, I simply added fish tofu. It is available in most Asian groceries. Actually, any kind of firm tofu would do. I also added watercress, one of our family's favorite vegetable. According to my mother-in-law, this is one of the super vegetables, ranked up high with brocolli. I wrote a post before on watercress and even included a legend on how it was discovered. Please click here to read more about it.

I also added seaweed. Here in Manila, there are many kinds of fresh seaweeds available. Most are eaten fresh, with some simple vinegar and chili sauce. They are commonly used as appetizers and meal starters. There are also many kinds of dried seaweeds. So far, I have used the Japanese dried Nori for making sushis. We use Hai Cai (green) and ZiCai (black) for cooking. Many Chinese believe seaweed to have medicinal properties. It is said to lower high blood pressure, it is said to be anti-viral, a cure for colds and cough. For more information on the medicinal properties of the seaweed, please click here. For this dish, I used Zi Cai.

5 C shrimp broth

slices of ginger

3 T minced garlic

1 onion, chopped

1 pack (200 gms) fish Tofu (available in Chinese delis and Asian stores)

a handful of dried seaweed (Zi Cai)

250 gms watercress, washed

salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute the ginger in a little cooking oil. When the ginger turns golden brown, add the garlic and onions. Saute until fragrant but not burnt.

2. Add the shrimp broth. When it boils, add the fish tofu. Let the fish tofu cook for a while. It is cooked when it floats up the surface of the soup and becomes a bit puffed up.

3. Add the seaweed and watercress. Mix the soup for the veggies to go under. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

You do not need a long time to cook the seaweed and the watercress. My family usually prefers the watercress a bit undercooked. The texture is more crunchy that way. and less nutrition is lost that way too.

I almost did not make it to this week's Weekend Herb Blogging event, as I was gone for the most part of this week to join our Church's Junior Camp as a counsellor and a speaker. And of course, I had to prepare my lectures and powerpoints before we left. I'm glad I have an entry to submit to SweetNicks, the host for this week . Weekend Herb Blogging is an event launched by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Last week's round-ups were done by the Scientist in the Kitchen.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


What do you do when you come home late, and Hubby and kids are waiting to have food on the table?

Third, Fourth and Fifth sisters (Yup, we are one big family!) unanimously declared, "Get take-outs!" But Hubby does not really like take-outs. (Me too!) And I was thinking I just bought this nice pack of linguini I can easily cook in 11 minutes or less... I just have to see what other ingredients I have in the fridge.

So, as I was boiling the pasta, I was chopping the garlic, tomatoes, some bell peppers, got some basil from my pot in the balcony. I also found a little amount of anchovies left in the fridge and some tomato salsa (gasp! spicy!). After cooking the pasta, I cooked the sauce, and in 15 minutes (pasta cooking time included), my family had a nice, yummy, flavorful pasta dish. Served with some bread, and with ice cream for dessert, we already have a nice simple dinner.

1 pack linguini (or any pasta of your choice), cooked according to package directions
3 T anchovies (or more if you prefer), mashed
5 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
5 tomatoes, seeded, chopped
6 T spicy Tomato salsa
a handful of basil leaves, shredded
8 T olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside.

2. Heat up some olive oil in a pan. Saute garlic and onion until fragrant, but not burnt. Add the anchovies and tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are softened a little.

3. Add the bell peppers and tomato salsa. Cook until the mixture boils. Then add the basil leaves. Mix and let boil for a minute. Add salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Add the rest of the olive oil. Mix well.

4. Prepare some linguini on a plate. Top with the sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving. Alternately, you can mix the sauce with the pasta inside the cooking pan (with heat turned off) for easy serving, specially when preparing for kids.

