Friday, May 31, 2013

Grilled Stuffed Squid - Pinoy Style

Summer is here.

We try to take advantage of the summer months - spending more time outdoors - and this includes firing up the grill on weekends. I love the smell of the freshly lit charcoal or of the newly ignited gas grill with briquettes and lava rocks. The aroma quickly sets the mood for fun, casual, easy dinners. A few of my favorites to put on the grill include steaks, barbecue chicken, Filipino barbecue pork (the one on a stick) and seafood. And the fresh catch of the day could be red snapper, grouper, golden pompano, shrimp or squid... yes SQUID!

Grilled squid is a Filipino specialty. Served throughout the country, mostly during happy hour, it is a classic "pulutan" or appetizer/bar food. From roadside joints that serve food and beer (cases upon cases of them) to classy restaurants in the city, it can be served in a variety of ways, but yet "inihaw na pusit" is always a fave.  

Preparing grilled squid had been hit or miss for me. Once you overcook the squid, it will be as hard as rubber - and if you undercook it, you get a hot, watery mess.

So I adapted a technique for stuffed squid - filling the squid with a mixture of celery, tomatoes, red onions, ginger (drizzling the vegetable mix with olive oil) and seasoning the squid with salt and pepper - then wrapping it in foil generously coated with oil.

The result is perfectly cooked stuffed squid.  It's perfect to the bite with a little sweet flavor complemented with the smokey notes from the char. So are you ready to fire up the grill? Try grilling stuffed squid for a change. Happy weekend!

Grilled Stuffed Squid
2 large squid cleaned.
salt and pepper to taste
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 thumb sized ginger, pressed then thinly sliced.
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil


Season the squid with salt and pepper. In a bowl, toss the the stuffing mix. Drizzle some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the squid with the mix. Put back the tentacles and secure it with toothpicks.  
On a flat surface, drizzle some olive oil and generously coat the foil. Cover the squid with foil.
Grill for about 6 minutes on each side. Let it cool.  
Slice the squid and transfer to a serving plate. Serve with a soy-based dipping sauce (Mix 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp soup stock, 1 tbsp sugar, chopped onions, lemon juice, chopped green onions and Thai chilies).

*Photo credits go to: TonyNievera Photography.

Monday, May 27, 2013

It Feels Like Home | Papa Tony's Adobo Fried Rice Omelette

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

So the saying goes. But not all things in Vegas must remain here. My husband and I come here to be with family. And warm hugs immediately greet us when my brothers-in-law and niece meet us at the baggage claim area of the airport. Being around family and the familiar environment makes Las Vegas our second home.

Family is all about the joy of spending time together - enjoying the fun evenings reminiscing over food, wine and beer... and conversing continuously until the plates are empty and the glasses need to be refilled. It’s all about telling the stories accumulated over the years, trying to catch up with what everyone else is now into and trying to squeeze it all in over just a few days. In the end, it’s all about belonging - and knowing that even though we no longer live under the same roof, we will always remain connected.

So the first morning of our reunion, while my husband and I start to prepare breakfast, Papa Tony joins us and declares I'm going to make Adobo Fried Rice Omelette. And as the original foodie in the family, he gets mis en place like a pro.

You could either shred or slice the adobo he says.

He pours the scrambled 3 eggs mixture that he seasons with salt and pepper over a butter lathered pan. Cooks it through for about 3 to 5 minutes on a low to medium fire.

He then prepares his adobo fried rice using the adobo that I cooked the day before. (Pour the adobo slices then add a day old rice.  Sprinkle some garlic powder and sliced green oinons)

He assembles the omelette like so...

And then voila... the Adobo Fried Rice Omellet is ready.

This plate of Adobo Fried Rice Omelette with a side of tomato-cilantro salsa made us feel right at home...And it's more fun that we get to do this in Vegas.  :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Postcards | Ifun Fish Cake with Chili Mango Slaw

Friends provide comfort. 

Old friends serve like postcards from home.  And like postcards, they bring forth warmth, joy, laughter and memories. Yes, memories! And at my age I have tons and tons of them. So when I spent the weekend with some of my high school friends, 48 hours was not enough to cover the 20 years of catching up we had to do.  And every minute counts.

