Category Archives: Cooking and baking

My pickled vegetables recipe

This is just a follow-up on an article about pickling fruits that I did a few weeks ago. You could consider it a series, but honestly, this is the only “pickled recipe” I have that I’m proud of. As mentioned in my first article, I’m really not fond of pickling, but this one is an exception. Aside from the hassle of prepping, I find this recipe easy to make… and it works all the time!


1. Equal parts of water and vinegar (I usually do 1 ½ C but it really depends on how much vegetables you’re pickling)
2. Sugar (for this recipe, I used 8 tbsp.)
3. Ginger, onions ( julienne or shredding will do)
4. Siling haba, or siling labuyo (no need to cut them, unless you want it to be spicy)
5. Your vegetables (I often use a combination of bittermelon and eggplant)

Ingredients for pickled vegetables
Ingredients for pickled vegetables

You could add a little bit of salt, pepper and garlic on this recipe. Also, if you want it to be fancier, add carrots, raisins and red or green bell peppers. It will look more festive that way.

First, you simmer the water and vinegar. You can add in the sugar but avoid stirring it. Let it simmer for a few minutes or until the acidity of the vinegar evaporates. I hate the raw taste of vinegar in my pickled vegetables.

All vegetables should be blanched. They don’t need to be tender, but make sure that they’re not raw anymore. Put them aside. When everything’s cooled off, combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl then pour the pickling liquid slowly. Make sure that all the ingredients are submerged in liquid. Then transfer it to a clean, air-tight sealed container.

This type of pickled vegetable is good for fried fish and chicharon. And what’s good about this is that it’s not as sensitive as other pickled recipes, where they should be kept in a certain temperature, or else molds and or bacteria will start growing in it. But this recipe needs to be kept in the fridge to keep its freshness and to help it last longer.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

How to cook the perfect Crispy Pata at home

It would be nice and deadly if the crispy pata will be cook deep-fried, but considering the economics of it, being cooking oil is expensive these days, not to mention that it’s really not good for your health, we always cook our crispy pata in our turbo broiler.

We have two kinds of turbo broiler, the really ancient steel looking kind one, and one of those new, glass ones where you can actually see the fat dripping from the meat. If you’re to ask me, I would prefer to use the newer one because it’s user-friendly. You can set the temperature and can actually see the meat inside. But with the old one, which is what we’re all accustomed to using, is a matter of gut feel. You’ll know that the food is done by using your senses and/or a cooking thermometer.

My family loves food. Healthy, deadly, name it and we’re always craving for something. But the big Crispy is a one-time deal. Meaning, if we eat crispy pata today, it’ll take a few months till we cook it again. It’s a conscious effort on our part because the dish just spells “heart attack” all over it.

To achieve the crispiest, juiciest and most succulent crispy pata at home, you only have to do a few things. No need to go to a fancy restaurant and order it there. You can buy at least two “pata” for the usual price of a crispy pata in our local restaurants, not mention they’re sometimes dry on the inside because of overcooking.

  1. Boil your patas first. Yes. You have to boil them to achieve the tenderness inside and to make sure that your pata is well-cooked all the way. Make sure to season your water with a generous amount of salt, enough to taste like salted water BUT not a “sea water”-type of saltiness. Add few cloves of garlic—no need to peel them, just smash them with the back of your knife. Add a couple of shallots or a piece of onion, cut in half, and a few pieces of whole peppers.
  2. Let it rest. Before wrapping it in foil, rub some more seasonings to it. I usually rub in fish sauce (patis) and pepper, but just enough to coat the skin. Then wrap it tightly with foil or cling wrap.
  3. Put it in the freezer for at least a day. Yes my dearies! The secret to a crispy, crispy pata is to make sure that it’s been boiled and kept in the freezer for at least 24 hours. A freshly-boiled and seasoned crispy pata will not crisp enough. There will be no “lutong” factor.
  4. A great sauce can accompany a great dish too. Sarsa lechon is somehow being used by the upper class, because they associate crispy pata with the like of a lechon too. But a true-blooded meat lover will know that the combination of toyo-mansi with onions and sili will make you screaming for “isang tasang kanin pa nga!”

