Mar 13, 2014

Angel Hair with Sea Bass Mediterraneo

Given the chance, my husband will always eat fish. Even when eating out and presented with various entrees, he will choose fish, or that which has fish in it.

At Italianni's, his staple fare is Sea Bass Mediterraneo, pan-seared Sea Bass put on top of pasta, usually angel hair.  He was saddened to find then, when we lunched at the restaurant over the weekend that the dish has been taken out of the menu.*

To cure his hang-up and to assure him that it isn't the end of the world yet, I tried replicating Sea Bass Mediterraneo at home. Judging from his grin I think I've guessed the ingredients and procedure pretty
well. :)


What's In It?

For the pasta:
500 grams Angel Hair pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, seeded then diced
1/8 cup capers (in vinegar)
1/4 cup green olives, pitted then sliced into rounds
3/4 cup white wine

For the fish:
1-2 slices Sea Bass, halved
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil

Kitchen Conjugations:

Season the fish with salt, black pepper and garlic powder (if using).  Set aside.

In a non-stick skillet heat olive oil over high heat. Add seasoned bass slices and sear for 1 minute per side or until edges turn light brown.  Remove from pan and transfer onto a plate.  Repeat until all fish slices have been seared.

Lower heat then add olive oil to start the saute.  When oil is hot enough, saute the onions until soft, then add in the garlic.  Stir fry for 30 seconds, and add in the diced tomatoes, olives and capers. Stir fry for about half a minute before adding white wine. Let boil then reduce heat to simmer for a minute or two.

Adjust seasonings by adding salt and pepper if needed. Then toss in the cooked angel hair and continue to toss to distribute the sauce for another 30 seconds.

Remove from fire, transfer angel hair onto a serving plate and top with the seared Sea Bass.
Mangia Bene!


*We asked the manager why they took the dish out of the menu. She said it was because "Sea Bass is an endangered species." Really? We wager that the real reason was that the dish wasn't as popular as the other items and was costlier to produce/keep in the menu.

Mar 6, 2014

Fish and Tofu Hotpot ala Ho Chai Lai

There's a Chinese restaurant along the National Highway in Muntinlupa City that enjoys a good following despite its 'barest essentials' positioning because of the taste and quality of their food.  Ho Chai Lai is almost always packed at lunch time, frequented by people who want Chinese fare beyond the usual dimsum and Filipinized offerings at Chowking.  Their bestseller is the Stuffed Squid, squid stuffed with chives, battered, deep fried and served with a special sauce on the side.

When we dine at Ho Chai Lai, my husband and I usually order the Stuffed Squid and this dish, Fish Head Eggplant Hotpot, or the other variant, Fish Tofu Hotpot. My husband likes it so much I've taken it upon myself to replicate it at home, and merging the two variants eggplant and tofu, so that my husband gets the best of both and enjoy the dish whenever he wants. :)

The most recent appearance of this dish on our dinner table was two Thursdays ago, when we had friends over for dinner. I was surprised to find my meat-loving friends loving it, even asking for the recipe. So here it is!


What's In It?

For the Fish:
1.5 kgs Bitilla* (White Snapper, see photo), gutted, descaled and sliced into serving portions
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup water
1 tsp. + 1/2 tsp. fine salt
1 tsp. + 1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1 cup cooking oil, for frying

For the hotpot:
1/4 cup cooking oil, for sauteing
1 large thumb ginger, peeled and sliced in rounds
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed
6-8 large pieces of dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes or longer
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1 Knorr fish broth cube
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Chinese cooking wine
2 tablespoons sesame oil (optional)
3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
3 stalks onion leeks, sliced, white part separated from greens
2 medium eggplants, peeled, halved lengthwise then crosswise
half a large block of tofu, cut into 1" squares

Kitchen Conjugations:

Prepare the Fish: Season the fish slices with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, make a thin batter of the flour, water and season it with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a wok or frying pan, heat the cooking oil over medium heat. Test if cooking oil is hot enough by dropping bit of the batter, watching for sizzling. When the oil is hot enough, carefully drop the fish slices one by one, leaving enough space between each slice to prevent them from sticking with each other. (Turn heat to high as oil temperature has dropped with the addition of the fish. Turn settings back to low when the oil begins to sizzle again.)  Fry the fish slices for about 3-4 minutes each side or until they turn light brown. Remove from the pan and transfer onto a plate. Do the same process for the rest of the fish until all have been cooked.