This is my entry to this month's Grow Your Own event launched by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes. This monthly food blogging event celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wholesome Lunchbox May Round-Up

Do you want some great ideas on what to put inside your lunchbox? Make you lunches interesting and check out the lunches prepared by the Wholesome Lunchbox bloggers this month. Round-Up at Margot's Coffee and Vanilla.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oyster Omelette

Jonathan Swift once said, "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster." Actually, I was thinking how smart a man was he who first ate an oyster. How could he have imagined that a succulent, tasty delicacy lived inside those ugly, and hard-to-open shells? Or maybe Mr Swift was referring to the man who first dared to eat raw oysters. But then, maybe during those times, the people were used to eating other kinds of mollusks? I know many people nowadays are squirmish about eating raw oysters. But these people have valid reasons. Our seas are indeed becoming polluted, and we are not sure where our oysters come from. In the city, we are also not sure if the oysters are still alive and fresh when served on our table. So, people nowadays prefer them cooked.

Fresh oysters are truly a treat - with a hint of sweetness, 'fresh from the sea' taste. Simply dipped in lemon juice or chili vinegar, oysters are soft, fleshy and heavenly. Here in the Philippines, with our seven thousand plus islands, oysters are bountiful. Fresh oysters are often flown in from the coastal provices to the city.

Oysters are one of my favorite foods. And I know that this shellfish is a rich source of zinc, one of the minerals required for the production of testosterone. So, it is considered as an aphrodisiac by many. A little googling showed that oysters are one of the most nutritionally well balanced of foods, containing protein, carbohydrates and lipids. The National Heart and Lung Institute suggest oysters as an ideal food for inclusion in low-cholesterol diets. Oysters are an excellent source of vitamins A, B1(thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), C (ascorbic acid) and D (calciferol). Four or five medium size oysters supply the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus. ( If you want to know more tidbits about oysters, please click here.

If you are one of those people who are not comfortable eating raw oysters, then this recipe is for you. This is an easy-to-do dish that my grandma taught me. You just mix everything up and the cooking time is not long.

1/2 K shelled fresh oysters, washed, drained

3 eggs, well beaten

1 small ginger, grated

1 onion, minced

4 T garlic, minced

100 gms mung bean sprouts, optional

1 stalk spring onion, chopped

5 T flour

salt and ground pepper to taste

A little cooking oil to coat pan for cooking

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, adding the beaten eggs last. Mix well to coat all ingredients evenly with the beaten egg mixture.

2. Heat up a skillet or wok. Put some amout of oil and swirl the pan to spread the oil.

3. When oil is hot, add around 1/3 to 1/2 of the oyster mixture to the pan. Spread evenly. The amount depends on the size of your skillet and how thick you want your omelette to be. of course the thicker it is, the longer it will take to cook.

4. Lower fire. When the edges get a little brown, (only a few minutes!) turn to omelette to cook the other side. I usually do not want to overcook the omelette or the oysters will become smaller. So, I check the doneness all the time.

5. Do the same with the remaining oyster mixture.

This dish and its featured calcium and minerals-rich Oyster is my entry to Beautiful Bones event, launched by Susan, the Food Blogga, herself a victim of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease where bones are fragile and likely to break. My mother-in-law also has osteoporosis. This is because since she was a girl, she does not drink milk nor eat those food which are rich in calcium. (She is a vegetarian.) Now, she has learned to choose vegetables which are rich in calcium.

May is the National Osteoporosis Awareness month, and I am honored to be a part of this event that aims to alert women to the potential risks of osteoporosis and encourage them to take steps to protect their bones at every age.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Braised Pork with Shrimp Paste (Binagoongan)

Warning: Extremely yummy! This dish may be dangerous to your health!

