Recipe: Thai-style Mussels

When I attended Mida Food’s 20th anniversary luncheon, each guest were given a bag full of frozen seafood—scallops, bacalao, softshell crab, prawns, and mussels—as a giveaway. The distributor of premium fresh and frozen seafood is known for its quality frozen products through its retail brand Pacific Bay. I immediately thought of various recipes for the seafood. I wanted to do something different for the mussels. It’s a pound of good shellfish, important from New Zealand, which was also already pre-cooked. I browsed the web and found Jamie Oliver’s Thai-style recipe. It looked simple and easy so I tried it and tweaked it a bit.

Ingredients

1 kg. mussels
1 1/2 cups fresh coconut cream
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 stalk lemon grass
1 tsp. cilantro stalks
2 pcs. bird’s eye chili (or Thai chili), chopped
1 pc. lime
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Procedure

1. Clean mussels or ask your fishmonger to do this for you. Steam or boil them for about 5 minutes until they open up. Discard any mussel that remained closed. Set aside about a cup of the water you used to cook the mussels.
2. Prep the lemon grass and cilantro. Pound the white part of the stalk until it cracks and opens up. Cut stalk into one-inch pieces. Then, separate the leaves of the cilantro from the stalks. Chop the stalks into small pieces.
3. In a pot, saute garlic and onions in vegetable oil for about 2 minutes, then add lemon grass and cilantro stalks and saute for another 2 minutes. Add coconut cream and water. Wait until it boils.
4. When boiling, add fish sauce and chili. Stir and taste, add salt if necessary. Add more chili if you want it extra spicy. Then add cooked mussels, stir and let simmer uncovered for about 2 minutes.
5. Turn off heat and squeeze lime over the mussels and mix. Serve in a bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges. Enjoy!

Serves 2 to 3

Advertisements

Myron’s: Steak perfected

 

I love steak. I like it medium and seasoned perfectly with salt and pepper. I like it with a side of roasted vegetables and rice or potatoes. Sauces are optional because you don’t need a sauce with a good steak.

I remember eating my first wagyu (or some kind of high grade Japanese beef) at Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati years back and it was so good. Every bite was like heaven in my mouth.

Then one of the first steak houses I ever dined in was Myron’s Steak, Ribs and Seafood at Power Plant mall in Rockwell. This was 10 years ago (I think) and the steak house was pretty new then but they served good steak.

Since then, I have consumed many more steaks—bad, okay, good, great—but those two first experiences for me are the most memorable and delicious.

SB Cappuccino of mushroom soup
Cappucino of Mushroom

A little over a week ago, I was able to go back to Myron’s after many years. The restaurant has a new home, at the 6th floor of The Ascott Residences in Makati, moving from Greenbelt 5. The restaurant now serves as the property’s breakfast restaurant and they basically operate Ascott’s food and beverage (F&B) needs.

This is a big challenge for owners Ramon and Monica Eugenio considering that they started in food business at a small stall at Salcedo’s weekend market. Both experienced chefs, the couple started selling their Angus roast beef at Salcedo market in 2005. A year later, they had an opportunity to open their first restaurant at Power Plant mall. The couple partnered with friend and kitchen colleague Melanio Resuma to kick start the steak house.

SB Fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese
Fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese

After 11 years of operations, the restaurant has grown significantly and turned into a company running several restaurants including The Flying Pan, Franco’s, and Miguelito’s.

“As you can see it’s a bigger opportunity for us. I think it’s the biggest challenge for Monique and I. We started at the Saturday market and then after 10 years we were able to move from a stall in Salcedo to running the F&B department of one of the major players in Makati,” Ramon said.

One of the factors why Myron’s have lasted this long is because of a loyal following. Another is simply because they make good food.

For starters, the restaurant offers a variety of appetizers but the must tries are the caesar salad that’s freshly made beside your table and the delicious cappuccino of mushroom. It’s a mushroom soup that is creamy and foamy, giving that distinct cappuccino texture. The fresh mushroom flavors are there, not the kind you get in a can. It’s also adorably served in a coffee cup with a thin bread stick on the side.

SB Tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce
Tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce

If you’re a pasta lover, try the fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese. Yes, I know, blue cheese is notoriously pungent but this dish has no moldy aroma, whatsoever. It’s a surprisingly light pasta for a creamy dish and the grilled chicken complements it very well.

