Jul 31, 2007


Presenting the ubiquitous Laing, which, like its equally famous sibling Bicol Express, has received several Tagalog versions. The Bicol Express as it is known hereabouts is just like Ginataang Baboy -- pork with a little sili. In Bicol, sili (siling pansigang or finger chili) is the main feature of Bicol Express and the pork bits are added just for flavoring.

The Tagalog version of Laing uses just the leaves of the gabi (taro), and is sometimes not even a bit spicy (example: Goldilocks Laing). The ingredients are minimal -- sometimes just the shredded taro leaves and coconut milk.

The authentic, Bicolano Laing uses the stalks as well and is made special by the addition of pork and fresh shrimp. The sili is "all you can" -- all you can put, all you can possibly take. :) The serving/presentation is just as special and detailed -- the laing mixture is wrapped in gabi leaves and topped with curdled coconut cream. Real laing is eaten not in spoonfuls but by the pinch -- because that's the only way you can stand the level of spice.

Don't worry though, for in this recipe I scaled down the spiciness to tolerable levels. But of course this won't be real Laing if it's not kick-ass maanghang.

Warning: If you're on a diet and need to avoid eating rice, READ NO FURTHER. :)


What's In It?

5 bunches gabi leaves and stalks -- drier, better
2 large cans coconut cream, or 6 cups coconut cream (from 2 coconuts)
1/2 kilo pork liempo, diced
100 g. small shrimps, (alamang) fresh, not salted
3 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)
1 large onion, peeled and sliced finely
1 large knob of ginger, peeled and diced finely
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 pcs. finger chilies, sliced diagonally into thin rings
5 pcs. ripe siling labuyo
1/8 cup cooking oil
1 shrimp broth cube
1 pork broth cube

Kitchen Conjugations:

PREPS-- Cut the gabi leaves off from the stalks. Check for the largest and best leaves (those with the least tears or holes) and set them aside (you will need about 8 to 10). Shred the rest using your fingers or kitchen scissors. Set aside.

Cut off the prickly part of the stalks and discard. Carefully peel skin from the gabi stalks and set aside (for use in tying the wraps later). Dice the peeled stalks into bits, set aside.

MAKING THE FILLING -- In a deep frying pan or wok heat oil then saute onions, ginger and garlic for one minute. Add in pork and sliced chilies, stir frying for 3 minutes or until pork loses pink tint and is half cooked. Add in alamang, brown sugar (if using) and diced stalks. Stir fry for 2 minutes.

Pour in 2/3 cup of the coconut cream. Stir to combine. Reduce heat and let the simmer for 3 minutes or until the stalks are tender. Add the shredded gabi leaves and cook for 3 minutes more. Remove pan from fire when the leaves have wilted.

WRAPPING UP -- Put the whole gabi leaves on a flat surface. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the cooked mixture over each leaf, avoiding any tears or holes. Fold the leaves into a square, making the edges overlap. Secure and tie each wrap with the gabi skin strips. Repeat until all the mixture has been wrapped.

COCO CREAM BATH -- In the same deep pan or wok, heat coconut cream, broth cubes and siling labuyo to a pre-boil. Squish siling labuyo to allow the spice to meld with the coconut cream. Simmer for half a minute then carefully add in laing wraps. Let boil and simmer until the coconut cream gets reduced to half of its original volume.

Serve with hot, steaming rice, fried galunggong or tilapia, and glasses of water. :)

This is my entry to the 20th edition of Lasang Pinoy, which features wraps as a way of Filipino cooking and food presentation. Read more about the theme here.

Jul 28, 2007

Hula-Hula Seafood and Barbecue House

I suppose that even if they want to, most couples cannot enjoy lunchtime with their spouses because their significant others would usually be away at work at midday. I suppose I lucked out then, since as I work for/with my husband, we have daily lunch dates. :)

We usually eat at the office when we have baon I packed from home. Sometimes we buy from my suki point-point (a.k.a. turo-turo/carinderia). Often, when we have to head out for business meetings, we have little adventures trying out restaurants we've never been to before.

