August 13, 2008



this dish is one of the family favorites. in our household, it is usually served together with lumpiang shanghai or simply fried fish (fried kabayas in particular). i remember when my brothers and i were little, my father would try and teach us how to use the chopsticks everytime this dish was served. thus, it has become a sort of family tradition that whenever tadtarin was serve, rice cups were used in lieu of plates and ivory chopsticks in lieu of spoons and forks.

i haven’t seen this dish served in restaurants or other household though i’m sure that tadtarin is not exclusive to our house menu. i just don’t know where the ‘tadtarin’ name comes from but a good guess is from the ground beef itself. i remember choleng (my yaya and our cook) would buy sirloin meat with a little fat or round bottom and have it minced with a butcher’s knife as oppose to being grinded in the meat processor. as a result, the minced beef meat is a bit chunkier than the ground beef you can buy in the supermarket. i will not be surprised though if the name for this dish was coined somewhere near my mother’s dirty kitchen or the family dining table.


1/2 kilo sirloin (or bottom round or pork lomo) minced or ground
6 pechay tagalog stalk cut into 1/2 inch length
4 siling mahaba
1 bunch sitaw cut into 3 inch length
2 medium sized tomato diced
1 liter water
1/2 medium sized onion cut lenghtwise
2 beef broth cubes
1 to 1 and 1/4 knorr tamarind cube
1 teaspoon patis
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

season your minced beef meat with salt and pepper and set aside for 30 minutes. in a large wok, saute onions, garlic and tomato in 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. stir in minced beef and let the meat simmer in low heat for about 5 to 8 minutes. add a liter of water, turn heat on to high and let it boil. add the 2 beef broth cubes once water is boiling and turn heat to lowest and let it simmer.

it used to be that the ‘paasim’ used in this dish and sinigang are tamarinds boiled in water and then mixed in the sinigang or tadtarin. but now that tamarind in cubes or in powder form makes cooking easier, use 1 to 1 1/4 of knorr tamarind cubes into the meaty broth, together with the 1 teaspoon of patis. let it simmer until meat is tender. adjust taste in the process and add the 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt. (it is preferable to use fresh tamarinds boiled in water as paasim as it lends the soup with a brownish color as against the pale soup if tamarind cubes are used.)

when meat is tender, add the sitaw and the siling mahaba. let it simmer for another 3-5 minutes or until the sitaw is half-way cooked. add in the pechay tagalog and let it simmer again for 3-5 minutes.

serve with lumpiang shanghai and hot plain rice.


note: for half a kilo of minced beef meat, you can use 1 sampalok in lieu of tamarind cubes. just place the tamarind after having covered the meat with water.


ampalaya con carne

August 5, 2008

mike enriquez say ampalaya is good for diabetes though bfad maintains no approved therapeutic claim. some say that ampalaya can help prevent and treat malaria. or ampalaya can stimulate digestion. some even say that ampalaya can help treat hiv infected patients.

whatever medicinal properties people attribute to this vegetable, ampalaya (or amargoso as it is called in our place) is simply a yummy treat regardless of its healing property. whether you stir-fry it with beef or saute it with onion, garlic and tomatoes and adding an egg along the way (the way you do it with burong mustasa), add it to your ginisang sardinas, add it in your paksiw na bangus (or bisugo) or by using it in the ilokano favorite – pinakbet, ampalaya always gives the dish an added twist or an enhanced flavor.

it is an acquired taste, though. this is largely due to its bitterness. but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find ampalaya to be a sweetie.


250 grams beef sirloin
1 medium size ampalaya
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 onion sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoon tausi (fermented black beans)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon patis (fish sauce)
1 beef cube
cornstarch mixture (1 part cornstarch, 1 part water)

ampalaya con carne is an easy dish to prepare. this is my version of it (some add ginger and some still sesame oil). you can start by carving your beef sirloin into small bite size pieces and seasoning it with salt and pepper. set it aside for 30 mins. heat wok and approximately 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. brown meat on slow fire. this time, cut the ampalaya into 2 1/2 inches. and then slice these 2 1/2 inches ampalaya into halves after which cut it into strips. make sure to peel the pith off (the white flesh) together with seeds.

now, add the garlic to the browning meat together with the onions. stir. cover meat with water and set heat on highest setting to boil. once boiling, set flame to low and simmer meat. add the tablespoon of oyster sauce, the fermented black beans or tausi and 1/2 teaspoon of patis. wait until the water is absorbed or has evaporated and all that is left is the oil. briefly saute beef in oil and cover meat again with water. set the flame to high once more to boil. set to low once boiling and simmer. add one beef cube. adjust taste with salt if need be.

at this point, prepare your cornstarch mixture. also, steam your ampalaya.

once water is reduced into a fourth of its original measure, stir in the cornstarch mixture until proper consistency is achieved. mix in the steamed ampalaya. turn off heat and place in a small casserole dish.


