Category Archives: Cooking and baking

Pre-Valentine brunch… Korean Style

I’m the kind of girl who thinks that Valentine’s Day is overrated. It just feels like everybody is forced to be sweet and extra generous on this “special” day. I appreciate it more when I receive gifts randomly, just because that person thought of me that day. I don’t need an assurance on the 14th of February that someone loves me or is thinking of me.

Our pre-Valentine brunch

But my family finds this as an excuse to get together and dine outside. Any excuse to be able to dress up and eat in a fancy place is always good on my book. So we decided to eat at our favorite Korean restaurant. Disclaimer: I’m not mocking this special day, because I know a lot of people are really looking forward to this, but my family and I are game on anything so we all wore red that day.

I love Korean food. Actually, I love spicy food, but contrary to popular belief, not all Korean food is spicy. And even if it’s spicy, you can still taste the different ingredients in it. My favorite part in eating Korean food is that they have tofu in almost all their dishes. I love tofu. It literally melts in your mouth.

I like Sundubu-jjigae, which is spicy stew with soft tofu. I love how it’s served in traditional clay pot and it’s really piping hot. I like having it with rice and some kimchi. Of course, Korean food wouldn’t be complete with their array of side dishes, including the famous kimchi.

My mom likes Japchae, but we didn’t order it because we often eat stir-fried noodles. We opted for the clear beef broth with transparent noodles. It’s good in clearing the palate, especially when you’re eating spicy and oily food.

I would’ve loved some Tukbokki but they don’t offer it (I wonder where I can buy my own rice cakes so that I’ll just cook it myself when I feel like having some!). Bulgogi is an all-time favorite of my family. We always order it, as Pansit is always ordered whenever we eat in Chinese restaurants. I know, it’s just four of us in the family, but we love to eat.

And for our protein, grilled pork wrapped in lettuce leaves. I don’t know how much lettuce leaves we consumed that day but it was so delicious. I don’t get it? I grill pork belly all the time, but the taste is different. Maybe because of all the side dishes, and the dipping sauce, but grilled meat is something to look forward to when you crave for Korean food.

We’re too full to even order dessert, so we decided to walk it off and do some grocery shopping. Lunch was not just about the food but also the company that made it so much fun. So, maybe I do celebrate Valentine’s day, if that means spending it with the ones you love.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

A simple recipe for Ginisang Ampalaya (Bittermelon)

My family loves Ampalaya. It’s one of the few vegetables that my sister actually eats. Since she’s a very picky eater, we usually plan our meals around her favorite dishes. Here’s a simple recipe of Ginisang Ampalaya, especially useful now that it’s the Lenten season and some people would prefer eating non-meat dishes.

Ingredients

Ingredients for Ginisang Ampalaya2 small size Ampalaya
5 medium size ripe tomatoes
Garlic and onion
Some fresh shrimps (depends on the size that are available in the market)
Salt, pepper and vinegar to taste

Directions

I boil my Ampalaya for a few minutes just to lessen the taste of bitterness in them. I don’t overdo it because I still want the crispness of vegetable. I then sauté the onions, garlic and tomatoes. I wait till the onions turn translucent before adding in the shrimps. I have pre-cooked shrimps already, but fresh shrimps are always better. Then, add in the Ampalaya, and season it with salt and pepper. You may add water if the tomatoes are not juicy enough. Then before simmering it for a few minutes, I like to add a touch of vinegar in it. Not too much, just a tablespoon or so, to enhance the acidity of the tomatoes. Don’t mix it yet, cover it for a few minutes then it’s done.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

How to whip soft peak egg whites

My friends always tease me that I have the muscles of a construction worker, because I can whip egg whites in a short period of time, without the help of an electronic mixer. I admit, I’m really good at whipping egg whites, but I can’t take full credit on that. I have to thank my special whisk for that.

I don’t use the ordinary whisks because I couldn’t really incorporate much air using it. I’ve tried different whisks, even those with balls inside and until I found the one that best suit me. I got it at SM department store. It’s so cheap I seriously didn’t expect that it’ll be that effective.

I often use cold eggs, meaning fresh out of the refrigerator. I know some of my chef friends though would rather use room-temp eggs. So I suggest you try both, and see what will work for you. I often beat egg whites for our TORTA. My family is obsessed with TORTA, be it wrapped in whipped eggs, tortang talong and or stuffed ampalaya.

You have to separate the egg yolk and the egg whites, make sure there’s no hint of the yolk in your mixture. Then beat continuously for at least 2 minutes. Don’t beat it as if you’re angry at someone. Just make sure it is continuously.

After a few minutes of beating, take some rest, at least a few seconds just so your arm won’t feel like it’s about to give up on you. Then start whipping again. Continue whipping till you are able to flip the bowl without the egg whites falling. If it slides, then just continue beating, but make sure you don’t over beat because it’ll become clumpy or worst you’ll lose all the air you incorporated in it. After flipping the bowl and the whipped egg whites didn’t fall on you, start mixing in the egg yolks.

