Sunday, November 28, 2010


Last week, I was at a local Filipino grocery looking for goat meat. The lady beside me commented that I didn't seem like a person who would be looking for goat meat.
I was confused. "What do you mean by that?" I asked politely.  But she answered me with yet another question.
"Which part of the Philippines are you from?" she asked
"I'm from Tuguegarao, Cagayan -- it's a province in the north." I answered.
"Ahh, now I understand" she said nonchalantly.

This was the moment when I realized that food connects us to where we come from, where we are currently at and where we intend to go. I'm certain it's not just northern Filipinos who eat goat meat. I do not have a craving for this dish, nor did I grow up having this as my favorite. Still, I have pleasant memories of how frantic my relatives would be with preparing and cooking this in our backyard. I will never forget the noise the goats would make when they were delivered to our house; my Papa's clients presented them to our family as gifts for my Papa's birthdays or for special occasions. I grew up under my Papa's wing, who would have goat meat included in his usual repertoire of "fiesta food."

Two years ago, I came back to my hometown -- and I immediately craved kaldaretang kambing (goat stew). After being away for 10 years, I was surprised at how my hometown had changed.  It is now more crowded and developed with new buildings and stores lining the streets.  Even at my parents' house things have changed.  Having a party at our home no longer had the whole house smelling like food.  My sister in law, who has a catering business, had been officially appointed as my Papa's official caterer and food consultant.  The spread changed; they had a different repertoire of food.  The food was no longer cooked in the backyard.

There was one exception to this change.  My husband took a side trip to my hometown during his business trip to Asia a few months ago.  He spent a day with my folks after not being able to visit them for 15 years.  Papa was so excited that he threw a big welcome party for him  He planned the menu himself and included several goat dishes as part of his menu.  He had the feast prepared using the old fashioned way.

My husband called me from Tuguegarao the morning of this feast. He said, "I woke up to the sound of goats!  Goats!" I laughed as I remembered the loud meeeahhhh's that would resonate throughout the house. I laughed knowing that what he was experiencing was what I experienced as a child.  My husband grew up in the city and never experienced something as "provincial" as having domestic animals prepared and cooked in the backyard.

I don't know what got into me that day when I bought goat meat. All I know is that I wanted to revisit my Papa's way of entertaining.  I wanted to revisit how he enjoyed having this dish, how he enjoyed sharing it with his friends over ice-cold beer or his Johnny Walker black. And how he planned the menu for my husband's party, which was going to be his last. Cheers to you Papa!

Kaldaretang Kambing (Goat Stew)

Goat meat (I bought the whole leg)
2 cans of tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
2 tbsps liver pate
green olives
pineapple chunks
green bell pepper
Olive oil or butter
Bay leaf
black pepper


In order to remove the gamy smell of the goat, marinate or wash the goat meat with vinegar.  Make sure to wash it thoroughly.   I then boiled the goat meat with herbs and spices, threw the first boil and boiled it again until tender.

In a saucepan, saute the goat meat with garlic, onions.  Add black pepper and bay leaf.  Let it simmer and reduced to almost dry.  Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Cook it on low fire until tender.  Add soup stock or water if the meat is not tender yet.

Add green olives, pineapple and green bell peppers.  Thicken it using liver pate.  Add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to enhance the taste.  You could also use butter if you prefer so.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

random thoughts on giving thanks

What am I thankful for this year?  Hmmm let me count the ways.

Thank you for my family... for friends... for a wonderful life... thank you for the laughter and smiles.  Thank you also for the faith... for the hope...  and yes LOVE!

Thank you for the music (sounds like an ABBA song haha!)  that makes me dance... for movies and sitcoms... for facebook and twitter for keeping us in touch...

Thank you for the tears... for the challenges... even for death and how it brought our families together and stronger than ever before.

Thank you for another year's worth of fun through food blogging  and thank you for holidays, because it gives us the reason to indulge on blissful desserts... like this sweet indulgence of having a slice of brazo de mercedes and enjoying it bite by bite...

And finally, thank you for allowing me to share the recipe with you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Ready to take a bite?  haha!

Brazo de Mercedes
Brazo de Mercedes is actually a rolled meringue with custard filling. When you bite into it, it's fluffy and sweet... It takes you to another level when you get to taste the custard filling... so velvety that melts in your mouth...

For the meringue:

10 egg whites
1 1/4 c of sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c of confectioner's sugar fordsting

For the filling 

1 c condensed milk
1 c evaporated milk
8 egg yolks
lemon zest (you could op to add the rind as well)


For the meringue

Preheat oven  to 400 degrees.  Beat the egg whites and the tartar together  until stiff.  Add the sugar gradually and the vanilla extract.  Do not overbeat   Spread the egg mixture on a large baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Bake until brown.

For the filling:

Mix all the ingredients and simmer it on a double broiler  Continue stirring until the mixture is reduced to a  thick and creamy mixture. Add the lemon zest and continue stirring.  