The photo above was taken on one of those lunch dates, at the Hula-Hula Seafood and Barbecue House at Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong. The restaurant serves fusion cuisine (Hawaiian-Filipino-Japanese-etc) and in the menu are items like Island Paella in Bamboo, Bangus Sisig, Spicy Seafood Udon... you get the drift. :)

That above is their Davao Gulf Luau Feast. It's actually a feast for 3-4 persons (don't worry, we didn't finish all of the food!), and is made up of Grilled Mussels, Tuna Belly, Squid and Liempo. It's accompanied by Fish Kinilaw, Mango Salad and Cucumber Salad, and two heaping (more like mountains) of two kinds of rice: Pineapple Fried Rice (the light yellow-colored mound) and Baby Shrimp Fried Rice. The feast is served on a giant bamboo tray (the size of a four-seater table) lined with banana leaves, so you can actually eat straight from the tray and feel like you're dining in some island and not in a busy mall. :)

And how much was that? P695.00 plus the cost of drinks (I had a guyabano shake for P95.00) and VAT. I suppose for a party of 3 or 4 the cost would be about P300 per person, same amount you'd shell out for a meal at Dencio's or Gerry's, or a plate of pasta at Italianni's.

And how was the food? Good. I think it's comparable to Dencio's and Gerry's, only the presentation is a novelty and the ambiance is far less noisy and far more conducive to an enjoyable lunch. (I don't know about dinnertime or Friday nights though.)

Hula-Hula has another branch at Westgate Alabang, which we've been to about 3 times already. Apart from being closer to us, we like this outlet better because it is bigger and more spacious, and the airconditioning is better than the one at Shangri-La Plaza. The last time we were there we also ordered the Crab Maritess (proclaimed as their bestseller, garlicky and cholesterolic). While dining we were treated to a modernized hawaiian dance number by the food attendants. :)

Jul 26, 2007

Sweet Basil Squid

Mike and I, we love seafood. As you (would) probably notice, most of the recipes (and food reviews) here (will) feature prawns, squid and fish.

We also love spice. And herbs. Me, I am crazy about basil. Given a choice I will always have pesto (proof: here). I sprinkle dried basil on my pasta each time we eat at Sbarro, and I will always find an excuse to put it in stir-fries whenever possible.

I love that its smell and flavor are interestingly indescribable. There's no way to say in a few words how it specifically smells or tastes. This is because the aroma and flavor of basil is an interplay of the essential oils present in its leaves: cinnamate (same as in cinnamon), citronellol (geraniums, roses, and citronella), geraniol (as in geranium), linalool (a flowery scent also in coriander), methyl chavicol (which gives tarragon its scent), myrcene (bay, myrcia), pinene (which is, as the name implies, the chemical which gives pine oil its scent) and ocimene terpineol. (Wikipedia) There's simply no way a dish will be bland with basil in it!

There's also quite a number of basil varieties, but the most commonly known and available is sweet basil. (This is also the kind commonly used in Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese cooking.) I usually find Sweet Basil in the fresh produce section of Shopwise and SaveMore, with 100grams costing less than P20.00. (When they're in season, of course.) What an inexpensive way to put a little kick in your cuisine!


What's In It?

  • 1 kg. squid, cleaned, ink sacs and backbones removed, body cut into rings
  • 1 large scallion/onion, peeled and sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 pieces red pepper (siling labuyo), sliced - optional
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 5 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • a bunch of sweet basil, leaves removed from stalks and washed well
  • some leeks, sliced diagonally into rings, for garnish

Kitchen Conjugations:

In a wok over high heat, saute onions and garlic in oil for one minute. Add in squid heads and rings, siling labuyo (if using) and oyster sauce. Stir fry for a minute then add in sweet basil leaves. Stir fry a few seconds more, just to cook the leaves a little*. Adjust and correct seasonings by adding a pinch of salt or sugar.

Garnish with leeks. Serve while hot.


  1. If you overcook the basil the leaves will turn black and leak all the essential oils into your food. The flavor will be very strong.
  2. Squid becomes hard and rubbery when overcooked, so cook it over high heat quickly.

Substitutions: You can use Thai Basil for the sweet basil, other meats like pork, beef, shrimps and chicken (see at left) for the squid. Prolong stir-frying to about 3 minutes if using pork, beef or chicken, but only 1 minute for shrimps.

Jul 22, 2007

Ginataang Santol

Every now and then -- no, make that most of the time -- I have difficulty producing good shots for this blog. You see, I usually cook for dinner and dinner happens, well, at night. The lighting isn't really the best, and I'm not (yet) very familiar with the flash settings of my cam. Add to that the fatigue from really long days... the picture above is an example of one of my wanting shots.

