Category Archives: A Taste of the Philippines

Mango

Mango

It is no secret that I love mangoes–I love them green, I love them yellow.  I will eat them in whatever form and shape—ripe and golden, green and tart with bagoong, and manibalang (almost ripe, but not quite).

I love mango ice cream, mango cake, mango mochi, mango gelatin, mango shake, dried mangoes…the list goes on.

Nothing compares to Philippine mangoes, and that is a fact!

But rather than wait until I visit the Philippines, I make do with what is available.  Mangoes imported from Mexico can be sweet, but it is just not the same as the ones from the Philippines (Cebu, Zambales or Guimaras)!

Beggars cannot be choosers, so I make the best with what I can get.  For merienda (snack) and dessert, I make sweet rice with mangoes.

Sticky Rice with Mangoes

1 1/2 cups of sweet glutinous rice (malagkit)

1 1/3 cups coconut milk

1/2 cup demerara sugar

1/2 tsp salt

5 ripe mangoes

Cook rice in a rice cooker.  In a pan, combine coconut milk, sugar, and salt over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over warm rice in a mixing bowl, and let stand until the rice absorbs the mixture.  It can be  served warm or cold topped with cubed mangoes.

(Rice can also be steamed.  Soak rice and line the steamer with a cheesecloth.  Cover tightly and steam for about 25 minutes.)

Bistec Tagalog

I always looked forward to visiting my lolas (grandmother) on Sundays. My lola and her sisters lived in Lipa, and we would visit them almost every weekend.  They would always have treats waiting for us when we came.

My favorites were:  Sundot Saging (skewered bananas fried in brown sugar), Pilipit (steamed ground sweet sticky rice, fried and then dipped in caramelized sugar), and Pastillas (sweet pastilles made with cow’s milk and rolled in white sugar).

Although I loved the sweet treats, I enjoyed the special savory dishes more.

For Sunday breakfast, Tita Nena would cook Bistec and serve it with pandesal (bread roll) or fried rice rice and sunny side up.

My lola’s Bistec is topped with raw Vidalia onion rings.  I love onions, but I don’t like them raw.  So, I tweaked the recipe and cooked the onions.

This is one of the few dishes that my children  don’t mind eating with brown rice.

Bistec Tagalog

1 pound of thinly sliced sukiyaki beef

1-2 onions cut into rings

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 lemon

pepper to taste

olive oil

Cook garlic with olive oil until golden brown.  Set aside.  In the same pan, add olive oil and caramelize the onions  (around 4-5 minutes).  Set aside.  Still using the same pan, add a little more olive oil, and cook the beef.  Sear the beef in batches to ensure that pan is always hot.  Once all the beef slices are cooked, put the garlic and caramelized onions back in the pan.  Add soy, water, sugar, pepper, and lemon.  Let simmer for 2 minutes.  Serve with rice.

     

Coffee Beans

My earliest coffee experience was at 6. I didn’t drink it, but instead, poured it over fried rice for breakfast.  I can’t imagine discovering this on my own, so I am guessing that I saw someone do it first:  Kapeng Barako (Batangas coffee: liberica beans) on rice, crispy dried fish, and sunny side up. It was a favorite weekend treat for me.

We didn’t have a coffee maker back then.  We used a percolator, or sometimes just a pot of boiling water where we let the ground beans steep.

Despite this very early introduction to caffeine, I didn’t pick up drinking coffee until after college, and even then it was an occasional dessert coffee. Starbucks and similar coffee shops were my hang out places after a late night movie.  I would make an afternoon trip there too when I got bored working at home.

I still get to sneak in a Starbucks run once in a while

Now, I am a regular morning coffee drinker.  I enjoy drinking it black, sometimes with a bit of demerara sugar.  In cafes, I order mocha, non-fat, no whip.

From a non-coffee drinker 10 years ago, I have managed to be a coffee aficionado where I grind my own beans every morning.   On one of my trips back to Manila, I brought back dalawang salop* na Kapeng Barako from Lipa.  I got a fancy espresso machine for my wedding, so I  indulge on cappuccinos on weekends.

My children cringe at the thought of pouring coffee over fried rice.  I don’t blame them, but I can’t deny that I loved it when I was younger.

Kapeng Barako

Boiling water
Brown sugar
Ground barako beans

Put brown sugar in a pot of boiling water.  Add ground coffee and beans and remove from heat.  Steep for 5 minutes.  Pour through a sieve to minimize latak (coffee sediment).

*salop is a unit of measurement equivalent to a kilogram

Barako is a tagalog word which means strong or tough man.  Kape means coffee.

Kapeng barako is a common name for liberica coffee beans grown in Lipa and other high places in Batangas. Because of the coffee’s strong taste, it got the name kapeng barako.

Barbecue

Filipinos have the reputation of preparing excessive food during parties.

They want to have more than enough so when guests come back for seconds, or even thirds, they still have plenty to offer.  For a Filipino host, it would be very embarrassing to say to a guest, “Sorry, I ran out of it”, or in Tagalog, “Ay, naubusan na.”