Spread the filling on the sheet of meringue and roll them together.  Bring it back to the oven and until the surface is slightly brown.  Sprinkle a generous amount of confectioners sugar.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

the morning has broken | breakfast tocino with fried rice (tosilog)

Her sobs were louder than the cacophony of metal parts slamming against each other as our train sped southwards heading for San Diego. She just got off her phone and in between sobs she explained that she got a phone call from her mom saying her brother passed away. 

Hearing her cry and talk about her loss made me remember my own.  The long train ride seemed shorter as she kept talking and sobbing at the same time.  She was behind me and I couldn't see her face yet I could feel her pain.  The lady beside her kept on talking and disrupting her to a point that I wanted to stop her, for I know there are no words to comfort her grief... and I know how it hurts to lose someone you love...

I wanted to tell her that I was exactly in her shoes two months ago when my father died... to hear her loss transported me back to that moment.  I leaned towards the window trying to control the thoughts reeling in my head.  I was ready to burst into tears but instead my eyes focused on the picturesque southern California sunset.  It made me remember what my sister told me when I had a crying spell with her.  She shared with me what the priest said in his homily using the sunset as a metaphor for death.  Seeing the sun slowly disappear into the Pacific made me realize the profound meaning of the metaphor.  The train ride home made me see the sun as it was slowly being tucked in... behind the cliffs and slowly beyond the horizon... its crimson rays gave a subtle warmth so comforting on a chilly November night...  until it faded away and night fell.

The truth is that's how I feel about my father's passing... I was by him as he lay in bed in a deep sleep for 20 days, heavily breathing, tirelessly holding on to life, which gave us hope.  Until his breathing became faint and he quietly passed away.  But amidst all the pain, my siblings and I saw the beauty of  my mom's unending love.  She sent him off with prayers and promises and whispers that only the two of them could understand. Their vow "til death do us part" in our eyes came alive... plus the six of us siblings had time to spend together, a very rare occurrence as we have our busy lives spread out over two continents with a time difference of  12 to 16 hours.  But we all came home.  We bonded together, comforting each other and promising Papa that we will take care of Mama... and of each other ... 

My family also had the opportunity to visit Papa in the hospital.  My husband and 3 kids were able to come home, fulfilling a promise that they would come back and visit... and if there's a good thing about this is seeing how my Papa was loved and respected by family and friends.  The extra care and attention that his medical team and the nuns running the hospital gave him, the constant influx of people showing up and sharing with us stories of how my Papa touched their lives and how they would come to him to seek his advice... simple gestures that gave us comfort. During the wake, people came with food... oh food, glorious food that I couldn't even count the calories I was eating... and how it was so comical even in between sobs, I would manage to eat and chew at the same time.  I thought that was a skill, haha.

No one is prepared to face the loss of a loved one, especially a parent.  I wasn't. I'm not even going to explain to you the pain of losing him.  And so I struggle and I begin to make things better.  Slowly.  I am accepting that he is gone yet learning to immortalize him in the precious memories he left behind, the wisdom that he shared and the beauty of the life he lived.

This morning as the sun crept slowly in our room, I knew that another day is dawning... I remember my Papa  would listen to his praise songs at dawn, closing his eyes, grateful that another day is here.  He woke up every morning with a prayer and looked forward to a new day..... you would hear him cajole my Mama to wake up and cheerfully greet her "Good Morning 'Mi"  like it was their first morning together. And if you didn't wake up on the right side of the bed, don't even dare show it to him, he will not be pleased, and you will hear him lecture you on the importance of having a good disposition in the morning.  I'm glad that this morning I'm in a good mood, something that he will be glad to see... and especially if I had this breakfast spread for him... I can hear him say his usual compliment, "DABADABEST!".  


Please refer to my old post Let's Talk Breakfast  wherein I discussed the components of what SILOG breakfast is all about.  For those who are familiar, this homemade tocino will surely perk your breakfast table... so let's begin


1 lb Pork thinly sliced (butterfly slices)
Pineapple juice
Cooking Sherry Wine
Sugar (add according to taste but I used about 1/3 c)
3 cloves of Garlic (minced)
Sea Salt (recommended that  you use sea salt) add to taste but I used 3/4 tbsp
Black Pepper to taste 
Red food coloring (optional) I used annato powder instead


Mix all the wet ingredients and marinate the pork overnight.  If short on time, you can also marinade it just before cooking.  

In a pan, put the marinated pork (with marinade) and add 1/4 c of water.  Let it simmer until it's reduced  and the sugar is beginning to caramelize.  Add  a spoonful of cooking oil to cook it further.  My family wants it a little burnt on the sides but I leave it up to you...  Voila, you're ready to enjoy a glorious breakfast.

It's best served with garlic rice and sunny side up eggs, with sliced tomatoes and spicy vinegar for dipping.

In order to get the authentic look of tocino, I added red food coloring.  It doesn't add any flavor, but I was content that I got the reddish look that tocinos are known for.

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