Don’t be afraid to mix the egg whites with the egg yolk. The more you are afraid of it the more it’ll fail. So, just relax and start whipping. If it fails, then start again. But I assure you, if you’ll use my special whisk, it’ll help you, big time.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Noodles with a twist

I try to start my day with only positive thoughts, but there are just some things that really get on my nerves. I heard that my friends who are filming today were fed instant noodles for lunch. Who in their right mind would feed their talents instant noodles, with all the delicious food and the great restaurants available here in Manila? That’s just awful. It makes us look bad… and to think that Filipinos are known to be food lovers and great cooks.

This is not to say that instant noodles are evil in themselves. I usually eat instant myself when I feel too lazy to cook. When I was a kid, I’d always tell my mom to feed me instant noodles for breakfast. But because we need to eat healthy and nutritious food, my mom only allowed us to eat it thrice a month at most, or only when we’re super craving for it.

Now, my instant noodle is not so instant anymore. I often find myself tinkering with it rather than cook it the usual way. At first, putting on eggs would be a treat already. Sometimes, I try to keep the yolk intact like a sunny side up and then break it while eating. You’ll see the soup will turn yellowish because of the yolk’s color. When I’m feeding other people (not guests) and I’m in a hurry, I sometimes scramble the egg. When we’re busy with overtime work and we get hungry in the middle of the night, I just cook instant noodles for them and add vegetables in it, nothing too fancy, just some carrots, celery and if you have cabbage, then that’s it. And don’t forget the eggs 🙂 The hot soup plus the veggies will wake us up and rev up our brains.

Another twist is to spice it up. I love spicy food! I’m a fan of kimchi and I always keep a bottle of kimchi with me in the fridge. I learned from my Korean friends that they add kimchi in their instant noodles. At first I thought it was weird because kimchi has a sour taste to it. But when I tried it, I fell in love with it! The sourness of the kimchi doesn’t overpower the saltiness of the instant noodles. I use the chicken instant noodle kind with my kimchi, since the beef’s broth is too dark and it looks dirty with the red specks from the kimchi. But for my staple instant noodle creation, regardless whether it’s pork, chicken or beef, I add half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and an egg. That’s it, nothing more. I know it’ll be spicy, but when you drink the hot soup, your face turns red and you start to sweat. I love that feeling it gives me.

I know that I shouldn’t get mad with that producer for feeding my friends instant noodles. But for pete’s sake, if they can’t afford to give them a decent meal, they should’ve just told me. I could’ve cooked for them, free of charge. Besides, what are friends for? 🙂

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

How to cook fried stuffed Bangus

I like to cook. Some people say do not cook when you’re sad or in a bad mood because it’ll reflect on the food you’re cooking. I, on the other hand, cooking is my remedy for stress and bad moods. Cooking makes me happy. It brings me back my sanity when the world around me seemed insanely chaotic. If I stop cooking, that’ll be the end of me.

My whole family is my willing victims when I’m experimenting with food. There are some hits and misses I tell you, but nothing worst so far as to one of them losing totally their sense of taste. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in culinary school is that “know the basics rules first before you start breaking them”. That’s what I always apply whenever I’m trying a new dish or tweaking an old recipe.

Last week, my mom requested Fried Stuffed Milkfish (Bangus). My dad and my sister are both carnivorous and it’s rare that we serve fish in the dining table. They only eat a handful of seafood dishes, and it’ll be such a waste if we cook too much dishes for just the four of us.

You’re aware that frying the milkfish is a dirty job. No matter how hot the oil is, there will always be splatter. And I hate oil splatter on my kitchen. It irritates me to death. So, I found a way on how to avoid splatter by wrapping the fish in aluminum foil. (Not all food can be wrapped in aluminum foil when frying, avoid any acids if possible.)

I sliced the Bangus in half, but not entirely, just so I can insert the stuffing. For the stuffing, I put mix in onions, garlic, tomatoes salt and pepper, siling haba (optional) and sometimes if I feel like making it extra special, I put in some slices of red eggs. But to each its own. Whatever you fancy, go ahead and I won’t take it against you 😉 I minced chopped everything so that the cooking time will be the same for everything that’s stuffed in the Bangus.

Grease the aluminum foil very well with salt and or some dried herbs if you have. I usually use dried thyme or rosemary. Wrapped the Bangus carefully, make sure that the Bangus is well stuffed. Depends on the size and weight of the Bangus, usually I give 5-7 minutes cooking time on both sides of a regular-sized bangus. I don’t put the temp too high, just on medium heat because you’re in a way steaming the fish inside first.

The fried Bangus is good with soup or sautéed vegetables. I usually accompany it with my simplified version of chopsuey. For the spicy food lover in me, I prepare a special hot dipping sauce of soy sauce, calamansi juice, sugar to taste and a lot of siling labuyo. Yummy!

In cooking something, it should always come from the heart. If I can advice someone about cooking, don’t cook when your heart’s not into it. No matter how expensive the ingredients are or how easy the recipe is, if you don’t feel like cooking, it won’t work. Annyeong!!!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.