"Well aren't we going out?" our host Bonni asked us while we were enjoying our coffee. "There are so many places to see here in Chicago..." he suggested.  But he still hadn't convinced us - we remained skeptics, unwilling to abandon the time-travelling we did through our stories about years past. Instead, we were content to gather around the dining table, filling the room with our boisterous laughter, reliving stories upon stories that transpired a few decades ago.

"If that's the case, I'll cook some Ifun [ee-foon]"  he said again. But this time - he caught our attention.

I don't know what it's called in Tagalog (or even in English) but Ifun, is something we Ibanags eat.  Sold in the local markets in small tubs, the small fish with the big beady eyes reminds me of home.  Bonni insisted it's called Silver Fish, and yet another food blogger Market Manila says it's dulong in tagalog.  I am still not sure of its common name, but what I know is that our hosts Priscilla and Bonni served a delightful brunch and this his how the morning spread was presented:

I was mesmerized... the last time I've seen this dish was more than 20 years ago.  So in my head I was trying to create a new dish, and my friend Melo noticed it immediately.  And in true high school peer pressure fashion, I succumbed to their suggestion that I should go to the kitchen and create something.  My new dish is what I call Ifun Fish Cake with Chili Mango Slaw.

Ifun Fish Cake with Chili Mango Slaw
This recipe comes in two parts.  The first part is Bonni's Ifun and the the second part is my take on the dish.  

2 cups of Ifun (silverfish; dulong, you could also use any other fish flakes)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 thumb size ginger finely chopped
1 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 egg, slightly beaten


Heat the pan for a minute then add the olive oil. Saute onions, ginger and tomatoes. Add the ifun (or flakes). Keep tossing until the liquid is reduced to almost dry.  Add the slightly beaten egg.  Stir them together and voila... it's ready.

Now for the second part, all you have to do is add one more slightly beaten egg.  Mix together with panko bread crumbs.  Add parsley flakes.  Form a patty and bake the patty for about 10 minutes in 375 degrees oven.

For the mango slaw:  Mix together, sliced mangoes, sliced scallions and sliced tomatoes.(You may also add chopped cilantro)  Set aside.  Mix together 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1/3 cup vinegar, sliced onions, 1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger, 1/2 tsp of chili garlic sauce, salt and pepper and sugar  to taste.  Drizzle a little sesame oil.  You may add chopped Thai Bird's Eye Chili. Toss the mango slaw together.  Enjoy!

To Bonni, Priscilla, Ian, AJ and Milena, thank you so much for the warm hospitality.  You guys made us feel so at home, we feel that we have a second home in Chicago!

and thank you Melo for taking the time to be with us... Sa uulitin!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Aloha Pork

I'm in an ALOHA state of mind.

Nope, I'm not going to Hawaii.  But Aloha - as it is commonly used - is a greeting to say "hello" and also to mean "goodbye".  And that's how it's going to be around here. The next few weeks will be filled with lots of warm hugs  and  ::::waving:::: alohas: kids coming home from college, family reunions, high-school mini reunion, celebrations and back to back out of town trips. Did I say reunions?  Oh yes, those definitely bring forth a magnitude of excitement and joy!

Certainly, it's going to be a different rhythm... fast, fun and yes crazy know the drill. So at times like these I need to turn to my handy dandy chop-drop-cook  meals... and you bet this Aloha Pork falls under this category.  It's easy and simple yet the dish will certainly bring smiles to the table!  Aloha!

Aloha Pork

2  lbs pork (cut into cubes)
3.4 c ketchup
1/2 c pineapple juice
1/2 c sprite
1 c pineapple chunks (or you could use pineapple slice)
2 tbsp brown sugar (optional: if you want the dish on the sweeter side)
1 whole onion (chopped)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 c water
3 cloves garlic (minced)
salt and pepper to taste

As I've said this falls under my chop-drop-cook.  So basically all you have to do is chop everything up, Drop them in a stockpot and cook.  The sauce should be reduced until it becomes thick.  If the pork is not cooked yet, add 1/2 c water until pork is tender and cooked through.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Weekend Rhythm

I love Saturdays! And Sundays as well...

