My Filipino-inspired Birthday Lunch (4 months overdue)

It has been some time since I posted something here, so apologies to my friends who’ve been expecting something from me for a while. Anyway, the last time I wrote something, I gave the lunch menu for my 25th birthday.  It looked daunting when I first planned it, but I was ecstatic to actually have pulled it off.

My concept was a Filipino tasting menu since I always had difficulty explaining Philippine cuisine to my friends. The best definition I could give them was “Think Southeast Asian, but not too spicy and with Chinese and Spanish influences.” That only puzzles them further.  (I knew I should have brought Ma’s copy of the Kulinarya cookbook with me.)

I spent a week planning my menu and got everything I needed from the Tiger and Dragon Food Store which had a really impressive collection of Asian ingredients.  Every Filipino ingredient I could think of was there.  Note that in the latter dishes I will mention, everything was prepared from scratch. Yes, they even had fresh pandan leaves, powdered ube root, and coconut milk!

I did the meal twice: the first time for my PhD student friends, and the second time for my research group.  So that it would be easy for me, I made sure there were no more than seven guests at a time.  Also I thought it would be more practical (ie. cheaper) and impressive to just serve the food in portions and course by course.

The first time I did it, one of my guests came a few minutes early and watched me in the kitchen.  I was preparing the lumpia (Philippine spring rolls) when she arrived and she was excited to learn how to prepare the peanut sauce served with it. What really made me happy was how she thought that I looked professional and asked if I studied cooking somewhere. I told her I never took formal lessons, but I’ve helped out my mom in the kitchen since I was a little kid and I enjoyed reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows & competitions, and eating in all kinds of restaurants.

She then complimented my chopping skills, which I was thankful for again. You see, as a birthday present to myself, I had bought a professional Wüsthof chef’s knife before I even secured all the ingredients just so I would have a more fun prep period.

The Birthday Kitchen

Since I served the meal course by course I was able to explain to them what each dish was.  They listened intently as I explained when these dishes were usually prepared and what their influences were.

This was the menu:


Amuse bouche
Sisig na tokwa
Tofu sisig bites served with faux pork rind, eggyolk drizzle, and aioli
(Served with shots of San Miguel Beer / SMB)
Origin/Influence: Original Pampanga creation
(came from the alternative use of meat parts the Americans at Clark Airbase didn’t want)
In Chinese soup spoons for easy eating

I had to serve this in small bites since I just wanted an appetizer.  Sisig is usually prepared with boiled and grilled pork (pig face to be exact), but I used tofu for easy prep and a healtier alternative.  As an amuse, it was good that the sisig packed a punch with the salt and spices.  Since I couldn’t find quail eggs the day before, I decided to just drizzle heated egg yolk and cook the egg white with the sisig.  The “pork rind” was a cheap German snack which looked like chicharon, but tasted like a Philippine snack called Fritos Ring. Really nice alternative since real pork rind was expensive and sold only in large bags.

I thought of pairing the sisig with SMB (San Miguel Beer) for them to taste the most famous beer in the Philippines.  However, since SMB was expensive (about 3x as expensive as German beers), I decided to do shots of it. Most of them really liked the lightness and fruity tones of SMB. One of them who didn’t drink beer a lot really liked it as well.  An Indian friend commented that I should just cook this dish and we should have a beer party with it. Great suggestion. I mean the Germans love grilled food, pork, onions, vinegar, and beer. Why wouldn’t they love sisig, right?

Salad
Lumpiang sariwa
Philippine fresh vegetable roll with egg net
served with peanut sauce
Origin/Influence: Chinese, Southeast Asian

Salad with the amuse

For the lumpia, I originally wanted to use ubod / hearts of palm, but the only available ones were canned and really expensive. I decided to just use carrots, togue/mungbean sprouts, and preserved bamboo shoots. It turned out to be really tasty, especially with the sweet-salty peanut garlic sauce. Since I wanted it to look pretty as well, I made the lumpia wrapper into a net instead of a plain crepe. Got great reviews on the taste and presentation of this one. Some of them couldn’t stop eating the sauce!


