Adobong Pechay

With my new tatsoi harvest coming in, I could again indulge in one of my my favorite simple dishes, Adobong Pechay (tatsoi in Tagalog).

Adobo is something that’s specifically Filipino. It is a way of preserving meat dishes. The basic recipe is a marinade of garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar, though vegetable versions normally leave out the vinegar.

While this is normally made with 100 g of ground meat, it can also be made with tofu or salmon, which I did in this version.

The ingredients are: two tatsoi plants, an onion, a clove of garlic, 100 g minced meat, or cubed salmon or cubed tofu, about 10 ml soy sauce, and pepper.

Finely slice the onion garlic, then wash then slice the tatsoi in thick strips–they will shrink with cooking.The stems are edible and not tough at all, you can throw in everything. Fry the meat/tofu/salmon in a pan with a few tablespoons of oil, and fry them until it turns brown. Then saute the onion and garlic, and add the vegetables until the wilt a bit. Add the soy sauce and pepper. and you’re done!

I love eating this with steamed white rice. Enjoy!

Comfort Food

There are times where I crave for comfort food from the Philippines. A lot of people think that this is kinda oily and junk food-y but fried Spam or Ma-ling. scrambled eggs, garlic fried rice, UFC or Jufran Ketchup, and Lucky Me! chicken mami noodles are my cure for homesickness. Banana for dessert.

What is your comfort food?


Guinataan sa Bilo-Bilo

With the return of the cold, comes the desire to eat comfort food. I chanced upon some gabi root (taro) in the Asian food store, and sweet potatoes were on sale at the local supermarket, so why not make guinataan na bilo-bilo?

Guinataan, which I have explained in the past, is an adjective that means something made with coconut milk, is one of those Filipino things that Anthony Bourdain would say “it makes no goddamned sense,” but it works. Normally eaten during the rainy season, Guniataan na Bilo-Bilo (bilog means circle in Tagalog) gets its name from the chewy balls made from ground sticky rice. We put all sorts of root crops in it like taro, sweet potato, and ube or purple yam. Not many foreigners get guinataan, but I think it’s one of those things that you have to grow up with to appreciate.

All of the ingredients can be found in your friendly neigborhood Asian market. I am not satisfied with the results I get from rice flour, maybe I’ll go old school next time and soak a handful of sticky rice overnight then puree it with a blender in my next try.

The first thing you should do is boil two cups of water in a saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of starch balls (the  “pearls” from  “Bubble Tea”) when the water is in a rolling boil, and turn down the heat into a simmer.

I peeled and cubed the 2 taro and 2 sweet potatoes to about 2 inches square, and mixed 100 g of rice flour with 150 ml of milk. I erred on the side of caution and stopped adding milk as soon as there were no more dry flour in the dough. Roll them into cherry-sized or smaller balls. This should be enough to make 12.

Boil a liter of coconut milk into a pot, uncovered. Add 250 g of sugar. Add the sweet potato and taro. When they’re tender enough that a fork pierces through them, add the rice balls one by one, mixing the pot after each addition so they don’t clump together. Open a 365g can of jackfruit in syrup, shred the jackfruit lengthwise. Dump the jackfruit and syrup into the pot. Add the starch balls with the water, and add either more sugar or coconum milk, if so desired. Let it simmer for 15 minutes more, and there you have it!

I had the entire pot all to myself. Which was all good, it took two days to demolish it.


Easy-Peasy Leche Flan

Now that asparagus season is coming up, which means that I whip up a batch of Sauce Hollandaise every time I make them, also means that I have to be creative with what to do with egg parts that are left behind.

Egg whites are not a problem. They can be frozen or chilled, and are in fact all the better for it, since cold egg whites are faster to whip than those in room temp.

But what to do with egg yolks? You can turn them in to flan, known in the Philippines as Leche Flan, which was introduced to the Philippines by the Sapnish by way of Mexico. Filipino flan uses only egg yolks. As a child, I was fascinated at the ceremony of making this dish. Making the caramel, straining the egg yolks, rubbing dayap (lime) rind, then steaming them seemed so complicated, I never thought that I’d get them right. And duck eggs! Purists always argue that duck eggs make the best flan. It is rich enough to give you a coronary.

Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express saved me from all that trouble by giving me a flan recipe that is so easy, preparation time is 10 minutes, excluding the 45 minute cooking time.

zuckerrubensirupAnother time-saving product for me is Zuckerrübensirup, or syrup made out of sugar beets, also available in Australia as golden syrup. This saves me from making the caramel top of the flan, which I keep on burning anyway!

The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, and instead of a traditional llanera, I use a round aluminum cake pan 8 inches in diameter. The recipe below is enough to fill the pan.


