Ampalaya sa Malaat na Itlog at Adobong Dilaw na Baboy at Atay

(#40 & 41 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

It’s certainly not the first time I cooked ampalaya.  It’s the second time!  simply because I DO NOT LIKE BITTER GOURD, which is what ampalaya is in English… as the name says, IT IS BITTER!!!

I’ve been told so many ways to reduce the bitterness but at the end of the day, it is still bitter!  But, because hubby loves it… I give in once in a while and cook it.  His favorite style for cooking ampalaya?  Stir-fried with salted egg!

Of course that meant I had to cook another dish otherwise I would not have any lunch!!!

Adobong dilaw it was!  Because Lola harvested some turmeric we had planted in our concrete garden…

And because adobo (all the many ways it is cooked) is a comfort food for me…

Chicken with Pechay

(#35 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

If there is one thing I noticed about my cooking while under quarantine, it is that my stews are more saucy that usual.  For one thing, I like sauce on top of my rice, and so does the kid… and it is an easy way to “extend” the dish…

10 chicken drumsticks, cleaned, rinsed, patted dry
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Marinate the chicken, about 30 minutes to an hour.

1/2 head of pechay (bok choy), sliced into 3-inch pieces

handful of ginger slices

Heat oil in a large pot and sauté the ginger slices until the ginger exudes its fragrance. Add the chicken and cook until browned. Add enough water to cover the meat (or some more).  Let the stew boil then simmer about 45 to 60 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Add the pechay pieces, let simmer until the veggies are cooked but still crunchy. Adjust seasonings as preferred.

Serve over hot rice.

Sabaw na Kalabasa

(#33 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

The first time I tasted this kind of soup was on a date with (then boyfriend) hubby.  But on the menu, it was named/described as Cream of Pumpkin Soup.  I remember asking hubby… meron bang pumpkin dito sa atin?  (do we have pumpkins locally?)  and he replied – pumpkin, squash, kalabasa yan…

Since then we’ve tasted many versions – thick, thin, chunky, sweet, and yes, even awful ones!  The best I think was one from a Chinese gourmet restaurant where they called it Seafood in Pumpkin Soup – it was thick, creamy, and chock-full of seafood bits (fish, squid and shrimp!)

Anyway, my first attempts at making a homemade version were dismal failures, sad to say.  I could never get the proportions right, I suppose.  Well then, I kept on experimenting until I realized, or learned, or discovered… that…

1. the kind of squash is important… in local terms, the best squash to use is the one referred to as malagkitsticky… my indicator is a dark orange color (as opposed to a yellowish one)

2. use minimal water… add just enough to barely cover the cubed squash.

3. a hand blender is a great blessing!  when the squash is cooked and soft, turn the heat to low and let the hand blender work its magic.

4. add cooking cream with a light hand.  the star of the show is the squash!

5. season with salt and pepper… then add a couple of turns of fresh nutmeg from the grinder…

Lastly, if adding chopped seafood, precook (saute) the seafood then add to the soup right around the time the cooking cream is added.


Ginataang Manok, Kalabasa at Malunggay

(#20 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

This was not the first time I made this dish.  The first time I made it, I did not really know that such a dish existed (although I realize that the combination is plausible as are many others) – it just so happened that I was thinking of making chicken curry with coconut milk but then it turned out I was out of curry and frankly I was too lazy to grind spices!

There was squash on the kitchen counter and the malunggay (moringa) plant in our concrete garden was dense and needed a bit of trimming… and I was getting a bit desperate since I had guests to feed… so

This time though, I cooked this dish on purpose.  For one thing, the kid likes both squash (kalabasa) and malunggay (moringa) leaves.  For another, during this time of quarantine, one of the longer lasting vegetables available is – squash; as for the malunggay, our plant downstairs had been busy growing!

7 to 8 pieces chicken thighs, trimmed and cleaned (about 1.2k)

1/4 of a large squash, cubed (around 200 to 300 grams)
minced garlic and onion
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 to 2 pieces long finger chilli
handful of malunggay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Rub the chicken thighs with sea salt and coarsely crushed black pepper; set aside.