> if you lack the time to steam the ampalaya, just mix in the ampalaya just before you stir in the cornstarch. do not overcook the ampalaya.

>> make sure that you soak the fermented black beans in water before putting it in.

>>> you can also use mechado cut or beef cubes cut into strips in lieu of sirloin.

>>>> you can also use pork lomo instead of beef. since lomo is pork tenderloin, cooking time will be shortened into half. slice the lomo into strips. brown the meat. add in the garlic and the onions. saute for 3 minutes or so. add 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce once onions are limp. saute for another couple of minutes then add the fermented black beans and cover adequately with water. add the patis and let it simmer for about ten minutes before adding the ampalaya. once ampalaya is cooked but still firm, add in the cornstarch solution and stir. turn off the heat.

i got this recipe from fellow kabitenyo and kainuman doc roger. the atsara that i’m used to was the atsarang papaya that we all know and love. but once doc roger brought out a bottle of his pickled mangoes during one of our inuman sessions, i got to appreciate its novelty and delightfully piquant taste.

this particular recipe is different from what folks back home are used to. atsarang mangga is different from burong mangga. while the latter requires only mangoes, water and a little salt, the atsarang mangga is long on preparations. but once ready to eat, the preparations and the wait is all worth your while.


for the syrup:
(you may also use this syrup for atsarang papaya)

2 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons ginger juice
a dash of cayenne pepper
a dash of salt
>you can also add a bit of water if the syrup is too heavy.
>>for the ginger juice, you may use a garlic press to get the juice out of the ginger.

the rest:

unripe mango
sibuyas tagalog or shallots
green and red bell pepper
a jar or a 16oz bottle

first off is the syrup. in a saucepan, boil sugar and vinegar mix. add cayenne pepper and the ginger juice once sugar liquefies. set aside and let it cool.

once the syrup is cool, prepare all the other ingredients except for the unripe mango which we will save for last. peeled mangoes if left in the open for a while will have dark marks all over it. for the red and green bell pepper, slice pepper into half, seed it and slice diagonally. for the carrot, you can julienne it or slice it into round flowery objects. once everything is ready, peel the mangoes and slice it. slice both the cheeks off and slice the cheeks diagonally or longitudinally.

once everything is prepared and sliced, jar the mangoes and place the garlic, sibuyas tagalog and the sliced red and bell pepper (more of the green bell pepper than the red variety). once packed in the bottle, pour in the syrup using a funnel. put the lid on the bottle and set it aside for an hour or until the mangoes have partly absorbed the syrup. refill bottle with syrup and refrigerate. store for four or five days.

beef mechado

July 26, 2008

mechado was one of my favorite dishes when i was growing up. it was up there together with my all-time favorites – menudo, adobo, morcon and beef caldereta.

my yaya used to cook the best mechado (and so the best menudo, the best adobo, the best morcon and the best beef caldereta, naks!) that the taste of it lingered in my palate over the years. truly unforgettable. as i remember it right, she has four to five variations of mechado (all of it good!). there was one when she used a lot of tomatoes in lieu of tomato paste. another where she used double the dose of tomato paste which makes for a rich tomato-eey stew. variations of mechado also depend on the equipment used. she used to cook mechado using the pressure cooker, or if the pressure cooker was not working over slow fire using a thick pot or simply using the wok. but my favorite of all is the mechado over slow fire.

this recipe, i hope, approximates, if not equal, the recipe that my family and i were so used to when my yaya was still alive.


600 gms. beef kalitiran
1/3 cup pork fat (from kasim)
1/4 cup quickmelt cheese (magnolia or the queso brand)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 medium size onion chopped into tiny pieces
2 tomatoes, diced
3 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 beef broth in cubes (optional)


soy sauce
calamansi juice

1 wash meat and slice into cubes or into flat rectangles about an eight of an inch. marinate it overnight in soy sauce and calamansi juice.

2 in a wok, brown meat in oil. set aside. this time using the pot, saute garlic, onions and tomatoes (in oil used for browning the meat) for about a minute or two or until onions are soft and transluscent. blend in the meat and let it simmer in low heat for another couple of minutes while stirring occassionally. then cover the meat with water and turn heat on to high to boil. once boiling, add the beef broth cubes and turn the flame back to low heat and let it simmer for a while.