I have always tried to serve healthy dishes to my family. If you will check out the posts of this blog, you will notice more entries for vegetables and seafood. I am happy that my kids have learned to eat vegetables when they were still young and they do prefer to eat fish than meat. However, once in a while, I do get tempted to prepare dishes such as this. Why? Because it is extremely flavorful and delicious! I guarantee that with this dish, you will consume double the amount of rice you normally eat. However, due to the high fat content, I recommend eating this only once a year. Okay, maybe twice a year... okay, okay, thrice a year... :)

The shrimp paste or bagoong is made from fermented minute shrimps. This is different from the one made with krills (minute fishes - alamang). You will know immediately from which kind it was made from because there are still some identifiable ingredients. Personally, I prefer the one made from shrimps. People who are not from Asia may be turned off by its pungent odor. But for most of us Asians, just the mention of the word bagoong (shrimp paste) is enough to make us salivate because the taste is really heavenly. However, consuming large amount of shrimp paste may cause a sudden increase in your blood pressure. Therefore consume more while young and healthy... :)

This dish is my retake on the Filipino Pork Binagoongan. In the original version, the pork meat is cooked and tenderized in water until the water dries up and the pork is cooked in its own lard. Then the rest of the ingredients are added. In my version, I braise all the ingredients together so that the pork meats are flavorful even without the sauces and soft to the bite. So, this dish can also be called Pork Adobo with Bagoong. I also added some vegetables to have some pretense of healthiness.

1 kilo Pork, cut into cubes
2 T cooking oil
5 T garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
6 T shrimp paste ( I used the bottled guisado/stewed chinese style)
soy sauce, according to taste
sugar, according to taste
salt, according to taste
2 T peppercorns (or more)
2 T cane vinegar (or any kind of vinegar)
1 bunch (around 100gms) Kangkong (swamp cabbage), cleaned
2 pcs eggplant, sliced
5 pcs jalapeno peppers or finger chillies (sliced, if you prefer spicy. whole, if not)
2 C water

1. Heat up the oil in a deep pan. Saute the garlic and onions until fragrant but not burnt. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir fry for a while, then add the shrimp paste. Mix up everything in the pan.

2. Add the pork cubes. Mix up everything so that the sauce can cover all the meat pieces. Add soy sauce, salt, sugar, according to taste. Add the peppercorns and the jalapeno peppers. Mix everything up. Add the cane vinegar and cover. At this point. Do not stir until the mixture boils.

3. Stir all the ingredients together when it boils so that the flavors can mix. Add some water. Simmer for one to one and a half hours until the meat is fork tender. Add more water if the sauce is drying up. Alternately, you can cook everything in a slow cooker/crockpot.

4. Just before serving, add the eggplants. Cook for about 5 minutes. The add the Kangkong (Swamp cabbages). Cook one more minute. Dish up. Serve hot with lots of rice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shrimps With Fresh Mushrooms and Bell Peppers

Isn't this dish so pretty and colorful? It is yummy and healthy too! Best of all, it is easy to cook.

I am partial to stir-fried dishes. You will see many of my dishes are stir fries. Why? Because 1) Stir frying is one of the easiest method of cooking. It uses less time on top of the hot stove. 2) Stir frying seals in all the flavors of the ingredients used, whether it is vegetables or seafood. It brings out the natural flavors too. The resulting dishes are always flavorful even if we use minimal herbs. 3) Stir frying is one of the healthiest method of cooking, if you use the right kind of cooking oil. And we use only a little amount of oil, at that. Good oils to use are peanut oil, canola oil, olive oil and sesame oil.

I found some really nice looking large bell peppers at the grocery yesterday. I think Bell Peppers are also known as Capsicums in some countries. I have to confess I was at first attracted by their gorgeous colors - bright yellow, outrageous red and vivid green. I knew I just have to buy them even if I have no specific recipe in mind. I am sure they would taste sweet with a nice crunchy texture that the kids would love. Besides, they are rich in Vitamins C and A. Good for eyesight, good for the bones. It has fiber and its colors show that they are a good source of anti-oxidants. A little googling produced all the good benefits of Bell Peppers. If you want to know more about Bell Peppers, their health benefits, how to choose and store them, their complete nutritional profile, please click here.

