Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tsokolate (Filipino Hot Chocolate) 101

Filipinos look forward to Noche Buena, the night-before-Christmas dinner feast when families get together, take pictures (for Facebook, haha) and eat, eat and eat again. Little kids run back and forth to their moms pleading, "Now? Can we open our gifts now?!" while the adults arrange toasts and eat some more. It's pretty much like thanksgiving dinner; the only difference is that Noche Buena is  a dinner after dinner that's held usually close to midnight or after the 9 p.m. Christmas mass.

When our Kulinarya group decided that this month's theme is to share a Noche Buena recipe, a plethora of traditional recipes came parading in my mind. Ham? Well, my father-in-law usually prepares that, and I haven't even made my own homemade recipe yet. Chicken barbeque? I've shared my recipe for chicken barbeque already. The same goes for Sotanghon. I wanted to share something very special to me, like my late father's stuffed chicken but then I remembered that's what I shared on last year's Kulinarya post...  then I thought of sharing with you a holiday drink associated with Christmas which is tsokolate (rich and thick hot chocolate).

Tsokolate eh (cho-koh- lah-teh - eh) or tsokolate-ah (cho-koh-lah-teh-ah) sound like tongue twisters but they are actually two types of a hot chocolate drink in the Philippines.  The former is thicker and richer in texture, while the latter is watered down.  It's usually served in a cupita like the ones shown below. 

This hot chocolate drink is made of cacao balls, which are readily available in local markets in the Philippines.  Imagine my delight when I found a jar filled with cacao balls from my hometown in my  brother in law's pantry in Orlando. Benedict also had different sets of cupitas and batidor (wooden stirrer) to boot. It brought me back to my hot chocolate sipping days with these tiny cups!  But until now I don't know why these cups are so small .  You bet, a cupita is not enough for me haha.

To get an authentic texture, we need a batidor, which is used to make foam and froth.

For this holiday drink, we need 3 cups of milk. Then add cacao balls (normally 5-6 balls depending on whether  you want to make tsokolate-eh or tsokolate-ah). add sugar to taste.  Use the batidor by twirling  it between your hands like so...

Since it's Christmas (who would be thinking of calories and diet at this time of the year, right?) I will be serving my rich chocolate drink not in cupitas but in my Christmas cups... and to add a holiday twist, add whipped cream and cinnamon.  Stir and indulge!

 Maligayang Pasko (Merry Christmas!)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pan De Sal (Filipino Bun)

I'm glad you enjoyed the first baking lesson I posted, which I also enjoyed learning from my aunt, Nana Ming.  Now if you missed the first lesson I suggest you scroll down to the previous post and check out Nana Ming's Classic Custard Cake.  It is definitely worth checking out.

For our next lesson, Nana Ming shows us how to make pan de sal (Filipino Bun).  Pan de sal is very much a part of a Filipino breakfast meal or merienda (mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal).  You could have it plain, to dip it in your coffee or tsokolate (hot chocolate) or as a sandwich, the sweet roll filled with your favorite sandwich filling. 

I'm sure most Filipinos have their own pan de sal favorite:  Some spicy Spanish sardines on pan de sal during a rainy day maybe?  Or condensed milk (which is finger-licking good) between the pandesal on a lazy Sunday afternoon... oh how about the soft pan de sal with creamy luscious macapuno ice cream, especially good on a hot summer day.

This versatile bun is sold in every corner bakery in the Philippines. The fresh rolls are packaged in a brown bag, and the scent of freshly baked bread that sneaks out from the bag is delightful. What makes our Filipino bun different is the crusty and powdery top, while at the same time having it soft and fluffy on the inside. And when it's warm and freshly baked... ahh it's definitely like a hug from home.

Before I share with you the recipe, let me thank Nana Ming for sharing it and thanks to my cousin Gigi too.  Gigi actually sent me the video taken during the actual lesson, a portion of it I'm sharing below.  Thank you Gigi for painstakingly recording  and sending me the clips part by part.

