Thursday, February 28, 2013

Margarita's Paella Negra at the Salcedo Saturday Market

I love weekend markets, and my favorite would have to be the Salcedo Saturday market. Every time I visit, I'm drawn to the stall of Margarita's Paella. So far I have not been disappointed.

Margarita's paella negra is the bomb! Squid ink paella lovers, this is for you--bursting with flavors of the sea, in this case generous amounts of squid and shrimp. Cutting through the rich, kraken flavor are garlic and the pop of citrus. I asked the server to scrape for me the rice directly toasted by the pan, as this part is crunchier, tastier.

The stall's other offerings of Spanish food appear to be well-regarded as well.

Salcedo Weekend Market
L. P. Leviste Street, Jaime Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati City 
Open Saturdays, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bohol's Inday's Ube Jam

Ube, also known as purple yam, is a tuber originally from the Asian tropics. Most of us are familiar with it's incarnation either as ice cream or jam, and these tend to be too sweet . Ube jam is particularly highly perishable, and is thus consumed with dispatch. When I think of ube, I associate it with the ube jams of Baguio City.

In a recent trip to Bohol, I was surprised to find our how important ube is to the province, a buffer to famine in the olden times. Boholanos are proud of their ube, and they claim that they produce the best ones. When they drop it accidentally, they kiss it as a sign of reverence. It is the provincial plant. It is included in the provincial hymn. A festival is held in the province in its honor every January. Bohol is the largest producer of ube in the country.

We were fortunate to have come across Inday's ube jam--creamy, not too sweet, allowing the delicate flavor of the purple yam to come through.

Inday's Ube Jam
#5 Mendoza Street, Tagbilaran City
(+63) 38 501-8747

Laguna's Nila's Special Puto Biñan

My friend brought this to the office one day, and it was so good. It was cheesy, moist, subtly sweet. Having grown up in Pangasinan eating Calasiao puto, I know that cheese and puto goes well together.

The curiously named puto is steamed rice cake common in the Philippines. There are many varieties of puto, some of them I have featured before. In Calasiao, the puto is small, moist, and sweetish, and usually comes plain without any toppings. The Biñan variety is the size of a plate and can handily feed 5 people. 

Biñan is a city in Laguna located south of Manila. It is said that the best-known makers of this variety is located in the barangay of San Vicente. Pictured below is Nila's Special Puto Biñan. You can reach them at (+63) 49 511-6094. I'm not sure if there's an outlet in Manila--my friend sources hers from Laguna.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Boon Tong Kee's Hainanese Chicken Rice

Just a quick note: I have always thought white chicken and Hainanese chicken were the same. They're not, apparently. Although both are of Chinese origin, white chicken is cooked in salt and ginger, and when the water begins to boil, the fire is turned off, allowing the chicken to cook in the residual heat, leaving the chicken pale and translucent. Th accompanying dip is made of ginger, onions, salt, and hot oil. Haianense chicken, on the other hand, is a popular in Malaysia and Singapore, and is the latter's national dish. Plumper chicken are are repeatedly boiled in chicken stock with ginger and garlic, and the resulting broth is used for the rice and the accompanying broth. It features a trio of sauces--chili sauce, pounded ginger, dark soy sauce.

I love both--I still remember a small Chinese restaurant, now closed, in Vito Cruz that served excellent white dish. I'm unlucky, though, with Hainanese chicken--the versions I tasted were unremarkable, until I learned from several blogs that Singaporean chain Boon Tong Kee has opened a branch in SM-Mall of Asia.
Let's get it out of the way--their Hainanese Chicken Rice was excellent. Imagine plump, juicy, tender chicken, very subtle and flavorful. Up until then, I never really appreciated the need for three sauces, but the trio of sweet, spicy, and gingery was just right. 

The rice, shaped like little pyramids, was also flavorful, adding another layer of chicken goodness.

Of the three sauces, I'm partial to the minced ginger.

The quarter chicken costs P245, the chicken rice, P65. Comes with 10% service charge.

Boon Tong Kee 
SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City
(+63) 02 804-2862

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Revisiting My Kitchen by Chef Chris

I admit I'm a creature of habit. Less than three weeks after my first visit I was again at My Kitchen, ordering basically the same things (For an account of the first visit, click here). Would the second date be just as charming? Last time we saw Chef Chris. Would his absence this time make any difference?

For the panizza, we decided on two flavors, one a favorite during last visit, the other new and more to our liking. Reliable Kristina (bacon, ham, caramelized onions, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms) was bright, creamy, cheesy. Newbie Paolo (parma ham, artichoke, assorted mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes) was darker, saltier, something that would appeal more to the Pinoy palate, although Kristina is no slouch in the taste department. The aragula provided balance  with its slight pungency. Eat the panizza quick before it dries out. It's best with spicy olive oil and a sprinkling of mozzarella.

While waiting for our order, we were served two bowls of oven-hot bread. It was so good we finished them in no time.