Don’t feel bad serving your family crispy pata once in awhile. Besides, if you use the turbo broiler, half of the fat will be remove from the meat already. Enjoy eating!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Pickling fruits

Peeled santol
Peeled santol

Pickling is a way of preserving a certain type of fruit and or vegetables. In some countries they do this process because not all fruits and vegetables are in season all-year round. They usually do this process during summer or spring time, in preparation for the winter and fall season.

In Asia, pickling is done for different reasons. In the old times, they pickle their food to prevent it from spoiling. Since not most households have refrigeration, they would put their meat/fruit/vegetable in brine solution so that they could preserve them. (I’ll give you a recipe of the brine solution later.)

In countries like South Korea, pickled foods play a big part in hansik (Korean food). Kimchi is a staple in every meal, and it’s the best example of pickling. Most popular kimchi is cabbage, but they pickle almost everything in that country.

In the Philippines, we’re used to pickled papaya, or better known as achara. My aunt makes the best achara, and she doesn’t put raisins in it. And because of that reason, unconsciously, I hated pickling. I can’t seem to make that perfect brine even though I follow her recipe to a T. Besides, I’m not fond of pickled fruits or vegetables, even though I love kimchi. I like to use fresh ingredients as much as possible. If it’s not in season, then I work with whatever ingredient is available in the market.

But pickling is really convenient for all households. Aside from the fact that it’s good as a side dish, it also helps busy mommies save time and be able to preserve those ingredients that they use often but are not always in season.

Santol fruits from the Philippines
Santol fruits

A few weeks ago, my dad brought home more than a dozen of unripe santol. I love fruits that that a sweet-sour taste, but these santols are still bitter. He didn’t want to throw them out. My first suggestion was wrap them in old newspapers and keep them inside our rice dispenser, but my mom said I should just pickled them so that we can use them for sinigang. As Kapampangans, we love sinigang so much that we use all sorts of vegetables and fruits to provide the sour flavor. Aside from santol and the staple tamarind, we also use kamias (kalamias, or bilimbi), and miso.

I have two kinds of brine mixtures, the salt-based and the other, sugar-based. Of course, vinegar is a key ingredient too in your brine. My culinary friends will use high-end types of vinegar, but I always believe that not all kitchens are supplied with expensive ingredients in their pantries. So, I make with what’s available and make some necessary adjustments.

For the santol fruits, I did both salt and sugar brine mixtures, just in case one of my family members decides to munch on them. I’m really not good with measuring so I always go with equal parts of water and vinegar. But, you have to make sure that your vinegar is not too acidic. If that happens, then make it 2/3 water- 1/3 vinegar. My measurement for sugar and salt is also the same. I usually add in 10 tablespoons of sugar (and or salt) per 1 liter of liquid (vinegar and water combined). Of course, you have to taste it as you do the process.

With salt, I put it on top of a low-heat fire, just so the smell and acidity of the vinegar evaporates. I let it simmer, just like with the sugar, until all the particles get dissolved. Turn off the stove and by this time, you can add in whatever aromatics you want to add. Cloves and star anise are ok too. They’re good agents in pickling. But I like mine simple. Just salt (sugar), water and vinegar unless I’m doing achara.

One very important thing in pickling is that the jar you’re going to use is very clean. You don’t want any bacteria entering or seeping through your brine and fruit. I suggest you boil your jars first, them clean them dry with a cloth. Store your pickled stuff in a cool area. You don’t need to put them in the fridge, just an area in your house that’s always cool, but not damp.

Update: Here’s my pickled vegetables recipe.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Alimango sa gata recipe

Alimango sa gata
Alimango sa gata

You can use crabs or any kind of shellfish for this recipe. I often use alimango because they’re cheap and easily available in the market. If you’re using crabs though, may I suggest you use the “female” crab instead of a “male” one? You’ll know that the crab is a girl by looking at its abdomen, which is located at the back. It’s circular compare to the pointed one of the male.


