Batchoy

DSCF7012 (640x493)I fondly remember eating batchoy over a small, wooden, make-shift ‘cafeteria’ along the north expressway about twenty to twenty-five years ago.  My dad, uncle, cousin and I were heading on a road trip to Batac, my dad and uncle’s birthplace. These eateries cum sari-sari stores were scattered all over the highway and travelling with relatives who had strong traditional ties and background to the provincial landscape only beckons us to stopover, sit down and eat traditional Ilocano fare. They were badly missed by my dad and uncle; by the look at their faces and gusto in their meals. My cousin and I, on the other hand, went for the more familiar Tagalog noodle soup, and bagnet.  I loved both, and both came out really cheap.

The Filipino noodle soup is an electrifying and eclectic mixture of pork offal, chicken, maybe some vegetables, and several types or kinds of noodles.  These, I believe, are the main characteristics of most pinoy noodle soup.  It looks messy, greasy and uninviting, but the taste is to match.  Moreover, many noodle soup dishes have been pre-dressed, displayed at the window display case, and are ready to be served at moments notice by simply pouring the very, very, and extremely hot broth.  I don’t know how many versions have been made with this dish, but the most common factor amongst all is the fried garlic. Filipinos just can’t eat without garlic; from start to finish. And, of course, Ilocos Norte, as I discovered was laced with garlic at every streetcorner of the city.

Anyway, I was in the process of cleaning and clearing up my fridge when I came up with the idea of doing a Batchoy; if it’s at all a Batchoy. What I had were the following: Pork Broth (Nilaga), Chicken Stock, Rib-eye fillets, pre-cooked noodles, beansprouts, and a heap of peeled garlic. I was on my way.

I won’t go in the process on how a ‘Nilaga’ or a chicken stock is prepared. Each one has his or her way, but for this noodle soup, I combined both and added a touch of bouillon cube for that extra kick.

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  • Pork (from Pork Nilaga)
  • Rib-eye fillets (use for pho or hot pot)
  • White Onions
  • Garlic, minced and fried to golden
  • Ginger
  • Chicharon, crushed
  • Beansprouts
  • Dried Egg noodles, pre-cooked
  • Lemon Juice or Lime Juice
  • Thai Basil, julienned
  • Thai Chili (optional)
  • Patis
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Hardboiled egg (your choice)

Heat a wok with oil and pan-fry the garlic.  Set aside the fried garlic, and using the same oil, start sauteing the ginger. Quickly add the chopped onions and stir vigorously. Pour a portion of the pork broth, bouillon cube, and another equal portion of the chicken stock. Tossed in the pork from the nilaga, some rib-eye fillets and let it simmer for a few minutes or until the fillets have been cooked to doneness.

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Pour everything in a bowl with the pre-cooked noodles and beansprouts. Dress with the crushed chicharon and fried garlic and finish it off with the Thai Basil, Thai Chili and raw beansprouts. Drizzle with patis and squeeze some lemon juice before serving.

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Braised Beef Tendons

DSCF6996 (640x510)I can’t seem to stay away from fat and cartilages as much as lamb, beef or veal. Whenever I visit my regular dimsum restaurant, I always have the urge and the tendency to order Beef Tendons. It’s always on my list of a three to four course dimsum meal; keeping me at ease again in preparation for next week’s surge. My week does not start until the weekend and if my internal clock does not tick properly in time for work, the week ahead maybe in shambles or unpredictable. That maybe a stressful struggle ahead which I try to avoid at all circumstances on my ‘weekends.’ I want my workweek ahead predictable and easy, although it can be difficult most of the times.

I always need that quiet and peaceful moment. I don’t or even hardly eat the food I prepare for clients. When I step-out of my work sanctuary, I search for ‘real food,’ spicy delectables which would trigger my appetite for the next couple of days and keep me up to speed for more activities during the day; food that would nourish and put me to deep slumber. I noticed lately that I only had three restaurants that I regularly and rotatingly visit on my Friday: an Indian, a Japanese and a Chinese. Almost all other else fall under the ‘fastfood’ category which I have totally omitted from my diet and list a long time ago. It just pays to know best about food handling and preparation, and my body isn’t taking in unknown substances no matter how clean or hygienic they were assembled.

I’ve never really encountered Beef Tendons as a child. My food genre at that period was mainly categorized to Filipino and I never appreciated international cuisines. When I entered the professional kingdom many called ‘work,’ my eating habits matured a little and had begun to transform. However, that only occurred a tad bit late in my life and I didn’t really experience much as much as others are currently experiencing them now in the Pinas. Food choices have exploded in the last two decades and concept restaurants mushroomed in business districts; for a price of course.

