How to make a simple siomai

The city of Saarbrücken is peppered with Chinese restaurants. These family-owned establishments generally make their money by offering lunch and dinner buffets at affordable prices. The Chinese restaurant staples like stir fried beef, chop suey, noodle dishes, spring rolls and the ever so yummy fried duck abound.

Visibly missing are the steamed dumplings. I am quite surprised by it because back home, a Chinese restaurant is never without dumplings, may it be a fancy restaurant in the city or a whole in the wall in China town. They offer different types of dumplings, from the delicate har gau (shrimp dumpling) to the rugged siomai (beef or pork dumplings).

Back in grade school, I subsisted on 4 pieces of siomai at PhP 2.50 each and a cup of rice during lunch time. It was served complete with calamansi, soy sauce, and chili garlic oil.  Since then it has been one of my favorite viands and for the most part, one of my favorite afternoon merienda.

Three years in Germany, you can imagine how siomai-deprived I was. So in line with my new PhooD philosophy, I made my own.

MATERIALS & METHODS

Kookie’s Simple Siomai

  • 500 g ground meat
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots (small dices)
  • 2 small onions chopped
  • 1 tsp dried chives (in lieu of spring onions)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • wonton wrappers
  • Chili garlic oil and soy sauce for dipping

0 Prepare your steamer by covering the surface with a thin film of oil. Start to boil water.

1 In a huge bowl, mix together ground meat, carrots, onions, chives, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and ground pepper

2 Fill in wonton wrapper with the meat mixture (~ 1 Tbsp)

3 Put siomai in the steamer and let it cook for 12-15 minutes.

4 Serve with dark soy sauce and chili garlic oil.

DISCUSSION

I finished an entire package of wonton wrappers with the amount of meat that I used. So you can imagine how much leftovers you’ll have if you live by yourself or even if you live with a couple of people. They keep for a couple of days once they’re cooked. If you think you can’t finish it within 3 days, share it with your colleagues. Ph.D. students never say no to food 🙂

The type of meat really depends on your taste. The ground meat can either be pork or beef or a combination of both. I like pork siomai more than beef but Aldi offers mixed ground beef and pork so I used that.

Reheating is a breeze. You can either re-steam them for 5 minutes or so. That’s just enough time for the meat to be warm again. Or the other popular alternative is to fry the siomai until the wrapper is golden brown.

For those of you in the southwest part in Germany who’s never tried siomai or craves siomai but don’t want to prepare it yourself, there’s a restaurant in Mannheim called China Restaurant Pavillon. They have a good selection of dimsum that I have not found anywhere else in Germany.

The address is

China Restaurant
Pavillon
Augustanlage 59
68185 Mannheim

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Chicken Adobo on Green Beans and Mini Salad with Sesame Raspberry Vinaigrette

The second dish served during my birthday lunch was the easiest one to prepare.  Adobo we could prepare with our eyes closed.  And the sides?  Idiot proof.

METHODOLOGY

1 This recipe was used to prepare the chicken adobo. The proportions were adjusted for 2.5 kg of chicken breast.

2 Store cooked adobo in a sealed container overnight for post cooking marination.

3 Lay out the chicken breast pieces on a baking tray. Pour half of the adobo sauce over the chicken.

4 Place baking tray on the top layer of the oven and bake at 200 deg C for 20-30 minutes. Baste the chicken with the sauce every so often to avoid drying out.

5 To the remaining sauce, add enough sugar  until there’s a balance of sweet, sour and salty.

6 In a small pot, reduce the sweetened adobo sauce until thick.

7 Blanch the green beans in boiling salted water.

8 Wash the lettuce and tear into smaller pieces.

9 Arrange the green beans and the lettuce on the plate.

10 Lay the baked chicken breast on top of the green beans.

11 Glaze the chicken breast with the adobo sauce reduction.

12 Drizzle the lettuce with the sesame raspberry vinaigrette and serve.

Sesame Raspberry Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam/preserve
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil (depends on the aroma of the oil. when using clear cold-press sesame oil, 3-4 Tbsp will do. When using toasted sesame oil use less.)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whip together until slightly emulsified.