Saute minced garlic and onion several seconds. Add chicken to the pan, skin side down and pan fry a couple of minutes. Turn over and pan fry another 2 minutes or so. Pour in coconut milk (if necessary, add water so that the chicken is covered), add the finger chilli. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Add the the cubed kalabasa and cook another 10 to 15 minutes. (Do not overcook the kalabasa, otherwise what happened to me will happen to you – my kalabasa crumbled and got mixed in the gata so my sauce turned orange-y). Add the coconut cream; let it come to a soft simmer. Season to taste. Add the malunggay leaves; simmer, covered, 1 minute more.

Note – To be honest, I like my kalabasa on the squishy side and I love it when the squished kalabasa infuses the coconut sauce… so it was quite on purpose that I let my kalabasa over-cook!


Chicken & Tofu Rice Bowl

(#15 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

A friend recommended the tofu made by one of her clients.  We trusted her judgment so we bought 3 packs!  I thought it prudent since tofu is easy to cook, and the kid really likes it.

For some reason I was feeling lazy (maybe it was the heat?  the imposed quarantine?  whatever…) and I was not particularly looking forward to staying in the hot kitchen for a long time… fast and easy solution?  Stir-fry bonesless chicken pieces and tofu… tada!  fast and delicious lunch in about 20 minutes!

400g bonesless, skinless chicken thighs
1 block tofu, cubed
minced garlic and onions
smashed ginger
soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
cornstarch/cornstarch slurry

Marinate the chicken in a tablespoon of soy sauce and half a tablespoon of cornstarch for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the garlic, onions and ginger until soft and fragrant.  Add the chicken thighs and cook about 7 to 8 minutes.  Add a splash of water (the frying pan will be a bit dry and sticky) just enough so the pan is not dry.  Add the tofu and stir with a light hand so the tofu does not disintegrate.  Add just a splash of soy sauce.  If you like a saucy dish, add more water (or chicken stock).  Cook until chicken is done.  Season to taste.  Thicken a saucy dish with cornstarch slurry if needed.

Lunch in 20 minutes… DONE!

Kimchi Stew

(#14 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

I generally followed the recipe found here, but I used boneless chicken thighs, regular tofu and omitted the egg at the end.  I also added cucumbers and some leftover spaghetti.

How in &^$@# did I think of making kimchi stew?  Blame it on the kdrama series that I have been watching since the beginning of the quarantine!  In all of the kdrama I have watched, they always have barbecue (samgyupsal), noodles (ramen), and kimchi!  and in one particular episode, a kimchi soup dish that looked so attractive and tasty.

And, yes, hubby had a couple of tubs of kimchi in the fridge!



Dak Bulgogi and Sesame Cucumbers

(#6 and #7 in the limited series: “cooking/baking in the time of the corona virus quarantine”)

Week 1 is almost over.  I must admit, I am finding it difficult to plan menus… It’s not that I don’t have ideas, but we have limited ingredients and it’s not like I can go to the supermarket anytime I like for any ingredient that I may not have at home…

What is especially challenging are vegetables, which hubby needs and loves.

So, this time around, hubby’s lunch is cauliflower “rice” (last batch actually), Chicken Bulgogi and cucumber salad.

For the Chicken Bulgogi –

500g boneless chicken thighs

Marinade –
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon sesame oil
pinch black pepper

Clean and trim chicken pieces; pat dry. Slice into strips.

Mix marinade ingredients together. Marinate the chicken at least 1 hour upto overnight.

Stir-fry the chicken (reserve marinade) over medium heat (watch the pan because the chicken may get burned otherwise). If the pan gets too dry, add the marinade by tablespoons. If desired, toss cooked chicken with 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds.

For the Japanese-style cucumber salad –

2 pieces cucumbers – Rinse. Scrape out seeds.  Slice thinly into half moons.  Toss with a little salt and let stand about 30 minutes.  Rinse again and squeeze out excess water.  Toss with the dressing.  Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

Dressing –

1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup sesame oil
1 tbsp EACH –
rice vinegar
sesame seeds
chili flakes, optional

Mix together until sugar is dissolved.



