May 16, 2004
Note how Reyna crushes unpeeled ginger with the flat of a knife. I was throwing away the styrofoam trays in which the vegetables were packed until I saw Rayna use them to hold chopped vegetables. Fewer dishes to wash. That said, she much prefers to shop on Spadina, where fruits and vegetables are not packaged and you can pick and choose. There is greater variety and the produce tends to be fresher.
May 15, 2004
Last night's banquet was a hit. Winston, Reyna's fianc�, drove us to T&T at Promenade Mall in Thornhill, way up where Pinki lives. We forgot the shopping list, but miraculously remembered everything on it. As we moved through the produce section, Reyna noted that there is a nice dish to be made with oyster mushrooms and ridged gourd or luffah squash, so we decided to add this to our menu. Doris waited in the van with Winston.
We arrived home in good order and set about cooking. I had hoped to do more of the cooking but Dora required my attention and Pinki's much anticipated phone call from France came with the detailed blow-by-blow, so Rayna cooked away, stashing pots of food, as they were completed, into the oven to make room on the stove for what remained to be cooked.
We turned the dining room table around to accomodate our ten guests: Marv, Shawna, Lisa and Corey, Margaret and Caryn, who recently married, Danny, Rayna, Dora, and myself.
All but two of the dishes were completely vegetarian, which made Shawna and Margaret very happy. And, everyone agreed the food was wonderful, even if they had never heard of many of the ingredients.
May 13, 2004
Select very firm mango, not ripe but not completely green. The mango should be crisp, slightly tart, and flavorful. Peel the mango. Rayna offered a few different ways to cut the mango, showing me how her father used to do it, basically, shaving flat chips off the way you might sharpen a pencil. Peel and cut firm mango into chunks. Add tomato, bagoong or salt. Scallions optional.
We decided to leave the mango absolutely plain, but to offer shrimp paste, both the mild and the hot, on the side.
Plunge malunggey (horseradish) leaves, bitter melon leaves, yam leaves, bok choy, or other leafy greens into boiling water, drain, squeeze out extra water. Add bagoong or patis, sliced or cubed tomato, and chopped ginger. Scallions optional.
Bitter Melon (ampalaya) or Long Beans
If using Chinese variety or large bitter melons, slide in half lengthwise and remove seeds. If using small Indian bitter melons, slice in half lengthwise, but do not remove the seeds. Slice into rings, about 1/2 inch thick. Blanch and squeeze out extra water. Add tomato, ginger, and patis or bagoog. Scallions optional. For a nice variation, add cooked shrimp and sliced onion and dress with vinegar or lemon juice and salt.
Mung Beans or Black Eyed Peas and Greens
1 1/2 cups beans or black eyed peas, cleaned and washed. Soaking is optional, as these beans cook quickly. We are using the black eyed peas. Bring to a boil, simmer gently till just tender. Do not overcook. Add greens as indicated below. Add bagoong or patis, unless cooking for vegetarians.
Optional: Wash, drain, and then add dried shrimp and greens, such as bitter melon leaves, malunggey (horseradish) leaves, kamote (sweet potato) leaves, or kang-kong (variously known as water convulvus, water spinach, or hollow stem spinach). Or, bitter melon itself (if the Chinese variety or large, remove hard seeds), slice in half across and in the length, then in long slices, about 1/2" thick, or eggplant sliced on the diagonal, eddoe (taro), green limas or fresh or frozen fava beans or long beans or some combination thereof.
Optional: Add saut�ed small cubes of pork with garlic till golden (drain extra fat) to the beans, together with any of the above vegetables.
We made a lovely inabraw with kabocha squash (peeled, seeded, and cut into 1" chunks), into boiling water with patis and simmered till just tender, then add bitter melon (it should remain crisp), water spinach, and long beans. The combination of sweet squash and bitter melon was divine.
A lovely tart soup, which can be made with shrimp, mussels, fish, pork or beef on the bone, or with none of the above for vegetarians.
