AMONG THE MANY THINGS I do, I love COOKING the most. Some say it's the Nepomuceno, kapampangan blood in me. My lola on the other hand says mana ako sa kanya.
Cooking, actually, is my therapy, a kind of 'me, alone, on creative, production mode' time. I can spend hours in the kitchen, or cook to feed an army. Corollary to that, I love replicating dishes I tried or tasted while eating out. I like the thrill of experimentation and getting the taste right (meaning nahulaan ko, just by tasting, what the ingredients were). I am thrilled to find a better, faster or cheaper way of doing the dish. 'Babaw ko ba?! O kina-career lahat ng bagay? :P
I've actually worked-out a lighter on the pocket version of Carbonara (sorry, can't share the recipe, secret... hehehe) and I'm close to perfecting my version of the Starbucks Banana Bread (the color's still a bit off...Starbucks' is dark brown, mine's still light... but I've perfected the taste and the texture).
Anyway, one dish I liked on an eat-out night, and which I replicated at home, is Kangkong On Fire, from Siam Taste in Festival Mall. It's basically a spiced up version of Kangkong with Oyster Sauce. It's very simple, I'm sharing the recipe here in case you want a change from your usual vegetable fare and wanna try it out.
And may I add, the dish costs P95.00++ at the restaurant. You're spending only half of that with my version. :)
KANGKONG ON FIRE
3 bundles Kangkong [in English: Swamp Cabbage]
3 tablespoons Oyster Sauce [see note below for substitutes]
3 to 4 pieces siling labuyo, chopped [for us Bicolanos, the more, the merrier!]
1 small shallot (red onion), sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups tap water
Optional: 1 pork broth cube
Leftover lechon kawali, Crispy Pata or store-bought chicharon - if available
In a medium sized wok, boil the 5 cups of water. Meanwhile, wash kangkong. Cut leaves and the stalks into 3" pieces, discarding the hard, lower portion of the stem. Soak in a bowl of water to keep them green and fresh.
Slice onions, chop garlic and chili. Set aside.
Blanch cut up kangkong in the wok. (That's dip and boil for 30 seconds to a minute.) Remove the wok from the fire, take the kangkong out and lay out on serving plate. Set aside. Pour about 2 cups of the green (chlorophyll-rich), boiled water from the wok and discard the rest.
Put wok back on stove. Pour cooking oil. Saute scallions first* then garlic for about 30 seconds each. Add chopped siling labuyo. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
While waiting, dissolve the oyster sauce (or soy sauce-sugar-cornstarch mixture) and pork cube (if using) in the bowl of green, hot water. Add mixture to the saute. Let simmer for a minute (stirring if you used the substitutes), until the mixture thickens.
Remove from fire. Pour sauce over the kangkong. Top with Lechon Kawali or crushed chicharon if desired. Serve hot (literally and figuratively). :)
Cost: Kangkong - P15.00; Oyster Sauce - P14.00 (or Soy Sauce,Sugar, etc - P10.00); Pork Cube - P4.00; Cooking Oil, Water, Sili - P5.00; Chicharon (with plenty left over to use for Ginisang Munggo or to munch when you've got nothing to do and want to hike up your bad cholesterol levels) - P5.00
*Shallots cook longer than garlic, and garlic leaves a bitter taste in the oil if burned/left frying for too long. So saute the scallions first and add garlic when the scallions turn soft!:) BTW, onions will do, but not as well. Pero puede na din. I just like the exotic taste of shallots better. :)
Oyster sauce may be substituted with : 2 tablespoons soy sauce + 1 tablespoon brown/washed sugar + a pinch of ground pepper + 1 tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of water.