Ginataang Santol. Would you call it exotic? When I was 14 we had some visiting seminarians over for lunch and my lola served this dish. One of our guests asked what it was (he had trouble placing the taste) and I jokingly answered, "Ginataang Cactus." He looked so bewildered -- his tongue was saying it was good and okay, but his mind was telling him otherwise, so I told him right away it was santol before he could barf and ruin lunch for the rest of us. :)

Santol isn't exactly the stuff your usual ulam is made of. If you like some excitement and tang in your ulam I bet you'd like this, paired with crispy fried fish (tilapia, galunggong...) And I'm proud to say I'm the first ever (half) Bicolana to post it! Yay! Now would you be the first non-Bicolanos to cook it? :)

The recipe is how I recall it from weekends watching my lola's cooking.


What's In It?

3-4 pcs. Santol
4 cups coconut milk
1 scallion/onion, peeled and sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 teaspoons salt or 3 teaspoons raw bagoong alamang
3-5 pcs. siling labuyo

Kitchen Conjugations:

Peel santol. Cut in halves, remove the seeds and set aside. Dice pulp. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon salt over the diced santol, mix then pick up handfuls of the diced pulp and squeeze to remove some of the juice. (This is so the dish does not go sour beyond edibility. Hahaha.)

In a deep pan heat coconut milk, onions and garlic, stirring every now and then to avoid curdling. When the mixture boils, add in santol and salt (or alamang). Continue stirring slowly until the mixture boils. Add in siling labuyo and let the mix simmer until the coco milk is thick and reduced, about 15 minutes.

Serve with steamed rice and fried fish.

Jul 18, 2007

Lemon Grass Meatballs

We usually joke that to the unknowing, we can be considered weird because we have pots of grasses in our garden. But hey, no, we're not actual potheads -- just people who love some lemon grass - or tanglad-- every now and then.

(Our lemon grass are potted because we just carried them over from when we were renting, and back then all our plants were potted for better portability.)

I made Lumpiang Shanghai and after a few dozen rolls, ran out of lumpia wrapper. What to do with the excess lumpia mix? Well, meatballs of course! I stuck in lemon grass stalks, courtesy of our potted-tanglad-garden, for interest. Okay, di ba?

Jul 5, 2007


The theme of Lasang Pinoy's 19th edition -- Barrio Fiesta: Eat 'Til You Drop is the essence of the fiesta as I knew it, growing up. The feasting didn't just happen for a day -- the fiesta, the food and the merrymaking lasted for days, at least in our home.

How so?

The fiesta in our parish, The Holy Family, happens every last Sunday of the year. Before that, the following things happen: three birthdays -- my brother's, Dad's and mine (8,18 and 24) and Christmas Day. The parish fiesta usually falls somewhere from the 26th to the 29th. After that, the food-laden table on New Year's Eve and more eating on New Year's Day. (And a few days after that, my mom's birthday on the 4th.) Did you count? Eight days of eating.

And so you'd probably understand when I say it's pretty hard to remember whether there was exactly a dish we prepared especially for the fiesta. :)

Anyway, since the fiesta was practically sandwiched in between special holidays punctuated by non-stop cooking and eating, it has become a peculiar custom among us neighbors to make the fiesta a leftover potluck day. Long tables are laid out on the street and each household brings out something to share, usually leftover from Christmas day. The table gets lined with various versions of macaroni salad and/or spaghetti bolognese, laneras of leche flan and loads of ham. From time to time some lechon/lechon paksiw, morcon or festive-looking bread breaks the predictability and disappear fast from the long table.

My Callos was one such hit. :)

Thanks to the wonders of pressure-cooking, making Callos is no longer as tedious and time-consuming as it used to be. And because ox tripe and ox legs (cow's pata) are readily available from the meat section of major supermarkets, you need not wait for a fiesta to taste or serve it. :)


What's In It?

1 1/2 kilos beef tripe (tuwalya)
1 1/2 kilos ox leg (have the butcher chop it into 4 large chunks)
2 T garlic, minced
2 pcs. medium-sized onion, sliced
3 pcs. red bell pepper, sliced and seeded
1 kilo fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled and sliced
1 cup grated quick-melt cheese
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 cup chick peas (garbanzos)
1 large potato, peeled and sliced into thick strips
3 pcs. Chorizo de Bilbao, sliced diagonally
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into thick strips
4-6 bay leaves
5 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
pitted green olives (optional)

Wash ox leg and tripe. Boil in enough water for 30 minutes, then discard the stock*. Replace water (enough to cover the meats) and cook in a pressure cooker. The meats should be under pressure** for no more than 20 minutes. Remove from fire and let cool for 10 minutes. Check pressure by raising one of the vents. If no steam comes out it is safe to open the pressure cooker.

