1 Comment 28 January 2010

By Vicky Rose Pacheco

Sometime last year I got a small notebook where I started jotting down a few of my favorite things – from food and cooking ingredients to restaurants and stores.

Mama Sita Premium Vinegar – aged cane vinegar that is somewhat darker in color. I use it as a “sawsawan” for fried bangus, fired tuyo, inihaw na bangus, inihaw na baboy, lumpiang prito. If it’s a vinegar dipping sauce that I need, it’s definitely this one. My favorite part is drinking it after everything has been dipped into it!

Don Felipe Sukang Tuba (0917-899-5625) and Sukang Paombong (along the national highway in Bulacan) – these ones I use for cooking and marinating: paksiw na isda o pata , adobo, inihaw na baboy, etc. Recently, I made Hito sa Luyang Dilaw for Sentro using sukang paombong and native garlic, and I had it tested by the managers and the staff. Super sarap! It was so good that rice should have been spooned onto the platter and mixed with all the sauce and the garlic. In our lingo at home, my dad would have said, “Ilabay mo yung kanin sa sabaw!”

Balsamic Vinegar – my all-time favorite for salad dressing. When it comes to salad dressing, I really have a one-track mind. I will always prepare a balsamic vinaigrette over a mayonnaise-based dressing.

Bagac Cashew – unsalted roasted casuy from Bagac, Bataan. What I like about it is that it’s not itchy on the tongue and has a naturally sweetish taste. It is very addictive and I can munch on it forever any time of day. Mang Fraxi (0918-656-2048) is the one who brings it to Manila and sells it at the Sidcor market at Lung Center parking lot every Sunday and at the Salcedo Market in Makati every Saturday. He also sells tuyo and tinapang banak from Balanga, Bataan – the best …because they’re not that salty.

Pistacchio Sans Rival – by Jill Sandique (721-7022) It is ethereally airy, crisp, buttery and flavorful. It is so easy to consume three big slices even after a heavy meal – which is what I actually did. Ms. Sandique’s shop is off Bonny Serrano Ave., in San Juan, Metro Manila.

Orange Cake – by Bellini’s (913-2650), a quaint Italian restaurant at the Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao, Quezon City. It is a buttery cake topped to overflowing with sugared orange peel swirls. No, don’t write off the orange flavor just yet! It’s a great flavor combination – a very wonderful surprise, definitely not run-of-the-mill and will be appreciated by gourmets and non-gourmets alike.

Sans Rival Cake – by Mallorca Pasteleria (18 Scout Fuentebella, Quezon City; 373-2789). There are sans rival and there are sans rival but this one reminds you why it was invented in the first place! I discovered it only recently when someone gave it to my dad as a gift. We couldn’t stop eating it! It was very crisp, very buttery, nutty and had the right balance of icing to meringue. I ate it for breakfast and again when I got home at 11:00 pm.

Bibingkang Pinipig – by San Vicente D’ Rice Specialist (Pelmoka St., Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija; 0917-574-5930). I am not usually fond of kakanin but I had to copy the entire label on the box of this one. Someone gifted it to my mom who is the kakanin-lover. It is so good! Not too sweet, not heavy, just the right stickiness and even if it’s green, you don’t feel the color.

Pancit Malabon – by Aling Idang (116 Katipunan Road, White Plains, Quezon City; 911-6756) My favorite Pancit Malabon for take out is just a phone call away. Their “pancit sa bilao” ranges from 2 to 30 persons at very reasonable prices. I like it because it’s consistent, the shrimp flavor is full and it’s not “pancit na pancit lang”. Aling Idang also serves a whole range of Filipino food that is clean “lutong bahay” and very good.

Parmiggiano Reggiano – my most favorite cheese in the world which I can eat non-stop but will not do so, due to cholesterol. Because I like this cheese so much, I had planned on going to Parma, Italy twelve years ago to eat at the source. However, I only got to Bologna and seeing the columns of Parmiggiano Reggiano made me giddy and excited such that I didn’t have to go to Parma at all!