DISCUSSION

Why use chicken breast? Because it means there will be no bones on the plates after. On a normal day, I wouldn’t mind the bones, but for my birthday, I would have found them unsightly.

Because chicken breast is the blandest part of the chicken, I doped the pot with a chicken leg to add fat into the sauce, and eventually to the breast.

Raspberry AHA! moment. Pardon my ignorance once again, but I never thought that raspberry jam would taste so good with meat. We had some leftover vinaigrette after we prepared all of the dishes, so David put it on the table just in case people still wanted some. He told me that it would taste great with the chicken. I was doubtful but was willing to give it a try.

I spread a small amount of the vinaigrette on a slice of chicken. When I put it into my mouth, the first thing I tasted was the meat and the rich adobo flavor. And then I was bombarded with the sweet and tangy taste brought on by the raspberry jam.  The stimulation was like being tickled, but not wanting the tickling to stop.

CONCLUSION
Now don’t you think that was a pretty easy entree to serve? Most of the work was done the day before.  Granted the simmering for adobo takes an hour to do but waiting is kinda effortless right?

All of the last minute prep work for the sides could be done as the chicken breasts are baking.  This already includes the start of the plating.

One caveat: Make sure there’s enough air circulation in the room when you prepare and serve this dish. The smell of garlic will emanate and will stick to anything. Anything might also include underwear. Just saying.

Kookie’s Birthday Lunch – The Preview

Last Sunday, after weeks of denial, I celebrated my 30th (some say twenty-tenth) birthday.  I normally don’t have anything big during my birthdays, except for that time when I turned 7 and the entire street had to be blocked off because we had too many guests.

Anyway, because it was THE 30th birthday, I decided to celebrate and invited 9 of my friends/colleagues for a birthday lunch.  David and Janet were not considered as guests as they helped me prepare everything David was the chef and Janet and I played sous chefs.

The night before the lunch, I wanted to greet the new decade with the blowing of the candles.  And for this occasion I made a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, known to the rest of the world as Black Forest.

Nice huh?  See those sparkling things at the back of the cake?  Those are not glasses of champagne or prosecco.  Those are glasses of Apfelschorle 🙂

As for the lunch itself, here’s the menu :

Appetizers
Tofu Sisig

First Dish
Asian BBQ Pasta

Second Dish
Twice Cooked Adobo Chicken Breast on a bed of Green Beans
and Mini Salad with Sesame Raspberry Vinaigrette

Dessert
Chocolate revel bar with mango cream and raspberry coulis

I will be posting about the recipes (because David’s too lazy to do so) one by one during the coming week in chronological order starting with the Black Forest.

The lunch was a huge success, with most plates cleaned out (except for one Weichei who couldn’t handle the chili – Hi Nabil!)

We were exhausted afterwards; David and I fell sick the day after.  But nevertheless, it was a fun weekend of chopping, mixing, braising, baking, and aging.

David and Janet, from the bottom of my cold heart, thank you very much for making my twenty-10th birthday special.  *icicle tear*

How to have a Heidelberg Christmas – Part 1 of 2

After surviving an en route train change at Köln which left me bewildered and a little bit lost, I found myself safe and sound in David’s town—Heidelberg, Germany—for the initial part of the ADMU Chem-Europe Christmas reunion.

That evening, we went out and did the first slew of groceries in the nearby Kaufland for the Christmas Eve dinner (Noche Buena) and Christmas lunch.

The subsequent grocery raids happened the next day (24th), which left David’s pantry literally overflowing with ingredients.

David's overflowing pantry

The afternoon of the 24th found us back at David’s residence, cooking (I’m proud to say that it has been a privilege to be his sous chef, because I learned a LOT).  Not just for the Noche Buena, but also for the Christmas lunch (see David’s post)—bouef bourgignon and mushroom bourgignon (for the lunch party), and creamy chicken sopas and David’s version of German fiesta ham.

On to the food!

Creamy chicken sopas

The creamy chicken sopas. Sopas is a colloquial Filipino term (derived from Spanish) for a noodle soup dish. In this case, the generous amount of milk used in this dish and the slow simmering brought out the full flavor of this comfort food.  We were delighted to taste its sweetness despite the obvious lack of added sugar. Amazing.