I love rolling the aragula and the alfalfa sprouts in the panizza slices. 

I didn't feature this last time, but again, we tried the Spaghetti Calabrese (angus oxtail in tomato sauce with olives, capers, and chili peppers). It was saucier this time but still flavorful. Spicy, too. The oh-so-tender meat portion was very generous. Again, this would be a hit with our palate as we tend towards the grand in the flavor spectrum. The capers, which can be an acquired taste, exploded with just the right amount of saltiness.

We capped our meal with the bestselling lemon and lime cheesecake, which was as good as the last visit.

In a few weeks I hope to return.

My Kitchen by Chef Chirs
The Oasis Paco Park Hotel
(+63) 02 521-2371 to 75

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fort Ilocandia's Laoag Empanada

Ilocos empanada. I remember the first time eating this around 5 years ago in Laoag at the ancestral house of one of my colleagues. I feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it--that's how rich it is. Last November I found myself in Fort Ilocandia, and by the ice cream parlor I espied a stand  offering the lovely orange beauties, the color courtesy of annato seeds. They say eating empanada via ambulant vendors lends a more authentic experience, but since I was pressed for time this would do.

Let's just say I didn't feel shortchanged. Picture the hot orange crust that you have to bite into to pour in the dark Iloko vinegar, which blends beautifully with the runny egg and minced meat. They say the oft-repeated oil adds to the character of the dish, which leaves one warm, satisfied, without a care to the woes of the world.

The crust is made of rice flour. The basic ingredients of the filling are eggs, monggo  (mung peas) shoots, and Ilocos longganiza.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

La Mesa Grill's Sigarilyas/Winged Beans in Coconut Milk

I belong to the generation where summers meant spending time with one's grandparents, with the whole neighborhood as one's playground. Many homeowners grow their own vegetables, and one I particularly like are the sigarilyas or winged beans vines and their pale blue flowers that turn into curious frilly ribbed pods. The pods are usually cooked with other vegetables and flavored with fish bagoong (fermented fish paste).

A few months back while dining at Filipino restaurant Lamesa Grill with my friends, I was reacquainted with this vegetable, this time cooked in coconut milk. You know that the dish was cooked right because everything came well together--the sauce was rich and creamy, the pods were fresh, thus sweetish and slightly bitter, and the bird's eye chilis gave enough heat to make things interesting.

Lamesa Grill, Mall of Asia
(+63) 02 556 0737

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bohol Bee Farm's Quirky Ice Cream Flavors, Cassava Crackers, and Squash Bread

Let's just I was intrigued the first time I heard about the Bohol Bee Farm. Mention the words organic and all-natural, and I'm sold. My friends were also raving about the ice cream. I was lucky it was just walking distance from where we were staying, and so after dinner my friends and I went there for dessert.

My verdict--the ice cream flavors were delicate and subtly creamy, with the malunggay and tomato ones leaving a green aftertaste as expected. The flavors are so light, coming through after a few seconds, except for the spicy ginger, which I liked best. Also try the cassava crackers--they were quite addicting.

I had durian and malunggay ice cream. I love durian, and this does not disappoint.
One of my friend ordered the malunggay and tomato flavors

The next day I returned, and had the excellent spicy ginger ice cream

The cabcab--cassava crackers with organic pesto as dip.The crackers were
light and crisp,  and addicting

The squash bread was filling and quite the novelty

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Manila's Ukokkei Ramen Ron for Shio Tan Tan Men

A bowl of golden goodness. Shio Tan Tan Men plain...
...and with  orange-yolked eggs
I spent hours one Friday night looking for the Mabini Branch of Ukokkei Ramen Ron. I've read reams of praise online and in print extolling the offerings of the so-called Ramen Nazi, particularly the Tan Tan men, and I wanted to know first-hand if this was well-deserved. I've seen many a girly bar and the facade of Pan Pacific Hotel, but not the ramen house, and so I called it a night, making an oath not to trust GPS again.

Two days later the stars aligned. I had a couple of hours to kill before gym class, and out-of-the-blue I decided to give my search another go. From Faura I took the jeep going to Dakota and alighted at Quirino, where I walked a few blocks towards Roxas until I reached the corner of Mabini. Ukkokei is located at the building after Caltex and just before Sogo.

The restaurant starts serving the Tan Tan Men at 6 pm, and only in limited quantities. I arrived around 5:30 pm. Seeing how dejected I was, the waitress whispered to me to try the salt-based Shio Tan Tan Men, which was almost as good as the bestseller. Spicy, creamy, nutty--very flavorful. The balance of flavors made my gluttony heart sing. I was quite full that afternoon, but I finished the bowl clean. Next time I'm gunning for the Tan Tan Men.

By the way, you could do away with the egg if it's not to your liking. Other than the vivid hue, it's nothing special.

Ukokkei Ramen Ron
2126 A Mabini St., Malate, Manila
(+63) 02 516-5511