Nana Ming's Pan De Sal
Let's get ready with our ingredients.  I grouped and labeled the ingredients together to avoid confusion.  But no worries you'll have hot pan de sal in no time.
    For the yeast mixture:
            1 tbsp of dry yeast
            1 1/3 c (316 ml) luke warm water
            1 1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) sugar
   Then for the milk mixture
             2 eggs
      1/2 cup ( 118 ml) warm milk

Flour mixture 
     3 1/2 cups (480 grams) all purpose flour (unsifted)
     1/4 cup (32 grams) sugar
      1/3 (43 grams) cup melted butter

 Additional Flour Mixture
1/4 (32 grams) cup bread flour
 1 tablespoon(10 ml) melted butter

Bread Crumbs
1/4 (32 grams) cup bread crumbs

Mix all the ingredients of the yeast mixture and leave it for 5-8 minutes.
In a bowl, mix the eggs and milk.  Check the yeast mixture, if the yeast mixture has bubbles
then the yeast is active.  If there are no bubbles, repeat procedure number 1.

Add the yeast mixture and the second and third group together.  Mix well.
Gradually add the addition flour mixture to the well kneaded dough.
Cover the bowl and place it inside a pre heated oven 180 deg. for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 2 balls.  Roll each piece into a log.
Slice it diagonally into 8-10 slices for each log.  Slice a little dent on top.  Slightly drench it
with bread crumbs. I suggest you watch the video below:

Arrange the bread in a  pan.  

Leave the pan for another 30 minutes inside the warm oven (180 degrees F).

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Re-create the pan de sal moment at home... it will surely define a happy breakfast meal.

For my next post, I will share with you what's on that tiny cup beside the basket of pan de sal... til my next post!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nana Ming's Classic Custard Cake

Nana Ming is my mom's sister who at 83 is still passionate about baking.  On our recent reunion, her daughter Gigi showed us pictures of elegant cakes she created for her grandchildren's weddings and other special occasions. In her sheepish way, she cupped her face with her hands and said, "sometimes I don't believe that I made them."

That of course is an understatement.

Nana Ming has always been a good baker. I still could picture a cake she created that resembled the tiles of mahjong. It was so beautiful I could still vividly visualize it, even if this was many years ago. As a kid, I always looked forward to spending summers and holidays at their house as it was filled with a sweet scent coming from freshly baked goodies. Home made Food for the Gods (dates and nuts bars) covered in bright red and green cellophanes, buttery ensaymada (Filipino brioche)  adorn her kitchen like fixtures (though it would disappear fast haha). This is Nana Ming's endearing way to make you feel a sense of comfort in her home. The scent, the taste and the feel of a freshly baked bread evoked a sense of warmth and love.
(This recipe is now featured on my You Tube Channel)

When she moved to Canada, we missed her baking a lot.  But her staples such as pan de sal (Filipino bun) and custard cake left an indelible mark in our minds... fortunately we were able to squeeze in some lessons when we had a chance to spend a few days together in Orlando.

Beaming her usual sweet smile she says that she loves teaching family and friends on how to bake. Her love for baking was contagious.  I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I was when this golden silky flan with chiffon cake was turned upside down.  I myself beamed a wide smile as nothing beats the feeling of seeing a perfectly made cake. Like her, I would be so happy if I will be able to share with you:

Nana Ming's Classic Custard Cake

For the caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/2 c water

For the custard:
3 egg yolks
1 can condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk

For the cake
5 egg yolks
2 1/4 c cake flour
3/4 c sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 c of water with any flavoring, mocha or orange juice (I used vanilla)

For the meringue
8 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a heavy sauce pan, combine sugar  and water. Do not stir.  On medium heat, caramelize sugar  until it turns golden brown.  Immediately pour it over a 9 inch baking pan. Set aside.

For the custard: Mix all ingredient together.  Stir lightly using a whisk.  Strain and pour it over to the caramelized pan. Set aside.

For the cake:
Sift together all the dry ingredients.  Beat the eggs and gradually add the dry ingredients and the flavored water.  Set aside.

For the meringue:  Using a stand mixer , beat the eggs whites until fluffy and add cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks begin to form.  Gradually add sugar and continue beating until it becomes stiff.

Fold the cake mixture into meringue mixture, until it is well blended.  Make sure to eliminate any bubbles in the process.

Slowly pour into the pan.  Bake in a baine marie for about an hour or until firm.  Let it cool.  Run a knife around the pan and turn it upside down.