Materials used:

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 onion
  • 25g bacon, chopped
  • half a carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • chicken pieces (2 wings, 2 legs)
  • chicken giblets (liver, gizzard, neck)
  • 1L milk
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • spiral macaroni noodles, approx 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Methodology

  • Sweat bacon.  Add olive oil, garlic and onions. Let onions caramelize. Saute chicken pieces.
  • Add diced veggies.  Add chicken stock and milk.  Bring to a boil and simmer at low heat for at least 30 minutes.  Add macaroni.
  • Once the macaroni is cooked, remove pot from heat. Keep warm or serve immediately.

German fiesta ham

Glazed (German) Fiesta ham. No, David did not make fiesta ham from scratch—he bought a 2-EUR bone-in ham from a Kaufland and a can of pineapple slices in light syrup.  Preparation was pretty much straightforward: line aluminum pan with pineapple slices, place ham on top, stick in oven until the ham is nicely browned.  The glaze was prepared from the canned fruit’s light syrup with a bit of sugar.

Assessment
Those two simple dishes, served with baguette rolls and Boursin (really good cheese…must grab some when I’m back in Leuven after the holidays), brought what we really missed that Christmas Eve—the memory of Christmas at home with family.  Coupled with bantering, jokes and good conversation, our first Heidelberg Christmas still had a Filipino heart.

Boursin!
ADMU Chem-Europe's Christmas Eve dinner should always feature Boursin...

Merry Christmas, readers!

Paraiso: Guinataang Malagkit at Pandan Sago

Anything tropical, exotic and sweet is sure to win any non-Asian (read: Caucasian) heart. Anything that reminds them of the sun, swaying palm trees and warm breezes guarantees a contented smile and possibly a burp or two.

When a Polish friend from church raved over my last-minute guinataang munggo na pula (glutinous rice and red mung beans in coconut milk), made from scratch using coconut cream, a cup of glutinous rice, red mung beans and sugar provided by another girl friend for Sunday dessert many weeks past, she never stopped requesting me that I make her another one; she specifically requested for her “Paradise” dessert for our final “international Sunday girls’ lunch”.

Fine. But I did not want to do the one with red mung beans…it felt like repeating myself, thus boring.

uncooked pandan sago pearls

Enter pandan sago. Which I found in a Thai grocery shop (managed by…a Filipina!) while hunting for cheap coconut cream. Much to my consternation, sago pearls are sold uncooked in 1-kg bags (but of course!) which made me scratch my head a bit since I had no idea how to cook sago.

But then again, I’d go on a cooking adventure if only to make a friend happy to have her spoonful of paraiso before the holidays.

Materials

  • 2 cups uncooked glutinous rice
  • 1 cup uncooked pandan sago pearls
  • 4 Tbsp sugar (or to taste)
  • 500 mL tetra-pack coconut cream

Methodology

  • Heat water in a Dutch oven or pot. As soon as the water comes to a rolling boil, add the uncooked sago pearls and stir constantly. After 10 minutes (or until the pearls become completely translucent), immediately remove pot from the stove, drain the pearls through a fine sieve, rinse with ice-cold water before soaking them in a bowl of cold water.
  • Pour coconut cream in a non-stick pot, then add the uncooked glutinous rice. Heat the contents, with constant stirring, until the rice is cooked. If the cream thickens too soon, add half-a-cupful of cold water into the mixture and stir evenly.
  • Add the cooked pandan sago and stir. Add sugar and stir until crystals are fully dissolved.
  • Ladle the contents into bowls, ramekins or any deep dish (or what-have-you). Leave to cool to room temperature before serving (or before chilling in the refrigerator).

Results and Discussion
Too much! This dessert is too easy to make, it’s too easy to make too much! The 2:1 ratio of glutinous rice and sago were enough for 14 persons (the girls, plus a few from the Residentie Steenberg, and an odd fellow or two from ACL). Take note that the proper serving portion for guinataang malagkit is NOT (and should not be) a brimming bowlful—coconut milk/cream is rich, made heavier by starchy, glutinous rice. I myself love this dessert, but I cannot take more than a parfait-cup serving of it.

