Saturday, June 30, 2012

Comfort Food: Leyte's Bulad (Dried Fish)

I love traveling, it's one of the perks of my work. I can't complain, really--not anyone is paid to do what one loves. I used to hate packing, but now that I've learned to devise a system, I'm done in less than 15 minutes.

One of the few things I'm not crazy about is bad hotel food--Continental cuisine done the wrong way. I prefer food fresh and simple. So after eating food drowning in sauces, I look forward to less uncomplicated viands, like bulad. Bulad means dried fish, and the one pictured above is sapsap, aka slipmouth fish or ponyfish. I always look forward to eating the dried fish of Leyte, because they're not as salty as regular ones.

For this particular meal I just had the fish with fried garlic rice--no need for tomatoes or vinegar to temper the saltiness.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Barugo, Leyte's Roscas

They look like ears, right? Roscas are akin to butter cookies, but hardier. They are made of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, anise, and lard, and are perfect with coffee. Barugo is a coastal town 50 km northwest of Tacloban.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Leyte's Chocolate Moron

Yes, you read it right. There are as many rice cakes in the Philippines as there are provinces, and this is Leyte's own. Made from rice flour and chocolate paste, wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed. They last for three days without refrigeration. I bought the special one, which costs P8.00 each, from Aida's of Tacloban Vity.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Top Picks at Leyte's Rafael's Farm and Garden Restaurant

It was as if the restaurant did not want itself to be found. It was located around an hour from the city proper, in the middle of rice fields. There was no official webpage. Online sources were even at variance as to the name--is it Rafael's Farm or Rafael Farms? But once you step in the property, the magic begins. It was like eating at a genteel hacienda, and you had the place all to yourself. I'll post about the place soon in my travel blog. For now on to the business of food.

I sought out the highly recommend iced dessert halo-halo, which I was sad to learn was no longer featured. The baby-back ribs was likewise recommended, but it paled in comparison to the dishes featured here. The runaway favorite was the garlic butter tanigue steak, which was soft and flavorful, obviously fresh. Noteworthy as well was the Refreshing Lemon Lime drink, with carrot, cucumber, and turnip strips.
Garlic butter tanigue (narrow-barred Spanish mackerel) steak

lapu-lapu (grouper) sinigang (soup soured with tamarind)
baked tipay (scallops)
dagmay, the Waray version of laing (taro leaves stewed in cconut milk)
kare-kare (peanut-based stew of various vegetables, oxtail, beef, and tripe)
mixed vegetables flavored with fish paste
Refreshing Lemon Lime Drink with carrot,
cucumber, and turnip
Rafael's Farm and Garden Restaurant
Baranggay Pagsulgohan, Babatngon, Leyte
(+63) 53 325-0729

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pollo Loco: Chicken Charlie vs. Bonchon Chicken, and Don Henrico's Buffalo Wings

I first saw the flyers of Chicken Charlie at the condo lobby. Intrigued, I decided to try it. When I called for my order, the operator said I had to wait for an hour to an hour and  a half because of the heavy volume of orders and they only cook the chicken after the order is placed. I wasn't really famished, so I decided to wait. After almost two hours, my order came.
chicken charlie's soy garlic chicken
First off, the chicken has no coating, which I prefer. The skin was crisp, and the meat tender. I thought the flavors were sauce options, until further search of the delivery box yielded no packets. It's okay--I like my fried chicken without the gravy. Usually, I pair bland fried chicken with fish sauce anyway. I'm skeptical about Chicken Charlie's claim that double frying renders a less greasy chicken, but it seems to be so. The chicken is different all right, but I find it cloying.

The next day I reheated some of the chicken. The skin was less crisp, but the meat was still okay.
day-old chicken
Later in the day I tried soy chicken of Bonchon, which online research say uses the same double-frying technique popular in Korea and New York.
bonchon's spicy and non-spicy soy garlic chicken

I like Bonchon's version more: it's juicier, and without the cloying aftertaste.

A few weeks earlier we ate ordered the of Don Henrico's, a homegrown Italian restaurant.
with or without the sauce, the buffalo wings are great
Their Buffalo Wings are consistently good. Since the chicken is already flavorful, I forego with the dip, which is also very good.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mandaluyong City's R & J Bulalohan for Beef Shank Soup

I'm not a food snob. As long as it tastes great, I'd forego the ambiance.