I also found some fresh shiitake and abalone mushrooms. Hubby loves mushrooms of any kind. Mushrooms are also a good source of protein. Lately, it has been discovered that it has cancer-fighting properties. So, I threw them into my grocery cart as well. Check out the picture below. Just look at the gorgeous colors of the raw bell peppers. The white mushrooms on the upper left side are the abalone mushrooms and the brown ones with white flesh underneath (upper right side) are the shiitake mushrooms.

1/2 kilo medium-sized shrimps (deshelled, deveined)

1 medium sized bell pepper of each color - red, green and yellow, sliced

1 pack (around 200 gms) fresh shiitake mushrooms

1 pack (around 200 gms) fresh abalone mushrooms

5 slices ginger

4 T minced garlic

4 T cooking oil, preferably peanut oil or canola oil

2 T Chinese cooking wine

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Heat cooking oil in the wok or skillet. Add the ginger slices. Cook until it turns a little golden brown. Add in the garlic. Stir fry until fragrant but not burnt.

2. Add in the cleaned, deveined shrimps. Pour in the cooking wine. Stir fry for a while. Add in the 2 kinds of mushrooms. Mix everything up a little. When the shrimps are nearly cooked, add in all the bell peppers. Stir fry again until all the ingredients are evenly cooked and all the shrimps are done.

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dish up and serve hot.

I am submitting this dish, with its featured bell peppers to the Weekend Herb Blogging. This event, where we are to feature any herb, plant, vegetable or flower, was started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week, the event is being hosted by our very own Scientist in the Kitchen. To see last week's round-up, please check out Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Stir-fried BitterMelon With Crabmeat

Looks like we're having a bittermelon festival. See my previous bittermelon post here. Because of the extreme summer heat, the green leafy vegetables often reach the markets and supermarkets in a sorry sad state (half-wilted, dried). Unless you have a vegetable farm or you have a vegetable patch in your backyard, the choices of fresh vegetables in this city during summer is quite limited. Unless I choose to go to weekend markets in the South, which is quite far (2-hour drive)from where we live...

But the bittermelon can keep for a longer time. Plus, I have to teach the kids to eat this nutritious healthy gourd. So this dish will be the main feature of their lunchbox today.

For this stir-fry dish, I have to do some 'pre-treatments' to reduce the bitterness of the gourd. I sliced the washed gourd in half vertically, removed the seeds and the white goo surrounding the seeds. Then, slice the bittermelon, as thinly as possible. Add around 2 tablespoon of salt to the sliced green gourd. Mix it up a bit, and let it stand for at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, there will be some liquid with the gourd. Remove the liquid and wash the sliced gourd well with water. Remove and squeeze out excess water. It is now ready to be stir-fried.

1 large bittermelon (bitter gourd)
4 tomatoes, washed, seeded, chopped
4 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
125 gms fresh crabmeat, cooked, flaked
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
dash of sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare the bittermelon to reduce the bitterness. Marinate the flaked crabmeat in dashes of sesame oil and a sprinkling of ground pepper.

2. Heat up some oil in a wok or skillet. Saute the onions and garlic until fragrant, but not burnt. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir fry for a while.

3. Add the marinated crabmeat. Stir to separate the meat pieces. Add the prepared bittermelon. Mix everything up on the wok. Cover and simmer for a while until bittermelon is cooked, around 4 to 5 minutes. I usually prefer the bittermelon a bit over the half-cooked mark. You can have it cook a little longer of you want it fully cooked and softened.

4. When the bittermelon is cooked according to your desired doneness, add in the beaten eggs. Stir like crazy so that the eggs will be equally distributed and can coat all the veggies in your pan.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Some people add a bit of sugar to lessen the bitterness more. But I do not like it. Dish is cooked when the eggs are cooked and scrambled nicely.