1 tomato / 1 thumb ginger / 1 scallion / 2 eggplant / 10 long beans / 10 okra
1-2 long green chile pepper / 4 inch section of daikon (optional) / 4 kamias (tart vegetable, looks like tiny cucumbers, frozen) / 2 clusters pet chay or 1 bunch yam leaves (optional, but very good for fish) / 1 carambola (star fruit) / Other options: daikon, carrot, green beans (since many Philippine vegetables not available here, our local vegetables are sometimes included) / 1 package Knorr tamarind soup base (Pangsinigang sa sampalok), which contains shrimp powder, or, for vegetarians, Mama Sita�s guava soup base (Pang Sinigang sa Bayabas) or tamarind paste.
Boil 2 cups rice washing water, add ginger, onion, tomato (optional), salt to taste. When it boils, add sinigang mix (or tamarind or vinegar). If you are using meat, add it first and cook meat on the bone for an hour. Add vegetables, in the order they cook, starting with daikon, long beans, chile, and then eggplant. Close to the end, add okra and then fish or shrimp. Salt to taste. Serve with chopped scallions scattered on top. If using meat, add pork or beef on the bone to the boiling water, cook about an hour, and add vegetables, eddoe and pet chay or other greens and sinigang mix.
Friday night dinner, Philippine style
Reyna and I are now planning our menu for tomorrow night. We expect about 10 people. Here is what we will make:
Sinigang (tart soup, vegetarian style)
Inabraw (blackeyed peas and yam leaves)
Kare-Kare (oxtail with banana blossom)
Mung bean salad (my Indian version)
Always looking for vegetarian recipes for Shawna and this one looks like it just might do the trick. I've adapted it from RecipeSource
5 cups Japanese eggplant, cut into 3" lengths, then quartered in the length, but not all the way, so the piece holds together (or make this recipe with long beans)
1 onion sliced
6 cloves of garlic crushed
1 thumb of ginger with skin, crushed (Reyna does not use ginger in vegetable adobo, but I like the fragrance)
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c red wine vinegar or black Philippine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Saute onions and garlic in a little oil. Add eggplant and saute for a few minutes. Then add the other ingredients. Eggplant should remain firm.
Or, to eliminate frying, simmer soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, and pepper for 5 minutes and then add vegetables, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until tender, but not mushy. Serve hot.
May 12, 2004
Today, we went through our normal routine. Reyna bathed and dressed Dora, prepared her breakfast, and we went for a walk, with the wheelchair, to the little Philippine grocer on Shepherd and Wilmington. Another hot May day, but overcast. The shopkeeper is a Thai woman. We found frozen kamias (Tagalog) or pias (Ilokano), which we will add to our sinigang. And, we found our patis, a fish sauce with calamansi lime, as well as orange winter squash, with a green skin.
Reyna thought it a good idea to get started cooking for our Friday dinner, so she began with the kare kare, as oxtails take a long time to cook.
Here is the recipe.
1 medium banana blossom (cut into eighths, lengthwise), fresh or canned
3 small Japanese eggplants (cut into three inch lengths, each of which is cut into quarters lengthwise, but not all the way to the top)
15 long beans (snapped into finger lengths)
1 lb pet chay (separate leaves)
1 oxtail, in 1 inch slices
4 tbsp chunky peanut butter
Achiote, powdered or whole, soaked in water to extract the color (optional)
10 cloves garlic crushed
2 thumbs ginger, washed, unpeeled and crushed
1 onion sliced
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp fried mild bagoong, or to taste
spice fried bagoon to be served on the side
ground black pepper
Have butcher slice oxtail into 1 inch thick slices. Blanch oxtail in water, drain, and place oxtail in pot. Saut� oxtail with ginger, onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, some whole and some crushed, for 5 minutes. Cover with rice washing water, if available, or with clear water and let simmer till tender, about 2.5 hours. Or, cook in pressure cooker. Then, add chunky peanut butter. Add vegetables in the order of which cook fastest: banana blossom, long beans, eggplant, bok choy (steamed in advance and added at the very end). Season with 2 tbsp mild shrimp bakoong, while cooking, and serve the hot shrimp bakoong on the side.
Banana blossoms are tricky and the one that we got must have been too big and too old because it was bitter, even though she carefully prepared them, removing the outer petals and the stiff black pistol from each inner capsule, slicing the petals, and salting them.