This is Braised Beef Tendons in Chinese Beef Broth. I initially did the broth before starting the tendons, and braised the tendons using a roasting pan instead of the conventional stockpot. It’s not red as I ate and had them in my dimsum place. That remains a mystery to me. It was, as I recalled, bright red, succulent and slippery to the bite, and that redness was not exactly biting hot or invitingly sweet.

The procedure for the Beef Broth is under the Braised Beef Noodle Soup (check the link) which I made about a year to a year and a half ago. Ingredients, however, are listed below.

Ingredients:

A pack of Beef Tendons
Chinese Beef Broth

Beef Broth:
Beef Shank
Flour
Light Soy Sauce
Ginger
Onion
Garlic
Green Onion
Bayleaves
Coriander
White and Blackpeppercorns
Szechuan Peppercorns
Star Anise
Cinnamon Stick
Five-Spice Powder

Set the beef tendons on a roasting pan and pour some beef broth. Cover and pop it in the oven (low & slow) for next three to four hours or until soft and tender.

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Set aside to cool and steam the tendons until ready to serve.

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Crispy Duck Adobo Flakes

DSCF6974 (640x497)It’s Valentine’s Day. So what? Whenever a special day that’s not exactly a holiday comes by, the media, as usual, switches into a feeding frenzy. What’s worse is that animals are now included in the topic as part of Valentine’s Day. They were not exactly part of the celebration when I was growing up. I don’t have anything against St. Valentine, but there isn’t really anything to celebrate about love and romance. It should be an everyday private affair between couples which many have capitalized on to make money; nothing else. It’s one day that can cover sales for the month, and maybe more.  It’s never a public affair.

Anyway, I had a sizable amount of Duck Confit leftover and like I said on that post, I would create something extraordinarily Filipino with that dish. This is that dish. I had my first adobo flakes about three or four years ago when my sister took me to a restaurant in Bonifacio City where it was popularized and served in numbers. Honestly, my palate didn’t capture the actual taste of the crispy and flaky adobo. It went too fast before I could munch some. Nevertheless, it’s still an adobo, and an adobo is an adobo.

It was served to us as an appetizer. In my case, I’m serving it under the brunch menu. Its sweet, salty and sour mix just matches the sticky and creamy texture of a sunny side egg; nothing beats a comfy meal in another dark and dreary day.  It’s also a perfect breakfast after a night of never ending romance.

Ingredients:

Crispy Duck Flakes:

  • Leftover Duck Confit
  • Sweet Rice Flour
  • Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning

Adobo Baste:

  • Filipino Soy Sauce
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Cane Vinegar (White Vinegar)
  • Beer
  • Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Brown Sugar
  • Bayleaf
  • Chicken Stock

Skin the Duck Confit off its bones and coat with a combination of the sweet rice flour and  the adobo all-purpose seasoning. Set aside in the fridge and start preparing the adobo basting sauce.

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Heat a sauce pan and combine all the ingredients under the adobo basting sauce ingredients. Reduce to simmer or until the alcohol and the vinegar have completely evaporated.  Set aside to cool and transfer in a container.

Pre-heat the oven to about 375’C. Heat a pan with fresh cooking oil (or duck fat, if there’s enough) and fry the shredded duck until they turn golden brown.  Remove and transfer to another pan and pop it in the oven to cook it further. Baste the duck with the adobo sauce until it caramelizes.  Baste every now and then until the duck has been completely covered by the sauce.

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Veal Shoulder Blade Steak with Bell Pepper & Onion

DSCF6961 (640x495)There are times that I just want to step out of the kitchen and breathe. Whenever I  feel the tension and the stress blanket the entire room, I take a seat and take five. After a grueling day as such, recovery period sometimes takes more than two days. I’m stuck indoors and can’t move a muscle. I think a holiday is forthcoming, but having just started in this new kitchen, taking one may not happen soon.

I have been stuck with eating noodles and finishing a pot of meat broth for dinner for the last week; just too exhausted from preparing a real meal for myself. Moreover, I always look forward to a hot and steamy Jasmine rice to alleviate my hunger for ‘my own kind of food’ after cooking for somebody else the entire day. I would have opted eating out instead, but I’d rather be at home sooner relaxing and preparing for the next day. I miss my apartment and I look forward ‘doing nothing’ and reading a book on a quiet, cozy and cold winter day. I’m working on this objective and I reckon it won’t happen until the next winter season with all the other things I have to attend to now; all of which I have left rotting in the backburner for the last six or so years. There’s always something to do and small decisions to make and there are surprises appearing every week. I’ve been hoping this jack-in-the box surprises would be on the ‘fun’ side, but that covers only half of that.

I enjoy a nice piece of steak when this stressful situation surfaces and ‘looking forward to a stress-free’ day occurs. I dropped by my Canadian grocer last week after a long break and bought a Veal Shoulder Blade Steak; thinking for a quick grill to fill  a hungry and deprived stomach. I have been searching and looking for new cuts, but I haven’t really seen as many lately. I saw some top of the line offal in Chinatown yesterday and wouldn’t know exactly what to do with them. Anyway, the veal had a sizable amount of fat which initially I thought was marbling. All these meant long and slow braising. And I came up with this one.

