Tag Archives: cooking

Learn to cut your own chicken

Before I attended culinary school, I always bought pre-cut chicken. First, because I could choose the parts that I like, and second because I really didn’t know how to cut a chicken up. But when I went to culinary school, they taught us how to do it. It looked easy at first but it was difficult for me. So, I practiced a lot, inspired as well by chefs who’d cut chicken as if it were a piece of cake. If they can do it, so can I! I told my mom to but whole chickens instead of those cut ones. Believe me, in the beginning, my family made fun of my chicken proportions.

But I slowly learned how to cut them properly. The thing about doing your own chicken portions is that you can control the size of your chicken. Not that you can do so much, but you know what I mean.

Caution: Raw chicken contains salmonella, so I advise that you use a separate cutting board for you chicken, wash it thoroughly after use, including your knife. Make sure to cook your chicken properly.

How to cut up a chicken

You need a knife (a sharp one please) and a separate chopping board.

  1. Remove the parts that are hanging, like the head, neck and the wing tips.
  2. Then, cut off the chicken tail. Foreigners don’t really eat this part, but we Filipinos love this. You can set it aside, or you may choose to not cut it yet and include it when you cut one of the chicken breasts.
  3. Cut the skin between the thigh and breast area. Then pop the bone connecting to it. This will give you access to where you would have to cut through the skin to separate the breast from the thigh.
  4. Cut at an angle between the drumstick and the thigh. The knee joint has a bone, and that’s where you have to cut.
  5. Cutting the wings is easy; all you have to do is spread it and cut where the wing ends. (Again, you need a sharp knife for this.)
  6. Cut down the middle following the chicken backbone. You could use a pair of scissors to cut through it, but a knife will do too.
  7. You can proportion size of the chicken breast you want, then just cut through it.

For beginners, I suggest you cut the chicken first into two. Then, you remove one by one the parts. The reason why I didn’t mention this as my number one is because as time goes by, and you’ll get used to it, and it’ll be easier to remove the parts first before butchering the whole chicken.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.


Missing the kitchen… and my baon!

No kitchen in my dorm!
No such kitchen in my dorm! 😦

I don’t like it when I can’t cook, or when I’m staying in a place without a kitchen. Cooking’s always been my “escape”. I cook when I’m happy, when I’m sad, and when I just feel like it.  So imagine if I have to stay somewhere without a spatula or even a fridge?

My life’s been turned upside down for the past month. I started work with this special project, its grown-up stuff… meaning, boring and really, not related to cooking.  I moved back to my old dorm and even though I feel comfortable in it, there’s one thing missing: the kitchen. My dorm don’t allow any form of cooking, well, aside from the instant cup noodles that you just pour hot water in, there’s no way I could sneak in a portable stove without them noticing it, or smelling it.

Every day, I feel like I’m in a scavenger’s hunt for the food that I want to eat and bring to work.  Yes! I prepare my baon because my schedule is weird and when I work, I usually don’t like being bothered.  I live near a university, so food is really abundant.  But I’m also wary of the many possibilities that these foods are not properly prepared.

So, every day I try to look at the food, not caring if the customer next to me is annoyingly tapping her foot while waiting for me to finish my order.  I make a mental note of the food they offer that day, and if I decide to go back the next day, I’ll look at their menu and see if it’s a re-hash of yesterday’s offering.

I’m really not picky, but I do know the look of food when it’s fresh and it’s already been a day’s old.  I remember when I was still in high school. I don’t like bringing lunch boxes to school. I had that period where I wanted to look cool in front of the other students, so I would line-up in the cafeteria and scout for whatever piping hot food they had to offer.

For moms out there, maybe it’s added work if you pack your kids’ lunchboxes, but it’s always better to be safe than be sorry later.  I know cafeteria food is not as bad as it seems, but there’s just too much junk food available to your kids, and you’re not always there to regulate how much of it they take in. So, I suggest give them something nutritious to combat whatever junk they’ll put in their mouths come lunch time.  A packed lunch with some protein, carbs and a little amount of sweet will help your children get through the day.

Don’t worry, it might take time for kids to get used to having packed lunches, and they might even say that “it’s so not cool” bringing lunch kits at school, but believe me, they’ll get used to it eventually.  And if they’re hard-headed, just bring out your “mothers know best” card. I’m sure they can’t argue with that.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

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.

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.

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.

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.