Indeed, Rayna uses canned banana blossoms here, as they are more reliable. The small young blossom heart is cut in the length into quarters or eighths, if larger. I am intrigued by banana blossoms but have never had success cooking them here. Reyna's friend says there are two kinds of banana blossom and that one of them is bitter. Others say that very mature blossoms are bitter. Her friend recommends slicing the blossom, rub salt into it for 2-3 minutes, squeeze out the bitterness, rinse, and squeeze again. Others suggest blanching the sliced banana blossom in acidulated water (use lots of lime). In other parts of the Philippines, they are prepared with coconut milk. I did have a wonderful banana blossom salad in Hanoi. The banana blossom was cut across into thin strips. Blanch the strips in acidulated water (treat with salt first, if bitter). Banana blossom is never eaten raw. It can also be made with duck.
The blossom image is from www.dixitfamily.com/ AdP91.jpg.
Pancit is another fulfilling dish, varied in texture and rich in flavor. We stocked up on the essentials for this salamagundi.
500 gram package of sotanghon, also called vermicelli or green bean thread or bao pai--we used Longkou, a Chinese brand.
1 pound package of pancit kanton (yellow, thicker, flat noodle made of flour)
2 carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
Baguio beans (green beans) or snow peas, sliced on the diagonal into 2 inch slices
10 dried mushrooms, soaked and sliced into strips
1/2 medium cabbage (Chinese or regular), very thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 thinly sliced onion or equivalent amount of sliced shallot
1 lb chicken, pork, or seafood (or tofu, though tofu is not used in the Philippines)--we used tiger shrimp
4 tbsp patis (fish sauce) or substitute oyster or mushroom sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster or mushroom sauce
Oil (olive oil for health reasons, otherwise vegetable oil)
Garnish with 2 scallions and a sliced lemon or lime
Accompaniments: Vinegar from pickled chili in a little dish
In a large wok (we used Mayer's electric wok), saute the vegetables (except the scallions) in a little oil, starting with the onion and garlic, followed by carrots, cabbage, celery, mushrooms, and snow peas. When tender, but still crunchy, remove vegetables from wok.
While vegetables are cooking, crunch the pansit kanton in the bag two or three times to break up the noodles a little and rinse in water to remove any dust. Soak the vermicelli in warm water for about two minutes and when it starts to soften cut up with a scissors so the noodles are not unmanageably long. Drain well.
Add a little oil to the empty wok and then the pansit kanton and 1 cup stock or water, stirring well. After 1 minute, add the vermicelli and toss to mix with the pancit kanton. Then, add 4 tbsp patis and 2 tbsp oyster sauce (or vegetarian mushroom sauce). Add more to taste. If you leave out the patis, use about 1/2 cup oyster or mushroom sauce total. Add 4 tbsp of soy sauce or to taste, and ground black pepper. Stir carefully but well to season all the noodles, Cook about 7-10 minutes or until the noodles are tender, but not overcooked.
Add the cooked vegetables and stir to incorporate them.
Serve in a huge bowl (this recipe could easily serve 12 people), with half lemon slices in a ring around the edges and sliced scallions scattered on top. Serve vinegar from pickled chili in a little bowl for those who like hot food.
Reyna's pinakbet is my personal favorite, with its utterly distinctive taste and aroma. When Reyna asked if the fragrance was O.K.--she was worried we would not like the shrimp paste--Lisa said the house smelled like a restaurant and we loved it.
Cut 2 Japanese eggplants (the smallest are the best) into 3-inch lengths and then in four, lengthwise, almost to the top of the section, but not all the through.
Cut 3 bitter melons (we used Indian bitter melon, lovely small bright green warty bitter melon, with skin like an alligator) the same way as the eggplant or all the way through to form 3-inch quarters. In Tagalog, bitter melon is called ampalaya.
Cut 20 long beans to the length of a finger. We used the light green ones.
Trim 15 okra, but do not expose the interior or the okra will be very slippery.
Chop two fresh ripe tomatoes into 1 inch chunks.
