What makes a noodle dish Asian? The flavors? The ingredients? Both? The sauce for this noodle dish was made with four things and four things only — equal amounts of tamarind paste, sweetened peanut butter, light soy sauce and Sriracha. Tamarind is found in many Asian cuisines but it also found in African and Caribbean cooking. Peanut butter is popular in North America, some countries in Europe, Australia and some Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines. Sriracha and soy sauce are truly Asian. But mix them all together and you have a sauce that screams Asia! … Continue reading »
A lesson I learned today: When cooking fish steak, buy uncut fish then slice into steaks just before cooking. They turn out tastier and juicier that way.
The long story: Speedy chanced upon very fresh tanigue (Spanish mackerel) in the market. The upper half of the fish had been cut into steaks (see the difference between fish steak and fillet). At P400.00 (about USD9.00) per kilo, the steaks were pricey. It might sound very reasonably priced for those living in the First World, but fish steaks at P400.00 per kilo is pricey in this Third World country. The tail end — everything below the belly — was priced differently. At P150.00 per kilo, it would yield at least four steaks — smaller than steaks cut from the upper half of the fish but that’s okay.
So, Speedy bought the entire tail end and the fish head. I sliced the tail end into steaks, steamed the fish steaks and that was how I discovered the huge difference between newly cut fish steaks and the more conveniently pre-cut fish steaks that can be bought per piece in the market. Huge difference. We’re never going back to pre-cut fish steaks. Ever. … Continue reading »
The Philippines (via Spain) meets Japan in a noodle dish. Chicharon (tsitsaron, in Filipino spelling; chicharrón is the Spanish word) — that utterly delicious crackly pork rind that imparts an indescribably satisfying experience that even those who swear off fatty food guiltily indulge occasionally anyway — is part of our Spanish colonial legacy. The Filipinos have been so smitten with this Old World delicacy that our chicharon culture and vocabulary have grown to include chicharon isaw (pork or chicken intestines), chicharon balat ng manok (chicken skin) and chicharon bulaklak (pork omentum). And that’s the short version of a much longer list. In other words, we love our chicharon.
Mazemen is part of the Japanese ramen culture that my generation embraced with gusto, and which has become mainstream in my daughters’ generation. From instant noodle soups that first made an appearance in the groceries when I was in college, ramen has become the specialty of many Japanese and Japanese fusion restaurants.
In this chicharon mazemen dish, another Speedy Veneracion original, the noodles are tossed with garlic-infused soya oil and toasted garlic bits. Then, the chicharon and poached egg are added and, for the finishing touches, toasted black sesame seeds and torn cilantro. … Continue reading »
Sam had this idea of combining cheese and nori for fried spring rolls filling. I couldn’t quite visualize it so the idea remained an idea. Then, Alex mentioned that at Bar 1951 in Malate owned by her friend’s family, cheese sticks are served with nori and wasabi mayo. To be more precise, the nori-wrapped cheese strips are wrapped with spring roll wrappers, fried then served with wasabi mayo as a dipping sauce. That is a description that my brain could process and translate into real cheese sticks. Twelve hours later, I made cheese and nori spring rolls.
Why do I call them spring rolls? Because they are. Cheese sticks aren’t wrapped. They are dipped in batter or dredged in bread crumbs then fried. In the Philippines, fried cheese wrapped in spring roll wrappers are called cheese sticks. But they’re really spring rolls with cheese filling. So, these are cheese and nori spring rolls. … Continue reading »
If we’re really honest about it, there is no pure cuisine in Southeast Asia. Everywhere it’s a fusion of local cuisine, Chinese influence and colonial legacies. Even the cuisine of Thailand, the only Asian country that was never colonized by a foreign power, is a blend of native culinary traditions and those of neighboring countries including Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and, of course, China.
This noodle dish is undeniably Asian but I balk at giving it a singular regional label because it is both Thai and Japanese — the noodles are flavored Thai-style, topped with chicken teriyaki then finished off with fresh Thai basil and cilantro, herbs that are associated with Thai cooking, and peanut powder. … Continue reading »
My first encounter with pork floss was in Taipei. We had just gotten off the plane and because my group was there on the invitation of the Taiwanese government, the first stop was the Tourism Office where there was the usual welcome and briefing. I remember coming down from the building and feeling thirsty. I neither spoke nor read Taiwanese so I didn’t quite know where to get a drink nor how. What if no one understood me? Should I just point or would that be considered rude? Then, I saw a familiar sign. 7-11. Surely, the drinks at 7-ll would be in a glass-door fridge just like all the 7-11′s in every country so I figured it shouldn’t be so hard getting something to drink there.