Coconut milk or cream? You can use either. Coconut cream (in Filipino: kakang gata) is really thick coconut milk from the first pressing of shredded coconut meat—therefore having a higher fat content than coconut milk, which comes from the subsequent pressings (and mixed with a proportion of water). Coconut cream thickens faster, so you need to be extra watchful, with a cupful of water ready to thin out the mixture when the rice is still uncooked. Glutinous rice absorbs a LOT of water!

coconut cream stirred, not shaken

Cooking sago. Ah, this is the adventurous part of my experience. Before tackling the pack of uncooked sago, I had to take a peek in the Internet for tips and tricks in cooking sago pearls. A lot of Asian foodbloggers agree that sago should be cooked in boiling water for 10 minutes flat (unless you want a bland, icky mush fit for Victorian, British desserts), then rinsed with cold water to remove the excess starch. With my experience, it does take 10 minutes before seeing the white uncooked cores dissolve into translucency. With pandan sago, the end-result looks like tiny, gleaming jade balls.

cooked sago pearls :)

Wrapping up
All I can say is that I am still amazed and happy to see the smiling, blissful faces of those who ate this dessert, as if they truly had a taste of paradise at that instance. It felt like they loved a part of my home, of where I came from…and this made me proud.

tasting paradise

Although, there’s a caveat emptor for this Filipino dessert: Guinataang malagkit is delicious, but nakaka-umay after a while.

Happy Sunday!

The fastest way to warm up : Bicol Express

For over a month now, the weather has shifted back and forth between cold and really cold. The time of grilling and cold cuts is over. Now is the season for stews and casseroles. Heavy, warm, caloric…yum!

Since we’re warming up here (heh), I’m going to post one of my favorite Filipino spicy stews: Bicol Express.

It’s quite similar to the Thai curries because it’s made with coconut milk and chili peppers. But that’s where the similarity ends. The Filipino version is simpler, with visibly less ingredients but with the same amount of flavor.

Normally Bicol Express is made with 12 green chili peppers, but to buy so much can be a little pricey. So instead, I used a package of mixed chili peppers made of 3 green and 2 red pieces.


The red chili peppers are a lot spicier than the green variety, which I personally liked. Your tolerance may vary of course. But if you use less chili peppers, I’ll probably call you a wuss.

MATERIALS and METHODS
Bicol Express (serves 2-3)

  • 250 g pork belly
  • 10 – 12 pcs green chili peppers or 3 green + 2 red chili peppers
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 tomatoes diced
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger julienned
  • 1 1/2 cup thick coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro or coriander
  • 1 Tbsp chopped onion leaves or chives
  • Fish sauce to taste

1 Dice the pork.

2 Cut off ends of the peppers and remove the seeds. Soak in salted water for 10 mins. Drain and cut into small pieces.

3 Heat cooking oil on skillet and cook pork until golden brown.

4 Add garlic, ginger, onion, tomato, and drained pepper.

5 Add cilantro and onion leaves.

6 Pour half cup of water and simmer for 15 mins.

7 At medium heat, pour coconut cream, cook uncovered, stirring occasionally. Adjust taste with fish sauce.

8 Simmer until there is only enough liquid to coat the solids in the mixture.

9 Serve.

DISCUSSION

Chop instead of mincing. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, Julia Child would probably lecture you on the importance of having one. I don’t have one. Neither do I have a garlic press. So instead of finely mincing the garlic, I just chopped them like a crazy woman. I chopped them up so fine the tiny pieces got stuck between my fingers, endearing me to my colleagues the next day.

Salt the pork before frying. It might be a good idea to rub salt on the pork before dicing and frying them. This makes sure that the meat won’t be bland after cooking.

Reduce water when using coconut milk. If you are using coconut milk instead of cream, add less water before simmering. I don’t necessarily measure the exact amount but if I were to guesstimate, I would use a little less than 1/4 cup. This is so that reducing the liquid wouldn’t take so long.

OUTLOOK
If you are not so keen about eating pork, you can use chicken or turkey breast instead. I have never prepared a vegetarian version of this, so if there’s anyone willing to try using tofu instead of meat, let me know how it turns out.