The flan requires: 1 340 g can evaporated milk (known in Germany, strangely enough, as Kondensmilch. I use one with 10% fat, which is the fat content of evap milk in the Philippines), 1 397g can of sweetened condensed milk, 3 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Put enough of the golden syrup to completely line the bottom of the cake form. Add all of the ingredients of the flan in a bowl and whisk until well incorporated. Pour into cake tin.

Now there are two ways to cook the flan, both of them involve steaming. In Nigella’s recipe,  the cake tin should be placed in a bigger pan filled with freshly-boiled water, then place in a pre-heated oven, baking it in 170°C for 45 minutes.

I’m lazy by nature. I figured out that my cake tin fits snugly in my biggest cooking pot. Even if I have a double boiler, I have never used it for the recipe. I just half-fill the pot with water, place the cake form over it, then cover the form with the pot’s lid. Forty-five minutes later, I have flan! Always test the readiness of the flan by inserting a toothpick in it. If it comes out clean, then you know it’s done.

This flan is always a welcome pot-luck gift at Filipino parties. So every time I am invited to one, I always bring flan. Who has to know that it  also has egg whites in it?

The Mommy Files–ACE Water Spa

One of my favorite things to do in Germany is to go to the local swimming hall (Spaßbad) with my son, and spend the day swimming indoors, in warm water, especially when it’s cold out.

I was very happy to find out that this is also possible in the Philippines, with the opening of ACE Water Spa. It costs about 550 Php, or about 10 euros entrance. It is basically the same price in Germany, with the same facilities. They also provide a swim cap, probably to protect the filter system of the water, which you have to give back at the end of your 4-hour stay.

They also have a sauna, which many people unfortunately don’t know how to use. Scented pools, massage whirlpools, and a swimming pool. I was very impressed by the facilities. Unfortunately, no photos allowed inside, so all I have is a blurry picture of the spa from the viewing window.

They also have a restaurant and hotel, but it looks pricey, from what I gather from their website.

So if you are stuck in Manila during the rainy season, ACE Water Spa seems to be a good place to take your kids. Although at this moment, Manileños are enjoying (?) the summer heat. What I would not give for a glass of halo-halo!

Ace Water Spa

United St. cor. Brixton St. near Pioneer, Pasig City

and 399 Del Monte Avenue (near cor. Banaue St.) SFDM, Quezon City

Open from 6 AM to 10 PM (weekdays) or 11 PM (weekends)

Entrance 550 Php Adults, 250 Php for children under 4 ft.


How do You Solve A Problem Like Torta?

Tortang Talong (eggplant or aubergine) with Banana Ketchup and freshly steamed rice is definitely my favorite Filipino dish. Heck, anything with eggplant is pretty rad in my book. Based on the Spanish Torta, which is a kind of omelette, Tortang Talong is a meat omelette with aubergine as a base.

Whenever I could get my hands on Chinese aubergines, which are thin and long, compared to the rotund European variety, I always make Torta. Torta is 250 g ground pork, mixed and mashed together with 1 finely diced carrot, half of a finely chopped onion, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper, and an egg as binder. This should do for 2-3 eggplants. I like burning off the skin from the eggplant, giving it a smoky flavor. Peel off the burned skin, press it flat with a fork, and add the meat filling on top. Adding some roasted sesame oil adds a great flavor dimension.

eggplantMy dilemma is that the meat never cooks fast enough! I’ll end up with burnt eggplant flesh and egg before the meat even starts to change color. I’ve seen our cooks splash the hot oil over the eggplant, but this technique just turns the omelette oily. I’ve tried turning the eggplant over meat side, but it always falls apart.

Should I try cooking it next time meat side down?

Eat Your Heart Out in Berlin!

Unlike my last few visits to Berlin, which could be described as pit stops rather than visits, I finally had more time to explore Berlin and visit places that I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. and That Queer Expatriate’s Adam was a very gracious host and toured me around the best eats in his ‘hood or Kiez.

One of the first things I did upon landing in Berlin was make a beeline for Pan, the only Filipino restaurant in Berlin. I ordered Sinigang, a traditional Philippine sour soup/stew that is eaten with rice. It can be filled with pork, fish, and shrimps. Although souring agents for sinigang nowadays comes from a packet, it is traditionally soured with unripe tomatoes, kamias, sampaloc (tamarind), or other sour fruits.

Ok, it was not exactly his turf, but Berlin was freezing, and I needed comfort food. Does it hit the spot? I dont’ know what to make of it. It smelled Pinoy, it looked Pinoy, but there was   something different about the texture of the veggies. It wasn’t cooked to death!

Saturday was jam-packed with activities. Adam and I woke up early to get to the Schöneberg Winterfeld Market. It was freezing cold in Berlin, I thought I was gonna freeze my toes off, despite my winter shoes. It didn’t stop us from eating this wonderful, luxuriously covered Tiramisu from an Italian street vendor.

I would’ve lingered over this tiramisu if it weren’t so damned cold out. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and the mild cherry amaretto wasn’t alcoholy-tasting at all! It really tasted like cherry.

