Archive for Food

Zabb Elee, an Authentic Thai with a Michelin Star in Jackson Heights

Michelin stars doesn't always mean breaking the bank and a long wait to get a table in a well managed space in mostly posh locations in Manhattan. The 2014's 1-star Michelin list includes four Queens restaurants with one of them located just blocks away from the 'Little Manila' strip along Roosevelt Avenue. Zabb Elee, features Isan or Northeastern Thai cuisine that doesn't prominently feature the typical Thai menu items that are popular in the West. If one has an aversion to incredibly spicy foods, then this is not the place to eat. I ordered some items that reminded me of street foods I enjoyed back in the Philippines such as grilled chicken gizzard, liver and hearts. It was presented in sticks and came with a combination of spicy, sour, sweet and salty that was a perfect dip for the smoky and full taste of the chicken entrails. The price was a surprise for it was comparably cheaper than the Filipino restaurant's bbq sticks! The grilled pork came out intricately yet at the same time mildly flavored. The sticky rice was served in an unpretentious see-through plastic used in Philippine markets and carinderia that is quite unexpected of a Michelin-starred restaurant. IMG_5236.JPG IMG_5238.JPG IMG_5240.JPG IMG_5242.JPG IMG_5245.JPG IMG_5247.JPG IMG_5251.JPG IMG_5249.JPG

Peanut Butter Happy

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I just officially turned my back from Lily's and Skippy peanut butter brands. From among the four flavors I tried tonight my favorite is Dark Chocolate Dreams! I have Smooth Operator, Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, and Bee's Knees. Next time I will try these 2 other flavors from Peanut Butter Company: White Choco Wonderful and The Heat Is On. To me the PLUSses are: creative flavors, pairing suggestions in jar, no excessive oil, consistently smooth texture, just the right sweetness and that they have a small-town feel restaurant near Madison Square Park. Now how cools is that? A peanut butter so good it has to have its own restaurant in the City. Peanut Butter Company has a store and restaurant in West Village, NYC.

Word for the Day: Nasam-it

Nasam-it (adj) Nasam-it iti cake dijay Molly's cupcakes. The cake at Molly's Cupcake are sweet. Sweet, English Matamis, Tagalog

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Peruvian Jalea

The Peruvian 'jalea' is a bed of deep fried and lightly battered sea food mix. The usual mix includes squid, lobsters, fish fillet, clam, oysters, crabs, snails, and barnacles topped with a generous layer of fresh red onions, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. With a spritz of lemon and dash of black pepper, this is one heck of an appetizer!

This jalea version is served at Rikko, a tiny Peruvian restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens. The seafood is mixed with deed fried yuka or cassava root that serves as an effective palate cleanser from the tasty and flavorful jalea. Compared to its Manhattan counterparts the menu selections at Rikko are varied and the prices much more reasonable. Take 7 train, stop at Bliss Station.

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Hot Choco on a Stick

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Creamy and frothy hot chocolate. The chocolate melts in 3-5 minutes with constant stirring.

Pop Bar, an ice cream shop in Greenwich Village, gets ready to make a sell this winter by offering a hot drink addition in its usual 'handcrafted gelato on a stick' menu.

The store serves hot chocolate drink on a stick for less than $5 each. The idea is to melt a bar of chocolate, which is given separately, in a frothy and steaming cup of milk. The options are regular, dark and white chocolates.

I ordered the dark variety and once melted, the drink is just the right sweetness and very creamy! Recommended for those looking for something more than the usual hot choco drink. Definitely a no-no for dieters.