Saturdays start the weekend off with a whiff of java coming from the kitchen as the morning rises. My heart skips upon realizing that my husband is up and is busy in my turf- the kitchen.  How my heart dances with the rhythm of the sound of a sizzling pan, running water, the clicking of plates and often times the low tone of my husband's humming.

With the sun peering through the windows I tiptoe to the kitchen and I see the breakfast spread. I just love the idea of him doing the cooking... on weekends, I'm disarmed.

Let me enjoy the moment.

When I see the pile of plates I run away as fast as I can, at least this is what I do in my head... I'm ready to take back the role of chef and get my hubby back to cleaning up my mess. It's at this point where my Saturday rhythm slows down...

But a few weeks ago, I got a letter from Allison, who is promoting Finish Power Gel dish washing detergent and she says:

Hi Malou,

We’d like to challenge you and your readers to wake up to a shinier morning with the Finish Rise and Shine Challenge! Voted Product of the Year, Finish® Quantum® with New Power Gel is Our Best Shine Ever- without having to pre-rinse. Its breakthrough technology activates each cleaning ingredient when it’s needed during the cycle, so all you have to do is sit back and relax.

Although her email was more of a marketing tool, her message stuck with me. I was ready to take the challenge. So remember the tower of plates and pans my husband used this weekend?  All I did was put them in the dishwasher without any rinsing. Normally I would pre-rinse, but this time I just loaded them in the dishwasher like so:

I was a skeptic I tell you, but here's the result:

Let's look again...

It seemed magical.  NO tricks, NO gimmick.  Finish New Power Gel amazingly cleaned the dishes and you are looking at the actual results. 

I danced my Weekend Rhythm again soon after.


Full Disclosure Statement:  I was compensated by Finish for performing the challenge.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Memories... Happy Mother's day!

How do you profess your love to your mom when she is more than 8,000 miles away?

You see bridging that gap, I have developed a kind of sixth sense that is part memory - remembering my most treasured moments with her, and part imagination - wishing I'm with her and forgetting about the distance between us.  Mixing these two parts in my head has allowed me to cope with being so far away from my Mama.

It's mother's day where she is right now, (as the Philippines is 12 hours ahead of St. Louis). So I remembered this photo I took during my last trip.  A photo of her reading the newspaper while she relaxes in a hammock at the farm - a candid yet poignant photo. That's her, in all her simplicity...

That afternoon, I cannot forget the plate of deko (or biko in Tagalog, rice cake in English), her favorite afternoon snack... it's so simple yet accurately makes me recall home.  We both enjoyed the whole tray of rice cake that I almost didn't have enough for the pictures below... Oh but we enjoyed the moment - of just being there... hanging out... eating bite after bite, story after story.  The moment comes to me clear as I stare at the photo... wishing I was there again to enjoy the deko - and to just be with her.

To my Mama, Happy Mother's Day!  I know our love transcends time and distance, you are here in my heart forevermore.

Deko Fondue (Biko con Tsokalate;Rice Cake Fondue)

2 cups sweet rice, 
1/2 can coconut milk 
3 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
2 cans coconut milk
3/4 c brown sugar (you could add more if you want it sweeter)


Cook sweet rice by filling up a stockpot with coconut milk and water. Pour the rice and cook for about 20  minutes or until the rice is fully cooked. Set aside.

Meanwhile let's make the coconut crumbs that we Filipinos call latik. Latik is the residue formed from the reduction of coconut milk.  Just pour the whole can of coconut milk in a thick saucepan.  Bring it to boil and continue to stir until most of the liquid has evaporated.  The milk will begin to change its color to slight brown and begin to solidify.  Set aside half of the latik and leave the other half on the pan. At this point add the brown sugar.  Continue to stir until the sugar caramelizes.  Once it has caramelized, And stir in the cooked sweet rice until every grain is lathered with caramelized coconut mixture.

Press on a pan.  Sprinkle the coconut crumbs. Let it cool.  Slice into squares when served.

I have posted a Tsokolate-eh here before.  You could add more chocolate balls or tablea to make a thicker chocolate dip.   Enjoy!

Happy Mother's day to all the moms out there. Special shout out to my mother in law, Mama Bernie for being there for me and my husband through all these years... We love you Mama B!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spicy Crispy Fried Chicken

If there's anything that screams EAT ME it is a plate of crispy fried chicken.

