Aug 2, 2015

Seafood with Thai Basil

I love seafood, I love basil, and I love Thai cuisine.  And that's why I decided to make this for dinner last night. :)


What's In It?

1 kg mixed seafood (prawns, halibut fillets, mussels, squid), or 250g of each seafood*
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 medium red bell pepper, washed, seeded and sliced into cubes
4-6 Thai chilies, washed and sliced lengthwise
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced
half a head of garlic, peeled and mashed
a handful of holy basil leaves (20-25 pcs), washed and stems removed
3-4 tablespoons cooking oil
cornstarch slurry (3 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 5 teaspoons water) -- optional

Kitchen Conjugations:

1. Heat oil in a medium-sized wok or deep frying pan over high heat for 1-2 minutes.
2. Saute onions until soft and translucent.  Add garlic, chilies and bell peppers and stir-fry for one minute.
3. Keeping flame on high, add in the seafood, fish sauce, oyster sauce and sugar.  Stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
4. The seafood will render water as they cook so the mixture will turn watery. Spoon out excess water, leaving only enough to cover seafood.
5. Check seasonings.  Add more sugar, salt or chilies depending on preference.
6. Add in the basil leaves and let the mixture simmer until the leaves wilt a little (about one minute).
7. You may thicken the sauce by stirring in the cornstarch slurry at this point. Simmer with continuous stirring for 30 seconds or until the sauce thickens a bit.
8. Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy!


1. I used frozen seafood.  If using fresh ones, be sure to gut and process the squid, and peel and devein the shrimp.

2. This recipe works perfectly as well with chicken and pork fillets, or all-prawn, all-mussel, all-squid versions.

3. I like spice, and for me the 4-6 chilies deliver just the right kick.  You may however tone the spice level by using only 2-3 chilies or omitting the chilies altogether as the holy basil is also spicy.

4.  Do NOT overcook the basil. It will turn black and lend a bitter taste to the dish. In doubt, better to leave it undercooked than overcooked.

5. If you plan to have this cooked way ahead of serving or eating it, or if you will have to freeze and reheat it for later, I suggest you cook this recipe WITHOUT adding the basil, and just add the basil leaves during reheating.

6. Cooking over high temp is crucial because the seafood need to cook quickly so they remain juicy and soft.  Overcooking the squid for one will make it tough and rubbery.

Appreciate your comments and questions! :)

Aug 18, 2014

Sayote Tops Guisado

As you get older, you tend to shy away from what's complicated and drawn towards what's simple and no-frills. Or am I just speaking for myself?

Anyhow, I found that I no longer drool over fatty, cholesterolic food and crave more whole, organic and healthy fare. I don't know if it's just in my head, but after eating a hearty (read: fatty) meal, I feel battered and really exhausted; which is ironic because food is meant to replenish and energize.

Because of this we've shied away from meat as much as possible and eat more vegetables like Chayote Tops Guisado, or Ginisang Talbos ng Sayote. 


What's In It?

1 bundle of chayote tops, leaves separated from the stalks, hard portions discarded
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
1 large ripe tomato, washed and sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
3 tablespoons cooking oil
diced cooked meat (pork, chicken, beef), fish or seafood (optional)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
a pinch of ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vinegar (optional)

Kitchen Conjugations:

Wash sayote leaves and soft stalks carefully.  Drain excess water then set aside.

Heat cooking oil in a wok or deep frying pan.  Saute onions, garlic and tomatoes until tomatoes are wilted. Add in the diced cooked meat.  Stir fry for a minute, then add the seasonings: fish sauce, black pepper and oyster sauce.

Stir fry for another minute then add in the sayote leaves and stalks. Stir fry for about 30 seconds then pour in water.  Let boil then simmer for one minute.  Pour in vinegar if using but DO NOT stir until the mixture boils. Check and adjust seasonings. Remove from fire and serve.  Leaves and stalks should still be a little crisp.

Best paired with grilled or fried fish. Enjoy!


1. I usually use bits and pieces of left-over meat from fried chicken, pork barbecue for stir fries like this. This particular time I used left-over crispy pata.

2.  Left-over meat (and sauce) from adobo can also be added to this dish.  Doing so will give a new and interesting dimension to the dish.

3. If you want a little kick, go ahead and add a chopped siling labuyo during the saute.


Last night, apart from the Espasol, I also made Brownies...but from a mix. I don't know why, but while I followed the box instructions to the letter, the brownies didn't turn out as I expected...they were more 'cake' than brownies...more crumbly than fudgy. Fail! 