So, I went, and some of the other members of the group went with me. I was just going to get a drink, really, but there was the siopao (steamed pork buns) in the glass steamer on the counter and I couldn’t resist. I ordered one, bit into the soft white bun and got the surprise of my life — the center was made with something that looked like reddish kapok (Java cotton) but with the distinct flavor of barbecued pork. And that was my introduction to pork floss although I wouldn’t learn its name until a couple of days later.
A few years later, on a trip with girl friends that took us to Kuala Lumpur, among other places, I’d find jars and jars of pork floss in Chinatown. Of course, I bought a jar and took it home feeling like it was a jar of gold nuggets. I would discover much later that pork floss is available in almost every food store in Manila’s Chinatown.
But what is pork floss? … Continue reading »
While most of us ramen lovers know the Japanese classic as a noodle soup, it turns out that there is such a thing as “dry ramen”. Abura soba, or “oil noodles” consists of ramen and the traditional toppings but, instead of soup, they are served with a soy-flavored oil. And then there’s hiyashi-chūka which is served cold and a summer favorite. Like abura soba, it consists of ramen and the usual toppings but, in lieu of the soy-based oil, it comes with a soy-vinegar dressing.
And then there’s mazemen, a contemporary incarnation of abura soba which is more fusion than anything else. Take the bacon and egg mazemen, for instance. The noodles are tossed in bacon fat, plated, topped with crisp bacon bits and bonito flakes, and a poached egg. The egg is cut to release the runny yolk, everything is tossed together so that the noodles are coated in a mixture of bacon fat and egg yolk. It’s almost like carbonara except that the egg is cooked. And it is a real show-stopper.
How did we learn about mazemen? Chef Lee Anne Wong has a new show on Cooking Channel. I haven’t seen a single episode in its entirety but Speedy is so hooked on the show. Food Crawl, I believe the title is. And it was in one of the show’s episodes where the bacon and egg mazemen was featured as the star of the menu of New York restaurant Yuji Ramen. … Continue reading »
Kowloon House on West Avenue in Quezon City was a significant part of my childhood. While we feasted in Chinatown years earlier, by the time I was in my last few years of grade school, we were dining at Kowloon House more often. It was more accessible, there was ample parking space and it was more comfortable. The dining hall was large, carpeted and air-conditioned, the comfort rooms were more presentable and it was possible to make reservations in advance.
Not that we made reservations often; on most occasions that we dined at Kowloon House, it was more a spur of the moment. I remember one time (I was in the fourth or fifth grade), there were no classes because of some storm, and my father unexpectedly announced that we should get dressed because we were having lunch at Kowloon House. I threw on a light blue blazer, a cream-colored skirt and white sandals. And we went, just like that, because those were times when traffic was not a problem and a not-so-bad storm did not leave the streets flooded.
We had our Kowloon House staples back then. Before I was allergic to crustaceans, we always ordered camaron rebosado, sweet and sour pork, hototay soup, lumpiang shanghai and stir fried green peas with cashew nuts, the latter sometimes with shrimp and, at other times, with chicken.
After I became a mommy, Kowloon House would continue to be a significant part of my life. When Sam and Alex were old enough to eat table food, their first introduction to restaurant dining consisted of Chinese food. Speedy and I brought them to Kowloon House often. But we didn’t order the exact same dishes from my childhood. Among their favorites were nido (bird’s nest) soup with quail eggs, stir fried beef with broccoli, stir fried beef with mushrooms, camaron rebosado and lumpiang shanghai. No stir fried green peas with cashew nuts because they really hated green peas.
We don’t go to Kowloon House very often anymore — in fact, I can’t even remember the last time we ate there. As Sam and Alex grew older, they discovered that they preferred Japanese food over Chinese food and on the occasions that they craved Chinese food, we often went to Causeway Seafood Restaurant and President Grand Palace in Chinatown which have become for them what Kowloon House and San Jacinto in Chinatown were for me as a child.
This stir-fried chicken with green peas and cashew nuts recipe is in remembrance of those by-gone times, my childhood and my children’s, and those lovely meals we had at Kowloon House.
As with any stir fried dish, this chicken with green peas and cashew nuts should be cooked in a short time over very high heat. Remember to cut the chicken into thin slices so that they get cooked through in a matter of minutes. For more details about stir-frying, see the post on stir frying basics. … Continue reading »