Isn't this a very healthy dish for your lunchbox? It has veggies (the bittermelon), it has fruits (well, technically - the tomato), it has healthy protein (the eggs and the crabmeat). So I am submitting this dish and the lunchbox below to Margot of Coffee and Vanilla's Wholesome Lunchbox.

The contents of the lunchbox are:

- Rice. This is a basic staple of the Filipino and Chinese people. We eat this everyday. Sometimes three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For the lunchbox rice, I mixed organic brown rice with the regular white rice, hence, the yellow color in the picture above.

- Pan-fried Korean Beef Bulgogi. Recipe here.

- Stir-fried Bittermelon with Crabmeat

- steamed fish tofu (the 2 cube thingies above, center)

- 1 chinese pear (separately photographed)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fish Cake (Ball) Soup

What is that unidentified glob of goo? But then you have already read from the title above that it is fish cake. Or rather, fish cake in the making...

Handmade Fish cake is a real delicacy in Hong Kong and China. Regular fish cakes and fish balls are machine-made. But a real fish cake is chopped and mashed by hands. The texture and taste is really different. It is excellent! You may feel squirmish though with the thought that somebody's hand mashed that goo. So, the next best thing is to make it yourself. Hubby and I were able to taste a real fish cake from Gloria Maris Sharksfin Restaurant in Greenhills last year and we thought we could try to recreate the taste. We were just wondering how to recreate the texture. We asked around and were told that the fish meat has to be mashed and pulvurized by hand -- for a long time, really long long time.

300 gm boneless fish fillet (any white fish will do)
2 T sesame oil
4 T soy sauce
4 T flour
some dashes of freshly ground pepper ( I used both red and black peppercorns)

1. Chop up the fish fillet into small pieces, as small as possible.

2. Mash the chopped fish with bare clean (disinfected) hands.

3. After the fish texture becomes gooey and pulvurized, that you cannot see any solid piece of fish, add the seasonings and continue to mash away. (Actually the picture above is till in the half-mashed stage. It is not as gooey as it should be.)

4. At this stage, you can refrigerate or freeze for later use.

For the soup, I made a soup stock made from Spareribs and sliced carrots. When dinner was about to be served, I dropped spoonfuls of the raw fish cake into the boiling spareribs carrots soup. The fish cake/ball is cooked when they float up to the surface of the boiling soup. I also added some watercress - one of our family's favorite greens. The resulting soup is very very flavorful.

I also pan-fried some of the frozen fish cake at a later time, and it was also good. This is a very yummy and healthy dish specially if you want to make soups. But it is really very tedious and tiring to make by hand. I wonder if the results will be the same if I use my food processor. Hmmm... I should add fish fillet to my next grocery list...

Round Up Update

Please check out the Round Ups of the following Food Events. You will learn so much from these cooks and bloggers all over the world.

Ginny's Dollar Dish Duel. Here you will learn to stretch your dollars but still provide an excellent meal.

Chris' Cinco de Mango. Here you will learn about mango's versatility and enjoy various the mango dishes whipped up by creative cooks of the wonderful food blogging community.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Spareribs with Bitter Gourd Soup

"Yuck! Yuck! Why would anybody add anything bitter to a soup?"

That was my first reaction when a friend introduced me to this dish. We were casually talking about food (our favorite conversation topic), we were comparing notes, comparing recipes and this soup came up. Here in the Philippines, if you have kids, you definitely must serve soup. You have to have many variations of soups, specially if you have picky kids, plus one picky Hubby... My friend said that this is how her mom would usually cook the bitter gourd for them. She assured me the soup will not taste bitter. In fact, it will be delicious and very healthy.

The bitter gourd is also known as bitter melon. In Filipino, it is the famous ampalaya. In Chinese, it is called Ku Gua. The bitter gourd is the oblong, textured, green gourd. The skin is edible. I think it gets more bitter the more it ripens. So it is better to buy young ones. How will you know when you get more mature ones? When you open the gourd and the pith is yellow in color, then it is a bit mature. It is still very edible, though a bit more bitter than the young ones. It is not the size that matters. I have seen some baby bitter gourd and they taste even more bitter than the regular ones.