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.

Radish Cake

This was not the first time I tried to make radish cake. My first attempt was a colossal failure. It looked like radish cake but the texture was all wrong. You see, I did not know that there was difference between glutinous or sweet rice flour and plain rice flour. As you may have guessed, I used glutinous flour when I should have used plain rice flour.

Years passed by before I decided to try again. Why? Because the truth is, it is way easier to just buy it, especially since there’s a reliable and authentic Chinese place nearby.

But why try again, if it is easier to buy it? Well, it’s the best reason ever – I found my mom’s recipe for radish cake! But, for some reason, her recipes are often for a large batch so I always scale it to at least a third, or in this particular case, to a fourth of the original.

The problem? I am rather lousy at math, and worse, afflicted with what my mother refers to as “carelessness syndrome”. Oh yes, there’s also the “not-listening-too-well sickness”!

Long story short, I still made mistakes!!! (Don’t I always???)

What did I do wrong? Well, I scaled the recipe to a fourth of the original, right? Problem is, I miscalculated the radish and ended up with twice the amount…

Fortunately though, in spite of my mistake(s), the radish cake turned out pretty well. The best part is both hubby and the kid loved it! Hubby said that it had a real and authentic radish flavor that was usually lacking in other (commercially-made) radish cake. The kid has been eating it for the last few days!!!

When I sent some to my mom and brother, they also liked it although my brother felt it lacked a bit of salt.

It’s a good thing that I am diligent in taking notes so my (mis)calculations are duly recorded. I will make it again as per “my” recipe (adapted from my mom’s of course) and if I get the same results, the recipe will be mine!

Zucchini Fritters

Everybody knows that my little girl is a picky eater – extremely so!  My talents in the kitchen are often ignored except when they’re cakes, cupcakes, cookies – in other words, sweets!

It doesn’t stop me from trying though.

Since the corn fritters were a success, I wondered if I could try using vegetables, specifically zucchini, to get the little girl eating some veggies…

2 pieces zucchini, about 460 to 500 grams
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp each salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup low fat milk, cold

Peel the zucchini then grate them.  Add a large pinch of salt and mix; let sit for about 10 minutes.  Squeeze the water out as much as possible.  Start heating the oil to fry the fritters in.

Meanwhile, mix together flour, cornstarch, salt, pepper and Parmesan.  Add the egg and milk.  Stir together.  Add the grated zucchini.  Stir until combined.

Drop a tablespoon of batter into hot oil and flatten.  Flip when the bottom is browned.  Drain the fritters on paper towels.

Serve with sour cream.

BTW, it didn’t work.  The little took one bite and said – I don’t like it!!!


Hubby loved them though!




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!

Meatless Monday?

We all know that the Christmas season means no such thing as dieting. And right after the holidays, we all groan because the fun is over and we have to get back to being fit, or at least as fit as we were before the holidays began…

So, on the first Monday of the year, hubby requested cauliflower rice. We only had a small head of cauliflower so I added a head of broccoli!

Slice or cut segments of the cauliflower and broccoli into large florets. Rinse under running water and get rid of any black spots (or heaven forbid, worms!). Pat dry with paper towels, then process in a food processor (blade attachment) until the veggies have been shredded into small bits. Take care though, not to over-do it – we want small bits, not powder :).

Saute minced garlic and minced onions in a little oil. Add the cauliflower and broccoli bits and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper towards the end of cooking (I cooked ours for 6 minutes because hubby loves the crunch).

As for the grilled mushrooms, I had some eryngii (Korean king oyster mushrooms) in the fridge and I wanted to recreate the fabulous “street-food” style mushrooms that I had tasted just last week…

Slice the mushrooms into chunky triangular pieces. Saute some mushrooms in a butter-oil mix. When the garlic is lightly browned and fragrant, add the mushrooms and stir-fry several minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In my case I used a 5-peppercorn mix (in a pepper grinder) and a salt mix of Himalayan pink and Mediterranean sea salts (also in a grinder).