Tag Archives: salt

How to cook Kare-Kare

Kare-Kare recipeKare-Kare is one of my all-time favorite dishes. I can eat it everyday without getting bored or wanting anything else. What’s not to love about it? It has vegetables, peanut butter and oxtail. Though when we choose to make some at home, we opt to use Pata (pig’s leg) because oxtail takes a while to cook, not to mention quite expensive.

Since I’m only home on the weekends, we see to it that we prepare dishes that our family will enjoy. Hence, on one weekend, we made Kare-Kare. My sister has her own bagoong because she doesn’t like the kind that’s being purchased in ordinary markets. But I always believed that it’s really up to you on how you cook your bagoong. That way, you could make it to your own taste and liking.

Here’s my family’s own version of Kare-Kare.


1kb Pata (cut into smaller portions)
String beans
Peanut butter
Garlic, a cup of water, salt (fish sauce if you want)
Powdered atsuete (half a teaspoon will do, just to add color)


My family's Kare-Kare recipeHeat the pan with a few table spoons of cooking oil. Saute the pata in garlic and atsuete powder. If you don’t want to use atsuete, then you can omit that. Put the cup of water and let the meat simmer until it’s tender. Halfway through the cooking process, put in the string beans, since they will take time to cook. When the meat and string beans are tender, put in the peanut butter. On this I can’t be specific because the amount of peanut butter is really up to your taste. Some people like a lot of peanut butter, while others would opt for a milder taste. I suggest you take a separate bowl, get some sauce from your dish, then mix a few teaspoons of peanut butter. You can always add if you think you need more.

After adding the peanut butter, you can add in the pechay and eggplant. Salt or fish sauce is necessary but you DON’T need to put a lot, since you’ll be using bagoong later. I just want you to season it well because food spoils easily when they’re not seasoned right. Let it simmer for a few minutes, or until the eggplants are cooked, then you can serve it with white rice. If you’re on a diet, then maybe half a cup or rice will do?


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.

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 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


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.