Layer the vegetables in the pot, with tomatoes, garlic (10 cloves crushed), and ginger (unpeeled, thumb size, crushed) between the layers, as follows: bitter melon (salt first to remove bitter taste, if desired--this was not necessary with small Indian ones), long beans, fava beans, okra, and frozen or fresh fava beans. Add either patis (about 1/4) or half a jar (about 100 grams) of sauteed shrimp paste (bagoong guisado) in spoonfuls on the very top. We used the spicy shrimp paste (Zamboanga brand).
Add eggplant later as the top layer, because it cooks more quickly. Simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes. Before adding eggplant, uncover and shake the pan. Add the eggplant and when it is tender, the dish is ready to serve. Pinakbet can be prepared in advance, partially cooked, and completed just before ready to serve.
If fresh or canned tomatoes not available, substitute tomato paste or ketchup.
In the Tagalog region, they add yellow winter squash.
It turns out that Ilokano pinakbet is famous! "Pinakbet according to Gilda Cordero-Fernando in Philippine Food and Life is a vegetable dish known all over the Philippines, but which no one cooks as deliciously as the Ilokanos. The Ilokanos say they can tell if a pinakbet was prepared by an Ilokano or not. Pampangos and Tagalogs cut ampalaya (bitter gourd), the main ingredient of pinakbet, into quarters and this, Ilokanos feel, allows too much water and salt in, which shrinks and toughens the vegetable. Ilokanos cut the ampalaya of their pinakbet lengthwise, and only on one side, leaving the opposite side uncut, like a hotdog bun, so that it opens like a hinge. In addition, Ilokanos include a bit of the stem in the last slice of the eggplant which is cut in four halfway through so it opens like a flower."
Chicken Adobo turns out to be very easy to make and wonderfully savory. Here is Reyna's recipe.
Cut up a whole chicken and include the giblets (liver, heart, gizzard). Rub the chicken with salt to clean it, place in a pot, cover with boiling water, stir, and drain thoroughly.
Saute the chicken (reserve liver and heart to be added later as they cook more quickly) in a dry pan with patis (2 tbsp), washed unpeeled crushed ginger (about a thumb in size), and three or more cloves crushed garlic. Saute for 5 minutes till golden. Add bay leaf and about 5 tbsp soy sauce. Kung-Fu soy sauce is good. Marca Pina is a good Philippine brand, which is what we bought. Add a little water. Let simmer covered over medium heat until tender and water reduces, either leaving a little sauce or until dry, as to your preference. Five minutes before serving add heart and liver and 2 tbsp white vinegar. Imported Philippine vinegar is too expensive. Datu Puti would be a good brand to buy here, which we did.
Serve with rice.
About vinegar, Reyna explained that in the Philippines, her aunt made her own vinegar from sugar cane. She would take the liquid extracted from the cane, bring to a boil, let it cool, and place in a large clay container, add some leaves, and leave for months until ready. This vinegar was a dark brown-black.
Tuong Phat Supermarket
Lisa arrived after school, we put the wheelchair into the trunk, and headed for Tuong Phat Supermarket at Finch and Bathurst with our shopping list. We invited the Berlins for dinner and decided to make pancit, pinakbet, and chicken adobo. Shopping list in hand, we stocked up on Philippine soy sauce, vinegars (black and white), hot fried shrimp paste, oyster sauce plus a vegetarian version made with mushrooms, and a soy calamansi sauce.
Reyna explained that the bagoong available here, bagoong Alamang, is Tagolog style. It is made with shrimp and has a little sugar in it. Bagoong Iloko, which is from her region, is made with small but not tiny fish and has sugar in it, which makes dishes made with it more savory. Bagoong Iloko is not available here but people bring it from the Philippines when coming to Canada.
Somehow we managed to forget to get patis and the mild bagoong, but we will rectify that today when we take a walk down to one of the little local Philippine grocers. We also bought a big banana blossom, which we will prepare with oxtail, for kare-kare, sweet potato leaves for a black-eye pea dish, and various vegetables for the pinakbet (Indian bitter melon, Japanese eggplant, okra, tomato), and two kinds of noodles for the pancit (vermicelli or "green bean thread" and pansit kanton, a yellow flour noodle).