I am not very fond of bitter gourd when I was single. When I got married though, we lived for a few years with my in-laws and I learned to like this bitter veggie. The taste kind of 'grows' on you. Yes, it is an acquired taste. My mother-in-law believes that the Bitter Gourd is one of the super vegetables - ranked up high with brocolli and watercress. So, we would regularly have this veggie on the menu. She was proven correct when recent studies show that the bitter gourd can help regulate blood sugar level and helps regulate body functions. In fact, it is now made into tea, and capsules for those who do not enjoy this veggie.

There are many pre-cooking 'treatments' for the bitter gourd, supposedly to lessen the bitterness. But for this soup, I just washed the whole gourd, split it in half vertically, removed the seeds and the pulp. Then cut into 1 inch pieces, and dropped into the cooking soup. True to her word, the soup does not taste bitter. Even the cooked bitter gourd pieces does not taste bitter. So, where did the bitterness go??? My friend's mom was proven correct. This is the best way to serve this healthy gourd to children.

This dish is actually a very simple soup made of of 3 basic ingredients: The meat, the bitter gourd and the salted egg. Salted egg (Itlog na maalat) is a preserved food product made by soaking eggs in brine. In this country, it is available in almost all groceries and wet markets, usually dyed red. These are available in the United states as well. In the Asian supermarkets these eggs are sometimes sold covered in a thick layer of salted charcoal paste or vacuum packed in plastic.

1 kilo pork spareribs, chopped
1 pc bitter gourd
2 pcs salted eggs
5 T garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
10 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil some water in a heavy pot. Blanch the pork spareribs first. This is supposedly to 'clean' the meat to reduce oiliness in the soup. I just do it for hygienic reasons. Drain the spareribs and set aside.

2. Remove the eggshells, and cut the salted eggs in half. Set aside. Cut the bitter gourd in half vertically. Remove the pulp and the seeds. Cut into 1 inch pieces.

3. Boil the water used for cooking the soup. When it boils, add the blanched spareribs. Add all the other ingredients except for the salt and pepper. Simmer until meat is tender, around one to one and a half hour. Alternatively, you can just put everything in a crockpot and let it cook the whole afternoon. By evening meal, you already have a warm soup ready.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

This is my entry this week to Weekend Herb Blogging. This is a weekly event launched by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week, the event is hosted by Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. Last week's round-ups are here, beautifully done and poetically written by Anh of Food Lover's Journey. If you want to join or learn more about WHB, please click here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Beer Prawns

Hubby brought home a kilo of small tiger prawns from one of the bigger supermarkets in the city. This is actually a surprise because we do not usually buy seafood from the supermarkets. We think that seafoods from the wet markets are fresher and cheaper. But Hubby says this was on sale. It is fifty percent off the regular price of 600 pesos (roughly US$14) So at 300 pesos (around US$ 7), it is a good buy.

I know when you say tiger prawns in other countries, it means giant prawns, sometimes weighing half a kilo each. They are talking about humongous size here when referring to tiger prawns. So why are the prawns in the picture above small? In this country, sometimes the words shrimp and prawns are used interchangeably in markets and restaurants. A shrimp is a shrimp; a prawn is, well, just a bigger shrimp. Small and medium shrimp are sold simply as shrimp, while large, extra-large, and jumbo shrimp are called prawns. Unfortunately, this "rule" doesn't always hold. But do not be confused yet. More often than not, the pink/white variety are called shrimps. The darker plumper gray colored ones are called tiger prawns. Hence, tiger prawns comes in different sizes too.

At first I was doubtful of the freshness quality of these prawns on sale. But it turned out to be good. The heads are still firmly intact, the shells still shiny. Hubby says it must be because this is a large popular supermarket, many people shop here, therefore the turnover must be fast. So they have fresh supplies too! This made me rethink my bias against the freshness of seafoods in a supermarket...