Make the hotpot: In a hotpot or saucepan, saute the ginger, onions and garlic in hot oil. Stir fry for about a minute, then add in the oyster sauce. Stir fry for about half a minute, then add all ingredients except the eggplant, tofu, leeks and cornstarch slurry. Let boil then simmer for a minute.  Check and adjust seasonings, adding sugar, salt or the cooking wine to produce a balance of sweet, salty and tangy.

Add the eggplant slices and let the sauce simmer until they are half-cooked. Then add in the white parts of the leeks, the tofu squares and fried fish slices. Let boil then simmer for about two minutes, before adding the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.

Garnish with the rest of the onion leeks and serve with steamed rice.  Enjoy!

*Other fish like Maya-maya (Red Snapper), Lapu-lapu (Grouper) or Labahita (Surgeonfish), may also be used.  You can also use fillets, but make a thicker batter (that of pancake batter consistency).

UPDATE:  I've replaced the original photo with a new one, this time made more colorful by the addition of carrot medallions. I've also cut the tofu into bigger squares and pre-fried them to make them easier to handle. The fish used in the dish in the picture above is lapu-lapu.

Mar 2, 2014

Korean Beef Stew ala Kimchi

People my age would remember Kimchi as a popular restaurant in SM Foodcourt whose specialty is the Galbi Jim, or Korean Beef Stew. Unfortunately though, perhaps with waned popularity and the high cost of leasing and maintaining space in the mall, Kimchi branches have become fewer and fewer, replaced by glamorized 'turo-turos.'

We had friends over for dinner last Thursday and for a treat I decided to make this dish. Initially I considered using one of the recipes I found in Google, but decided winging it, based on what I think should be in it, from the memory of the taste of the dish. (People close to me know that this is how I cook-- approximating flavors from memory.) I think I was able to really come close to the Kimchi recipe. :)  I would probably use a different gochujhang (Korean chili paste) brand, next time though, as this one  wasn't as spicy as I wanted.


What's In It?

1 kg. beef short ribs
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
1 head garlic, peeled and mashed
1 cup Kikkoman soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Chinese cooking wine
2-4 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
Bird's eye chilies (siling labuyo), optional
1 bunch onion leeks, washed and sliced diagonally into 1/2" lengths
Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)

Kitchen Conjugations:

Wash the beef short ribs in cold water, removing slime and fat. Place them in a stock pot, and add in water to the level just enough to cover the ribs. Boil over high heat for 3-4 minutes.

Remove all scum from the broth. Add in all ingredients except the leeks, sesame seeds and chilies. Let boil some more for about 5 minutes, then lower heat to simmer the dish for about two hours. Yes, that long! Could be longer, if you had the misfortune of buying tough meat...

Check from time to time if you need to add more water. Check and adjust seasonings, too. You may need to add more sugar and/or cooking wine should you opt to add water. Add salt (not soy sauce) for a little more saltiness. Warning: adding more soy sauce instead of salt will make the broth too dark.

You can add the chilies at this point if you find that the chili paste has not spiced things up to the level desired. While waiting you can also slice the onion leeks, toast the sesame seeds and steam some rice. :)

This dish is best cooked till the meat gets to fall-off-the-bones tenderness. Test by poking a piece with a fork. If the tines get through without much effort, the meat is tender enough.

Garnish with onion leeks and toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot with steamed rice and sautéed mung bean sprouts (togue) on the side. Enjoy!


1. Do you really need gochujang? Yes, if you want the authentic Korean taste and the reddish tint of the Kimchi resto version. I bought my chili paste from Shopwise. See how it looks like here.

2. Do you really have to use Kikkoman? Yes, or some really good soy sauce.  As this is a stew the meat absorbs and retains the flavors of the stewing broth so it is important that you use good soy sauce (and reserve the inexpensive soy sauce for regular fares like Adobo).

PS: Here's a special shout-out to my friend Mark Samson who introduced me to this dish at Kimchi. Thanks, Mark!