Sticky Rice Cake Filled with Pork and Shitake Mushrooms

I started very late dating; at 25.  When everybody else was happily hugging and holding each other’s hands on the corridors of my Conyo riddled high school, I was in one corner concentrating on finishing my Algebra and Geometry assignments.  I was a horribly shy student and this shyness even affected my speaking abilities towards women; too quiet to even talk properly (torpe). I stuttured in front of them. This situation went onto University.  I just couldn’t seem to find the actual combination and the exact words of  affection to approach gorgeous women. Moreover, I was inhibited by strict rules of engagement as directed by my barkada  and my prohibitive parents to socially interact and to mingle beyond school sponsored activities was next to impossible. That would have said it all.

Anyway, I met my first girlfriend through a friend back in HS. That relationship jumpstarted it all. It was through this sweet and terribly sticky relationship that I learned how Venuses’ clock ticked.  From then on, one relationship after another relationship had begun sprouting; each one developing at least every couple of years. Others were instant and mutual attraction while many blossomed through dates and friendships; basically ‘ just the thoughts of always being together.’ The digital age was still afar and the only way to a Venus’ soul was through little post-it notes, pages (pagers) and short letters. That worked for me. I used each medium to floor a woman I would have wanted to be with for a dinner date, and at the same time, remaining coy and honest of my true intentions.

Many of those I previously dated, for at least a month (yeah?), have been long forgotten and lost.  I still remember their faces, and nothing else.  As for those who have made a significant mark in my life during that time, I have continued and kept an open door and at the same time,  have maintained constant communication therein to this day.  That was almost 20 years ago.

Those memorable relationships in the past used to be as sticky as this dish.  In fact, one of those I had dated requested this particular recipe after seeing Oggi’s Machang Recipe. I happily obliged, of course. I must admit. It was one exhiliraating experience I have ever had; despite my overall shortcomings to her. I also learned more about life which unfortunately I had missed in that closely-guarded and secluded school I went and grew up as a teenager.

I regularly ‘dimsum,’ but honestly I have never tasted in any of my trips nor have never made Machang.  To accommodate my’ buddy’s’ request, I have opted to make something similar. I know it would be difficult to recreate a taste of something which I myself haven’t really tried, and the only way to approach such problem was through research.  I pulled out all my cookbooks in my storage and discovered this one.  After going through the process,  I went through and made a ‘binalot;’ combining two cooking techniques.

Ingredients:

  • Glutinous Rice (Malagkit-about two cups)
  • Banana Leaves
  • Dried Shitake Mushrooms
  • Lean Pork (1/4 of a pound)
  • Chinese Pork Sausages
  • Garlic
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Fish Sauce
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Chicken Stock
  • Brown Sugar

Before starting, soak the rice and the Dried Shitake Mushrooms overnight.  Drain the water from the rice, and using a cheesecloth, steam the rice for about twenty minutes.  Let it cool and set aside.

While waiting, slice the pork and shitake mushrooms into bite size pieces and chop the garlic.  Start by sautéing the garlic, followed by the pork  and the mushrooms. Add in the Light Soy Sauce, Oyster Sauce, Chicken Stock, the water from the soaked mushrooms, brown sugar and the fish sauce.  Season to taste and set aside.

Pull out a Banana Leaf, and trim the edges to use as its twine. Run it through the stovetop to make it more pliable.

Set half of the sticky rice onto the Banana Leaf and top it with the stuffing. Cut the Chinese Pork Sausages in a bias and include them in. Drizzle some of the sauce on the stuffing before covering and with the other half of the sticky rice, pour whatever’s left on the mound before wrapping. Fold the leaf to form a rectangle just enough to fit a bamboo steamer, and let it steam for another ten minutes.

 

 

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Chicken Kiev

I finally had an opportunity to breath, for at least three days, before the next run of hell begins. It was crazy over the Canada Day Weekend and the last two weeks after that were at least a little more manageable. I just had to stop. August is also just around the corner which only means more events and activities have already been lined up by groups in conjunction with the city of Toronto to make the summer an ‘unforgettable’ one for those on vacation and for tourist alike. By the third week of August, I am definitely sure it will slow down as kids and parents prepare for Fall; that I am ultimately looking forward to.

