Filipino Food

Luis of the London Foodie asked me a very interesting question.  He asked me to teach him about Philippine cuisine.  That was something that I had to think about long and hard.  I wanted to write something that would place the Philippines in an amazingly flattering light (this is why I don’t write about the Philippines as much because I tend to write about what things need to be changed and I don’t want to add to the negative press that the Philippines is getting already.  We have enough of it out there already!  The Philippines is a wonderful country with beautiful people and it is definitely worth a visit!) and make people want to seek out Filipino food.  But everything I know about Filipino cooking was learned at looking over my mum’s shoulder.  I am no food expert by any means.  I just know that when my mum cooks (cooks properly, from scratch, and not any of those nearly-ready meals), the house smells amazing and is an excellent preview of what the dinner will be.

Philippine cuisine is mostly like its neighbours, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese.  It’s very southeast asian, but with the influence of the Spanish (they did occupy the Philippines for 300-odd years!), Chinese (I daresay nearly every Filipino has a percentage of Chinese blood in them) and American (and I’m not just talking the McDonalds and the KFCs).  Like our Asian neighbours, we are rice eaters (this is why the Spanish paellas was so natural for the Philippines to adapt, what with us being rice eaters and seafood being so accessible).

Filipino food is normally prepared by boiling, steaming or roasting.  Most of the food I’ve learned to cook is sauteed (my favourite is chicken afritada, which is chicken sauteed with garlic, onions and tomatoes—mmm yum!  I should write about it in my recipes section soon!).  But I think the sauteeing was brought about by the Spanish influence.  The southeast Asian and Chinese influence brought with them the use of soy sauce and fish sauce and the stir-fry method of cooking.  One of my favourite dishes is sinigang, which is comparable to the Thai tom yum, which has a tamarind soup base.  It is cooked using either pork (pork belly is best!), chicken, fish (we use a fish called bangus, or milk fish, which is similar to the seabass.  some of my friends who live overseas use salmon) or beef.  It has augbergines, white radish, long beans, kang kong (you can buy this type of greens at asian supermarkets, it’s called ung choi), onions, tomatoes and a few chillis (depends on how hot you want your sinigang to be).  Optional ingredients include taro, okra and winged beans.  It’s a one-pot dish that you eat with rice.  At our house, we always season it to individual taste with fish sauce.

One of the more popular Filipino dishes is called adobo, which can be cooked using chicken or pork or the combination of.  There are a myriad variations of the adobo recipe because everyone has their take on how the spices should be blended together.  Other people will say that the meat is boiled in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic and pepper corns, other people will say that the meat has to be grilled to add more flavour, other people almost braise the meat.  There are debates about the inclusion of boiled eggs, the use of coconut cream, and the use of the bay leaf.  I think like any national dish, everyone has their version of how it’s cooked.

Our desserts are amazing!  My father makes this glutinous rice cake called suman sa lihiya.  It’s made by mixing glutinous rice with food grade lye and this is wrapped in banana leaf and boiled until cooked.  It takes hours to make, what with the wrapping of the rice and the cooking.  When it is finally cooked, the rice is shiny and sticky and it takes on a greenish tint from the banana leaf.  It is served with a sweet-sticky coconut cream sauce called latik (which my mom makes and it is DELICIOUS!).  Sometimes (when my mom can be bothered, as it is a LONG process), it is served with toasted coconut shreds.  We also have a variety of puto and bibingka which is are varieties of rice cakes made from rice flour.

One of my favourite desserts is called turon.  A turon is about one or two slices of the saba variety of banana (similar to the plantain), rolled in sugar, wrapped in spring roll wrapper (it’s just occured to me that I can probably try using filo pastry–ooooh! something to try next time, eh?) and deep fried until the wrapper is golden brown and fried to a crisp.  To make it a little more indulgent and fragrant, one or two slivers of jackfruit is added to each turon.