Niyog (a type of coconut)
Niyog (a type of coconut)

1 kilo of Alimango
2 cups of freshly-squeezed gata (usually the 1st squeeze is the best to use)
Siling haba
Salt and pepper

I don’t normally include ginger in this recipe since I usually pre-cook the alimango before sautéing them in the gata mixture. But if you’re cooking it straight, then half a head of ginger, thinly slice is enough to remove the “lansa” taste from the crabs.


Steam your crabs with a couple of teaspoons of water and some salt sprinkled on top of them. After a few minutes, depending on the weight and number of your crabs, remove them from heat and let them rest for awhile. If the alimango or crab are too big, try to cut them in half, just so they’ll be easy to eat and the meat of the crab will also absorb the gata sauce.

Heat your saucepan with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Then add the onions and garlic (ginger if needed) then wait for the onions to turn translucent before adding in the alimango (crabs). Sautee the alimango for a few minutes then add in the gata and the sili. The pan should be on medium heat because you don’t want the gata to boil or else it’ll curdle. Stir once in awhile, have it simmer for at least 15 minutes. Don’t forget to add your salt and pepper gradually.

You can serve it as is or you can top it with fresh basil leaves and slices of fresh siling haba.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

What’s for breakfast?

I’m not a morning person but because I work at home, I’m tasked to cook breakfast. Well ok, not just breakfast, but lunch and dinner too. Of all the three meals, I always find breakfast to be the most difficult. Half of our household eats rice and the rest prefer bread. And it doesn’t help either that my family are picky eaters. With lunch and dinner, I have no problem preparing for a meal plan for a week 😉

Eggs are a staple in my breakfast menu. I either do scrambled, or sunny-side up. When I was still in culinary school, we spent one day just cooking eggs. I’ve never had so much egg in my life ’til then. I can’t say that I’ve perfected the craft of cooking perfect scrambled eggs, but I do know a few tricks on making your ordinary scrambled eggs look appetizing.

Typical Scrambled Egg


4 medium eggs
1 medium onion/2 shallots
3 cloves garlic
½ cup milk (Whatever type of milk you’re drinking will do. You could also use evaporated milk.)
Salt and pepper to taste

I usually sauté the onions first since I don’t like the burnt taste of garlic in my food. When the onions begin to turn translucent, add the garlic. Beat the eggs with the milk. I don’t salt my eggs, but if you want, you could. I usually add the salt and pepper when I pour the scrambled eggs on the pan. Slowly mix it to avoid burning and to incorporate everything. A scrambled egg is good when it’s still a little bit runny. It’s not advisable to serve dry scrambled eggs, but my family prefers it a little dry, a little over-cooked.

You may want decorate it with snippets of chives or basil. You could also add in tomatoes and mushrooms to make it extra special. I don’t suggest a throwing in mayo, since that’s too much cholesterol. Maybe once in awhile, I add in parmesan cheese, just to make it luxurious.

Enjoy eating your breakfast!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

My ginisang monggo recipe

It’s always sunny in the Philippines. For the past few weeks, we’ve been experiencing the wrath of the sun. I don’t like the feel of always being sticky, but being stuck inside the room with the AC fully cranked is also not my idea of FUN. Whether I like it or not, I’d still need to go out and do my normal duties, which means getting stickier than before.

That’s why I drink lots of water every day. Eight glasses is such an understatement, these days, my average is usually around 12 glasses of water. Not to mention my addiction to calamansi juice. Yes. I know that calamansi is a little bit expensive nowadays, but it’s really good in refreshing you. It’s like our local version of the lemonade. And it’s healthier than drinking a can of soda or sweetened canned juice.

It took me awhile to think of what food I’ll feature today, the reason being I tried avoiding being in the kitchen for the past few weeks. I planned my menu where I’ll be in and out of the kitchen within 30 minutes, tops. But last week, my dad requested if I can cook ginisang monggo for him. It would’ve been easier to cook the said dish if I would just boil the beans and not mash and remove their casings. But I like my ginisang monggo smooth. Therefore, my 30 minutes was spent with the mongos alone.