For those like me, it only means more hell. I’ve been savouring every minute of this time-off in my apartment just basically doing nothing. Sometimes doing nothing helps keep myself together although it can be counterproductive at times. This is my third and final day; knowing the next couple of weeks might be as bad or even worse; just thinking about it makes me want to do ‘nothing’ even more. Personally, I feel the two months of summer is about six in total; given all the stresses and hours at work and the daily squabble and struggle with inefficient co-workers. And, physically, I think, I may not be able to do this anymore; and thus the search goes on.  Hopefully, next summer will be a much better scenario.

During this break, I was able to finally make one of the dishes I’ve been longing to make: Chicken Kiev. It’s making a comeback.  I had two chicken breast in my freezer from the whole chicken I bought for my Jerk Chicken, and I felt something more elegant can be done with them.  I was originally just thinking of a Supreme; back in Culinary Arts School with Herbs and Butter, but after searching and discovering Chicken Kiev, I knew I had had to have a hand on this one. It didn’t frustrate me.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken Breast
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salted Butter
  • Eggs, Flour, Panko Breadcrumbs (for Dredging)

Leave about ¼ of a cup of butter in room temperature. Chop some Thyme & Rosemary and incorporate the herbs with the butter to make a compound butter.

Spread the chicken breast lengthwise and pound them using the back of the cleaver. Put the compound butter at the center and roll the chicken breast like a carpet; making sure the butter is properly tucked in.  Set aside in the fridge (important).

Prepare the egg wash, flour and breadcrumbs for dredging. Season the egg wash and flour with salt & pepper and add some Parmesan Cheese and chopped Parsley in the breadcrumbs.  Start dredging the chicken. Set aside in the fridge for the second time around for a good half an hour or so.

Pan-fry all sides and insert in a 350’C preheated oven for just about 5-8 minutes, checking the firmness and doneness of the chicken every now and then (shouldn’t be dry).  Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing in half.

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Spicy Jerk Chicken

I worked part-time with a West Indian restaurant back in 2009 to earn extra money for my most awaited wedding in 2010. The owner was an old lady who made fresh roti and curry and whatever kinds of pots and pans she and her only full-time cook used went through my hands for washing.  She was kind and understanding, however, her daughter was a major bitch I had to deal with on an almost daily basis. She managed the finances so I was guessing it went with her role in the small, family operated business. Her only son knew what I was going through and helped me during closing time; such a contrast of personalities.

The pay was meager, but I was paid in cash. As the days went by, I noticed that she kept on giving me additional workload on my already cramped ‘things to do’ list. Initially, I agreed to work the dish pit and that was about it.  I just kept quiet up until I had saved enough to shoulder whatever other miscellaneous expenses had had to be paid for for the coming ‘big day.’ Moreover, the smell of curry was horrendous, and no matter how much food she gave me after every shift, they all went to the garbage. I really wouldn’t have minded having those freebies for dinner, but the restaurant was festered with night crawlers and that gave me the creeps.

Of course, I was in-charge of cleaning the restaurant; the crappers and all the other filth that  disgusting restaurant produced literally from top to bottom (wiped the ceiling fan & cleaned the storage room in the basement).  After quitting, my ‘uniform’ (an old pair of shoes, jeans & shirt) also went into the garbage. Yes, it was that nasty. I can just imagine other ethnic, hole-in-wall restaurants in and around the city, and what many city dwellers would have had eaten for lunch as take-out.

When I join restaurants for employment, no matter how short or long the stint would have been,  I’d mainly check what they have in-store in their pantries. That place unlocks their ‘secret ingredients’ or actually, no secret at all. For this one, curry in commercial containers and ghee were the major ingredients.  I also noticed jars of Jerk Spice which when I first arrived here, was a relatively new kind of spice mixture.  I’ve never heard of Jerk in the first place. When I tasted the marinade, I was overwhelmed with the amount of spices and heat that emanated from the mixture and which were totally different from Southeast Asian types of marinade. Unfortunately, this restaurant, to cut corners, bought ready-made Jerk Spice, and it was noticeable when mixed with the Chicken Thighs.  I, myself, mixed the marinade even if it was not my duty to do so. I only had about four hours a day, and about three times a week, to complete my dish pit duties and that extra ‘duty’ consumed what little time I had. Of course, I also had to clean the mess-bitches.

