Kani Salad

(#4 in the limited series:  “cooking/baking in the time of the corona virus quarantine”)

Barely a week into the month-long imposed community quarantine period, our friendly neighborhood vegetable vendor informed us that he would not be going around with his vegetable card.  While he still wanted to do his daily rounds of vegetable selling, it seems that his family has firmly put their foot down and told him to stay home or else.  Not that we blame them!  Everyday the news reports of more and more infected and falling ill, worse, dying or dead already.

Anyway, because of his announcement we went on a buying frenzy, getting most of his stock, at least those that we felt would last at least a week.  Among the vegetables we got were cucumbers – and I happen to like cucumbers!

But, the awful truth was that cucumbers are vegetables with limited “applications”… a quick look in the freezer and I saw some kani (Japanese crabsticks) and tobiko (flying fish roe)!  And wonder or wonders, there was Japanese mayo in the fridge.  Well then, hello Kani Salad!

The recipe is so easy!  Clean the cucumbers and slice.  Ideally it should be in long thin strips but I had no patience for that so I ended with thin half-moons.  Shred the kani and toss together with the cucumbers.  Add the Japanese mayo and a teaspoon or tablespoon of the tobiko and toss.  Chill before serving.

Happy Year of the Metal Rat

Earlier this week, I was telling hubby my plans for our Chinese New Year meal when he stopped me mid-sentence and said –

“It is not a 100% Chinese thing. Other countries and nationalities celebrate it too – the Koreans, Japanese, Indians, etc. The proper term is Lunar New Year.”

Ahh, I see.

So… Happy Lunar New Year!

Going back to my plans for our special celebratory meal…

Braised Mushrooms and Scallops… Steamed Glutinous Rice… and (my version) of 佛跳墙 or Buddha Jumps Over the Wall Soup.

My grandparents came from the Fujian province about 80 years ago and resettled here. Over the years, there have been various versions of the soup that I have enjoyed (both home cooked and restaurant bought) the most luxurious version of which is/was the one at the Emerald Garden. But it has been many years and the price has tripled since the last time (before 2015 for sure).

It is said that the “true” dish has thirty (30) ingredients including the most expensive and/or rare such as abalones, Jinhua ham, shark fin, scallops, sea cucumbers, etc. seasoned with at least twelve (12) condiments. But I cannot fathom 30 EXPENSIVE and/or RARE ingredients (or condiments so I make do with what I can get… 18 ingredients, 8 condiments! And while the authentic one is a double boiled soup, I don’t have the equipment for that so I used the next best thing… my slow cooker!

My 18 ingredients –

  1. abalone (2 kinds)
  2. shark fin (faux)
  3. scallops (dried, whole)
  4. sea cucumbers (frozen)
  5. pork tendon
  6. native stewing chicken (whole)
  7. pork leg (1 kg)
  8. dried Chinese mushrooms (15 pcs.)
  9. erynggi (5 pcs.)
  10. abalone mushrooms (1/2 of a large whole)
  11. lotus root
  12. bamboo shoots
  13. taro (1 large piece)
  14. chestnuts (12 pcs.)
  15. quail eggs (2 dozen)
  16. ham (150g)
  17. tofu
  18. Baguio pechay

My 8 condiments –

  1. ginger
  2. red dates
  3. goji berries
  4. onion
  5. cinnamon
  6. star anise
  7. whole peppercorns
  8. leeks

In the “olden” days, (my mom told me) that preparations for the soup began a whole week before! But these days it is a bit easier with frozen foods that are already cleaned and prepped so in my case…

Preparations began 2 days before –

First by making the stock… place all the condiments in the slow cooker pot, as well as the whole chicken and the pork leg (sliced after being parboiled). Set the cooker on high and cook for 3 hours. Set to low and cook another 5 hours.

After the soup has cooled, strain everything and refrigerate the stock. Shred the chicken and pork (set aside half for other use).

Begin soaking the abalones. Change the water every 4 hours. Soak until the abalones are sufficiently rehydrated.

Move them frozen stuff to the refrigerator to thaw them slowly.

One day before –

Prepare the other ingredients that need soaking such as Chinese mushrooms, scallop, etc. Hard-boil the quail eggs, cool then peel the egg shells off.

Slice the taro into large cubes and fry until half done.

For the soup stock, any fat should be solid on top of the stock. Skim off the solidified fat.

On the day itself, start early in the morning by reheating the stock and seasoning it to taste.

Prepare the rest of the ingredients (slice pork tendons into manageable pieces, slice the mushrooms, ham, bamboo shoots, etc.)