Cocolicious OrganicVirgin Coconut Oil – by Organix Solutions, Inc. (www.cocobody.com) is proudly produced in Cotabato province. It is not greasy, has no after-taste, is odorless and is very smooth to the skin. It is great for massage and as a moisturizer but I also use it daily for oil pulling. Oil pulling is an ancient tradition of cleansing done by taking in about 2 tablespoons of oil in the mouth and swirling it inside for 15 minutes then spitting it out. Because it cleans the bacteria in the mouth, the entry point of most bacteria in the body, one of its benefits is helping clear the nostrils. I’ve always had allergic rhinitis and used to have headaches weekly such that I always wakeup with a clogged nose wherever I am. Now, my headaches are few and far between. It also cleans the bacteria in the mouth so it’s good for people with un-fresh breath.

Macao Chorizo – It is thick, reddish orange and the taste is meaty with a dash of sweet and it’s not from Macau. The skin caramelizes in certain parts as it cooks. I really don’t know how it got its name but it’s made in the Philippines by Dayrit’s. It is really one of my favorite sausages. I can eat it anytime, anywhere and I dip it in Mama Sita Premium Vinegar. It is best eaten with plain rice. Of course, I drink the suka after. Super sarap!

Tuyo from Balanga, Bataan – They always say that the tuyo from Balanga is the best because it’s not too salty… and it is true. In our house, every time we eat tuyo we ask where it comes from. We are quite particular with our tuyo and tinapa. Of course, when there is sinangag and fried egg, that’s the best! I discovered a man called Sergs (+63905-333-5383) in the Sidcor Sunday market whose only goods are tinapang bangus, tinapang tilapia, tinapang banak and tuyo from Balanga, Bataan. What a boon! Now we don’t have to search far and wide for someone to buy these for us in Balanga.

UniMart – This supermarket in Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, Metro Manila is my favorite place to do groceries. I’ve been going there since I was in high school back in the ‘80’s and even if we are now living in Quezon City, I still go there for my personal groceries. Actually, my mom goes there every other day. I like the wide variety of brands and finds, the wide aisles, the homey feel and, most of all, it’s always cheaper in UniMart. I only go to Hypermart or Shopwise in cases of emergency. Whenever I need inspiration for a new menu, UniMart is one of the places I go to. Nothing beats UniMart. Is it childhood nostalgia or practicality? It’s both.

Santi’s Delicatessen – This is another place which inspires. It is so hard to go to Santi’s on a budget because everything I see I want to buy. Before, I used to go to Santi’s at Annapolis Street, Greenhills, San Juan. But then I moved to the one nearest our place which is the Santi’s in Temple Hills, behind Corinthian Gardens in Quezon City. I always have to stop myself from buying cheeses, Swiss cookies, freshly-baked blueberry muffins, pate of foie gras, whole grain mustard, that sturdy and thick chopping board, strainer, grater, Italian pasta, and many more gourmet items and knick knacks which could be expensive. Sometimes they even have roast rib eye and cold sandwiches to go. The trick when visiting Santi’s is to bring a list and be focused on that list.

Nora Daza Cookbook – For me, this is the quintessential Filipino cookbook. It is so reliable, it is a storehouse of very good and well-tested recipes, a definite must-have. I always refer to it when I want to go back to the basics. I think every Pinoy housewife and well-meaning kusinera should have one. Not only does it contain Filipino food but classic Spanish and French dishes which have been part of the Pinoy culture over the years like French onion soup, sans rival, callos, etc. We have a first edition hard-bound tattered copy in our kitchen drawer which we use up to this day. I think it’s more than forty years old. That’s how indispensable it is.

Patis and Bagoong of Aling Rosa – We are very particular about our patis and bagoong. We don’t like it when the patis smells and is malansa. The patis of Aling Rosa, who hails from Navotas, is pure and premium because it is “unang tulo”, meaning from the first extraction. That means too that there are no salt and water additives. It does not stink and does not have the fishy smell. The bagoong she has is the alamang type and it is one of her relatives who make it. It is not too salty, it is not malansa, it is not overly sweetish nor is it too red or too brown. This is the type of bagoong that can upgrade a not-so-good Kare-Kare.