Remove meats from the pot. Chop tripe into rectangular strips. Remove the softened ligaments from the bones and chop into the same shape and size as the tripe. Reserve stock for later.

In a deep saucepot, saute garlic, onions and tomatoes in oil. Add bell peppers and tomatoes and saute for one more minute or until tomatoes have wilted. Add in tripe and ox ligaments. Season with fish sauce and ground pepper. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Add stock, chili sauce, potatoes, carrots and bay leaves. Simmer for 5-7 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender. Stir in grated cheese, let simmer for two minutes more. Remove from fire and garnish with olives if desired.


*This is so that the stock does not get masebo and yucky smelling.

**The pressure is on if the pressure cooker begins hissing. With some pressure cookers the vents actually lift a little and dance on their bolts like polka dancers. :)

Jul 4, 2007

Luk Yuen

My Luk Yuen staples: Deep Fried Tofu, Fish in Tausi, Beef with Kangkong and Bagoong, Bird's Nest soup and Tossed Rice Noodles. Worth the drive, worth the guilt, worth the little extra.

Jul 3, 2007


Two Saturdays ago, faced with a disciplining issue, my friend Jeng came up with a punishment that's right on the money -- having the kids eat okra. "Oh My Gulay!" They must have sighed collectively. The boys squirmed in their seats, waiting for the axe, er, slime to fall, and the power of the okra was enough to make them promise to never misbehave again.

I was raised in a carnivorous household and I can count by my fingers the number of times we were admonished to eat vegetables. And mind you, vegetables basically meant upo (bottle gourd), kangkong (swamp cabbage), repolyo (cabbage), kalabasa (squash) and sitao (string beans) -- the kid-friendly, better-tasting kind. Yet, even then, in the rare occasions when I did eat these veggies, the servings were in such small bits or mashed and taken with lots of rice, or covered with tocino, or followed up with gulps of water. Drama, suspense, action.

I hated vegetables.

And so it is a big surprise to my mother-- and moreso, to me-- that now, 30+ years after, I am now an avid fan of vegetables. I crave them. I make menus around them. I bring them to potluck parties. I skip restaurants that do not serve them. I make salads out of ampalaya, fill broths with saluyot, even go to Antipolo for bulaklak ng katuray for ensalada. Drama, suspense, action.

I woke up one day loving vegetables.

And so, for the 18th edition of Lasang Pinoy, I am writing about my first-ever attempt at Bulanglang. Bulanglang is an Ilokano dish that contains the stuff vegetable haters' nightmares are made of: saluyot, okra, talbos ng sitao, bulaklak ng kalabasa. Cooking-- and enjoying--this dish is a testament that I've really come full circle. :)

What's In It?

1 medium-sized bangus (milkfish), cut daing-style (butterfly)
2 bunches talbos ng sitao
2 bunches saluyot leaves
2 bunches okra (ladyfingers)
2 bunches squash blossoms
2 bunches string beans
5 to 6 cups water
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup bagoong balayan

Kitchen Conjugations:

Season bangus with 1 teaspoon salt then grill over charcoal until done. Remove from fire and set aside.

Wash vegetables carefully and thoroughly. Cut sitao into 3" segments, okra into halves, crosswise. Remove squash blossoms, sitao tops and saluyot leaves from their stalks. Set aside.

Boil water in a sauce pot over high heat. Add onions and bagoong balayan, let boil for a minute or so. Add in grilled bangus. Let boil for 2 to 3 minutes to allow the flavors of the fish to meld with the broth.

Carefully remove bangus from the pot and transfer to a serving bowl. Add in okra and sitao and let simmer for one and a half minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Add in the rest of the ingredients. Let boil for another minute or until the greens are crisp tender. Remove from fire and serve topped with the grilled bangus.

Read about other veggie recipes posted by Pinoy Foobloggers in the Lasang Pinoy 18 roundup, here.

(Many, many thanks to my ageless, proudly-Ilokana friend Mama Norms who introduced this Bikolana/Tagalog to Bulanglang, and for sharing the recipe. Stay sexy. Mmmwah!)