So I crumbled the cake, stuffed it into silicon molds and turned it into cake pops. Presenting...'Starbites.'

You could do the same for stale cake and similar cake fails. :) I think this is a good idea for kiddie parties or bring-to-school goodies to share.

What's In It? Two pouches of Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix + water + vegetable oil + 2 eggs, mixed and baked according to package directions.


We had lunch in Tagaytay last Sunday and decided to make a quick stop to buy some beef at the Mahogany market.  While we waited for my husband to finish with his marketing, we were approached by some vendors who offered us an assortment of Filipino sweets -- panutsa, calamay, pinipig, ube and espasol. Because we were still busog-lusog from lunch yet I wanted to help the peddlers out, I bought a pack each of the sweets.  Then we drove on home.

So it was so much later when we found out that masarap pala 'yung nabili naming espasol and we were so bitin, and it wasn't hard for my son Gabriel to convince me to make some from the recipe I found in the 'net from a long time ago.

So, here it is!


What's In It?

1 1/2 cups ground glutinous rice flour
1 cup coconut cream
3/4 cup washed sugar (segunda)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup macapuno or buko strips, diced finely (optional)

Kitchen Conjugations:

In a wok, toast the ground glutinous rice flour until light brown over low to medium heat.  Set aside.

In another wok or pan, combine the coconut cream, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Let boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid curdling.  Add in the diced macapuno or buko strips, and simmer for half a minute (still stirring continuously).

Measure 1 cup from the ground glutinous rice flour and add it into the coconut cream mixture.  Stir to incorporate the rice flour into the mix, until the consistency is like playdough. Remove from heat and set aside.

Take the remaining ground glutinous rice flour and sprinkle it over a tray or plate lined with waxed paper (or banana leaves).  Take about 3 tablespoons of the espasol and roll it out into a tube.  Cut the espasol tube into smaller cylinders then roll them out over the toasted ground rice flour to coat.

Your espasol is now ready to serve. Enjoy!

1. This recipe makes about 15 2-inch cylinders.
2. I made this espasol without buko or macapuno because we didn't have any in the house. It still tasted the same, although I suppose it would have been heaps better had there been macapuno or coconut bits in my espasol.
3. If using sweetened macapuno, reduce sugar a little.
4. If using white sugar, reduce the amount as it is a lot sweeter than washed or brown sugar.
5. I think you can also use toasted coconut flakes (available under the 'Buco' brand in supermarkets) in place of fresh young coconut.

Jul 10, 2014

Korean Chicken Barbecue

My family is big on Korean food. When we dine out, nearby Korean restaurants like Seoul Koreana and Soga Miga are always an option.  Kaso, magastos!

So I was happy to find a recipe for Korean Chicken Barbecue in the November 2013 issue of Yummy Magazine:

Kakatakam, 'no? Buti na lang I had all the ingredients called for in my pantry:

And I set out to make it right away for dinner. :) I doubled the recipe found in the magazine so that I have enough for everyone.  I also upped the spice by putting more gochujang. :)


What's In It?

1/2 c rice wine
1/4 c soy sauce
6 T gochujang (Korean chili paste -- the red tub in the photo above)
4 T brown sugar
2 T minced garlic
2 T sesame oil
2 T vegetable oil
1 kg. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, sliced into 1-inch thick strips
2 T vegetable oil (for grilling)
toasted sesame seeds or chopped green onions (for garnish)

Kitchen Conjugations:

Make the marinade by combining the first 7 ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer the mixture over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Remove from fire and set aside to cool completely.

Marinate the chicken strips in the cooled marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour; best if overnight.

Heat the 2T vegetable oil in a cast iron grill or heavy-bottomed frying pan.  Pan-fry chicken in batches until thoroughly cooked.

Transfer cooked chicken onto a serving plate and garnish with toasted sesame seeds or chopped green onion.  Serve with kimchi on the side if desired.  Best with a steaming bowl of rice. :)

Mar 13, 2014

Angel Hair with Sea Bass Mediterraneo

Given the chance, my husband will always eat fish. Even when eating out and presented with various entrees, he will choose fish, or that which has fish in it.

At Italianni's, his staple fare is Sea Bass Mediterraneo, pan-seared Sea Bass put on top of pasta, usually angel hair.  He was saddened to find then, when we lunched at the restaurant over the weekend that the dish has been taken out of the menu.*

To cure his hang-up and to assure him that it isn't the end of the world yet, I tried replicating Sea Bass Mediterraneo at home. Judging from his grin I think I've guessed the ingredients and procedure pretty
well. :)


What's In It?