Valrhona Chocolate – This French chocolate, which is hard to find in Manila, is my favorite chocolate – the darker, the better. I use it for the desserts in Chateau. I never quite liked Belgian chocolate- not enough character. Swiss and German chocolates lack oomph. I don’t look at the others anymore but, I can never resist a Cadbury Fruit & Nut and it’s not even dark – that’s the only exemption. Of late, however, I made astounding discoveries: Lucullus Dark Chocolate in Hong Kong (the store is of the same name and  is in Central, across Yung Kee Restaurant), Soma Chocolatier at Mill St. in Toronto, Canada (they specialize in truffles some of which contain balsamic vinegar, olive oil and one flavored with bergamot – awesome!), Joel Durand Chocolatier in Saint-Remy-de-Provence (melt-in-your mouth alphabet chocolate truffles), and Royce Chocolate from Japan which is now available in Manila in Greenbelt 5 and Rockwell. However, what stands in my memory as the best were the champagne chocolate truffles of Maison du Chocolat in Paris which are made with Valrhona chocolate. They were oh-so-smooth, no sour aftertaste, but solid, full-bodied and truly exquisite. Halata bang chocoholic?

Fresh Flowers – I am a sucker for fresh flowers. Every time I see fresh flowers, especially when traveling, I feel elated to see such beauty, such color, such freshness and such fragility. Color combinations which will never work on paper or an outfit always work beautifully well in one single flower. Isn’t God amazing? If it were not so costly and far, I would go to Dangwa in Sampaloc more often. I am always in search of the unique ones and I always interview the vendors. I love arranging flowers!

(The author is the COO & Executive Chef of the Chateau 1771 Group of Restaurants. The Chateau Group (www.chateaugroup.com) includes Chateau 1771 (European No Borders) in Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City; Sidebar in El Pueblo, Ortigas Center, Pasig City; Sentro 1771 (Modern Filipino) in Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City; and Portico 1771 (Oriental Bistro) in Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. Contact her at vickypacheco@hotmail.com.)




3 Comments 25 January 2010

By Manuela Perez Samson

A good man, they say, is hard to find, but a beautiful woman, in this day and time . . . well, turn a corner and you meet one. Especially at upscale, fun-time corners like The Fort, Eastwood, Rockwell, Greenbelt, Glorietta. . . ah, in these whereabouts and hereabouts do such beauties abound! According to Mr. Webster, beauty is “the quality attributed to whatever pleases or satisfies in certain ways, as by line, color, form, etc.; a thing having this quality; good looks; a very good-looking woman.” And “beautiful” is applied to that which gives the highest degree of pleasure to the senses or to the mind and suggests that the object approximates one’s conception of an ideal. On the other hand, Roget’s Thesaurus defines beauty thus: to be beautiful is to have qualities that delight the eye, and a beauty is a woman who is regarded as beautiful.

Well, that has got to be the simplest definition ever!

Let’s try the poets — they who were/are so lavish, so passionate with their praises of beauty, and their odes to beauty. Take Lord Byron’s oft-quoted lines: She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies; and all that’s best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes. And Wordsworth, not to be outdone, speaks about his Phantom of delight. . . a lovely apparition sent to be a moment’s ornament.

On the other hand, what about John Keats, the metaphysical, moody, spiritual high priest of beauty who wrote that “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Granted that JK was referring not to a particular person but to an ideal, still modern man has been quick to adapt it to woman as a thing, a “sexual object.” 

But wait, one more quote from another Romantic who swore that “if eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.”  That’s it? If you look good, if you’re pleasing to the beholder’s eye (because “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”) then you’re okay, you don’t have to be, or do, or prove anything else, you pass with flying colors?

Oh dear, this is really so confusing!

 All right then, let’s get this little piece on beauty and the beautiful, un-confused and classified into one category – beauty in its human form. In short, a beautiful woman (not to be confused with a beautiful man). And let’s take this dissertation closer to home and away from the Romantic poets of centuries ago who hadn’t a clue as to who Belo, Calayan, Mathay, and company might be. 

One reason perhaps that this particular group of makers-over is so popular is because Filipinos are known to be lovers of the beautiful, especially when it comes in womanly form. If you don’t happen to have been born beautiful, then you can always be made beautiful if you’re willing and able to pay the price.

Is it truly a culture thing with the Filipino, this obsession for the beautiful? Does this explain why we have so many beauty contests in the country anytime of the year —  Miss Earth Philippines, Miss Fire, Miss Bikini, Miss Fresh Air and big one, the Bb/ Pilipinas contest that will send our young Filipinas to different corners of the globe to represent this land of the morning sun which is known for its – what else – beautiful women!