Hiya is feeling of embarrassment one gets when he perceives himself as socially unacceptable for whatever reason.  It is a Filipino trait with emphasis on fear of losing face. –from Dictionary of Filipino Culture and Values by Tomas D. Andres

Recently, I made a rookie mistake of ordering 60 teriyaki barbecue skewers for a party for 20 people.  I allotted 2 sticks per person, and added a “little extra” for our own future use.

I couldn’t say that I ordered too much dahil baka mapahiya at maubusan (for fear of embarrassment that I may not have enough food); I ordered too much because I simply do not know how much food a person can eat.

Guests would have eaten them all–if not, for the other dishes, and 3 different desserts.  In the end, I still had 50 sticks that I quickly wrapped in foil to send home.  Even then, I still had enough leftover to make Vietnamese spring rolls, Vietnamese pho salad, and quesadilla for a month.

For those trying to figure out what to do with leftover barbecue, here is my recipe for Vietnamese spring roll.  I usually use shrimp or Chinese sausage, but I quickly discovered that barbecue pork and chicken work just as well.  It is the easiest to make because it requires little to no cooking.

Basic stuffing to the spring roll

Rice noodles

Mint leaves

Lettuce

Cucumber

Pickled radish

Carrots

Rice Paper

Choices for protein filling are: cooked shrimps, barbecue pork or chicken, beef slices, even pan fried Chinese sausage.  The beauty of this dish is you can put whatever you want in it–including leftover meat.  Dip rice paper in warm water to soften, and be creative.

Dipping sauce

1/2 cup fish sauce (good quality, unfortunately, Rufina patis does not work well, Thai brands work better)

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp lime juice

1/2 cup water

1 -2 crushed garlic gloves

Thai Chili

Mix well together.

Coffee

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After cooking up a storm in the kitchen, I like to make my dessert simple and easy to prepare. After all, who would want to labor for dinner, and then labor some more for dessert?

Coffee Jelly is one of the easiest desserts to make. The ingredients are always in any well-stocked kitchen: unflavored gelatin, coffee, and Vanilla ice cream.

During my dating days in Manila, coffee desserts at Dean St. Café were my favorite. It has been so long, but I think the dessert that I always ordered was Vienna Velvet.  It was a thick drink concoction– coffee jelly in a tall glass with soft vanilla ice cream.

Those who still remember Dean St. Café, and know what I am talking about, please drop a comment and set me straight.  After all, it has been more that two decades since I set foot in that place.

Coffee Jelly Ice Cream

1 pack of unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp hot water
2 cups strong black coffee
2 tbsp sugar (optional)
Vanilla ice cream

Brew strong black coffee. In a shallow pan or Pyrex, mix gelatin with hot water. Gradually mix in hot coffee. Stir to completely dissolve the gelatin. Sugar can be added at this time. Put in the refrigerator until set.

Cut the gelatin in cubes. Soften vanilla ice cream in a tall glass, and gently fold in the cubed coffee gelatin. For fancier presentation, serve with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

About Fruits

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There is a variety of fruits that are abundant in the Philippines that are thankfully, also available in our local grocery stores.

I always buy Mexican mangoes (Manila mangoes are not available), saba (bananas similar to plantains), papaya, pakwan (watermelon), and pinya (pineapple).

On my recent grocery trip, I bought rambutan, langka, lychee, and sampaloc (tamarind) for my children to sample.

I remember our langka tree in our backyard in Manila that bore only one huge fruit.  What was sold in the local store was probably just an eighth of a whole fruit.  Although inexpensive at $4, I would not have bought it,  if not for my children who I am sure would be thrilled to see such a spiky fruit.  Langka (jackfruit) is not a favorite of mine.

My daughter tried half a fruit, and graciously declined the rest. My son finished one, and ate two more.  He was eating the whole time with a confused look on his face.  He said that he liked it because it was sweet, but couldn’t quite figure out if he liked the after taste.

Rambutan, a favorite of mine, was an instant hit.  This fruit was much more expensive though.  About 20 pieces of the sweet fruit cost just as much as a pound of cherries.  They could not get enough of this.

Another hit was the lychee.  They have only tasted the canned fruit from the toppings at frozen yogurt places.  I am glad that they love the fresh fruit more.

Sampaloc was the fruit that they were excited to eat.  They found the brown shell interesting.  “If it is ripe, it is sweet”, I said.

They cracked the shell, tasted the fruit, and said, “This is not ripe”, and then left the poor half open sampaloc on the table.

When life was less complicated, I had the idea of making my own *sinigang mix.  I pooh-poohed the mix that was sold in stores.  I bought a bag of fresh sampaloc and boiled it.  Who would have known that if you cook sampaloc too long, it would turn into jam.  From then on, I embraced the sinigang mix.

*Sinigang is a Filipino soup that usually uses tamarind for the sour flavor.