Ingredients:

Meat:

  • 2-3 pcs. Chicken Thighs & Wings
  • Canola Oil
  • Vinegar

Aromatics & Herbs: to taste

  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • White Onion
  • Green Onion
  • Thyme

Spices: to taste

  • Scotch Bonnet
  • Bird’s Eye Chilis
  • Brown Sugar
  • All-Spice
  • Cinnamon
  • Cayenne Pepper

Combine canola oil aromatics, herbs and spices in a blender and zap to a paste.  Adjust the consistency with water. Mix the paste with the meat portions in either a mixing bowl or a plastic bag, and marinate overnight to a day.

Insert in a 350’C preheated oven; checking the doneness of the thighs and wings every now and then.

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Chicken Fried Steak

I do miss having quiet mornings with family and friends over breakfast. The last time this has happened was about three months ago when my schedule was not as frenetic as now. I’ve never experienced having a very quiet Sunday morning ever since I joined the kitchen brigade.  I have been working Sundays and holidays most of the time, probably since 2006, and I hardly had any weekend off for the last how many years now. I only realized lately how I missed having a weekend and have decided fall of last year to work as required and needed only. When I did finally have a more or less ‘regular’ weekend, I was with my friends in the suburbs every weekend thereafter drinking and enjoying myself. It really felt queer, but an off on a weekend was totally different from having an off on a weekday. The air, the atmosphere, even the entire aura of a slow Sunday afternoon was very gratifying within. I knew I missed ‘having a life’ while my friends were still in bed or having their morning coffee somewhere, and I toiled and sweat in extreme heat on a very busy holiday weekend.  I’ve promised to enjoy the summer next year, and I am hoping to make it happen as well.

Anyway, when I had finally made this weekend opportunity happen, my friends and I decided to have breakfast at Denny’s. It was long time coming. We had planned these ages ago and somehow it had had to occur soon after despite several years of delay and waiting.  I think there’s only one Denny’s here in Toronto and it’s located at the west end of the city where all my friends are located, and that I really find very strange. I ordered Denny’s famous Chicken Fried Steak for breakfast; no eggs, for personal reason, and modified my order with two sides instead. Honestly, I didn’t quite like it. The portion size was small. It was dry, and the gravy was insipid to bland, but I really didn’t expect much. I just wanted my bottomless, refillable coffee to wake me up after a night of drinking.

Actually, my friends have been urging me to move at their neck of the woods for a verylong time, but due to proximity of the downtown core from my apartment to work and everything else, I stayed in Toronto. I challenged them to find me work there though, and I would gladly move back or return  to suburban lifestyle like how I started. So far, they haven’t been lucky in finding one.

I’ve always wanted to make Chicken Fried Steak. I really never knew what it was until I saw how it was made on TV and from then on, it has been on my list to make.  When I saw a bargain tenderized Hip Steak at less than a Toonie each, I proceeded in making the recipe. I also had all ingredients at hand which really hardly occur. My pantry became almost complete due to blogging, I guess. And like I said beforehand, I  really don’t have enough space in my fridge to pack it with more food stuff as much as I wanted to.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Pcs. Tenderized Hip Steak
  • Flour, Beaten Eggs, & Panko Bread for Dredging
  • Canola Oil for Pan-frying
  • Salt & Ground Black Pepper

Before starting the dredging process, season the Hip Steaks, the flour and the egg wash with salt & pepper.

Pan-fry until golden & set aside.

Homemade Gravy

Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil
  • White Onions
  • Compound Butter (Garlic, Onion Powder, Wine)
  • Flour
  • White Wine
  • Beef Stock
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Parsley

Set the stovetop to low-medium and heat the Olive oil & compound butter.

Add the flour and make a roux. Mix in the chopped onions & continue stirring until the flour is completely cooked.

Pour the white wine and beef stock and stir constantly until the right consistency is achieved.

Spread evenly over the Chicken Fried Steak and garnish with Parsley.

I know Gravy & Rice are perfect match to any fried or pan-fried dishes. I think only Filipinos mix Gravy & Rice together much like Mayo to bread for North Americans.  If you’re into that type of comfort, I reckon this recipe is for you.

