Tag Archives: food


Pasalubong is a Filipino tradition of giving a homecoming gift after a vacation or a trip.

It can be fancy and expensive—on a trip to San Francisco in 1994, I splurged on a Lladro piece for my mom to add to her collection.  And, it can also be something affordable yet appropriate— lip-gloss for my nieces who are in their tweens.

When I was younger, my father would have pasalubong even when he just went to work.  Not all the time and nothing extravagant, but he would bring home something that he would pick up from the school cafeteria– usually, candied peanuts or meringue.

When he would travel around the Philippines (and he did it a lot!), the only thing I would ask from him as pasalubong are the packets of milk, sugar, and coffee handed out in airplanes.  Never mind the dried mangoes from Cebu, pili nuts from Bicol, durian pastilles from Davao, or strawberry jam from Baguio. I go straight for the powdered sachets!

The whole idea of the pasalubong is to make the recipients know that you thought of them while you were away.  Pasalubong can be store-bought or homemade.  Hands down I prefer homemade treats over key chains, snow globes, and teaspoon souvenirs.

Here is a perfect pasalubong recipe that was shared by a blogger-friend. The recipe can also be found in a bag of Rolos (a chocolate caramel candy). I have packaged them in big tin cans for when we visit friends. I have handed them out in clear cellophane bags as party tokens. I have also served them in candy dishes.  These rolo pretzels are always a party hit!

On a trip to Manila, I brought all the ingredients and assembled them there.  I have to warn you though that these treats are very addicting.

Rolo Pretzels

 bag of rolos ( approx 50 pcs in a bag)

Pecans ( or walnuts)

bag of pretzels ( I prefer the unsalted petite size)

Preheat oven to 300F. Lay single layer pretzels on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper (or foil). Unwrap the rolos and put a piece on each pretzel. Bake for 4 min.  Take out the tray and place 1/2 a pecan on the warm melted candy.  Completely cool (put in the fridge to speed up the cooling process).  Keep in an airtight container.



Recipe for Kids

Polvoron is a traditional Filipino dessert that is very easy to make.  The main ingredients are flour, sugar, and powdered milk.  Butter binds them all together.  Philippines was colonized by Spain for 300 years, so it is no surprise that this tiny cake has Spanish origin.

As a teacher, I love making this in class because the only cooking involved is toasting flour that can easily be done days beforehand.  After all the ingredients are measured, the only thing left to do is to mix and mold.  If you’ve had any experience with children, you know why making this dessert with them is always an instant hit.

My mom used to make big batches of this “short bread”.  She would mix peanuts, cashews, or toasted pinipig (flattened immature glutinous rice) to give texture to the otherwise, melt-in-your-mouth dessert.

The trickiest part of this dish is knowing when the flour is toasted just right.   Over do it and the flour will taste bitter; under cook it and it won’t have the nutty taste of toasted flour.  My mom would say that the “nose knows” when the flour is cooked just right.

Aside from the flour turning golden brown, flour toasted perfectly would have a great smell that would spread through the whole house. She would ask me to go up to the second floor hallway of our house and stand just outside my bedroom door;  if I could smell it there, then the flour is ready.

My contribution to this traditional polvoron recipe is adding freeze-dried mangoes.  The hint of mango reminds me of summers in Manila.  I can’t enjoy  Zambales, Cebu, or even Guimaras mangoes (because we don’t get them here), but a hint of mango in my small polvoron cakes can tide me over until my next trip back to Manila.

Mango Polvoron

1 1/4 cup toasted flour (whole wheat or all purpose)

1 1/2 cups powdered milk

1/4 cup sugar (white or demerara)

1 cup butter, melted

generous 1/4 cup pinipig or rice krispies

1.7 oz or 48 grams freeze dried mangoes, crushed

Toast flour in a pan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally to even the browning.  It may take around 45 minutes. DO NOT walk away while the flour is toasting.  Transfer toasted flour in a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Pour melted butter 1/3 cup at a time.  You can cut back on the butter once the mixture sticks together.

To shape the mixture into tiny cakes, use polvoron molder or a regular tablespoon for a simple finish. The polvoron will be less crumbly if refrigerated for about 10 minutes.

*The original recipe asks for 1/2 c sugar, I scaled it down to 1/4 cup because of the natural sweetness of the freeze dried mangoes.

On Cooking: I Can Do That!

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For a couple of weeks last December, I had to take an unplanned trip to Manila.  My children were still in school, so I went by myself. Thanks to Apple’s Face Time, I was always in the loop.

The first night I was away, I got a detailed account of the children’s first morning without me:  At 6AM, a full hour before they usually wake up, they went to the kitchen and started cooking scrambled eggs.  My 7-year old was already plating his dish when my husband discovered what he was doing.  I was told that my daughter, 5, had her bowl of beaten eggs, and was waiting patiently for her turn to use the frying pan.  I heard that they were both beaming with pride!