For the pasta:
500 grams Angel Hair pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, seeded then diced
1/8 cup capers (in vinegar)
1/4 cup green olives, pitted then sliced into rounds
3/4 cup white wine

For the fish:
1-2 slices Sea Bass, halved
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil

Kitchen Conjugations:

Season the fish with salt, black pepper and garlic powder (if using).  Set aside.

In a non-stick skillet heat olive oil over high heat. Add seasoned bass slices and sear for 1 minute per side or until edges turn light brown.  Remove from pan and transfer onto a plate.  Repeat until all fish slices have been seared.

Lower heat then add olive oil to start the saute.  When oil is hot enough, saute the onions until soft, then add in the garlic.  Stir fry for 30 seconds, and add in the diced tomatoes, olives and capers. Stir fry for about half a minute before adding white wine. Let boil then reduce heat to simmer for a minute or two.

Adjust seasonings by adding salt and pepper if needed. Then toss in the cooked angel hair and continue to toss to distribute the sauce for another 30 seconds.

Remove from fire, transfer angel hair onto a serving plate and top with the seared Sea Bass.
Mangia Bene!


*We asked the manager why they took the dish out of the menu. She said it was because "Sea Bass is an endangered species." Really? We wager that the real reason was that the dish wasn't as popular as the other items and was costlier to produce/keep in the menu.

Mar 6, 2014

Fish and Tofu Hotpot ala Ho Chai Lai

There's a Chinese restaurant along the National Highway in Muntinlupa City that enjoys a good following despite its 'barest essentials' positioning because of the taste and quality of their food.  Ho Chai Lai is almost always packed at lunch time, frequented by people who want Chinese fare beyond the usual dimsum and Filipinized offerings at Chowking.  Their bestseller is the Stuffed Squid, squid stuffed with chives, battered, deep fried and served with a special sauce on the side.

When we dine at Ho Chai Lai, my husband and I usually order the Stuffed Squid and this dish, Fish Head Eggplant Hotpot, or the other variant, Fish Tofu Hotpot. My husband likes it so much I've taken it upon myself to replicate it at home, and merging the two variants eggplant and tofu, so that my husband gets the best of both and enjoy the dish whenever he wants. :)

The most recent appearance of this dish on our dinner table was two Thursdays ago, when we had friends over for dinner. I was surprised to find my meat-loving friends loving it, even asking for the recipe. So here it is!


What's In It?

For the Fish:
1.5 kgs Bitilla* (White Snapper, see photo), gutted, descaled and sliced into serving portions
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup water
1 tsp. + 1/2 tsp. fine salt
1 tsp. + 1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1 cup cooking oil, for frying

For the hotpot:
1/4 cup cooking oil, for sauteing
1 large thumb ginger, peeled and sliced in rounds
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed
6-8 large pieces of dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes or longer
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1 Knorr fish broth cube
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Chinese cooking wine
2 tablespoons sesame oil (optional)
3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
3 stalks onion leeks, sliced, white part separated from greens
2 medium eggplants, peeled, halved lengthwise then crosswise
half a large block of tofu, cut into 1" squares

Kitchen Conjugations:

Prepare the Fish: Season the fish slices with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, make a thin batter of the flour, water and season it with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a wok or frying pan, heat the cooking oil over medium heat. Test if cooking oil is hot enough by dropping bit of the batter, watching for sizzling. When the oil is hot enough, carefully drop the fish slices one by one, leaving enough space between each slice to prevent them from sticking with each other. (Turn heat to high as oil temperature has dropped with the addition of the fish. Turn settings back to low when the oil begins to sizzle again.)  Fry the fish slices for about 3-4 minutes each side or until they turn light brown. Remove from the pan and transfer onto a plate. Do the same process for the rest of the fish until all have been cooked.

Make the hotpot: In a hotpot or saucepan, saute the ginger, onions and garlic in hot oil. Stir fry for about a minute, then add in the oyster sauce. Stir fry for about half a minute, then add all ingredients except the eggplant, tofu, leeks and cornstarch slurry. Let boil then simmer for a minute.  Check and adjust seasonings, adding sugar, salt or the cooking wine to produce a balance of sweet, salty and tangy.

Add the eggplant slices and let the sauce simmer until they are half-cooked. Then add in the white parts of the leeks, the tofu squares and fried fish slices. Let boil then simmer for about two minutes, before adding the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.

Garnish with the rest of the onion leeks and serve with steamed rice.  Enjoy!

*Other fish like Maya-maya (Red Snapper), Lapu-lapu (Grouper) or Labahita (Surgeonfish), may also be used.  You can also use fillets, but make a thicker batter (that of pancake batter consistency).