3 add the 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of sugar, the two tablespoons of tomato paste, the cubed pork fats and the bay leaves. stir. cover the pot and let it simmer (on low heat) for an hour. then add the cheese and let it simmer for half an hour more. if need be, add salt to taste.

place the mechado in a large fancy bowl, garnish it with some green leaves and voila! you have a meal!


>> if you bought kalitiran with fat all around it, which by the way is the yummiest, just skim the oil from the pot (after the dish is done, just place your hot dish rag under one side of the pot just to make it tilt so that the oil/grease will be concentrated on one side and thus easier to skim) and store it in your ref for use later with fried rice, beef tapa etc. (transfat galore!). you can also use sirloin beef for this dish.

>>>for best result, use an enameled iron pot or any thick bottomed calderos you can find in your kitchen.

If there is a dish that is so easy to prepare, quick to cook, taste fantastically and has great nutritional value, this is it!

I first fell in love with this dish when my brother ordered it for us in one of the few Chinese restaurants here in Cavite.

To prepare the dish, you have to put in two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Make sure that the oil is hot before putting in about a tablespoon and a half of chopped garlic. Don’t overdo the garlic. When the garlic is soft, let go of a half a teaspoon of iodized salt. Stir. Then pour in about two to three tablespoons of water and let it simmer for a minute or two. Set it aside.

After washing a head of broccoli, cut it into florets and place it in a plate. Pour about half of the garlic mixture into the broccoli before steaming it. Place it on your steamer and steam the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes. Make sure that the broccoli change into a lively green color.

Reminder: do not oversteam the broccoli.

While steaming the broccoli, mince three to four cloves of garlic. In a skillet, pour in enough vegetable oil to fry the minced garlic. Set aside.

Place the steamed broccoli in a plate, pour in the remaining half of the garlic mixture and stir. Sprinkle the fried garlic onto the broccoli flowers. Enjoy!

(You can also try sprinkling some drops of sesame oil into the simmering garlic mixture.)

Broccolo in Italy and calabrese in the UK, broccoli, according to Wikipedia is an anti-cancer vegetable rich in vitamins a, c and potassium. Its edible leaves are also rich in betacarotene more than the flowers. Also, still according to Wikipedia, a high intake of broccoli has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. However, these benefits are greatly reduced if broccoli is boiled for more than ten minutes.


there seem to be two contending thoughts in baking oysters. one is to smother the taste of the oysters by using a lot of breadcrumbs, garlic, tabasco sauce, onions, celery, anisette, oregano and other taste-altering ingredients. the other school of thought, on the other hand, tries to enhance the natural sea-taste of the oysters by using as little condiments as possible. i must confess, coming from cavite, to be leaning in favor of the latter school of thought.

enhancing the natural taste of oysters is to use as little number of ingredients as possible. and use those few ingredients in such a way as to add to the flavor and not to obliterate/extinguish/supplant/subract from it.

both schools of thought, however, brings out the ingenuity and the exquisite taste unique to this product of the sea.

baking oysters involves a great deal of love and tlc. first, you have to personally choose your oysters from your favorite oyster store. then you have to clean the shells individually. in which case you’ll need rubber gloves and a good utility brush. this is the hardest part since you can easily cut your fingers or palm.


when you’re about to bake the oysters, place the oysters in a pot, submerge it in water and let it bask in the glory of the stove’s medium heat. the moment the oysters open up, take it out off the water and shuck it up. don’t boil the water as this will overcook the oysters.


oyster topping mix one way of baking oysters using the first school of thought is to prepare the oyster topping mix. in a saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter (or olive oil) and saute about two tablespoons of crushed garlic until the garlic turns brown. add a cup of panko (japanese breadcrumbs) and mix. add 2 tablespoons of finely chooped parsley and a quarter of a cup of grated parmesan cheese and mix. let it stand for a while.


cover the oysters with the oyster topping mix, add a bit of butter OR magnolia quickmelt cheese and place it in the oven until slightly brown or the cheese has melted.


in highlighting the difference between the two schools of thought, here is a recipe that i have developed while trying different baked oysters from the rockefeller oysters to the ostriche alla italiana (see above recipe). and this recipe include the use of prepared mustard to enhance the taste of the oysters. first, shuck the oysters open. rub the oysters with prepared mustard using your finger. remember that what we want is just to have a hint of mustard in the oysters so don’t overdo the mustard part. simply rub the oysters with mustart topside and underside while retaining some of the oyster liquer. then add magnolia quickmelt cheese, a little parsley or spinach leaves and place it in the oven until the cheese turns golden yellow. voila! a taste of heaven!