You will be delighted to see a golden, silky flan cake... enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ybanag Longanisa

Has it been really almost a week since my last post?  Please don't give me that face... but you see I've been busy with the kids and my brother who spent a week with us here in St. Louis. But no worries, I'll make it up to you by sharing with you a special delicacy from my home town.... Longanisang Tuguegarao or Longanisang Ybanag.

Longanisa is very much a part of Filipino breakfast.  Just like chorizos or sausages, it has its different variations depending on where you are from.  My hometown of Tuguegarao boasts its own version of longanisa. You may find it very similar to that of Vigan longanisa; tangy, salty, garlicky, and cooked on its own rendered fat.  You could either make it crunchy by toasting or frying  or once cooked leave it soft with its silky casing and its juices and flavors will burst in your mouth when you bite it.

On my recent trip to Orlando, Benedict, my brother in law made some longanisa.  It was definitely a hit especially for all of us who miss our town's famous longanisa.  He served it one breakfast morning and you should have seen how surpirsed my aunts and his cousins were when they saw a whole batch of longanisa on a big platter.  They looked so authentic  like it was flown from Tuguegarao! I'd like to thank him for sharing with us the step by step process and also for showing us his improvised funnel (so practical and so classic of him-- haha!) 

Let's start with ingredients: 

2-3 lbs of coursely ground pork 
1 tbsp ground pepper
7 cloves garlic, chopped  (you may add or lessen the amount depending on how much garlic you want)
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp cane vinegar (if you could find sukang iloco the better; you may add more if you'd prefer a tangy mixture)
1 1/2 tbsp oil cooked with achuete
hog casing (he bought it from a local meatshop)
cooking twine 

Mix all the ingredients together.  Remember not to over mix it as you want to retain its course texture.

This is the funnel that he used; an improvised funnel with the use of the top of a water bottle.  The mouth of the water bottle is just perfect to make the process of filling the casing so much easier.

Fill-up the casing like so...

Tie the ends of each longanisa ...

One of the "secrets" to Longanisang Tuguegarao or Longanisang Ybanag is to air dry it.  Now for the other "secrets" the pork should contain fat and should be coursely chopped.  Also the vinegar should be sukang iloko or  if it's white vinegar, use a good brand such as Datu Puti and lastly, there should be plenty of garlic.

Once dry, store in the freezer or if you can't wait like me, cook it by rendering its fat; add a minimal amount of water., let it simmer until its fat is rendered.

Serve with garlic rice and egg... with sides of fresh tomatoes and a dipping sauce of vinegar... ENJOY!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy thanksgiving

I wanted a fancy spread for my Thanksgiving post.  Perhaps a round up of my previous posts just like what you see in other blogs...

But oh well, I've been busy in the kitchen, and my kids are all here now, so all I want to do is spend every minute I can to be with them.

But then again, Thanksgiving is not all about a fancy spread, it's all about being grateful for all the blessings...

and so I am grateful for the wonderful gifts of family and friends... and to all of you who visit my site regularly I'd like to extend my heartfelt appreciation.

I am grateful for simple joys like the scent of freshly baked almond mini tarts wafting from the kitchen... while enjoying the warmth of being with my family.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. May you find joy and happiness this holiday season...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Destination: Orlando

I'm in Orlando right now, and yes I'm having too much fun time!  I know you would be thinking Disneyworld or Islands of Adventure or the other water parks Orlando is famous for, but no, the highlight of my stay is the overwhelming joy of being with family and friends.

The Disney song "Making Memories" is in my head as we write our own.  Our magical adventure began when the garage door at my sister's house opened and saw my Mom, aunt and my brother who came from the Philippines.  It is as spellbinding as stepping into Main Street USA in Disneyworld.   I was enveloped in sheer happiness when I hugged my mom for the first time in awhile. Her face lit up and there were no signs of being tired from the 26 hour long flight. The cheery and oftentimes loud hellos and tight hugs that go with every person arriving one after the other (mom's sisters from Canada) to attend my sister's 20th wedding anniversary celebration. My sister's house is instantly transformed into a bed and breakfast inn, its halls murmur so much fun and excitement.  I watch in marvel as my mom and her sisters  gather around as they tell their never ending stories; their smiling  eyes  lend a window of the world I have not seen. These moments are truly as magical as watching the Disney Parade.  I listen to their animated stories that are engaging and often times hilarious.  The echoes of their laughter that vibrate all throughout the house, enthrall me like sparks of fireworks at the end of the day.  Now in their aging years,  their love and support to each other never faded.  Indeed it warms my heart seeing my mom having a great time with her sisters like old times.