Having clarified this particular Pinoy trait, what exactly is our concept of beauty?  Do we equate beauty with sexiness, a perfection of form and figure and looks? Does being beautiful mean having white skin, an aquiline nose, Angelina Jolie lips, perhaps a size 40 plus bra? Does a woman have to be a mestiza to be considered beautiful? And when did the mestiza become the measuring stick to gauge a woman’s beauty?

In truth, we don’t have to look beyond our shores to find beauty. The world itself has found it within our native land and given it recognition with a crown and a title. Here are some of our beautiful Filipinas, down the years of beauty pageants, across oceans and continents, chosen above all her peers as the fairest of them all: Aurora Pijuan, Miss International `70; Gloria Diaz, Miss Universe `69 (winning this crown, for Filipinos, outshone man’s landing on the moon, an event which happened on the same month of that year); Gemma Cruz, Miss International `65; Baby Santiago, Queen of the Pacific `68; Margie Moran (with very impressive credentials as granddaughter to a Philippine President, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a Carnival Queen), Miss Universe `73; Nelia Sancho, Queen of the Pacific `71; Melanie Marquez, Miss International `79, and later Supermodel of the Year, representing a top US modeling agency.

It’s not only the mestiza among us who has graced magazine covers, walked down the ramps of the fashion world to show off Guccis, YSLs, Diors, etc. We have a Mayumi Cabrera (daughter of artist Bencab, and yes, half-Briton but more Pinay than Brit, right?) enhancing her exotic Filipina looks with a dazzling, sparkling de Beers diamond; and Lea Salonga as Kim, winning awards and applause on New York, London, and other stages of the world.

As for “white skin” – one of the ingredients in the recipe for beauty . . . notice that one out of every four or five commercials is a skin-lightening product endorsed by a stunning, sultry beauty who clearly doesn’t need to whiten her skin any more than it already is. Flawless white . . . pure white . . . pinkish white. . . 3-in-one whitening. . . 7-day whitening miracle. . . sparkling white. Clearly the operative, magical word is white.

Does the magic work? These are all big name products endorsed by big name celebrities – male and female both – their glowing white faces smiling out at you from giant billboards on our traffic-ridden avenues and superhighways.

Does it work? Okay, here’s a little tale about Jenny, Violy, and Mimi, all of them members of our household staff. Violy, in her late 40s, Mimi just past 18, and Jenny going on 30, are all typical provincianas, skin browned by the hot sun and warm winds of their native towns. In the city where they work as domestics for middle-class households, they spend breaks between chores glued to the TV screen and their favorite soap, along with all its attending commercials, including of course the magical whitening creams and the lovely white-skinned ladies and gents who endorse them.

So, do these commercials work? How strong is their impact on the particular market which is mostly made up of avid followers of teleseryes? Back to our three provinciana maidens, now indoctrinated into city ways and city life. Every night, Violy, Jenny and Mimi would sit around the table in the darkened kitchen, watching their favorite soap. There they’d sit, their faces glowing white with the magic cream that someday, would make them look like the beautiful white face on the screen before them.

It was startling at first to see those white-masked faces around the table, every night without fail, but eventually we got used to it. It matters not that the miracle doesn’t take place. It could be the cream they’re using isn’t as fast-working or expensive as the one on TV, but that’s okay. Theirs is the patience of saints, and they can wait. Someday, who knows, they’ll look in the mirror and voila! The magic has worked, and brown has turned to white!

Ironically, on the beautiful beaches of the southern provinces these girls left behind, men and women from foreign shores bare their snow white bodies to an abundant sun that would turn their skin to a delicious brown.

Another irony: While true it is that many Filipino males look first of all at the trappings (white skin, aquiline nose, bikini body, etc) that attract, and only second of all at whether that alluring exterior offers a counterpart interior (character, integrity, a beautiful soul perhaps?), statistics and records show marriages between international beauty queens – the first ever Miss Universe 1952, Armi Kuusela of Finland; the first Miss International (1962) Stella Marquez of Colombia; Miss Asia Angela Filmer of Malaysia; Miss Aruba, Miss Australia – and Filipino men.  This surely proves a point in that brown may be quite as irresistible to white, as vice versa. 

Why on earth then do we want to change the color of our skin? Why isn’t Nora A or Sarah G up there on that screen singing about the brown-skinned maidens of our enchanted isles, instead of voluptuous-lipped Gretchen or sultry Ruffa enticing gullible, small-town innocents into making the impossible happen?