When everything has been prepared, start layering the soup ingredients in the slow cooker pot – start with the lotus root, then the taro, then the bamboo shoots, then the ham, then the chicken and pork, then the (3 kinds) mushrooms, tofu, chestnuts, and quail eggs, then the pork tendons.

Lay some Baguio pechay on top and arrange the abalones, scallops (careful so they don’t fall apart), sea cucumbers and faux shark fin.

Carefully ladle the soup into the slow cooker pot only until the stock reaches the Baguio pechay leaves.

Set the slow cooker on low and let cook for at least 8 hours.

Serve and enjoy!

Seafood Buranella

When I was teenager, there was this very popular Italian (style) restaurant named Angelino’s. Almost everyone I knew loved eating there (and then have coffee and dessert at the sister cafe called DC Cafe). My brother’s favorite (and mine as well) was the Pasta Buranella – fettuccine noodles smothered in a creamy, cheesy white sauce stuffed with shrimps, fish, squid, mussels and clams.

It’s been decades since my teen years and Angelino’s has been long closed. But I still think of this pasta and reminisce.

So the next best thing is to recreate it as I remember it!!!

Honestly, I based my recipe on one of my mom’s for pasta with a “cream” sauce. What I liked about that recipe was that it did not begin with a roux, and that the sauce was thickened by cheese!

How I made my buranella –

Do ahead – Shred/grate 200g quick-melt cheese; set aside. Shell (peel) and clean 12 to 15 pieces of large shrimp; reserve the shells and head. Use the shells and shrimp head to make shrimp stock. Clean 400 grams of squid, sliced into serving pieces (or just thaw frozen squid). Clean and thaw 300 grams of scallops.

500g spaghetti or fettucini noodles, cooked as per package instructions.

To make the sauce – Quick fry the shrimp then remove from the pan. Quick fry the squid and remove from the pan. Quick fry the scallops and remove from the pan.

In the same pan, sauté 1 head (crushed) garlic in a butter and oil mix. Add 1 large (sliced) onions and stir fry until onions are soft and fragrant. Add 1 to 1-1/2 cups of sliced button mushrooms (canned is ok). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add 200ml of heavy (or cooking) cream and 200ml of fresh, full cream milk. Add 100 to 150ml of the shrimp stock. Bring to a soft boil/gentle simmer. Add the cheese and let it melt in the sauce. Stir until thick. Season to taste (with salt and pepper). Add the shrimps, squids and scallops; turn off the heat when the sauce boils (be careful so the squid and scallops do not turn tough). Off-heat, grate fresh nutmeg over the sauce and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Mix in the noodles and serve.

Then enjoy!

Soft-shelled Crabs over Taba ng Talangka Sotanghon

We call it “taba ng talangka”, literal translation – fat of the (Asian) shore crab but in reality it is “aligue” or the roe of the (Asian) shore crab.  I’m not sure if it is uniquely Filipino but I grew up thinking that it is a condiment that was uniquely Filipino.  Taba ng talangka or aligue, as our helper used to describe it (in their local dialect and roughly translated here) is a fermented paste condiment made by salting live (female) shore crabs and cooking the roe/fat with more salt and a little calamansi (calamondin).  It can be eaten as condiment to local dishes (similar to bagoong) but it can be used to flavor dishes too – it is particularly good with rice, pasta, and noodles.

We often use it to make taba ng talangka fried rice or taba ng talangka spaghetti with shrimps.  This instance I wanted to try making a dish using sotanghon (mung been noodles) and soft-shelled crabs that I got as a souvenir-gift.

The first step to the soak 300 grams of sotanghon in water until they are softened; drain then set aside.

The next step is to prepare the crabs.  There really isn’t much to do since the crabs were already “prepped” (they came in a box and it was indicated on the box that it was ready-to-cook) so after they were defrosted, I dried them with paper towels.  Then they were ready to be dipped in flour, then in beaten egg, then in seasoned flour.  Deep fry until done then set aside.

Saute lots of ginger and sliced onions until the onions are soft and transparent.  Add about 1 cup of taba ng talangka (canned or bottled).  Add the crabs (if you like although I did not but instead used the crabs as topping/garnish) and stir fry several seconds (add tablespoons of water if the dish gets too pasty, add little at a time just to loosen the mix).  Add the sotanghon and mix.  Season to taste with salt and pepper; add drops of fresh calamansi or lemon (this is to minimize the langsa or fishy taste).  Cook over low-medium heat until done.  Be careful not to over cook (or under cook) the noodles.