I was looking for earrings, so Adam bought me food-themed ones (thanks Adam!) and then he went over to a stall to buy freshly-made spaghetti and other produce straight from Italy.

I would’ve bought a load of food from the stall if I hadn’t just come from Italy. Oh well, maybe next summer.

After a quick brunch at a Cafe, where Adam played around with his fancy new camera toy, I left to attend a conference. I already had planned to eat Ethiopian that evening, but the weather and Adam’s ketchup-stained shirt had other plans for us.

A trip to Berlin for me would never be complete without a stop at my favorite Asian supermarket in Berlin, which we did Saturday evening. Because Adam’s pants were too thin for the cold weather, we decided to eat at Chay Village, a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in his Kiez.

Now, I’m skeptical of vegetarian Vietnamese dishes. Vietnamese food has a lot of vegetarian dishes, but I was in the mood for soup in a very cold winter day. I couldn’t imagine eating Pho without beef broth. I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. I was first baffled by the sauce they served us with the dimsum. I thought it looked like apple cider vinegar, but it wasn’t sour enough to be that. I thought it could be fish sauce, but it wasn’t salty enough to be that, either. It turned out to be home-made soy sauce!

And the Pho had fried Tofu, mushrooms, and scrambled egg strips in it. It tasted just like normal Pho. Yum!

After that we just stayed home and watched Magic Mike. Thoroughly enjoyable film.

I gorged myself full on Dunkin’ Donuts while waiting for the bus that would take me home.

I would like to thank Adam for so graciously hosting me!

Guinataang Kalabasa

Guinataang Kalabasa is undoubtedly my favorite squash/pumpkin dish. Ever since I discovered or read that you can actually eat Hokkaido pumpkins without peeling, I have always made this with Hokkaido pumpkins, since it saves me the hassle of peeling them.

Guinataan is an adjective from the word “gata,” the Philippine word for anything milky (gatas is the Tagalog word for milk from any animal/mammal/human), so we have a lot of dishes that start with the word “guinataan.” Kalabasa is Spanish for squash.

I use fish sauce to season my guinataang kalabasa, but if you don’t like the flavor, plain salt is fine, too.

You’d need

2 small pumpkins, or 1 medium sized Hokkaido pumpkin, or 2 segments of peeled squash, cubed.

One medium-sized chopped onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped.

A can of coconut milk (240 ml)

A handful of fresh or frozen string beans, cut about 2 1/2 inches long.

About 125g of cubed pork or bacon bits (known in Italy as “pancetta,” which is also available in Germany)

If you like it hot, one long, green pepperoni. Split it in the middle if you like it extra hot. I omit this altogether because I am not a fan of spicy food.

In a heavy-bottomed casserole, sauté the onions and garlic over medium-high until they turn glassy, then add the meat. season with fish sauce or salt after the meat is no longer pink. Then add the peeled, cubed squash or the pumpkin.

Add the coconut milk, and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Add the string beans and add about 1/4 cup of water if the coconut milk reduces. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until the string beans are done. Frozen string beans need less time to cook.

Adjust the seasonings. Add the chili last. Turn off the heat and cover if not serving immediately.

I thoroughly enjoy eating Guinataang Kalabasa every time I have it. The ingredients are so readily available in Germany that I don’t need to go to an Asian market to make it!


Ongpin-New Po Heng Lumpia House

Binondo or Ongpin, aka Manila’s Chinatown, is located right in the smelly armpit of Manila. Oh but what a glorious armpit it is!

My grandfather grew up in the area, and as a child we regularly took excursions to hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Binondo. Little dives where the sanitation was questionable but the food was excellent.

When I went home last February just in time for the Chinese New Year, I grabbed the chance to take a walking and eating tour of Chinatown with Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks, and boy, was I not disappointed by the food!

It was a trip down memory lane for me. Ongpin has changed, but strangely, it still feels the same.

The Lumpia Ladies in Action!

The first stop of the tour took us to the courtyard of a building, where the restaurant New Po Heng Lumpia House is located. Lumpia means roll (think spring rolls) and they don’t just serve hand.-made and hand-rolled Lumpia, they also serve these amazing stir-fried noodles in peanut!

Their Lumpia, which they sell for 50 pesos a pop, is served with crushed peanut and a kind of powder, which I later learned was dried seaweed. I swear it was so good I could have demolished two of those lumpias. Alas, I needed space in my stomach for the food tour. They may be short but they aren’t tiny! They are about as thick as my wrist!

Run, don’t walk to this establishment. Expect to drop about 150 pesos in the restaurant. That’s for noodles, Lumpia, and a drink. These days in Manila, that is a very good deal, when even an indigestible Value Meal at Jollibee costs at least 50 pesos nowadays.

New Po-Heng Lumpia House
531 Quintin Paredes St. (Across Binondo Church)