So, back to first base: What is beauty? What, more specifically, makes a woman beautiful, apart and aside from, and without, whitening creams, age-defying miracle creams, nosejobs, breast and butt lifts, liposuction, nips and tucks and silicon add-ons?  What is this obsession with color, shape and form? Is beauty only skin deep, concerned with the external, “its own excuse for being”?

There’s got to be something else. Like genes, for instance.  Genes is what makes a person look the way he/she does. The biological “somethings” that determine if you’ll be a Jericho look-alike or you’ll have Kristine’s dimples, Agot’s sultry eyes. Later, what completes the handiwork? Experience, character, formation, life itself. . . and living.

So think not that beauty is its own excuse for being. If we believed that, if our culture tells us there’s nothing more to beauty than meets the eye, then there’s little hope for the other part of the world, the bigger part which is composed of ordinary folks like you and me, ordinary folks who come in all shapes, and sizes and faces.

Where would love go if every time a man looked at a woman, he would want to see a white-skinned beauty in a bikini? Would he compromise and imagine Eva Longoria when he looks at his wife of 20 or so years, dark hair streaked with gray, bulges in the wrong places, once-smooth-skin lined and wrinkled?

But believe that there’s more to a beautiful woman than the color of her skin or the shape of her body. Believe there’s more to her than meets the eye; look beyond the layers of whitening cream and botoxed forehead and injected lips, beneath the silicon chest and padded butt – and discover the mind and heart and soul of her. And realize that this goddess walks on brown feet.




No Comments 24 January 2010

By Manuela Perez Samson

This morning the sun came out! There it was, making its presence felt in patches of light that dappled the leaves of the plants and slipped through the lattice panels in the lanai. Such a beautiful, heartwarming sight, after weeks of rain and wind. After days of harrowing sights leaping out at you from your TV screen – people on the roofs of their flooded homes, people grasping branches of trees to keep from being dragged downstream by the strong current, holding on to tight ropes as they wade through chest-deep waters, babies in styrofoam boxes bobbing up and down streets that had become rivers . . .  This isn’t a horror movie you’re watching, you tell yourself. This isn’t “end of days”, a Nostradamus prophecy played out on a 21st century TV screen, the Great Deluge, the end of the world. 

No, this isn’t make-believe. What you’re watching on TV is what’s actually happening elsewhere in your own country, in a city or town a few miles away from where you sit, warm and comfortable. Horrified… but warm and comfortable, while people on  rooftops send out frantic calls for help, and children and old people are washed away by raging floodwaters. It was a nightmare played out night after night, seemingly unending, seemingly hopeless. Gloomy days, dark clouds, overcast skies . . . what is happening to the world, to our little corner of it? Is God punishing us? Or is Mother Nature turning against us, finally, because we have abused her and desecrated her, and ignored her warnings and her pleas?

Message of hope

And then, the sun came out, bright and shining like a great big smiley face! What more potent message of hope than this? What more can we ask of a God that must be up to here with our pleas, our protests, laments, our wailing and weeping? Our cries of despair and cries for help?

These tragic events are as much our fault as they are of the dam managers who let loose the waters that flooded our streets and turned them into rivers, drowned our beloved ones, destroyed our dreams and hopes.

In the midst of all this sadness and bereavement, this fearful expectation of more devastation yet to come, how can we bring ourselves to await Christmas as in past years, to ready ourselves for joyful reunions, gift-giving, colorful lights and lanterns at our windows – all the wonderful things that the very word Christmas evokes? All the beautiful traditions that have been handed down the years in our families?

How can we reconcile the devastation, the individual tragedies collected into one huge drama of loss and bereavement – how reconcile with the coming holidays, the season of joy and gladness, open hearts and open hands? 

Perhaps therein lies the connection – the outpouring of sympathy and spontaneous generosity towards those who have lost so much, who have lost everything. The giving from the heart to those who have lost heart.