Anyway, I wanted to try the chinese style Drunken Prawns, but I do not have the Chinese Shao Shing wine in my pantry. So, I experimented and used beer instead! We have tried Beer Chicken before, and it was deliciously fragrant. So I was confident to use beer. And it turned out to be truly truly good! Try this recipe. It is easy to cook, so flavorful and utterly delicious!

1 K tiger prawns, shells intact
5 T canola oil
4 slices ginger
5 T garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 C beer ( I used San Miguel Pale Pilsen)
salt and pepper
spring onions, chopped for garnish

1. Wash the prawns very well. You can cut off some of the 'whiskers' if you like.

2. Pour the cooking oil in a wok or a skillet. Add the ginger. When the ginger turns light brown, add the onions and garlic. Let them cook for a while, until fragrant. But do not let them burn.

3. Add the prawns. Stir fry for a while. Then add beer. Cover. Cook at high heat. After 2 minutes, lift cover and mix up everything together so that the prawns can cook evenly. Cover again. Allow all the prawns to soak up the flavor of the beer.

4. Prawns are cooked when they turn bright pink/red color. Check once in a while. Add salt and pepper to taste. Dish up. Sprinkle with green onions before serving.

The kids love the sauce of this dish. At first the seven-year-old Son was asking if he will get drunk on the beer sauce. Of course not! The alcohol content has already evaporated. So, he happily dunked lots of sauce on his rice.

As we were eating, I thought it would also be good to add jalapeno peppers or chillie peppers (Siling Haba) to this dish. Or maybe just sprinkle with the Japanese S & B powdered red peppers would also be good if you like your dish with the spicy kick. But it is also very good as it is.

Here are some more shrimps and prawns recipes:

Homestyle Gambas

Shrimp-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Prawns Thermidor

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cooking To Combat Cancer Round Up

Here is the Round Up for the Cooking for Cancer. This event is launched by Chris of Mele Cotte, herself a brave cancer survivor. It is now on its second year but this is the first time I joined. This event aims to increase cancer-awareness around the world, and encourage each of us to eat healthily.

Please check out the dishes from different parts of the globe, from Canada to New Zealand, India and Romania and many others. All these dishes contain cancer-fighting ingredients, you might want to include these do-able dishes regularly in your meals.

Also, please pray for those contributors with lavander ribbons. They are those who have personal battle with cancer and/or cancer survivors. May God continue to bless them and their families.

Grow Your Own April Roundup

Grow Your Own is a monthly food blogging event that celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products. This event is hosted by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes.

Even if I live in a crowded city, where living space is a premium, I think that growing our own food is important. For one thing, we know that our food is 100 percent organically grown, without the 'side-effects' of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We are also assured that our ingredients are super fresh. From the land straight to the kitchen - this way, no nutrients are lost in transport. Finally, growing our own food is practical. With our economy in perpetual recession, it is a big help to our budget if we do not have to buy the food available in our backyard.

Here's the round-up for this month's Grow Your Own. It is a very interesting array of produce and dishes from different countries around the world.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stuffed Tilapia

This dish is actually called Pinaputok na Tilapia. To translate that to English, it would say, Exploding Tilapia. Wouldn't that be interesting? Or maybe, Bursting Tilapia would also be appropriate because we stuff the belly with a lot of things until it is already bursting with goodies and flavors... Did I mention this dish is very healthy and nutritious too?

1 large whole tilapia, around half a kilo
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, deseeded, chopped
4 slices ginger
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 T soy sauce
1 T oil

1. Clean the tilapia well. Make a slit in the belly.

2. Mix the onion, garlic, tomatoes and ginger. Add some salt and put this mixture inside the belly cavity of the fish. Also put some mixture inside the head cavity.