Tortang Alimango

This is a simple dish, IF the crab meat has already been removed from the crabs!!!!

BTW, as opposed to the English language where the term crab encompasses everything, in our local language there are specific terms for crab – alimasag for the salt water blue crab, alimango for mud crabs, talangka for salt water shore crabs, katang for fresh water crabs.  We also have coconut crabs (dunno the local term for this one), and recently I’ve come across what was labelled “ocean crabs” whose shells are thick, and whose flavor in dishes is very pronounced but the crab itself has very little meat!  (got a couple of dishes made of these in future posts)

Anyway, the recipe for Tortang Alimango or Crabmeat Omelette is one that was given to me through oral instruction.  Any crab meat may be used and I have, on occasion, bought canned crab meat and frozen flaked crab meat to use.  Traditionally though, we collect the meat found in the “legs” because those tend to be discarded at the dinner table and it seemed a waste!

For every 3 pieces of egg, use about 1/2 cup crab meat.  For a family of 6, we use 6 eggs, which meant we had to collect 1 cup of crab meat – which is definitely NOT easy so if we were short on the crab meat we augmented with diced potatoes.  These days though, I use kani, or Japanese crab sticks (cut into smaller pieces of course) to augment…

Back to the recipe – sauté diced onions and tomatoes (should be proportionate to the size of the omelette) and add the crab meat, stir fry for several seconds.  Remove from the pan and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Stir in the slightly cooled sautéed crab meat.  Pour into a heated, non-stick pan.  Cook until done (both sides).

Serve hot with ketchup!


Seafood Congee

I actually made this dish twice, this week!!!

The first time was on Monday.  Hubby announced, at around 5pm, that a couple of his friends were coming over IN AN HOUR (!) and asked me to prepare something…

But there was nothing!!! there were frozen meat in the freezer but it would not even thaw in time!!!

Long story short, I took out one of the two frozen ocean crabs in the freezer and made congee with it, adding squid balls and some frozen shrimp to the mix, as well as century eggs and hard boiled eggs!

It was a hit!

So much so that I made another batch and sent it to my mom and to my father-in-law!

The recipe (using my magic cooker) –

Rinse about 1/2 cup of rice then place it in the inner pot.  Add about 4 to 5 cups of broth or water.  Place 1 medium to large-sized crab (cleaned and chopped) inside, as well as ginger slices and a whole onion (peeled).  Boil for 15 minutes then put the pot in the magic cooker chamber.

After 90 minutes or so, take out the inner pot and bring to a soft boil on the stove.  Add shrimps, chopped squid/octopus or whatever seafood you like to add.  Season to taste.  Stir until all ingredients are cooked and congee is thick and creamy.  Garnish with chopped green onions or leeks.  Serve with hard-boiled eggs.

(The second batch of congee for my mom and F-I-L were made with crab, shrimps, octopus, squid balls and abalone mushrooms.)



Crab Sotanghon

The usual crab sotanghon (mung bean noodle) that I cook (and that hubby likes) is a creamy, saucy concoction. This time, however, circumstances forced me to stray from the usual. The culprit? The absence of a crucial ingredient.

The result? A different, but still delicious, dish!

The recipe:

300 to 400 grams sotanghon, softened
1 kilo crabs, cut up (cleaned)
4 to 5 thin slices of ginger
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, sliced
350 grams ground pork
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 liter chicken stock
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sesame oil
salt, pepper and chili flakes, to taste

Saute the ginger in hot oil.  Add onions and garlic.  Stir fry a few seconds and add the pork.  Stir fry until almost cooked.   Add the crabs and mix around a few seconds and season with oyster sauce and soy sauce.  Add the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper (and chili flakes, if desired).  When the stock boils, add the sotanghon.  Swirl in the beaten egg whites.  Let simmer until the sauce is fully absorbed by the sotanghon. Toss with sesame oil (adjust seasonings, as needed). Serve hot.

Paella Negra

While mine was delicious, it did not look like the ones served in restaurants.  Those were really black while mine were, well, a bit brownish greyish…

And I used real squid ink too.  From about 700 grams of squid, I was able to get more than 1/2 cup of squid ink.  Perhaps I could get better results if I use commercial squid ink paste?  Then again, I don’t know where to get it!