Peaceful Sunday

Sunday, peaceful dreamy Sunday, listening to Johnny Mathis singing his immortal love songs. Vic sitting in his TV chair, eyes closed, dozing off at times, wide awake at times. Only Johnny Mathis can sing a love song the way a love song should be sung, with feeling. Feeling deep enough to waken Vic as JM goes from 12th of Never to Stranger in Paradise.  When we were in college and he was courting me, that was like “our song”.  We were “strangers in paradise” . . . just out of our teens, exploring a new world of emotions, on the threshold of discoveries, reckless and brave with our promises.

And here we were this peaceful Sunday, many moons, many worlds away from those reckless daring years, once again listening to Johnny Mathis singing “our song” in his cool mellow voice, once again strangers in a paradise now badly beaten  by the storms life has dealt us. Vic in his TV seat, eyes closed, his good hand holding mine, his fingers tapping softly to the music. Myself misty-eyed and remembering, glancing at the caregiver in the chair across the room, wishing I had a magic wand I could wave to make him vanish from our sight. Why couldn’t we have this moment of tenderness and memory in complete privacy . . . why couldn’t we cry if we wanted to without feeling embarrassed because other eyes were watching?

His wheelchair by the bed, my gnarled hand clasped in his, a house made quiet by the absence of young voices and young noises are the signs of the passing of many years.  Is it only people like us (okay, old people like us) who can be overwhelmed by this emotion such a love song can evoke?

Christmas countdown

Thirty odd days away to the enchanted season of Christmas, the countdown on TV reminds us. While the young buck with impatience at the crawling of time, we on the other hand, wonder how minutes and hours can so swiftly pass into days and weeks.  Listening to the ticking of the clock, watching the setting of the sun, the waning of the moon, asking ourselves timidly, fearfully, hopefully. . . Will I still be here next Christmas?

Was it George Bernard Shaw who once lamented that youth was wasted on the young? And does that still hold true in this day and age of amazing inventions, incredible technology, unbelievable discoveries – all by the youth, and for the youth? They who send text messages from mobile phones with their eyes closed. . . who do magical stuff on their computers and laptops, communicate in “real time” across seas and oceans and even  planets, speak of Facebook, Twitter, blog, Google in a language known only to themselves. Theirs the world of MacDonald’s, pizza, PS2s and 3s, i-Pods, and all those strange mysterious gadgets familiar only to themselves 

While ours the world of quiet Sundays, Johnny Mathis and The 12th of Never, Tony Bennett and Autumn Leaves, Frank Sinatra and September Song. And Christmas?  Christmas was (and always will be) the magical time, the enchanted world of childhood,  Never Never Land! Step out of your front door – and you can almost smell Christmas! It’s almost here. Reach out for it, and you can almost touch it. Close your eyes, and believe as you believed when you were a child, when nothing was impossible.

How to keep Christmas then, when we seem to be losing everything else?  Perhaps in ways we may have forgotten. Perhaps by being together in heart and mind and spirit if not in the flesh.  Perhaps with hugs and kisses in lieu of gift-wrapped packages.  Perhaps a Christmas table which may be half-full, but with our hearts overflowing.  Perhaps a tiny tree all lit up with smiles and laughter. (On our first married Christmas Vic and I had a really small tree on a plate, trimmed with the tiniest of tinsel balls, its treetop angel a single white bulb at the tip. But it was one of our best Christmases ever!)

Survivors, that’s who we are as a people. Non-quitters… fighters… We are “where Asia wears a smile”.  And even as we brave the stormy winds and rainwaters, we know deep in our hearts that the sun will come out again, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps the day after. Because Christmas is almost here. You can almost smell it. . . touch it. . . feel it.

And we shall keep Christmas, not squander it. We shall weave Christmas into the daily fabric of our life – and treasure its memories that are forever good and sweet.




No Comments 23 January 2010

By Vicky Rose Pacheco

 I thought I knew how to make adobo. I’ve been making the white version all these years and I wanted to make the one with soy sauce. I think this is the adobo that foreigners are familiar with. When I contemplated including Chicken Adobo in Sentro 1771’s  new menu in Greenbelt 3, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park. We placed it on the menu last March but I had to test the recipe four times, not counting the couple of times I did it at home. Each recipe testing had to be a four-whole-chickens batch. Gosh, how many trials was it going to take? I wanted to achieve a Chicken Adobo that was dark and shiny, just the way Tibay makes it. Tibay is our clan’s resident cook. I badgered her for the recipe several times but she ignored me. I thus resorted to texting her, asking her questions which she could answer with a yes or a no. Eventually I gave up and decided to do a take five and a take six.