After watching a French movie that left us bewildered, my Mandaluyong-based friends and I decided to eat somewhere near the area. We were hoping dinner would make up for the unsatisfying viewing, and R & J Bulalohan stepped up to the plate. It was already late that Sunday night, but the place was crawling with people. I even saw one of my former professors having beer al fresco in front of the restaurant.

My friends told me that the former hole-in-the-wall  has since grown organically on the basis of its star dish--the bulalo. Plastered on its walls are pictures of stars who came to eat, as well as television programs they have catered to.
beefy goodness in a bowl
We tried the bulalo special, which was good enough for three. The soup was straightforwardly beefy, not the usual watered down version of many restaurants, the cabbage leaves were crisp, and the meat was tender.  I had the bone marrow to myself--for one moment there, while savoring the gooey goodness, I thought the world stopped and everything was all right.
watch out for the signage 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Adobo Experiment

For today I'll shake things up a bit by featuring something I cooked. I decided to start with adobo. This is not the marinade known to the Spanish-speaking world, but a method of cooking in the Philippines and the name of the dish as well. Oh, adobo is arguably the country's national dish.

Like what I said in the title, this is purely experimental--I have no illusions of being the next top Pinoy celebrity chef. Like many things I do, I play things by ear, and there's no kitchen-testing. I've cooked before for my family, and they survived, so I know the basics (I think).

This is how the dish looks like when cooked.
the final product: best on top of hot, steaming rice
There are as many ways to cook adobo as there are households in the country. Basically you simmer meat in vinegar and garlic, and brown this in oil. For this experiment I bought two kilos of pork and and a few garlic bulbs.

I used one garlic bulb and about a half kilo of pork to fit in my tiny saucepan
My secret to great adobo? Lots of garlic.
I separated the cloves and pressed them with a spoon to remove the skin easily,
and chopped them unevenly.
I was engrossed chopping the garlic when I realized I didn't have vinegar in the pantry. To improvise, I used the small packets of vinegar that comes with food deliveries.
good thing I had enough packets of vinegar,
which roughly amounted to about half a glass
I estimated the adobo to simmer for about thirty minutes. Then I'd brown the pork in its own fat. Allow the vinegar to dissipate. Unnecessary mixing will leave the adobo vinegary--you wouldn't want that.
waiting for the dish to simmer and come together. time check: 12:45 pm
I used a dash of Ilocos rock salt, a gift, for flavor
An acquaintance told me she drinks wine while cooking. Like me she lives alone in a condo. She said this adds to the joy of cooking.
while waiting for the adobo to cook I drank cheap wine
I prepared pepper corns, some say sauce and crushed chili pepper
to put in the mix once the adobo's about to be cooked
After almost two hours I was panicking--the vinegar should have dissipated by now. Upon further checking, I noticed that indeed the vinegar did evaporate, and now the dish is swimming in its own lard. Lesson learned: next time use a bigger saucepan.
after almost two hours, the vinegar's gone and the pork is
swimming in its own lard. it's nearly two in the morning

I forego with the browning. I mixed in the pepper and crushed chili
and some soy sauce  
After a few minutes, the adobo's cooked. It was a little vinegary for my taste--I think I might have ladled the dish prematurely before all the vinegar was cooked. But my housemate said it was delicious. I'll just leave it at that.
the final product

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cafe Adriatico MOA's Knockout Knuckles and Claude's Dream

After watching models with nary an ounce of body fat prance around in Philippine Fashion Week, I walked to the nearby mall in a daze, determined to drown feelings of inadequacy with comfort food. And for readers of this blog, you know what that means--pork.

I perked up when I saw a branch of Cafe Adriatico in Mall of Asia. The main branch has always been a culinary landmark in Malate, around 30 minutes by car from the mall. Despite Malate losing its cool factor to other areas in the Metro, I draw comfort in the fact Cafe Adriatico is still there, soldiering on, a food oasis with an Old World charm unmatched by its mall-based sister.

Finding a corner by the window, I ordered Knock-Out Knuckles, a forgettable martini hybrid, and for dessert-Claude's Dream

Knockout Knuckles is a fancy name for crispy pata--beloved of beer drinkers--deep fried pig trotters served with a spicy soy and vinegar drip. The dish was mostly crackling skin, tender meat, fat and cartilage, showered generously with fried garlic bits. To this day I can still remember the strong taste of garlic cutting through the rich taste of connective tissue, meat, and fat. After a few bites I asked the server to bag it, fearful for my already expanding gut and thighs.

Claude's Dream is a Filipino dessert favorite--pandan gelatin and young coconut on buffalo milk's ice cream--the perfect cap to a savory dish.