The recipe –

1/4 cup olive oil, or more as may be needed
350g shrimps
700g squid, cleaned, sliced, black ink reserved

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion medium, finely diced
1 medium pimiento, sliced or diced
3 small tomatoes, diced
2 cups, approx 500g raw rice, rinsed
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup squid ink
1 1/2 cups fish or shrimp stock
1/4 cup hot water with a pinch of saffron

2 boiled eggs, sliced into wedges

lemon slices for serving

(In a paella pan) heat half the olive oil. Stir fry the shrimps and squid for a couple of minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add remaining oil in the pan and saute the garlic and onion until soft and translucent. Add the diced tomatoes and pimientos.

Add the rice and stir fry a couple of minutes. Add the white wine, squid ink, stock and hot water with saffron. Stir lightly then cover. Cook on low, low-medium for 20 minutes approximately, stirring occasionally. Check once in a while if more liquid is needed. Likewise, check the seasonings, if needed.

Mix in the shrimp and squid (top decoratively with a few, if desired) and cook another 5 minutes. Garnish with boiled egg slices. Serve with lemon wedges.

Chilli Crab

Whenever we are lucky to have fresh, live crabs, my favorite dish to cook is crab sotanghon. But this time around, I asked hubby his preference and (I shouldn’t have asked since I know) he wants crabs very spicy, Singaporean style.

For this particular dish, I used the recipe in this book…

found on page 19

As usual, I personalize the recipe so here is what I did –

1.2 kilograms of crab, about 3 pieces
oil, for stir-frying
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb fresh ginger, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 to 2 siling labuyo, minced (small chilis)
1 to 2 cups stock (chicken, shrimp or fish)
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch slurry
1 egg, beaten
handful of wansoy
spring onions

To prepare the crab, heat some water with ginger slices and parboil the crabs until they are no longer moving.  Scrub the shells clean then chop into serving pieces.  Set aside.

Saute the garlic, ginger, onion and chilis.  Add the crab pieces and the stock, sweet chili sauce, ketchup and rice wine.  Simmer about 10 minutes, or until the crabs are cooked.  Do not over-cook!  Season with salt and pepper, as per individual taste.  Thicken the dish with cornstarch slurry.  Drizzle in the beaten egg and sir gently until egg is set.

Serve hot.  Garnish with wansoy and spring onions.

It was really spicy but delicious!  Perfect with hot steaming rice!

Hubby’s picture posted on his FB page –

He knows that flattery (ehem, compliment daw) will get him everything!!!


Mommy’s Marinara

My mother is a recipe hoarder.  Me?  I definitely got it from her… I also hoard recipes, cookbooks, etc. etc.  These days my cooking/baking list grows even longer since I’ve added her recipes to mine!

There is one recipe, however, that is NOT written anywhere.

A long time ago (when I was just past my teenage years, in fact), I went through a stage where I abhorred meat sauce for pasta.  I was lamenting about it that particular day when she said (paraphrasing here) “what’s your problem? it is so easy to make simple spaghetti sauce!”

She then goes on and dictates “the recipe” (again, paraphrasing here)-

Sauté 4 cloves garlic (smashed) and 1 small onion (minced).  Add a pinch of chili flakes, then pour a (big) can of stewed whole tomatoes in the pot.  Add a fistful of Italian seasoning and season to taste (large pinches of sugar, salt and pepper).  Lightly crush the tomatoes.  Simmer 15 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use the time to cook the pasta, 1 medium pack (which later I found out to be 500grams spaghetti, more or less).  In the last few minutes of simmering the sauce, throw a fistful of grated parmesan in the pot.  Mix.  Done.

Then she continues to say that it is easy to vary and add flavor – add whatever it is before the tomatoes…

for meat sauce, stir fry ground meat (anywhere from 250 grams to 500 grams), add the tomatoes when the meat is browned

for veggie sauce, add diced peppers or pimientos, sliced mushrooms, diced zucchini, carrots, asparagus, eggplant, etc.  (if you want the veggies to stay crunchy, add in the last 10 minutes of simmering)

for seafood, add 1 small of anchovies and seafood as desired (just don’t over-do it!)

Later on, someone told me that this was basic marinara sauce.

I’ve used this formula for years!  And hubby loves it!  Any which way I make it! And I’ve made it with shrimps, meat, veggies, clams, mussels, crab, even with canned sardines!!!

But my absolute favorite is this mixed seafood!


Three Crabs and Rice

The good news is I have more of my mom’s recipes that I thought.  The “bad” news?  I am becoming more compulsive in finding more…  And worse…  The more I find, the more I want to make, cook, and bake everything!

The first dish that I wanted to make was her Crab Rice… but as always, I want to do things my way!  So, while her dish is steamed for an hour in a steamer, mine is cooked in my rice cooker!!! I like the convenience of a dump-everything recipe.