Let the egg ooze into the meat & the rice and I’m sure the meal will feel like  eating tapsilog.

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Tagliatelle Bolognese

Let’s face it. Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is probably one of the most popular types of Spaghetti ‘brand’ around. It’s almost always in kids and adults’ birthday parties. Ask yourselves if it weren’t true. It has become a tradition as eating Pancit or Lechon.  Furthermore, it’s in the menus of many if not all fastfood chains in Asia; but I strongly think it’s only in Asia.  I don’t understand the idea of mixing ham and hotdog though with the ground beef and sweetening it up for the Filipino Palate.  Anyway, if I had remembered correctly, when I opened a container of Spaghetti in one of these fastfood chains, I saw and tasted a sweet and diluted tomato ‘sauce’ and probably a teaspoon of very fine to mashed ‘ground meat’ somewhere.  However, that was more than a decade or so ago and recipe changes could have been made for that long a time.  I haven’t really eaten in any of those chains in a very, very long period of time. If I had, I would have just eaten the Fried Chicken and Gravy combo.

Call me a purist, but as a result of this major recipe adjustment in the Philippines, many ‘Spaghetti’ has been measured to this standard when it shouldn’t have been.When I had my mom tasted my tomato sauce, she wondered why it was not sweet. But honestly though, I had no idea how it was prepared until I saw and tasted an authentic Spaghetti and Meat Sauce dish  abroad, and when many other Italian-American inspired restaurants had begun popping out one after another in Manila.  When Food Channels exploded, I assumed everybody was awakened to the reality of many cooking and cooking techniques; Spaghetti or Pasta included. That was a good sign of progress.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is one of the classical dish I’d really love to make for friends alongside Spaghetti & Meatballs. And, I want to eat, taste and see MEAT as it should always have been. However,  I just don’t want to use Spaghetti as my noodles and as commonly practiced,  but would also want to at least venture out with other kinds of pasta available in the market. This brought me to make this classical masterpiece. Before approaching this dish, I had to make some on-line research just to see if what I had in mind was actually was really served out there.  After much thought, I proceeded with preparing and making the recipe.  For health reasons though, I replaced the ground beef with ground chicken. The price on the package was too irresistible to let go, and I somewhat sidelined beef until after the holidays arrive, and honestly, I can’t wait for that.  Summer is just not my season.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 of a box of Tagliatelle Pasta
  • Olive Oil
  • ½ lb of Ground Chicken
  • 1 Italian Mild Sausage
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • ½ White Onion, Diced
  • Fresh Oregano, roughly chopped
  • Dried Oregano
  • Peperoncino (Crushed Chili Flakes)
  • ½ can of San Marzano Italian Type Tomatoes
  • Red wine
  • Cheese: Parmesan/Mozza/Cheddar
  • Salt & Crushed Ground Black Peppercorns
  • Squeeze of Lemon

Blend the can of San Marzano Tomatoes (using a blender) and reduce it by a 1/3 in a sauce pan.

While waiting for it to reduce, remove the casing from the Italian Sausage, and heat a sauté pan with Olive Oil.  Start browning the now grounded Italian Sausage.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

On the same pan, add some Olive Oil and brown the grounded chicken.  Do this step in batches if the pan is not big enough. Make sure to brown the ground meat properly (important).  Once done, remove from the pan and set it aside together with the grounded Italian Sausage.

Add some more oil in the pan if necessary and begin sautéing the onion and garlic.  Once the onion and garlic become aromatic, deglaze the pan with red wine.

Return the cooked ground chicken and Italian sausage back in the pan, stir several times and slowly add some tomato sauce to arrive to the desired consistency.  Season the pot with salt & pepper and with the fresh and dried herbs. Let it simmer for a good 20-30 minutes, depending on how much meat is in the pan. Add some pasta water along the way if the meat sauce becomes too dry.  Squeeze some lemon when it’s about to be done.

Start a pot of heavily salted water and cook the Tagliatelle pasta based on the instructions in the package.

Set the noodles on a plate, top with the meat sauce, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh oregano.

*I omitted Celery & Carrots from the aromatics. Originally, these can be sauted with the onion & garlic.