or you can combine the first recipe with the second recipe by lightly sprinkling (not cover) some oyster topping mix on top of the magnolia quickmelt cheese before placing it in the oven. this gives the oyster a nutty texture and a more refined taste. this method i prefer most.

of if you want to be fanciful about it, you can use romano, guyere or asiago cheese instead of the more common quickmelt cheese.


bon apetito!

and so it was last night when everybody went home with a smile in their faces and a little hesitation in their steps.

we were drunk. we had good cognac. good music. and we just had good food.

the good cognac was courtesy of a friend who promised after the last big night that the next drink would be his. good music was provided, of course, by no other than the good host – moi. and the good food was by my brother’s bicolano barber – edsel.

last night was another one of those nights that our tropa would call our very own big night. a combination of good food, good drink, good music, old and rehashed stories and good laughs.

our big night is a big and well-thought of event that is held once or twice a month. it was our excuse to splurge a bit, a respite from the usual san mig pilsen/light and boy bawang nights. one time, we thought of having bulalo steak on a sizzling plate with gravy and 2 kinds of lengua – one cooked in white sauce and the other in red. so we went all the way to tagaytay for some freshly slaughtered batangas beef. the other time we had humongous beef burgers grilled and unlimited chicharon bulaklak. once we had huge steaks and home-made pizza. our last big night was fresh salmon sashimi, kimchi and adobong kangkong (which was featured in earlier posts). our poor attempt in vegan pulutan with the salmon serving as a compromise.

last night was pata tim and pla-pla cooked in fresh coconut milk.

first thing edsel did when he got to my place was to crush a lot of ginger and half a head of garlic. 3 tomatoes were quartered and 2 medium-sized shallots (sibuyas tagalog) sliced. 4 to 6 big kalamyas (kamias for you city folks) washed and halved. and six pechay washed and chopped at the end. half of these ingredients (except for the kalamyas)were submerged in a large bowl filled with 3 to 4 cups of freshly squeezed coconut milk. and of course, there were the red hot chili peppers and the pang-sigang sili which was limited to just a few for those of us (edsel the barber was the only bicolano among us that night) who are not natives of the much admired (gustatory and women-wise) peninsula.

in a large caldero, he placed a small banana leaf that covered just the bottom of the caldero. he then arranged the pechay leaves at the bottom. placed the kalamyas around the pechay leaves with all the other remaining ingredients. at the very top were the 2 kilos of salted pla-pla (8 small pla-pla in all but better if you get the bigger sized pla-pla). lastly, he poured the coconut milk and all the other ingredients that went with it. put the stove on high heat. and the moment the unseen coconut milk boiled, he set the stove into low heat. he then added salt and covered the caldero. after 15 to 20 minutes of anticipation, everything was cooked! it was truly a remarkable bicolano dish!

be sure to wash the fish thoroughly so you won’t taste it’s muddy origins.


2 kilos of pla-pla

3 tomatoes

half a dozen kalamyas or more

2 medium-sized shallots

half a head of garlic

6 bunches of pechay

3 – 4 cups of coconut milk

sili (your preference)



now that spring chicken is readily available at your local supermarket, try this recipe that i hope approximates, if not surpass, max’s famous fried spring chicken. thanks to magnolia for making these spring chicken readily accessible to the consumers. and thanks to manang vic for the tip.

this is surely worth the trip to your supermarket.


1 magnolia spring chicken

1 bunch lemongrass leaves

1 unsalted anchor butter

1 medium-sized onion

1 tablespoon peppercorns

2 cubes knorr chicken soup base



1 liter minola cooking oil

step 1:

wash the magnolia spring chicken. pat dry then sprinkle pepper all over. massage with salt.

step 2:

wet the lemongrass leaves and try squeezing it dry. insert it into the chicken cavity.

step 3:

let the chicken stand for an hour.

step 4:

submerge the chicken in a pan full of water. add medium-sized onion, peppercorns, a teaspoon of rock salt and knorr chicken cubes. high heat

step 5:

let it boil. once water is boiling, lower the settings to low heat. boil for half an hour or when chicken is nice and tender.

step 6:

let the chicken cool. coat chicken with unsalted butter.

step 7:

heat pan with 1 liter of cooking oil. set it in high heat. make sure that cooking oil is super hot.

step 8:

lower settings to low heat. submerge half of the chicken into the super hot cooking oil (remove lemongrass before submerging chicken). when golden brown, submerge the other half.