Pop Bar website

Ilocano Songs in New Apple Radio

After updating my mobile to the new iOS 7, the first thing I checked was the music icon. Being a big fan of Pandora, a predictive and automated music service that plays songs based on artists and songs initially chosen by a particular user, I was so happy to see that Apple came out with their own version of online radio that is somewhat similar to Pandora. After trying it out, I think iTunes radio is one step better than Pandora because of its extended list of songs that included OPMs, Filipino singers/bands (and even novelty singers like Yoyoy Villame) and surprisingly, songs in some other Philippine languages including ILOCANO. I made a station for 'Nagimas Kan Mayang' by the Bukros Brothers and the first song that iTunes radio played was 'Biag Ko Sika Lamang'. It was followed by Nora Aunor's cover of Pearly Shell. The picture of the album showed Nora and Tirso in their younger years. I skipped. Next was April Boy Regino 'Paano ang Puso Ko'. I skipped again. Then 'Anak' by Freddie Aguilar. It was followed by a certain Kris Lawrence singing 'Kung Malaya Lang Ako'. I skipped the third time. The next song was 'A Thousand Years'. I didn't order for an English language song so I skipped again. This is when I found out that one can only skip 4 times. I created another station and it has pre-selected 'Ligaya' by the Eraserheads station and Cooky Chua's Color It Red is in iTunes radio as well. Oh my gulay! Try it out and be surprised!

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Nutella Champorado

Champorado is a Filipino porridge flavored with tablea, a cocoa tablet used for cooking or making hot chocolate drinks. It is best paired with something salty such as tuyo or tinapa. Last night I made my pairing a little more unique with Nutella! The result was an even yummier champorado with hazelnutty flavor. The dried fishes were fried to a crisp and were eaten with every spoonful of the champorado. These imported dried fishes are called 'pinka' and 'danggit' in the Philippine north. Milk is optional. I prefer mine dark and less sweet.

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Pinakbet Guisado

Pakbet or pinakbet guisado is a popular and modified version of the authentic pinakbet. Although the ingredients are the same, the manner of cooking is guisado. Instead of strategical boiling of the vegetables, this version is sauteed in pork fat (generated from cooking the other main ingredient, pork belly) and added with a generous serving of Ilocos bagnet or 'Chicharon Camiling'. Ingredients Eggplant, 2 lbs Bittermelon, 2 lbs Sweet potato or yam, 2 lbs Tomato, 1 lb 1 small can of tomato sauce Bagoong monamon, 1/8 of a cup Okra, 1 lb 2 tablespoons of minced garlic Half cup of white onion Pork broth Sliced Pork belly, 2 lbs Scallion Preparation of the vegetable is as important as cooking it. The shape and size must be bigger than usual to not overcook. Timing, cookware, variety of vegetables used are the different factors to consider when cooking pinakbet. Vegetable Cutting Procedure 1) Peel the sweet potato. Cut into big chunks around 1" by 2". Do not cut too small because they easily crumble once cooked. Soak in water while preparing the rest of the vegetables. 2) Cut the bittermelon. Clean out the seeds. Cut into half-inch sticks. To those who prefer it less bitter, soak in brine water for 15 minutes or more. 3) Cut the eggplant. If it is the round variety just slice a little bit on top. If it is the asian long ones cut into 3 slices and slice the top part making sure the two halves are still jointed on the lower part. Just like the sweet potato also soak in water to prevent darkening of the cut vegetables. 4) Mince the tomatoes. Keep the juice and seeds. 5) The okra just needs to be washed and cleaned on top. Do not cut the head. The seeds will spill out once cooked if the top is cut. Pork Belly Preparation 1) Boil chopped scallions and pork together. Wait until pork is tender. Remove from broth then cut into bite-size pieces in such a way that fat, skin and meat are evenly distributed in each slice. 2) In a thick pan with splatter cover, pour little oil. Once ready, fry the pork. Turn over when necessary. Wait until both sides are brown. This can be dangerous as oil splatters can burn the skin. If available buy already cooked bagnet or crispy pata as an alternative. Set aside when done. Keep the oil for next step. Saute Procedure 1) Using the remaining pork fat, saute garlic and onions. Mix the tomato. Pour a cup or two of pork broth. Wait until the tomato is melted. 2) Throw in the sweet potato. 3) Once the potato has changed color, put the eggplant. 4) Put the bittermelon. Do not disturb and cover. 5) Once the other vegetables are 80 percent ready, put the bagoong, tomato sauce, pork belly and okra. 6) Simmer for another 5 minutes. There you go! Pakbet guisado is now ready! TIP: The pinakbet is best enjoyed the same day it is cooked. Not recommended for tomorrow's baon. 20130911-123654.jpg

Do-It-Yourself Binubudan: When Craving Gets Tough, BREW!