Entrée

Pansit Canton at Kropek
Philippine style lo mein noodles and shrimp crackers
Origin/Influence: Chinese

Since it’s tradition to eat pansit on one’s birthday (for long life), I decided to have this as the prelude to the main course.  I used dried pancit canton, various fresh veggies, and an oyster-based sauce for this. This was the only dish I cooked from scratch on the actual party day. Got the kropek from my favorite Chinese restaurant in Bismarckplatz.

Main course
Dalawang luto sa karne: Adobo at Kaldereta
Duo of Philippine meat dishes:
Chicken & Pork Adobo* and
Lamb & Pork Caldereta
Origin/Influence: Adobo-Native, Caldereta-Spanish
(Served with steamed jasmine rice)
*also as vegetarian option with tofu and mushrooms

The adobo was the star of the lunch. Everyone kept raving about it. I prepared it the night before and let the meat absorb the oil and sauce. Then, just before serving it, I seared the skin to almost crisp and drizzled the sauce on it on the serving platter.  The kaldereta was stewed for three hours the day before as well. It cooked for so long that the lamb cubes just melted in one’s mouth.  The meat dishes went well with the red wine that my roommate bought for the occasion. For the adobo, I had to try it out as a vegitarian option as well since one of my labmates was vegitarian.

Dessert
Samu’t saring minatamis:
Ube puto, turon, buko-pandan

Sampler platter of sweets:
Purple yam rice cake with coconut toffee and coco-butterscotch sauce
Mini-banana eggrolls
Coconut-pandan sherbet
Origin/Influence: Puto-Native, Coconut desserts-Native and Malay, Eggroll-Chinese


For dessert, I had so many things in mind I ended up with a tasting platter. For the frozen dessert, I originally planned to make a buko-pandan gelatin salad. Unfortunately, my pandan jello did not set so I just mashed it together with the cream and made some kind of sherbet that still had the refreshing taste of pandan.  They really liked the taste of pandan and kept on asking about it. The rice cake / puto turned out well and I was surprised since it was the first time I made it.

Restaurant-feel: plating the dessert

In the end everyone enjoyed the lunch and thanked me for the meal. They all agreed they had a blast on the “culinary adventure”.  My boss even commented that I should already extend my Ph.D. to seven years, haha.  My friends now call me “Chef.”  Not really, but why not?  Well, if things don’t go well with my Ph.D. at least I know I have a fallback!  A Filipino restaurant in Europe would really be something interesting, wouldn’t it?  I’m sure the folk here in Heidelberg would welcome it.

*All recipes to be featured later (hopefully)
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4 thoughts on “My Filipino-inspired Birthday Lunch (4 months overdue)

  1. David!!!!! ang cute mo!!! =)
    hope you are doing great there! and uhmm…. isn’t your birthday somewhere in june- when it used to rain a lot and not christmassy late November? hahaha
    Anyway, I am loving this, and what a brilliant birthday thing. While you there are planning something Filipino-ish, i’m planning on a Mexican theme for mine (dec 6) hehe
    Btw, I also find it adorable that you still haven’t failed to put all those chemistry stuff here (ie CRYSTAL sugar) hehehehe bot white sugar, or brown sugar, but CRYSTAL sugar!
    more power and keep us posted! hope to see you soon- whether here or there =p
    i will continue to visit (good thing you informed us about this =) ) and spread the word about this fantastic food-chem blog =)

  2. Abbey as in Abbey W of The Beehive? The same Abbey who I used to tease a lot during Ch12? 🙂

    Thanks for visiting the blog. I suddenly feel small cuz you actually are a professional at cooking and baking. Whereas we’re just hobby cooks (ok maybe David’s on a different level. I’m too lazy to do gourmet.)

    BTW where will The Beehive be this December? I’m going home for the holidays and would like to buy some of your yummy pastries.

  3. David,

    I like your creativity with Food. Btw, how long have you been in Heidelberg? We have a small group of Pinays and Pinoy who get together once in a while to enjoy Pinoy food. There are four of us Pinoys working at SAP in Walldorf and we get together with some Manangs we met here and friends who are stay at home moms.

    All the best on your PhD.

    Best Regards,
    Ina

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