For people trying to stay away from carbs and want to eat “healthy,” try the tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce. I love seafood so this dish pleased me a lot, gastronomically speaking. The huge grilled tiger prawn has perfect charred sides and the scallops beautifully seared—both protein are very tender and well seasoned. The roasted pumpkin adds a smoky sweetness to the dish. All of the components are tied together by a creamy and delicate scallion sauce.

For the main event, Myron’s signature steak was served, called The President. It’s a US ribeye cooked medium and was served already sliced. It has a pink Himalayan salt topping and served with a side of steamed French beans. The sear was perfect and the seasoning was on point. I get why this steak is popular dish. This is best eaten with Myron’s rice, which is like fried rice but using steak drippings.

SB The President ribeye steak
‘The President’ ribeye steak

Although this was not the steak that I ate back then, it still brought back memories. Also, The President doesn’t need any sauce because it’s perfect as it is.

We ended the meal with an intricately plated chocolate cake. Ramon said that their pastry chef was formerly from Mandarin Oriental so the execution was very hotel-y. It was nice but I would have preferred the bread pudding.

The steak house is the living legacy of the man behind the name. Monica’s dad, Myron Papa is a big part of the concept when they envisioned the restaurant over a decade ago. The couple described the late stockbroker as someone who loved to entertain and feed people.

“He loved to entertain people with only the best food and wine,” recalled Monica. “When it came to get-togethers at home, he was very conscious about the quality of food being served, and very generous with the servings. You go home happy and well fed after a date with Myron.”

SB The Marianito
Marianito cocktail

This father’s day, Myron’s will celebrate with an addition to its bar menu. A new signature cocktail will be launched on June 18. Called the Marianito, it’s a classic Spanish cocktail made of vermouth, gin, campari, and angostura bitters.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Myron’s, 6th floor The Ascott Residences, Makati City / +632 755 8898 / reservations@myronsph.com / Facebook and Instagram @myrons_ph

Cebu’s UNO restaurant puts the spotlight on Filipino fare

When you ask me what my comfort food is, I would quickly respond Filipino food. As someone who grew up eating good Filipino fare at home, my love affair with local cuisine will last forever. Pizza got nothing on kare-kare.

The best thing about my mom and dad’s cooking (yes, they both cook) is they still do it the traditional way. Yes, no shortcuts. Why? Well, first, the flavors are different when using convenience products. Secondly, it’s healthier because you know exactly what you’re putting in your food.

Paella negra and arrox con pollo
UNO restaurant’s paella negra and arroz con pollo

My parents would use actual sampaloc in sinigang, boiling the sour fruit and pressing the juices through a sieve. I think my they have never used instant mix especially in kare-kare. They would use freshly ground peanuts from the market and use giniling na bigas (finely ground rice) as thickener.

Lucky for my siblings and I, we grew up tasting the real deal.

Cooking Filipino food the traditional way is also an advocacy of celebrity chef couple Roland and Jackie Laudico. Both chefs champion Pinoy food, promoting local cuisine through their restaurants and festivals here and overseas.

“The number one problem with Filipino cuisine is convenience products, all that instant cr**. We do not only advocate Filipino food, we promote the traditional way of preparing Filipino food,” explained chef Roland who is also known as chef Lau. He said this during a sit down interview with the media during the launch of their collaboration with UNO restaurant of Waterfront Cebu.

UNO restaurant interiors
Waterfront Hotel’s flagship restaurant, UNO

Last month, the chef tandem launched a Filipino food feast in partnership with the Waterfront group of hotels. Called “UNO’s Modern Filipino Taste: A Filipino Feast for All Senses,” the hotel’s buffet restaurant features a special menu by the Laudicos for a limited time, which started last week and will run until Aug. 31 of this year.

The two chefs added more than 40 dishes to the existing Filipino buffet menu. The dishes range from the traditional to modern to the Laudico’s personal spin to local dishes. The special menu is available at the hotel chain’s Cebu branches, Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino (Lahug) and Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino (Mactan).

Ngohiong cones
Ngohiong is a lumpia-like Cebuano dish and chef Lau turns it into bite-sized crunchy cones

“It is really with great passion and love that we always try to promote Filipino cuisine. It is such an honor for us to be able to do it at the country’s only Filipino-owned hotel chain. We are really happy to work with the Waterfornt group,” chef Jackie said.

Owned by the Gatchalian family, Waterfront hotels operate in Luzon (Manila), Visayas (Cebu), and Mindano (Davao). The local hotel chain is known for having PAGCOR casinos and even Duty Free shops at their hotels.