Here’s my recipe for ginisang monggo:

Ingredients for ginisang monggo
Ingredients for ginisang monggo


1 bag of mongo beans
Shrimps or ground pork (while others will opt to use pork belly)
Garlic, onion
Tomatoes (enough to have a hint of tartness to the soup)
Salt and pepper (you can use fish sauce too)


2012-04-20 08.29.58

Boil the mongo beans first, then mash them. You can do that either with your hands (but that will take time because you have to cool them off first before you can touch them) or do what I do: get an ordinary sifter and use the back of a ladle and mash it. I throw most of the skin but saved enough to include the soup, just to add texture. I sauté then the garlic, onion and tomatoes. If you’re using pork belly, render the fat of the pork belly first, then use that oil for sautéing. After the onion becomes translucent and the tomatoes softened, put in the shrimps or the ground pork or the belly. Saute for awhile, and don’t forget to season it with salt and pepper. After a few minutes, pour in the mashed mongo beans and add water. Depends on the consistency you want, make sure the water’s not too much. It’s better to add water later than trying to spoon out extra water from your soup.

Wait a few minutes for it to boil, or until the meat’s tender then the soup’s ready to be served. In my family, we have an abundant supply of chicharon since we’re from Pampanga, so instead of garnishing it with parsley and other herbs, I throw in some chicharon right before serving it.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Let’s go beyond fried food! Here’s a recipe for sinigang na salmon sa miso

Sinigang na salmon sa miso
Sinigang na salmon sa miso

I did have my stint at culinary school, but I feel in my heart that my passion for cooking is genetic. How else would I learn how to cook regular dishes without any supervision or a recipe book in front of me? I rely on both of my sense of taste and sight. My mom always tells me that her mom didn’t teach her neither, it just came naturally. But I do study to learn the basics (what to do and what not to do) and also to acquire further knowledge in cooking and baking. And one thing that I love about cooking is that you discover something new in the kitchen every time you cook.

Not everybody is meant to be the queen of the kitchen, but I know that for most of the people out there, they don’t really have a choice because they’re married or living on their own. Not all of us can afford help, go through a culinary course, or order take out foods every day. That’s why I feel bad when I hear my friends tell me that all they feed their children is fried food. Honestly, it took me a while to perfect the art of cooking fried chicken, but frying is the simplest form of cooking for most of the moms out there.

It will be good if once in a while you’ll feed your love ones something nutritious aside from fried chicken, fried eggs and hotdogs. They need nourishment and it’s about time that you man-up and start familiarizing yourself with different types of cooking.

You don’t need to be a Martha Stewart; Rachael Ray is fine (Rachael Ray did not graduate from any culinary school). Don’t be discouraged when you don’t succeed during your first try. It takes a while, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that the kitchen is not as frightening as it used to be. Here’s one recipe you could try:

Sinigang na Salmon sa Miso

Ingredients for sinigang na salmon sa miso
Ingredients for sinigang na salmon sa miso

1 kilo of Salmon (whatever part is available in the market will do)
1 pack of Sinigang sa Miso mix
Onions, ginger
Talbos ng kamote (or, if you prefer, kangkong)
2 cups of water

Usually in sinigang, you just boil the meat and then add the vegetables and the sinigang mix. I find that it tastes better when you sauté it first with onions and tomatoes, but since I’m using fish and Miso mix, I’ll use ginger instead of tomatoes. Ginger is pampatangal ng lansa, so you don’t really need to put a lot. Depending in the part of fish that you’ll use make sure to mix it gently because you don’t want to end up with a mushy fish in your soup. Put at least two cups of water, and if you want it to be more soupy, then you can add more water. Just make sure to taste everything along the way. Then pour in the sinigang mix, plus the vegetables. Wait for it to boil, then it’s done.

Sinigang na isda usually doesn’t take long to cook. You just have to make sure that your vegetables are cooked, and you’re ready to serve your Sinigang. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me here. I’ll try my best to answer all of your queries. Until next time!

 This post was written by Rita Salonga.