Thursday, June 30, 2011

Filipino food: More than just adobo

Japan is known for its sushi, America for its hamburgers, Italy for its pizza, France for its foie gras (fatty liver) and China for its noodles.

But what about the Philippines?

Through the years, several people have tried to describe what Filipino cuisine is all about, and most of them say the dish that best defines our country is adobo, or meat (from pork and chicken to seafood and offal) braised in garlic, vinegar and soy. Each household, town, province and region has a different way of preparing this otherwise simple viand.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Recipe: Celebrity chef Sam Leong's wasabi prawns

Here's a dish that is so powerful it gave a Singapore chef a career, a wife and an opportunity to travel the world.

Well, at least that's what Sam Leong, the city-state's very own celebrity chef, claimed when he held a cooking demo at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel earlier this month.

"I bring this dish wherever I go," he said.

Leong was referring to his wasabi prawns, a dish that required few ingredients and only took him 10 minutes to prepare. It was so easy to do, one would wonder how it promoted someone to master chef status.

The answer was revealed shortly after. True enough, the dish was simple but amazing -- the prawns were delicately coated in a batter that is both crunchy and hard, reminiscent of peanuts. The sauce, made from mayonnaise, condensed milk, wasabi paste and lemon juice, gave just the right amount of sweetness and spice.

It was effortlessly beautiful, like magic -- or perhaps kung fu, as others would say. No wonder it is very close to Leong's heart even if he has created tens of thousands of modern Chinese dishes.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Puerto Galera's well kept culinary secret

Expatriates and foreign travelers seem to be drawn to a secluded resort in Puerto Galera, the northernmost municipality in Oriental Mindoro province.

Australian-owned Out of the Blue is tucked away from the pack on White Beach, known as the go-to place for local tourists. Its cluster of Mediterranean-style luxury villas sits on a small lot overlooking Small La Laguna.

"Our resort became popular mainly through word of mouth. We had mostly foreigners, expats, those who work in embassies and Asian banks," said John Booth, one of the resort's owners. The other is his good friend and former colleague, Chris Shannon.

"We never expected it to be as successful as we've actually become."

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sampling Coke-laced diner food at The Real Thing

"The Real Thing" used to be the advertising slogan for Coca-Cola, the ubiquitous soft drink brand with the classic white lettering against a red background.

It's also the name of a themed diner at Tomas Morato in Quezon City which opened late last year. 

And it was named such for a reason. The place screams "I love Coca-Cola so much that I'm giving it free advertising!" at the top of its lungs, from the familiar signage font to the huge coke bottle-shaped shelf filled with Coca-Cola memorabilia. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let's talk fast food: Yummy Roast

Imagine eating Asian-style fare, just like what is served in Singapore's food courts, in a typical fast food environment.

That's the feeling I got upon my first visit at Yummy Roast, the newest addition to the Philippines' growing list of Singapore influenced food chains. It's a result of a partnership between Richie Yang of Yum Roast International Inc. (the Filipino company that runs Super Bowl of China, Big Buddha and Chili's) and Cary Gee of The Asian Kitchen restaurants in Singapore.

Yummy Roast looks and feels like the usual fast food chain, complete with yellow plastic chairs and a counter where all the menu items are displayed. It also has "value meals" and unlimited rice offerings, as seen in most quick service restaurants here in the country.

The difference, however, lies in the food.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Strawberry taho in Baguio

Here in the Philippines, it's common to see a man carrying 2 large aluminum buckets, screaming "taaaahhoooo" while walking along the sidewalk or in the middle of the road.

Using a shallow ladle, he scoops out the contents of his 2 buckets -- soft or silken tofu, arnibal (brown sugar and vanilla syrup) and sago (pearl tapioca) -- and places these in thin plastic cups.

The end product, warm and sweet taho, has long been a favorite among locals and tourists in several parts of the country.

But in Baguio City, a 6-hour trip from Manila, people do things a bit differently.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A meal fit for a King

The best time to be creative in the kitchen is when you're hungry, at least according to renowned chef Billy King, the man who brought the famed Le Souffle restaurant here.

True enough, King hasn't eaten anything when he showed his latest creations at The Manor's Le Chef restaurant in Baguio City late last month.

He's not the type who holds a pen and sits down to think, either -- the chef initially said he'll serve 6 new items, but he ended up with 13.

"It's best to be hungry. It's the best time to be creative. Let the gastric juices and imagination flow," he said.

King is a proud chef, one who's not willing to jump on the celebrity chef bandwagon. He said, referring to chef contests on television, "Some of it is nonsense. Why create something in an hour when you need 3 hours to do it? It's not right. It just cannot be good."

"It seems nobody can do anything without a blender nowadays," he quipped.

His seeming air of arrogance, however, fades away the moment we got to taste his dishes. From the savory dishes to the desserts and drinks, each item tasted divine, causing us food writers to close our eyes and call to God after every bite.

What the chef served us, indeed, was a meal fit for a king.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Degustation at The Goose Station

Try saying "The Goose Station" ten times and you'll probably end up saying "degustation."

The name of the restaurant at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig is a play on the said word, a culinary term which literally means taking a small amount of food into the mouth to test its quality.

Owned by celebrity chef couple Robert Pengson and Sunshine Puey, The Goose Station is known for its excellent degustation menus, which most people call an experience of "high culinary art."

And excellent, it is. Each dish is well thought-out and painstakingly prepared, from the 24-hour steak to the sous-vide sea bass.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Manila Hotel ice cream flavors: Salted egg and Ferrero

Who would have thought that an old architectural gem would serve ice cream in uniquely superb flavors?

The 99-year-old Manila Hotel, which has hosted numerous historical persons and celebrities, is also home to 2 must-try ice cream variants -- Ferrero and salted egg.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Romance on a plate

Oysters, chocolates, strawberries and saffron are only some of the world's known aphrodisiacs, or food items that increase sexual desire.

Eat all of these at the same time with your partner, and you may end up having a second date, or getting hitched.

Chef David Pardo de Ayala made this gentle warning as he gave us a culinary preview of his Valentine's Day menu, aptly called Passions*, at the picturesque Restaurant Verbena in Discovery Country Suites Tagaytay.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Xiao long bao and other tasty Chinese bites at Crystal Jade

If Wee Nam Kee has chicken rice, Crystal Jade has xiao long bao.

These soupy pork dumplings steamed in small bamboo baskets (and best eaten on ceramic spoons) are more than enough reason for people to wait in line for a table on weekdays. Others even travel by plane just to savor this yummy treat.

Lucky for foodies here in Manila, Asia's famed xiao long bao has found its way to Greenhills, San Juan.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Recipe: Pan-seared lamb chops with mixed herbs and balsamic reduction

Here's a simple yet elegant lamb dish that's sure to impress your family, friends and guests alike.

The rosemary, thyme, tarragon and balsamic reduction are a perfect match for lamb chops, which sometimes tend to taste too gamey.