UPDATE:  I've replaced the original photo with a new one, this time made more colorful by the addition of carrot medallions. I've also cut the tofu into bigger squares and pre-fried them to make them easier to handle. The fish used in the dish in the picture above is lapu-lapu.

Mar 2, 2014

Korean Beef Stew ala Kimchi

People my age would remember Kimchi as a popular restaurant in SM Foodcourt whose specialty is the Galbi Jim, or Korean Beef Stew. Unfortunately though, perhaps with waned popularity and the high cost of leasing and maintaining space in the mall, Kimchi branches have become fewer and fewer, replaced by glamorized 'turo-turos.'

We had friends over for dinner last Thursday and for a treat I decided to make this dish. Initially I considered using one of the recipes I found in Google, but decided winging it, based on what I think should be in it, from the memory of the taste of the dish. (People close to me know that this is how I cook-- approximating flavors from memory.) I think I was able to really come close to the Kimchi recipe. :)  I would probably use a different gochujhang (Korean chili paste) brand, next time though, as this one  wasn't as spicy as I wanted.


What's In It?

1 kg. beef short ribs
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
1 head garlic, peeled and mashed
1 cup Kikkoman soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Chinese cooking wine
2-4 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
Bird's eye chilies (siling labuyo), optional
1 bunch onion leeks, washed and sliced diagonally into 1/2" lengths
Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)

Kitchen Conjugations:

Wash the beef short ribs in cold water, removing slime and fat. Place them in a stock pot, and add in water to the level just enough to cover the ribs. Boil over high heat for 3-4 minutes.

Remove all scum from the broth. Add in all ingredients except the leeks, sesame seeds and chilies. Let boil some more for about 5 minutes, then lower heat to simmer the dish for about two hours. Yes, that long! Could be longer, if you had the misfortune of buying tough meat...

Check from time to time if you need to add more water. Check and adjust seasonings, too. You may need to add more sugar and/or cooking wine should you opt to add water. Add salt (not soy sauce) for a little more saltiness. Warning: adding more soy sauce instead of salt will make the broth too dark.

You can add the chilies at this point if you find that the chili paste has not spiced things up to the level desired. While waiting you can also slice the onion leeks, toast the sesame seeds and steam some rice. :)

This dish is best cooked till the meat gets to fall-off-the-bones tenderness. Test by poking a piece with a fork. If the tines get through without much effort, the meat is tender enough.

Garnish with onion leeks and toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot with steamed rice and sautéed mung bean sprouts (togue) on the side. Enjoy!


1. Do you really need gochujang? Yes, if you want the authentic Korean taste and the reddish tint of the Kimchi resto version. I bought my chili paste from Shopwise. See how it looks like here.

2. Do you really have to use Kikkoman? Yes, or some really good soy sauce.  As this is a stew the meat absorbs and retains the flavors of the stewing broth so it is important that you use good soy sauce (and reserve the inexpensive soy sauce for regular fares like Adobo).

PS: Here's a special shout-out to my friend Mark Samson who introduced me to this dish at Kimchi. Thanks, Mark!

Oct 11, 2013

Penne al Salsa di Pomodoro e Aglio

Don't be scared of the fancy-sounding name.  This is but some fancy macaroni I whipped up using what's in my pantry, which was some leftover Tomato Garlic Dip, good ol' Corned Beef and grated Parmesan.  I think this is a good choice if you're short on time and want something quick and easy both on skills and on the pocket. 

PENNE AL SALSA DI POMODORO EL AGLIO (Penne in Tomato Garlic Sauce)

What's In It?

500 g. Penne Rigate, cooked according to package directions
200 g. (one jar) of Tomato Garlic Dip
200 g. (one can) of Corned Beef
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
half a head of garlic, peeled and mashed
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/8 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano (optional)

Kitchen Conjugations:

Heat cooking oil over medium heat in a wok or a deep non-stick pan.  Saute onions for one minute or until soft and translucent, then add garlic and continue sauteing for about 30 seconds.  Add in the corned beef. Stir fry for about a minute, then season with salt, pepper and oregano (if using). Stir in the tomato garlic dip, let boil then bring heat down to let the mixture simmer for one and a half minutes.

Add in the cooked penne. Pour in the olive oil and toss the mixture to allow even distribution and coating.  Check and adjust seasonings.

Top with parmesan cheese.  Serve while hot.

Note:  You can also add sliced mushrooms and finely-diced red bell peppers when the corned beef is half-cooked, then stir-fry for another 30 seconds before adding in the tomato garlic dip.