One morning I woke up to their (loud) "whispers"  and the aroma of toasted garlic coming from the kitchen downstairs.  The scent caressed my nose that it got me out from the snuggles of my bed even if it was way too early.  I learned later that my aunt started cooking at 4 am, her congee (rice porridge) that I wanted to try.  I thought she didn't hear my request, as the chorus of their voices drowns my voice.  But the bowl was just soothing to wake up into... a spoonful hits the spot as an early morning meal...And so for this month's Kulinarya I share with you:

Nangnang's Congee

1 chicken breast
1 cup jasmine rice
shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 cups soup stock (add more as needed)
1 medium onion, quartered
1 thumb sized ginger, peeled


Boil chicken breast in a stockpot. Scoop out the chicken and set aside.   Using the same stockpot, add onions and ginger.  Add rice.  Let it boil then reduce heat to medium and let it simmer.  Add shitake mushrooms.  Continue to simmer until rice is mushy.

Meanwhile, shred the chicken breast and add it to the rice mixture.  Season with fish sauce and pepper. Dash some sesame oil.
Serve hot.

For garnish:

Sprinkle some toasted garlic, ground crispy pork rind (chicharon) sliced green onions. And boiled eggs.

Squeeze some fresh calamansi or lime.


This has been my Kulinarya contribution for this month's theme of arroz caldo.  Visit all the other Kulinarya Members to check out their posts.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crispy Dinuguan

Friends and family who visit the Philippines, rave about their dining experience at a popular restaurant in Manila called Kanin Club.  The restaurant is known for their modern take on Filipino dishes.  One of the dishes that's wildly talked about is the Crispy Dinuguan. Dinuguan is a savory dish of pork belly mixed with pork blood simmered with vinegar which I posted here  before.  But it seems as though pork belly wasn't enough cholesterol booster so they had to put it a notch higher by deep frying it!    

When I heard about the dish,  I just knew that I had to try it... but yes with my cholesterol pill on the side LOL!  They say that it's basically like a lechon kawali (crispy pork belly) with dinuguan so what I basically did was to marry them both and voila! Crispy Dinuguan indeed!

For the dinuguan recipe click here .
For the lechon kawali click here.

When the dinuguan is cooked, I mixed some lechon kawali bits, let it simmer for a few minutes just enough for the flavor from the fried pork to fuse with the dinuguan.  Set aside some lechon kawali pieces for toppping, so that it would remain it's crispy-ness when eaten.

I haven't been to Kanin Club (it's in my bucket list when I go home to the Philippines)  but this bowl of dinuguan goodness was the star of the dining table when we had it.  YUM!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fall Inspired: Fried Pork Chop (Chuletas) with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I watched from my balcony a flock of birds that appears from nowhere, descends from the clear blue skies and then just as  swiftly disappears between the trees.  The trees move, shaking its glowing orange and red leaves while some brown ones fall off from the branches and swoop into the ground in a comely manner.  I'd imagine them waltzing with the light breeze with grace and poise.  Accepting these as little miracles that feed the spirit comes natural with the beauty that surrounds us.  

Like artists and designers, food bloggers  mimic the colors and the rhythm  of the season.  You see a plethora of food posts featuring the spectacular hues of fall: amber, orange, yellow and gold.  I turned my inspiration on a plate by making my childhood favorite of golden brown breaded pork chops we call Chuletas with sides of mashed sweet yams and buttered green beans.  If you grace your table with an inspired plate, the smiles and the "thumbs up" come naturally too... :) 

Happy Monday everyone!