It wouldn’t be as tasty, but if you are too lazy to julienne the ginger, you can replace it with 1 tsp of powdered ginger. You can adjust the amount depending to your taste.

As with any South East Asian curry, or pretty much any South East Asian main dish, you MUST eat this with warm rice.

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)
dp05

Oui’s Happy Autumn Stew: Chicken Afritada

November’s almost over and I’ve finally got fed up cooking and eating adobo and sinigang (courtesy of Mama Sita’s sinigang na sampalok powder mix) for a the past few weeks. Not to mention that one time, I subsisted on party leftovers for 8 days (they were tasty, but you get tired of eating the same thing day in, day out). So, when it was my turn to cook the main dish for the girls’ Sunday lunch, I decided to pull out all the stops and challenge myself in cooking a fiesta-rated dish that I haven’t had any experience preparing on my own.

Afritada. Chicken afritada.

I had all the excuses to make this dish—one, this Sunday’s the feast of Christ the King, and two, I’ve invited Adriana (my Ecuadorian friend and labmate in the drug-discovery group) over to taste the Filipino version of a Spanish dish.

(Correction: my family’s version of the Filipino version of a Spanish dish. :D)

My chicken afritada with rice

Materials (serves eight)
– approx. 1 kg of chicken parts (drumsticks / thighs)
– 1 tetra pack (500 g) of tomato sauce
– 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
– ½ shallot, sliced
– 3 medium new potatoes (Charlotte Ros), scraped and quartered
– 1 bottle of peeled baby carrots, rinsed and drained
– 2 bell peppers/capsicums: red and green (or you may use any color), cut into strips
– some green beans / haricot verts, trimmed
– canned/bottled white beans in tomato sauce
– salt and pepper
– flour
– ½ cube chicken bouillon

Methodology
– Rinse the chicken parts in running water, pat dry, then coat them with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown the pieces in hot cooking oil, then set aside.
– In a large Dutch oven / cooking pot, heat approx. 2-3 tablespoons of oil, then saute the garlic and onions with the crushed chicken bouillon. Add the browned chicken pieces and lightly toss until coated with the oil and spices.
– Add the tomato sauce. Cover pot and wait until the mixture simmers (in medium heat). Stir the chicken and the sauce, cover and time for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
– Add the potatoes, cover pot and let everything simmer for ~10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
– Add the carrots, cover pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Again, stir once in a while to prevent the food sticking in the pot.
– Add the bell peppers and green beans, let everything cook uncovered for 3-5 minutes (or until the beans turn bright green). Add half a bottle of canned white beans in tomato sauce, stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn off heat and serve with hot, fluffy rice!

Results and Discussion
Time allotment. This is not a quick dish (i.e., this takes around at least an hour to cook everything, not to mention that it takes me around 20 minutes to prepare the meat and vegetables for cooking), so this is best done during weekends. For today’s lunch, my original plan was to divide the cooking method into two stages—cook the chicken, potatoes and carrots the night before, then reheat and add the vegetables and beans when the girls and I come back from Sunday Mass. I still followed the two-stage cooking plan, however I did not do the first part last night since I was a bit feverish—instead, I got up at around 5AM to do it!

Chicken afritada, stage 1
Cooking chicken afritada, stage 1, at 5AM

Absurdly early, I know…but I had Sunday choir-practice at 9AM, and it takes me 25-30 minutes to walk from Brusselstraat to the seminary. And with my sleep-addled (and paracetamol-stuffed) brain had to figure out what sort of cover to use for my hand-me-down Dutch oven…

My Dutch oven doesn't have its own cover, so I had to improvise...again, at 5AM.

Bottled baby carrots? Fresh carrots here are sold by the bushel, not by piece. Again, the solo-living dilemma—what am I going to do with a pile of unused vegetable since I can only eat as much? Another advantage in using bottled baby carrots is that I get to skip the trimming and scraping part—all I needed to do was to rinse the pieces thoroughly with cold water to remove the brine (wait, are bottled veggies brined anyway? I am not sure, but it pays to play it safe…and I don’t want any extra, “bottle-only” flavor to compete with my dish) and toss them into the stew. Reduces cooking time, too.