I also varied the recipe somewhat… because I could not find live mud crabs, but I had crab meat from blue crabs, talangka (Asian shore crab) and soft shell crab!  Why, you may ask, do I have those???  Well… it seems that I bought them at one time or another and they kinda got stuck in freezer.  By “stuck” I mean it got relegated to the bottom and it only surfaced when the freezer broke and we had take everything out!

So, this dish is based on my mom’s recipe but it is uniquely mine too!

(Note – using 3 kinds of crabs is a bit complicated. The easier way to do it is to simply use 3 to 4 pieces of crab, live mud crabs to be specific.)

1-1/2 cup rice (I use “young” denorado variety)

100 to 150 grams liempo (pork belly strip), sliced into matchsticks, optional
6 pieces (small) soft-shell crabs, rinsed and patted dry
200 grams talangka, cleaned
1/4 to 1/2 cup crab meat
8 pieces dried black mushrooms, rehydrated, reserve soaking liquid

several slices of ginger
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small violet/red onion, minced

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 to 2 tablespoons reserved mushroom soaking liquid
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

3 cups cold water, more or less depending on the variety of rice used

flour for dredging soft shell crabs

leeks or spring onions for garnish

Place the cold water in the rice cooker pot.  Set aside for the meantime.

Saute half the ginger, garlic and onions.  Add the crab meat; stir lightly to break up the meat but not so much – leave the mix chunky.  Add the rice grains and stir lightly, just so the rice grains are coated in oil.  Pour this mixture in the rice cooker.  Put the rehydrated mushrooms in the rice cooker pot as well.

Saute the remaining ginger, garlic and onions.  Add the sliced pork belly and stir fry a couple of minutes.  Add the talangka and seasonings.  Cook a couple of minutes then dump the mixture in the rice cooker.  Give a quick gentle stir to mix everything.  Switch on the rice cooker and cook.

Meanwhile, dredge the soft shell crabs in flour.  Then, fry it until it is cooked.  Drain on paper towels.  Set aside until the rice cooker finishes cooking.

When the rice is done, put the fried soft shell crabs on top.  Garnish with leeks then serve!

If using a single variety of crab,  get about 3 to 4 pieces of crab.  Parboil the already clean crabs until partially cooked.  Lift the crabs out, reserve the liquid left behind.  Leave one crab whole, and chop the rest into smaller pieces.  There will be more liquid coming from the crabs, save it as well.

Put everything in the rice cooker except the whole crab.  Don’t forget to put in the crab liquids.  Give a quick stir to mix everything up.  Switch on the rice cooker.

Halfway through, put the whole crab in.  Cover and continue cooking until done.

Garnish with leeks or spring onions and serve!

Note about the pork – go ahead and skip it.  I find that it interferes with the overall dish!

Final note – my mom’s recipe specifies glutinous rice but I had none and used our usual denorado instead.

Seafood Pasta Paella

Sometime ago I was given a largish packet of saffron. I knew it was expensive so I used it sparingly. Until the other day when I saw that its expiration date was drawing near. It would have been more wasteful if I just left it to expire, so I set about to cook with it!

My first project? Paella of course!!! But not with rice, with pasta!

I planned to serve this to “the boys” – hubby’s friends who come to the house twice a month or so.  They were polite enough to rave and gush at my cooking!


400 grams spaghetti

2 tablespoons hot water
large pinch of saffron

1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 head of garlic, smashed and minced
4 large tomatoes, sliced into large dice

4 pieces small crab
6 pieces large shrimp
4 pieces large mussels

1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
chili flakes, to taste

5 to 6 cups of fish stock or water

Get 2 pots ready on the stove – one for the spaghetti (with salted water) and the other for the paella (I took out my paella pan!!!)  Start the water boiling for the spaghetti and heat the paella pan.  Meanwhile, steep the saffron in the hot water.

When the paella pan is hot, quick fry the bell pepper; remove when it is almost done.  Toss in the garlic, onion and tomatoes.  Stir-fry several minutes.  Add the saffron and the infused water.

(At this point, check the other pot, the water should be boiling, in which case, throw the spaghetti in and cook until halfway done, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.)

Add the crab, then remove when almost done.  Add the shrimp and the spices (paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper and chili flakes, to taste.  Add about 4 cups of fish stock.  When the mixture simmers, add the half-cooked spaghetti and cook until almost done.  Towards the end of cooking, add the mussels and crab.  Add stock or water as necessary.  Season to taste.  Do not over-cook!

Before serving, arrange the seafood decoratively on top of the pasta.