This is exactly what happened to me when I re-posted  my Fried Chicken A la Jollibee on my Facebook page.  The image of this all-time favorite Filipino-style chicken dish got stuck in my head.  And no matter how much I tell myself not to give in (as I am trying to clean up our diet) I crave for it... and continue to crave... and yes I still am CRAVING FOR  IT !

"I guess fried chicken is what's for dinner tonight", my husband cajoled me when I told him about my craving.

"But I have one request... can you make it spicy?" he queried.

His suggestion made me want IT even more!  Oh yes baby, spicy, crispy fried chicken is in the works.

Spicy, Crispy Fried Chicken
I  tweaked my recipe for Fried Chicken Ala Jollibee.  I ditched the five spice altogether and replaced it with Italian seasoning... and spiked it with layers of chili-goodness.

8-10 pcs chicken thighs and legs
salt and pepper
1 tbsp chili sauce

For the breading:
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 c flour
salt & pepper
1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 piece red chili (bird's eye chili or Thai chili), chopped

Marinate chicken with lemon and salt and pepper overnight or at least 30 minutes. Drizzle chili sauce before frying.

Fill a large skillet (cast iron is best) about  half full with vegetable oil. Heat until VERY hot... or better yet use a deep fry thermometer and fry chicken at 360 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, roll the chicken pieces on to the breading.
Shake off excess flour.
Drop  5-6  pieces into the hot oil.
Make sure there's enough space to stir the chicken.
Deep fry it until golden brown.
Drain the fried chicken.
It should be crispy golden brown like so

Here's my simple recipe for the gravy. You could adjust the consistency according to your own preference... but here's the basic recipe: toast 2 tbsp of the breading mix... when it's slightly brown, add 2 tbsp butter and stir... cook for 3-5 minutes. Pour a cup of soup stock. Stir continuously to avoid lumps. The gravy should start to thicken. Season with salt and pepper... and a dash of chili sauce.  You could even season with light soy if you want. Good luck.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pho-n Class | Griled Lemongrass Beef

Let me tell you - I am having so much fun lately teaching my Modern Asian Cooking Series.

You see, I have been all over St. Louis and its neighboring towns sharing the love for cooking Asian food.  I know a lot of people out there are intimidated cooking cuisines from different cultures... but the feedback I am getting from the cooking school managers and the participants themselves are encouraging, as more students sign up for my Modern Asian cooking classes.  

In my recent class in Dierberg's Edwardsville Il, I was so thrilled to see that students from my previous class came back to attend.  It's was fun to see them again.  There were two ladies that touched me the most, Sharon and Stella. I did not expect them to come back after my initial class but I am in awe that they are already signed up for my next class.  It makes me feel blessed.

"It's my first time to taste all these flavors and spices that you introduce in class.",  Sharon declares.

"We love attending your class because we learn so much not just on food but your culture as well", Stella proclaims.

It is such a pleasure to share something that for me seems so mundane, but for others it's something new and interesting. Something as simple as mincing lemongrass can be daunting for someone not familiar with this herb (or grass).  

Just like what Lisa (one of my Dierberg's Southroads students) said:  "I never used lemongrass before because who knew how to use a tall stem like that?"

So today I thought of sharing with you



1- 1.5 lb beef thinly sliced
2 tbsps fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalk of lemongrass, minced (How to mince lemongrass)
2 tbsp chili oil (optional)

Whisk all of the fish sauce and brown sugar and garlic together.When the brown sugar is dissolved, add the beef  and minced lemongrass.  Mix thoroughly. Grill the beef.  If you don't have a griller you may heat up a skillet,  when it's hot enough, place one layer of beef and pan fry each side.  You will hear it sizzle.

You should keep an eye on it as it carmelizes easily.  You may want the edges to be brown and crunchy but not burnt.  Add more minced lemongrass and minced garlic.  Give it a quick stir and voila, it's ready.

Transfer to a serving plate. Serve with the dipping sauce by mixing:
1/4 tsp siracha
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
juice from a large lime/lemon
1 clove minced garlic

Special thanks to those who attended my class... Cora, Donna, Lisa, Ann, Excy and Art and Fides and Rommel, Joel and Kathy! See you next month!

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