3. Cut out a foil big enough to cover and wrap the whole fish. Place the fish on top of the foil.

4. Sprinkle salt and freshly ground pepper on both sides of the fish.

5. Spread the soy sauce and oil on both sides of the fish.

6. Fold and enclose the fish inside the foil.

7. Steam or broil until cooked, around 15 to 20 minutes.

8. To serve, open the foil packet carefully. It is hot inside and you might get burned by the steam.

I am submitting this dish to Ginny's Dollar Dish Duel. I think this is a noteworthy event. Every CEO (read: housewife or househusband in charge of the kitchen) of each household should be able to come out with delicious, nutritious dishes but within the family budget too! Of course, living on this side of the globe has its advantages. Food are cheaper! So, to be fair, I am limiting myself to only $2. How does that sound?

As I am writing this, the exchange rate of US dollar to Philippine Peso is 1 is to 43. It fluctuates daily though, ranging from 41 - 43. So, I am using the higher exchange rate. This is how much this dish costs here:

In Philippine Peso:

1/2 K whole Tilapia : 40
1 onion : 1
1 pc garlic : 1
ginger : 2
tomatoes : 4
(salt, pepper, soy sauce from my pantry)

Total Cost : 48 pesos

That's only $ 1.12 !!! Yippeee!!! And I was able to feed one Hubby and two picky kids with this dish.

The reason I am able to keep within the limit is that I chose a more affordable fish. Fish fillets and other types of fish like milkfish and grouper are more expensive. But it does not mean that it is less nutritious than the other cuts and types of fish. For more Tilapia recipes, please click here.

This is indeed a challenging event. Maybe next time, I should limit myself to only $1.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Green Mango Salsa

When I read about the new food blogging event of Chris of Mele Cotte, I just knew I had to join. I started joining food blogging events a week ago with her Cooking to Combat Cancer. Read my entry here. And I definitely have to join this new event because this event is about the Queen of Philippine fruits - the Mango!

The mango fruit is rich in vitamin C, calcium and magnesium, which is highly recommended for pregnant women and practically everybody. There is nothing like the Philippine carabao mango. The texture, taste and aroma of our Philippine mango is incomparable! The skin is not thick and leathery like some of the mangoes from other countries. The flesh is firm, sweet, crisp and without unpalatable fibers.

Philippine mangoes have a distinct rich taste, no turpentine taste, not fibrous and high nutritional value compared to other kinds of mangoes. Philippine Carabao mangoes are available year-round but the best tasting fruits are those picked during the summer months. "Philippine mangoes" sold in the U.S. are from Mexico (check the small stickers) while "real" produce from the Philippines are marketed as "Manila Super Mangoes". (source: So when buying mangoes at your groceries, be sure to check whether they are from the Philippines or not. To read more about Philippine mangoes, please click here and here.

For Cinco de Mango, I am sharing this recipe using green unripe mangoes. Green mangoes have this unique sour, tart, tangy taste, perfect for salads or as a side dish. This is a simple recipe, and very easy to make. This is actually another of my retake on a popular Filipino side dish. The original version uses shrimp paste (Bagoong) but I simply used dashes of fish sauce (Patis). I had to use fish sauce because even if the shrimp paste is definitely yummier (and more pungent), it also causes sudden rise in our blood pressure! Actually, even the fish sauce can affect hypertension too, if you add a lot. So, I just put dashes of it, only for some taste and flavor.

1 green (unripe) mango, peeled, seeded, jullienned
4 tomatoes, cleaned, julliened
1 white onion, cut into strips
dashes of fish sauce, to taste
2 stalks green onions, chopped

1. Mix the mango, tomatoes and onions in a plate.

2. Add dashes of fish paste. Mix everything up.

3. Sprinkle with green onions before serving.

In this country, we use this green mango salsa as an accompaniment to grilled or fried dishes. The sour, salty, slightly sweet, tangy, tart, pert "tastes" literally combines together in this dish and expect bursts of full flavor with every bite.

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