Chuletas (Breaded Pork Chop)

4-6 pcs.  pork chops
saltt and pepper 
1 cup flour
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 cup bread crumbs
cooking oil

Season  pork chops with salt and pepper.   Slightly coat  pork chops with flour.  Then dip in egg mixture.  Press pork chops in bread crumbs, patting to make a thick coating. And oh, I love making homemade bread crumbs using odds and ends of breads. Simply toast the bread, tear them into pieces, then put them in the blending jar (I/m smitten with my immersion blender-- I find it really handy and easy to clean). Then a few whirls until you achieve the perfect texture. Add herbs and spices voila it makes a lot of difference than store bought!) 

In a large skillet fry the chops in medium heat.  After five minutes or until the chops turned golden brown, turn it and fry the other side for another 4-5 minutes.  Let meat stand for 5 minutes before serving.

For the Mashed Sweet Yams.  Simply boil 2-3 pcs of sweet yams.  When it's soft enough, discard water and let it cool.  Peel the yams and put it on a mixing bowl.  Add a third cup of  and chicken broth and again using the immersion blender (I told you I love this gadget!) mash the yams until you've achieved your desired texture. Season with sea salt, butter (go ahead indulge!!!) and a pinch of cinnamon.   

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Squash Bloghop: Squash Curry

Inspired by the numerous posts on the Squash Bloghop event (#squashlove), I was compelled to cook kalabasa (squash) again.  Well it's actually my first time to cook kalabasa as a veggie dish. I've used this in previous posts to make sweets.  Having grown up in the Northern Philippines, I've always associated kalabasa as part of a veggie dish, i.e. pinakbet.  I don't usually cook this popular veggie dish.  First, I don't really care for it (or for most veggies for that matter) and second, it's quite challenging to slice the veggie/fruit.  But upon reading everyone's post for this month's bloghop, off to the lab, aka kitchen, I went and started my own kalabasa experiment.

First, I microwaved the whole kalabasa.  That  instantly solved the problem of slicing the veggie/fruit, as slicing it into halves was made a lot easier. The knife ran through it without much effort. I removed the hairy strings and seeds and microwaved it further to make sure it was cooked. Then I blanched some string beans.  Traditionally in the Philippines kalabasa is paired with string beans.  It's  either sauted or cooked with coconut milk.

Then I poured over some curry sauce (actually it was from chicken curry left over)  But for the curry recipe you may click here.  And the result was a beautiful trio of flavors!

The squash curry was ready in less than 20 minutes. ..
We enjoyed a veggie dish that went well with our fried fish for dinner.  YUM! 

November is #squashlove month! (thank you Junia of Mis Pensiamentos for this fun event, the love is infectious and you could tell by the trail of all the squash links here!)

Please join the #squashove fun by linking up any squash recipe from the month of November 2011. Don't forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to come stop by the #squashlove event! The twitter hashtag is #squashlove. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

simple homecooked chicken: estofadong manok (chicken stew)

"How come when I cook, it doesn't taste as good as this?" my husband asked me over dinner.

"Uh, I have a secret ingredient" I said.


"I  add tons of LOVE"  I said in jest.

Shaking his head he said: "Never mind, I just want to tell you that you have a knack for turning a simple home cooked meal such as this look so special" 

So let me share with you what  my husband calls: simple homecooked meal that look so special... but where  I come from this dish is what we call Estufadong Manok:


1 whole chicken or leg quarters
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 onion quartered
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
3-4 tbsp white wine (cane vinegar is used traditionally)
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1 stalk celery
2 medium sized carrots
2 medium potatoes, sliced
3 bay leaves
black pepper and salt to taste


Marinate chicken overnight with soy sauce, lemon and pepper.  (You could also shorten this part by marinating  it for 30 minutes  and it should be fine. (Left over Rotisserie Chicken works perfectly for this dish too)

In a pan, brown the potatoes and carrots.  Set aside.  In the same pan, brown  chicken quarters, set aside.  Saute garlic and onions, put back the chicken quarters.  Add a dash of pepper and 2-3 bay leaves.  Give it a quick stir. Add the soy sauce, white wine or vinegar, and chicken stock,Make sure to deglaze the pan.  Those brown bits add flavor.  You may add the celery at this time and throw in some carrots (leave some for later).  Now all you have to do is simmer  it for 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked.  Bring back the potatoes and carrots until they are cooked. To thicken the sauce, add bread crumbs until you've achieved a slightly thick gravy like sauce.  Enjoy!

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