Canned/bottled white beans in tomato sauce?? Ah, I have revealed a family variation to the afritada—the canned/bottled white beans in tomato sauce (back in the Philippines, it would’ve been “canned pork & beans”) rounds up the rich flavor of this tomato-based stew.

Breading the chicken pieces. Another family variation—coating the meat pieces with seasoned flour does two things: prevents the meat from sticking to the pot, and the meat becomes pre-seasoned already. Notice that the “adjust the amount of seasoning to taste” is at the last part of the Methodology—in this attempt, I just had to add more pepper and a tiny bit of salt to complete the taste profile of the sauce, not of the meat.

Wrapping it up
For a PhD student, this is a time-intensive dish, perfect for weekends and for entertaining friends since it’s a stew rich in flavor AND ingredients—with one pot, everyone gets “stuffed to the gills” with protein and veggies. If there are leftovers, they would be greatly appreciated as afritada also ages well in the fridge. But this is definitely not a dish you’d like to whip up from scratch after a long day in the lab.

Although, I call this a “happy stew” because of the colors. Perfect for the grey autumn weather.

Alaska Seelachsfilet mit Kirschtomaten

Perhaps you’re already tired of cheese, seeing that it’s all we’ve written about the last week. It was an enjoyable experience, but I’m kinda sick of cheese right now, both in taste and in concept.

So I want to change the topic back to recipes! It’s been a while, eh?

Here’s one very simple fish recipe, that takes only 15 minutes to make. It’s a modified version of Fish Sarciado which I made using Alaska pollock filets. I named it Alaska Seelachsfilet mit Kirschtomaten which literally translates to Alaska pollock filet with cherry tomatoes. Had I had bigger tomatoes, I would have made the real Sarciado but this little version, in it’s simple elegance, all but makes up for the lack in volume.

MATERIALS and METHODS
Alaska Seelachsfilet mit Kirschtomaten (Serves 1)

  • 2 pieces Alaska Seelachsfilet (fresh or frozen)
  • 10 pieces cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil, divided
  • fish sauce
  • salt and pepper

1 Rub both sides of the fish filet with salt. Pan fry on non-stick pan over a 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil until golden brown. Set aside on plate.

2 On the same pan, pour the remaining sesame oil. Saute the tomatoes. Season with fish sauce and pepper. Keep sauteing until you see the skin wrinkling slighty and the sauce emerges from the tomatoes.

3 Pour sauteed tomatoes over fish. Serve with rice.

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DISCUSSION
Working with frozen fish. The promise of 15 minute preparation is of course outside the thawing time, if you used frozen Alaska Seelachsfilet. Whenever I would buy a package of frozen Alaska Seelachsfilet in Aldi, I would immediately portion them into Ziploc bags, with each bag containing two filets. The moment I arrive home, I take one bag out and put it in a bowl of lukewarm water. By the time I’m done changing, turning on my laptop, and checking my Facebook page just to see if anybody updated since I last checked Facebook in the office, the fish would have thawed.

Thawed fish contains a lot of water in it. I don’t particularly like it when the fish doesn’t fry immediately, but instead is braised in its own water.

What I would do is I dry the fish a little bit using a paper towel before I rub it with salt. This way, I hear that nice fizzing sound when I put the fish on the hot pan.

Fish sauce. For the non-Asian readers, if there are any (wouldn’t hurt if you make your presence felt :-)), fish sauce can be a turn off. I mean come on, it kinda stinks. So if you have no desire to purchase not even the smallest bottle, ask that Asian colleague of yours (preferably the one who comes from South East Asia). Believe me, he or she would gladly give you more than you need.

Happy Birthday NRLR!

I cannot think of anything else to dedicate to Nina on her birthday except this.

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To those of you who don’t know, the Rojas leche flan is legendary. Rich and creamy, no one’s been able to duplicate its even consistency.

This was made guerilla-style in my kitchenette. The leche flan looks deceivingly huge but they were actually molded using cookie cutters with one end wrapped with aluminum foil. I have no llanera you see.

To make a basic leche flan is quite easy. Click here for the recipe I followed. The Rojas version I think is a family secret 🙂

So Nina, here’s a toast to you. We here in the PhoodJournal wish you all the happiness and success in the world!