One of my favorite Ilocano specialties is the binubudan or tapuy. Binubudan is a wine porridge that is a favorite northern Philippine delicacy usually eaten as a snack or breakfast item. It has a soupy rice consistency and with a sweet juice that tastes a lot like sake. The key ingredient is the 'budbud' or live yeast balls available in the Philippine north. Once I tried using the yeast balls available I found in oriental stores in New York, the finished product did not quite come close to the kind we eat back home. (Maybe in the microbiological level there are also ethnic differences) In my part of the US, the perfect timing is during summer, June to August, when the hot weather is most ideal for fermenting binubudan.

Preparing binududan is fairly easy. The hardest part is waiting 3-9 days before the delicacy can be enjoyed.

INGREDIENTS

1) Sweet sticky rice (for stronger wine taste) or red rice (for sweeter binubudan) 2) Budbod, usually imported from the Philippines 3) PATIENCE! - Fermentation can take 3-9 days. WHAT TO EXPECT 3 days: it starts smelling like alcohol. 5 days: my favorite when I can taste the alcohol, but the rice remains sweet. 9 days: results to a very intoxicating binubudan and bittersweet taste. 10 days or more: Expect some kind of hard liquor. Rice will disappear.   PROCEDURE 1) Steam cook the rice. (Like you always do) Let it cool.

2) In a clean (must be very sterile) container, terracotta or steel, sprinkle the powdered budbod evenly on cooked rice. For one cup of rice, I usually use half of the budbod cake. I arrived at this preference by trial and error.

3) Cover the container with a clean cotton cloth. This allows the fermentation agents to breathe and do their work well.

4) Keep and place in a cool dry place away from sunlight and movement. Do not disturb until its ready.

5) Once the binubudan is ready it will smell sweet and with soup that tastes a lot like alcohol. No need to add anything. I like serving it cold though so I put it in the fridge to cool before enjoying.

Like any alcoholic beverage and food, it can be intoxicating so eat moderately.

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Yeast cakes imported from the Philippines

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I prefer using the red rice variety. The red wine once fermented is sweeter compared to the usual white sticky rice.

Meeting the Iron Chef

Meeting Chef Morimoto today was serendipitous. I was just coming out of the high tech Japanese bathroom of a high-end restaurant named after him when a handsome guy from the bar called our attention and asked casually if we were visiting. Smiling my very best and fully refreshed from using the Japanese toilet (that has the option to wash the front and rear after each use), I went straight to the bar ready for a quick 'pretend- tourist' chat. But before I can even answer his follow-up question was, "Would you like to meet The Chef?" As he said the line his arm was directed to a man gloriously clad in all white from shades to sandals. He looked Japanese but I didn't recognize him yet. When he finally spoke he said, "Are you from Manila?". I said, "No, I live here, but I used to be." Kamy, the teenager with me butted in, in an obviously star-trucked manner, "Are you really The Chef?" The man humbly said yes and we all shook his hand trying so hard to conceal our excitement. We chatted more, then he offered us his new line of sake. The bartender even joked about checking our birth dates to verify if we were all over 21. Even if I really didn't want to drink, I couldn't say no to Morimoto. I took the big shot glass, slowly sipped its contents then gave the other guy the camera to take a picture of us and SNAP! Here's the picture with the Iron Chef.

Kamy Reyes, Debbie Quintos and Maricar Tangonan cozy up with Masaharu Morimoto aka 'The Iron Chef' at his restaurant in Chelsea Market

The sake was bittersweet and smooth, the type that didn't ferment too long. I mentioned that I also ferment my own rice wine. He smiled and looked surprised. By then I guessed that they were probably conducting an impromptu survey to see how consumers, particularly women, will warm up to Morimoto's new line of sake that his company plans to roll out to liquor stores soon. Then one of the guys told us that Morimoto will soon get ready for the taping of the newest season of the Iron Chef. (I should have asked to be part of the studio audience. Darn!) That was our cue so we said our goodbye, wished him well and left the man and his sake sitting quietly at his very own immaculately white bar.

The Iron Chef show is filmed at the Food Network studio located at the 2nd floor of Chelsea Market in New York's Meatpacking District.