Monday, March 28, 2011


Nurses and Caregivers, I have one word for you - RESPECT! Teenager no. 3 came home from the hospital last weekend, and I have tagged on an addendum to my multi-hyphenated job description of Mom. I am now Mom-Nurse to my son, who is lying in bed, cranky, in pain, and temporarily immobile. His needs have gone on overdrive. I've only been a couple of days on the job, but I am exhausted! I am either going to make myself a cocktail, or something good to eat. So I made noodles.

This recipe is adapted from The Taste of Thailand by Vatcharin Bhumichitr, substituting red curry paste with sambal.

Curry Noodles with Sambal

200g fresh Asian egg noodles
2 tablespoons oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons sambal paste
(or 1 teaspoon red curry paste)
1/2 cup coconut cream
125g minced pork
250ml chicken or pork stock
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Blanch the fresh noodles in boiling water for a few seconds, separating the strands. Drain and set aside.

In a wok over high heat, add the oil and fry the garlic until just golden. Add curry paste, stir well, then coconut cream. Lower the heat and simmer for a minute. Add the minced pork and saute until it turns opaque. Add the stock, curry powder, turmeric, fish sauce, sugar and lemon juice. Stir well. Increase the heat to high and continue stirring for about half a minute.

Add the noodles and mix until the sauce is well incorporated.

Garnish with julienned cucumbers and carrots. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or ground peanuts. Serve with additional sambal on the side.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


This month's Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge is Vegetables, Philippine Style. Thanks to Erika for a refreshing theme!

Ask a fellow Filipino what their favorite home cooked dish is, and most often you'll hear them craving for adobo, kare-kare, longganisa, or lechon kawali. We're a carnivorous bunch!

According to Encyclopedia of the Nations, the country's main agricultural crops are rice, corn, coconut, sugarcane, bananas, pineapple, coffee, mangoes, tobacco, and abaca (a banana-like plant). Secondary crops include peanut, cassava, camote (a type of rootcrop), garlic, onion, cabbage, eggplant, calamansi (a variety of lime), rubber, and cotton.

My featured dish is a grilled eggplant salad, which is a perfect accompaniment to all that meat we're craving! The tanginess of the dressing comes from calamansi, or Philippine limes. Adjust the sourness according to your taste, and if calamansi is not available, limes or lemons can be used. A drizzle of coconut cream rounds out the flavors. Add some crushed peanuts, chopped cilantro and more chili to the dressing for a Thai twist.

Grilled Eggplant Salad

1 Asian eggplant (long)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
1/2 tomato, diced
1 chili, minced
2 tablespoons fresh calamansi juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons coconut cream

Grill the eggplant until skin is blackened. Let cool for a minute, then peel off the charred skin.

Dice eggplant and place in a serving dish. Top this with the diced tomatoes, shallots and minced garlic (which can be pan-fried in a bit of oil until lightly brown for a milder flavor).

For the dressing, combine the calamansi juice, fish sauce, sugar and minced chili. Mix well until the sugar is dissolved.

Pour dressing over the salad and drizzle the coconut cream over to finish.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fish Tales

There was a point in my childhood where I wanted to marry a fisherman. During my summer holidays, we would visit my grandparents who lived by the river. My Dad would take me on a little canoe with an old fisherman called Mang Tino, and we'd row out to the bay in the cool, dark and quiet dawn. The soft ripples of waves, the gentle splash of the oars as they cut through the still water was hypnotic. No conversation. This was Dad's downtime. We stopped a bit by the river bank, where our fisherman scooped up tiny shrimp for bait. We fished for a couple of hours, until the hot morning sun came bearing down on us. That meant it was time to head for shore, where twigs and branches were collected to make a fire to cook our breakfast. Our catch of the day, tiny silver fish, were put into a clay pot, with some onions, garlic, ginger and salt. The sweetness of the fresh fish over hot steamed rice was the best breakfast a little girl could share with her Dad, sitting under a shady tree, by the riverbank. This was serenity.

Here's a recipe for Grilled Fish (adapted from Terry and Christopher Tan's Shiok cookbook), using fillets you can easily find in your neighborhood supermarket. In Singapore, the ideal fish used is Stingray, on the bone, and of course, the fresher the better. It is served with a sweet-salty-spicy sambal and slices of calamansi, our local limes. The sambal recipe yields about a cup. I plan to make more dishes using this condiment, so watch out for it in my future posts.

Grilled Fish with Chili Sambal

500g sole or any white, firm fish fillet
2 tablespoons kecap manis (thick dark soy sauce)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
fresh calamansi or limes, halved

for Chili Sambal:
6 cloves garlic, peeled
4 candlenuts
(closest substitute would be cashew nuts)
2 large onions, chopped
8 dried chilies, soaked for about 30 minutes to soften
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
3/4 cup water
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to grill (you may also use your barbecue grill).

Pat dry the fish fillets with a paper towel and place in an oven-proof dish. Mix together kecap manis, pepper, salt and sugar. Brush liberally over fish.

Place in the oven and grill for about 3-4 minutes (4-5 minutes for thicker fillets). The fish is cooked through when the meat can be flaked with a fork. Serve with cut limes and chili sambal.

To make the sambal, finely grind garlic, candlenuts, onions and chilies in a food processor to make a moist aromatic paste. Add the tamarind paste into the water and knead until a pulp is produced. Strain into another bowl.

Heat the wok and add the oil. Reduce heat to low and add the aromatic paste. Stir constantly for about 10 minutes to ensure that the raw ingredients are thoroughly cooked.

Add the tomato paste, salt, sugar and stir well. Add the strained tamarind liquid a little at a time, stirring well, and continue until all liquid has been added and absorbed, and the sambal has turned a deep, rich red.

Serve with grilled fish, or as a condiment to your favorite meat, noodle or rice dishes.

The cooled sambal can be kept in a clean, airtight container for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I've been in a daze lately. A few weeks ago, I faced the sad reality of a dear friend's passing away from cancer. The memories came pouring in. From the first time we met in Copenhagen, she took me under her wing, and showed me how to live like a Dane, but without forgetting our Philippine roots. Her traditional Christmas dinners of roast duck, roast pork, caramelized potatoes and red cabbage were always followed by adobo, lechon kawali and rice. When we bought our very first home, she came by, sewing machine in hand, and we spent all day eagerly sewing up curtains to decorate the rooms. She watched my boys grow up, and as my family became more nomadic through the years, she opened her home to us as we came to visit every summer or winter holiday. She enjoyed life. And now I wonder why she couldn't enjoy it for a bit longer.

I'm grateful to have spent the holidays with her, where she served a delicious appetizer, Pate de Foie Gras with Green Grapes. Here's how it was done: Take some green grapes, cut in half lengthwise, and toss with sugar to coat the fruit. While the grapes are macerating, slice the pate into 1 inch thick pieces, and pan fry them carefully in butter. Remove the browned pate, and toss in the grapes. Saute briefly and add white wine, reduce until the sauce becomes slightly syrupy. Lay the foie gras on toasted brioche over some arugula, then drizzle the green grape sauce over. Delicious.

Good memories, L.