Ingredients:

  • Veal Shoulder Blade Steak
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Bayleaf
  • Assorted Bell Peppers (Red, Yellow, Orange)
  • Beer
  • Chicken Stock
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Saffron Threads
  • Brown Sugar
  • Flour (for coating)

Marinade the veal overnight with olive oil, salt and pepper, and Mexican oregano. Coat with flour and pan-fry until golden on both sides. Set aside.

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Sauté the onions, garlic and bell peppers on the same pan. Deglaze the pan with beer, and add some chicken stock followed by the light soy sauce, brown sugar, bayleaf and saffron threads. Return the veal back in the pan, cover and pop it in a pre-heated 220’C oven for two hours.

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Remove the veal from the roasting pan and strain the sauce in a sauce pan. Reduce to a third and season to taste.

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Pork in Sour Broth (Sinigang sa Pula)

DSCF6947 (640x456)I hated ‘Sinigang na Bangus.’ It was one of those fish broth served every other day on the dinner table, and the ‘Bangus’ itself was a major headache to eat with all its tiny bones that can stick down your throat when swallowed. It took me a while to like ‘Sinigang’ again; actually a long time. Fish fillets are abundant here, fresh or frozen, and with this availability, I was able to create a fish ‘Sinigang’ dish: Wild Cod Fillet in Sour Broth. My intention at that time was to have that flavourful ‘Sinigang’ taste without using any shortcuts and without the headache and interference from those pesky fish bones. I poached the fish and created a broth specifically for that one.

Pork ‘Sinigang’, however, is a bit sensitive and melodramatic. It’s a one-pot wonder like any Filipino dishes; requiring attention on the first step of cooking to achieve an intense and somehow special kind of sour broth only known and familiar to Filipinos in Pinas and overseas. What urged me to try this ‘Sinigang’ challenge was the presence of tomato sauce. I just enjoy playing around with tomato-based dishes and when the ‘Sinigang sa Pula’ came up on-line (through a former classmate in HS whom I had not spoken to in decades), I knew I had to give it a test. Initially, I made an easy, typical Pork ‘Sinigang’ by just adding tomato puree, but it lacked the body and the colour I had expected. It just tasted like any ordinary Filipino sour broth (now with tomatoes). It was singular, square and plain; as many Pinoy dishes tend to be like (particularly stew and broth dishes).

I was finally able to visit Chinatown and gather up all the ingredients during the week for the second round of this sour broth bonanza that would put my stamp on this now seemingly and increasingly becoming popular dish. This has become a ‘collaborative’ effort between me and my former HS classmate; her intellectual, savvy and unmatched marketing talents in the corporate arena of juice and sauces, and my less of ability just to bang pots and pans. It took me about an hour and a half to complete this version of ‘Sinigang sa Pula’ and was still dissatisfied with the taste after all the work. Like many broth dishes, specifically those with tomatoes, they become gentler to the scoop, smoother to the slurp and definitely sexier on the next day.

Ingredients:

Pork Shank

  • Garlic, minced
    Shallots, minced
    Ginger, chopped
    Thai Chili
    Lemongrass
    Diced Tomatoes (canned)
    Tamarind Paste
    Cubanelle Pepper (or Finger Pepper)
    Jicama, quartered
    Baby Bok Choy
  • Ground Black pepper
    Whole Black peppercorns
    Bayleaves
    Sea Salt
    Saffron threads (or Achuete, or Turmeric)
  • Patis
    Cane Vinegar
    Chicken Stock
    Flour (for coating)

Cut the pork shank into cubes, season with salt and pepper, and coat with flour. Pan-fry until golden brown in a stockpot and set aside.

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Sauté the garlic, shallots, ginger and Thai chili on the same pot. Add a couple of tablespoons of Tamarind paste and stir vigorously. Dump the diced tomatoes next followed by the cubed pork shanks. Slowly incorporate the chicken stock; enough to make it into a broth. Add a stick of Lemongrass, a piece or two of Bayleaves, Whole Black Peppercorns, Sea Salt , Patis, Ground Black Pepper, and a touch of Cane Vinegar. Let it boil to simmer, covered, until the shanks are fork tender.

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Pull the shanks out of the pot and strain the broth into a sauce pan. Return the pork shanks back into the sauce pan. Add the Saffron Threads, Jicama and Cubanelle Pepper. Let the pan boil to simmer one more time, covered, before finally adding in the Baby Bok Choys. Cover and allow the remaining heat to cook the vegetables. Drizzle with Patis one more time and season to taste before serving.

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