 After two months, I think I am midway. I already got the ratio of the pork to the chicken. I am lining the bottom of the pan with pork fat. I am using native garlic. I am using sukang paombong. I am using Silver Swan soy sauce. I marinate the chicken in vinegar, salt and crushed peppercorns. It is still not coming out the way I envisioned it. Since I am doing a batch of four whole chickens at a time, I cook it in a tall pot. Unfortunately, not all chickens are touching the liquid. I would think that the top is being steamed instead of stewed. I think that’s one of the contributing factors to its non-success.

Maybe I’ll cook it in a deep roasting pan so that it will be level, then I’ll just place it in the oven. I don’t know, this is one big batch.

 Another thing I’m going to do with the adobo is to fry it after it is cooked in vinegar. I wanted to avoid the frying procedure for “lower fat” purposes and because of tediousness, but I guess that deep dark color comes from browning the pieces in fat. Yes, I’ll try that right away!


  The Kare-Kare, on the other hand, launched last December, is not the dark orange- brown and shiny Kare-Kare I’ve been aiming for. The flavor of the peanuts is still lacking, despite already putting five kilos in one batch. Mind you, we are using the famous Iligan peanuts which are flown all the way to Manila. Every week, I have been monitoring it and we’ve been tweaking the recipe every single time, but only through verbal instructions via Claudette, the sous chef. Why isn’t it the same as the one in our house? I can’t invite my parents to taste it yet. Wait ‘til I get my hands on it. I’m not going to give instructions anymore, I will do it myself.

And so it happened that when we opened Sentro1771 in Serendra last May, I got a chance to personally make the Kare-Kare sauce from the start. Since we did not have ox intestines at that time, I used beef bulalo. I sautéed the garlic then the onions, and I added the bulalo. Then I added the beef broth from the boiled boneless beef shank. I added the ground peanuts which I passed through the blender to make a smooth paste. Then I simmered it for about two hours. In between, I was adding atswete coloring several times.

Slowly, it was becoming this rich stew which I recognized! Yipee! Malapit na! I had not added yet the toasted ground rice. It was only then that I realized that it should only be added once the right color and peanut flavor have been achieved. Treat the rice like any thickener, dissolve it in water then add. The bulalo worked well because of its bone marrow inside for richness and depth of flavor and the tendons on the outside for that meat flavor. Had I used ox intestines, these would have disintegrated before the right color and flavor have been achieved. Of course, I am talking here about the sauce only being cooked one big giant cauldron. I had yet to add the boiled ox feet, ox tail, tripes, and boneless shank. However, I was already quite pleased with the result. It was really getting there. Unfortunately, it was nearing dinner service so I had to park it and resume the following day.

 In the middle of writing this article, I ate breakfast. I had leftover Chicken & Pork Adobo with soy sauce from a previous dinner and I said, why not fry it once and for all? The pieces were browned and the garlic was browned and got all stuck together with the pepper… it looked very appetizing. Yipee! I got the look! However, in the taste department, it lacked the oomph of the vinegar and it’s because this was the version that was not marinated prior to stewing. Now this adobo looked like Winnie’s. Winnie is the cook of my aunt on my dad’s side. She has been cooking for my Lola Angustia and my dad’s side of the family for many years now. It’s my lola’s recipe but Winnie’s execution. Every time we ate at my Lola Angustia’s house, she would always have this adobo and it would always be wiped out by. What a wonderful turn of events! I’ll chuck Tibay’s adobo and go for Winnie’s instead. Now it’s time to teach it to the cooks.

Cooking, and not only Kare-Kare and Adobo, is really an unfinished business. It never ends. Be it at home or in the restaurants, I continuously discover something new each time. It is always subject to time, temperament, judgment, temperature, quantity and quality of ingredients, size of cooking vessel, technique, and food memories. It is such a joy to experiment and discover at the same time. I hope it never ends.

(The author is the COO & Executive Chef of the Chateau 1771 Group of Restaurants. The Chateau Group (www.chateaugroup.com) includes Chateau 1771 (European No Borders) in Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City; Sidebar in El Pueblo, Ortigas Center, Pasig City; Sentro 1771 (Modern Filipino) in Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City, and in Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. Contact her at vickypacheco@hotmail.com.)


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