I think there are a few Filipino restaurants in Earls Court in London.  I’ve never been to any of them.  In fact the only time I’ve ever been near Earls Court since moving to England was going to the V&A Museum on Exhibition Road.  I know!  I was only a stone’s throw away but we had an itinerary to follow at the time.  Also, sometimes I worry that the food might not be as good as my mum’s or my aunts’ cooking.  I didn’t want to be disappointed.  I will venture out sometime…sooner rather than later I hope.  I will go there one day.  After all, one must love one’s own! 🙂

Sinigang by kurizeru06 from Photobucket
Adobo by
Turon by


Fast food: Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

All throughout the day I was dreading going home and making supper.  I wasn’t really in the mindset to make anything.  But I was encouraged (quite gently but very effectively) to make something out of the puff pastry that was languishing in the fridge.  And so, the tomato and mozzarella tart was born.

I will be the first to admit that even though cheese isn’t my best friend, I would very gladly devour mozzarella di bufala and suffer the consequences later and I LOVE TOMATOES.  So a caprese salad would be my best friend.  But since I did have puff pastry (and inspired by the continuous sightings of the Jus-Rol Janet advert on telly), I thought a caprese salad in a tart would be a good thing!

It was quick, easy, and relatively painless!

250g puff pastry (the best you can buy)
2 medium salad onions cut into half moons
150g fresh mozzarella, cut into half moons
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon pesto
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Unwrap the pastry and roll it out.  You need only 250 grams of it, so you’ll have to cut out, roughly a 10″x10″ square.  On the pastry sheet, trace a 9″x9″ frame in it  with a knife or a spatula so that there is a border (for lack of a better way to describe it!)and in pierce the pastry with a fork.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the tomato paste, pest, salt, sugar, garlic, and pepper until well-combined.
  4. Spread the tomato mixture inside the 9″x9″ frame you traced as evenly as possible.  Then arrange the mozzarella and tomato slices as desired within the frame.  Sprinkle the dried oregano on the tomato and mozzarella slices.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry has risen and is golden brown.
  6. This will serve 4 or a greedy 2.


Arroz con Chorizo

Rice meals have always been comforting and very filling for me.  I love the paellas, congees and all sorts of rice-based meals.  My Tita Mila, one of my dad’s younger sisters, has been an inspiration for me to learn so many dishes.  I have fond memories of coming to their house for parties.  Her cooking was phenomenal!  I think it was at one of her parties that I first tasted paella.  And ever since then, I’ve tried to practice my way into duplicating what she did.  I’m not quite there yet as I’m not quite brave enough to cook with actual pieces of seafood (YET!), but I’m getting there.

About a decade ago, maybe even more, I joined the Del Monte Kitchenomics Club.  It was a recipe club established by Del Monte in the Philippines.  I think it was a good marketing coup since the recipes mostly contained Del Monte ingredients.  But I have them to thank for because it was through a recipe that I got in the post that I learned my shortcut paella recipe.  It was a chicken skillet paella recipe.  Over the years, I’ve improved on how short the shortcuts were and I’ve been working on improving the recipes.

I can’t quite call my rice dish a paella but I guess you could call it that because it has chorizo, chicken and seafood.  But I won’t call it a paella until I can cook with actual seafood pieces.  It’s really a rice with chorizo dish with seafood, so it’s really an Arroz Con Chorizo recipe.   But for anyone wanting to try the shortcut recipe, here it is:

300 grams chicken thighs cubed
125 grams chorizo sliced into rounds
250 grams arborio rice (you can always use ordinary rice, the shorter the grain the better)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion chopped
1 large green bellpepper chopped
200 grams frozen peas
1 tsp garlic granules (or 2 fresh large garlic cloves minced)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
800ml chicken stock (1 L water with 2 stock cubes boiled until it’s reduced to 800ml)
225 grams frozen seafood mix (optional)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or shallow sauce pan.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and sautee until the onions are slightly transluscent.  Add the chorizo and sautee until the chorizo releases its oils.  The onion-chorizo mixture should turn slighlty orange (*NOTE: add the garlic at this point if you’re using fresh garlic, but only if you’re using fresh garlic).
  2. Add the chicken pieces and sautee until the chicken slices lose its pinkness.  Add all the spices: garlic, paprika, turmeric, pepper, cumin and cayenne pepper.  Mix until the spices are well-incorporated.  Lower the heat to medium and allow chicken to cook under a lid for 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and replace the lid and cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add the arborio rice (I usually wash the rice once before I cook it, if I’m NOT using arborio).  Mix well until all the rice grains are covered with the juices.  Add half of the chicken stock and cover the lid.  Allow mixture to reach a slow boil, stirring occassionally.
  4. When most of the stock has been absorbed, add the remaining stock.  Add the frozen peas, green bellpepper and seafood pieces (the seafood pieces are optional).  Cook on low heat for a further 20 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  You may have to add a little more water if the rice requires more cooking (depends on how hot your stove gets).
  5. This will serve 4-6, depending on how generous your portions will be.

Christmas Bread and Butter Pudding

For anyone with surplus mince pie filling, this would be a great option.

3 eggs
280 ml cream
55 ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50 grams granulated sugar
100 grams mince pie filling
50 g butter (preferably unsalted)
1 loaf brioche bread (or any sweet bread)

  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Beat eggs well with a ballon wire whisk.  Add sugar and beat well until sugar is well incorporated (tip: the lighter the colour of the egg-sugar mixture, the better).  Add the cream and vanilla and whisk well.  Set aside.
  • Slice brioche loaf into 16 slices.  This should form 8 pairs.  For each pair of brioche bread, spread one side with butter and the other slice with the mince pie filling (NOTE: the more generous you are with the mince pie filling, the sweeter the pudding will be).  Arrange sandwiches in a well-buttered baking pan.
  • Pour the milk and egg mixture over the bread slices.  Allow the milk and egg mixture to be absorbed (if you leave the bread for about 5 mins, this will give it time to absorb the milk and egg mixture).
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.

Catching up

I haven’t been writing anything recently.  The ideas are in my head but I need to write them down!

The past several weeks have been crazy busy!  The day job has been eating into the time I’ve put away to work on the dream job and I’m getting really frustrated!  I really need to make time to write.  I need to make sure I make the time because I really want to work on my recipes and my writing.  Dear God please give me time…or at least one of those Harry Potter time turner thingmebobs that Hermione used!  That would be incredibly handy!

Fingers crossed I am able to write this weekend!  If I do get to do that, I will write up a storm!


Slow-cooked Pork

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon chili powder (optional)

Mix together well, using a wire whisk to make sure everything is incorporated well.

To cook the meat, rub as much as you can onto the pork and marinade for at least 4 hours (the longer the better). Cook under foil for 6 hours at 110ºC and for the last 2 hours, remove the foil and turn up the oven to 180ºC.

This is enough dry rub for 6lbs of meat.  if you want to store it, after mixing, store in a tightly sealed jar in a cool, dark place.  The rub can be stored for 3-4 weeks.


Easy-peasy sweet cornbread

I love sweet sticky spare ribs and slow-cooked brisket.  And cornbread seems to be one of he best side dishes to this.  After much searching and tweaking, I’m finally able to swear by a recipe.  I love my cornbread sweet as I have a sweet tooth (a very bad thing for a diabetic to have!).  So I eat this in reasonable quantities.  But it is oh-so-yummy!  It’s a recipe I’m proud to share with you.

Sweet cornbreadIngredients:

  • 160g polenta (fine ground)
  • 125g all-purpose flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 240ml milk
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg


  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Prepare 12 x 7.5 pan by lining with baking paper and greasing with butter and set aside.
  3. Mix polenta, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl with a balloon whisk until well-combined.  Set aside.
  4. Beat egg, milk and vegetable oil together until well-combined.  Add to polenta mixture in 3 parts.  Once liquid mixture and dry mixture has been mixed together completely, allow to sit for 30 minutes so that polenta can absorb the liquid.
  5. Place in oven and cook for 20-22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  6. This recipe makes 20-24 squares.