(be careful when placing the chicken onto the pan. the super hot cooking oil has the tendency to overflow. that’s the reason why you have to set the stove to low heat.)

step 9:

enjoy your home-made, juicy and tender max’ spring chicken with garlic rice and fried kamote. or simply by itself.

this happened a couple of weeks ago when i suddenly woke up from an afternoon siesta feeling so alone and so hungry. and when i looked up at the cheap 3D yellow wall clock, it was already a quarter before 7pm and the 630pm news was way past it’s early headlines.

so i lazily got my butt off the bed and went straight to the kitchen were the water dispenser was and the ref just across it. as i was emptying a glass of dispenser-cold water, i opened the ref and found nothing inside but a solitary lemon in the veggie compartment, the leftover sinaing in a ziplock bag, a salted anchor butter in the butter compartment and a vacuum sealed tuna belly (straight from gen san courtesy of a very good friend who got it from her trip to davao) which had been freezing it over in the freezer compartment for over a week already. of course, there were the usual accoutrements that can only be found in the ref (i.e. a greening philadelphia cream cheese immediately below the egg compartment and just above the butter compartment).

so i opened an above-the-kitchen-sink cabinet hoping for an expired can of master sardines and found nothing in the way of a stash. as i place the vacuum-sealed frozen tuna belly in the thawing tray, i began thinking of the ways on how to attack the beast, fried or what-not. and as a light bulb just went on somewhere inside my skull, i got my wok out and placed it on top of a now on-line stove, high heat. reached out for the lemon and butter inside the ref and got out a tablespoon from its rack. spritz about a tablespoon and a half of minola cooking oil onto the wok, played with the wok for the cooking oil to evenly spread itself out on the surface of the now nicely heated cooking vessel. as soon as the oil let out a trace of smoke, i lowered the bluish flame into low heat and submerged the already freshly salt and peppered tuna belly onto the wok.

(the sound of the thing sizzling was music to the ears of a starving bloke.)

and as i let the slitted belly fry, i melted about two tablespoons of butter onto a pre-heated saucepan; mixing in a tablespoon of lemon in the process. and as i poured the lemon butter compound onto the nicely fried tuna belly, a simply done fried rice (with only salt as its other ingredient) was steaming in a large plastic (unbreakable too!) corelle plate. that was the dinner that amazed me. a very memorable and fulfilling fried-tuna-belly-with-a-lemon-butter-sauce dinner indeed! and of course, my very own version of iced tea on a tall glass garnished with a recylced slice of discarded lemon on the rim. talk about survival skills! hehehe…

    a pound of tuna belly
    fresh lemon (fresh off sm shelf that is!)
    salted butter

the pepper is complaining why it is always

second to salt when it comes to billing

on hindsight, methinks it is better if tuna belly is grilled instead of fried.


we call this dish chicken tempura. but when my friend introduced me to zong (the chinese restaurant at the fort whose come-on is its no-msg dishes) and to this dish with its distinct taste, i fell instantly in love with it! the salted egg fried chicken is uniquely zong and i won’t be surprised if it is one of their bestsellers.

and it is not even hard to prepare. all the ingredients that you will need can be bought in the local marketplace. the challenging part, maybe, is to buy the true itlog na pula which is salted duck egg. nowadays, they also use chicken egg as a substitute for duck egg. salted chicken egg, if i may, is a very poor substitute. it doesn’t give you that distinct salty taste a salted duck egg is known for. the yolk is so much different you will notice the difference at once between a chicken and a duck egg.

i was conned once in buying a salted duck egg when the tindera assured me that what i was buying was duck egg. lo and behold and much to my dismay, it was chicken egg when i opened it! ahh… the lengths people will go to in pursuit of a buck…

two words: caveat emptor.

here are the ingredients that you will need to prepare zong’s chicken tempura:

1 whole chicken breast (deboned and filleted) cut your deboned and filleted chicken breast into bite-size pieces. remember to wash your hands before and after handling chicken.

3 salted duck eggs you will only need the orange hued yolk..

2 tablespoons chinese cooking wine adds zest to this dish.

2 tablespoons fresh milk this will be used as binder mixed together with the chicken egg.

1 egg chicken egg that you will use as binder for your bread crumbs.

2 cups bread crumbs i use the brand KASUGAI bread crumbs. don’t use the breading mixes that fill the supermarket shelves.



prepare the chicken by adding salt and pepper to the sliced, deboned and filleted chicken breast pieces. add cooking wine. add the yolks of the salted duck eggs and gently massage the chicken with it. refrigerate the chicken fillets for an hour.

beat the egg together with the fresh milk. in another container, pour in the two (or more) cups of bread crumbs.

heat the wok. gently dip chicken fillet pieces into the egg-milk mixture and the bread crumbs. fry in low heat. cook until golden brown.

bon appetito!