After I calmed down from the initial shock of the children firing up the stove (it was electric), I thought about how thrilled they must have been of accomplishing a task without an adult. They were hungry, they wanted eggs, and so they cooked eggs. The excitement in their voices, when they told me about their accomplishment, told me that they were just as proud of themselves as I was of them.

They made a statement: They are independent.

I quickly thought about why they would think that they would be successful in cooking– they are comfortable working in the kitchen, and they know the safety rules.  I think that they attempted to cook on their own because they know they can.

Encouragement and support do play a huge role in fostering independence.  They are my proof!

Their cooking repertoire has expanded to include French Toast, and a bit more since then.  On weekends now, my two children take turns making breakfast.  My son would alternate between French Toast and Champorado (see earlier post for recipe) and my daughter would make pancake.

As long as the enthusiasm to cook is there, I will keep on encouraging them.  I would hate for this to turn into a ningas cogon (aka an interest that starts with great intensity, but fades quickly).  Sadly, a trait that Filipinos are known to possess.

French Toast

8 slices of any dense bread (challah or brioche works best)

1 cup milk

½ cup condensed milk

3 eggs

pinch of cinnamon(optional)

butter or cooking spray

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except of the bread. Dip each slice of bread long enough to absorb the custard, but not too long that the bread becomes soggy.  Put on a well-buttered pan and cook on medium heat until golden brown.  Flip to cook the other side.

Serve warm with topping of cottage cheese, fresh fruits, and maple syrup.

What is Adobo?

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Adobo is a Filipino dish of which every Filipino family has a recipe. The basic recipe calls for cooking meat or vegetable in soy, vinegar, garlic, and pepper.  The way I cook my  adobo is a cross between how my Papa cooked it and how my father-in-law prepared his.

I love adobo for its versatility.  Leftovers are used for adobo rice, omelet, or as filling in bread dough.  My kids simply love the salty-sour-aioli taste. They eat adobo either with sauce, or dry and crispy.

In Manila where I grew up, we always ate adobo with boiled monggo (mung beans).  My children are not huge monggo fans, so I serve radish, their favorite, as a side dish instead.  They have no problem consuming a whole platter of brown rice with this combination.

Now the new tradition in my household is crispy adobo with labanos (radish) doused with vinegar and a pinch of salt.  Tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and salted egg is also an alternative side dish.


4 pcs of chicken breast

1 cup cane vinegar

1/2 cup light soy

1/4 cup water

3 heads garlic crushed

2 bay leaves

ground pepper

oil and 2 cloves of garlic for sauteing

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Simmer until the chicken breast is fully cooked, about 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken breast and save the adobo sauce.  Using 2 forks, flake the meat.  In a different pan, put oil and brown chopped garlic with chicken flakes.  Put the pan in a broiler oven to make the meat dry and crispy.  Serve the the adobo dry with sauce on the side.


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One of the things that my children may not experience while living in the United States is seeing and hearing a street hawker peddle his wares.  I think the closest street hawking experience that they will encounter is with an ice cream truck playing toddler music in a neighborhood park.

My room in the house I grew up in Manila fronts a relatively quiet street. I hear everything that passes by from buyers of old newspapers and bottles calling out dyaryo, bote, to a man on a bike offering to sharpen knives hollering has-a, to young and old entrepreneurs selling balut (duck eggs) and taho (sweet tofu).  My all time favorite is taho.

The dialogue between the peddler and customer is quite unique.   The peddler walking down the street shouts in a deep baritone voice,  taho-o-o-o-o.  The prospective customer who is indoors shouts back at a slightly higher pitch, taho-o-o-o-o.  The last syllable is a bit higher in pitch almost sounding like a question. At this time, the peddler tries to look for the person who just echoed what he said. If the peddler can’t see who is trying to get his attention, he will stop and repeat his call. The customer then repeats his response while trying to run out in the open to establish eye contact.  It is a very interesting process to say the least!  My children had lots of questions when I tried to explain the whole process of buying taho in the street.

I can’t have my taho from our suki in Melchor Street, but I can get a whole tub for $1.89 in an Asian grocery store. I can also make my own taho from soymilk nuked in the microwave for about 7 minutes (depending on the amount).  It will have a custard consistency which I am not a fan of that’s why I seldom do it.  If your Asian store does not carry taho, then nuking soymilk is your best bet.

I like my taho warm with lots and lots of sago (tapioca balls) and just a hint of simple syrup made with brown sugar.  I make my own sago, so I make it chewy and not so sweet.  Both my children can’t get enough of this.  We usually have it for snack when we get home from school, but we have eaten it for breakfast too.

Homemade Taho (Sweet Tofu)

Measure a cup of soymilk and put in a deep bowl or a tall glass.  During the heating process, the soymilk may overflow so choose a deep bowl.  Microwave for 5 minutes and check consistency.  If still runny, continue to cook checking every minute. Cooked taho would be about 1/2 cup.

Sago (Tapioca Balls)

In a pot of briskly boiling water (approx 6 cups), add  2 cups tapioca balls.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 1/2 hours.  Add brown sugar and cook for another 30 minutes.  I only use 1/2 cup of brown sugar but you can add more.

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