Lechon baka
Lechon baka

More than 60 dishes would greet diners at the hotel’s flagship restaurant. One of the main attraction of the buffet is a row of various lechon, after all, a Cebuano buffet is not complete without lechon.

Chef Lau’s take on the classic roast pig is adding a local flavor. He used basil-like local herb sangig along with the traditional aromatics used in lechon. The lechon line is also composed of baka (cow), goat, and his version of spicy “bellychon.”

Spicy bellychon2
Spicy bellychon

Also included in the lineup are classic dishes like pork humba, paella negra, and local dish balbacua. Chef Lau also put a modern spin on local favorites like the pinaupong nilasing na manok (beer can chicken cooked in a clay pot), inasal siomai, sinigang bites (crispy kangkong with bangus mousse), ngohiong cones (fried spring roll-like Cebuano dish), and many more.

Oh, did I mention there’s bacon bagnet? Yup, that exists in this buffet.

Suman panna cotta
Suman panna cotta

Chef Jackie on the other hand took care of the dessert, as usual. She made classic cakes and pastries and also modern Filipino desserts like queso de bola cheesecake, suman pana cotta, and molten tableya cake.

“We started doing Filipino food 18 years ago. We really wanted Filipino food to be respected globally, not just here and that’s happening. Finally, it’s happening, it should have happened many, many years ago,” chef Lau said.

Molten tableya cake
Molten tableya cake that uses Davao chocolate

“We’ve been doing Filipino food ever since hoping that we could inspire other chefs to do it and we’re very very happy that a lot are doing it now,” he added.

The couple is also bringing the festival in Davao this August and continue to experiment with Filipino food.

Please check out my story on ABS-CBN Life here.

For more information visit: www.waterfronthotels.com.ph

7 things to expect from traditional Japanese meals

My tummy will be forever thankful to Japan for giving the world sushi, tempura, ramen, katsu, and other glorious eats. Japanese food is a favorite around the world because the cuisine is considered umami-rich, healthy, and basically an art form. The Japanese take their food seriously.

When I say the Japanese take their food seriously, I mean seriously. Presentation alone, I think the Japanese are the best at presenting and plating their food. Even the vessels the food are on are also works of art—beautiful ceramic plates, bowls, and cups are often handmade by master craftsmen. And for chefs, some take years just to master one dish. Japanese master chefs are not called masters for nothing.

I discovered in Japan that what we eat today at local Japanese restaurants is far from the traditional meals. Yes, tempura, ramen, sushi, etc. are common dishes in the Land of the Rising Sun, but you haven’t truly eaten Japanese food until you try the traditional meals.

So, for people traveling to Japan for the first time and really want to try authentic Japanese fare, I will give you a list of what to expect from them.

Traditional Japanese setup
The beautiful dining setup at Bizenya restaurant in Goju

1. Traditional dining setup

You might already know this but traditional Japanese restaurants don’t have regular tables and chairs. Instead, a table that is low and close to the floor and pillows or legless chairs to sit on. Don’t worry because sitting on tatami mats is very comfortable even without pillows.

And a reminder, shoes are not allowed inside traditional restaurants. Eateries usually have shelves or shoe racks at the entrance and sometimes they provide guests with slip-ons so you can walk around the restaurant. But the dining area is still off limits to any kind of footwear.

Ready
Cold appetizers would be waiting for you on the table.

2. The food is ready on the table

The starters are already ready on the table before you even enter the restaurant especially if you or your tour guide reserved and ordered ahead of time. A typical Japanese meal starts with several amuse bouche or small portions of appetizers (mostly cold) like salad, pickles, vegetables, tamago (egg) omelet, grilled fish, sashimi, just to name a few.

Mini squid specialty
Toyama’s mini squid delicacy

3. Delicacies and exotic dishes

Speaking of appetizers, depending on where you are in Japan, there are certain specialties to try. When we were in Toyama, Toyama Prefecture, the city’s specialty is a type of tiny squid native to Toyama Bay. This squid is steamed or boiled then served cold with some kind of sour sauce. It’s very briny (not salty) but very fishy. I did not like this one that much.

Another are these small white fish sashimi in Goju. It is mixed in with herbs and pickles. Again, it was too fishy for me. These dishes are for people with an acquired taste.

There are however more delicious things than dishes I didn’t like. I loved the grilled fish, salad, seaweed pickles (or something), blanched green vegetable with crushed peanuts, egg omelet slices, various pickled vegetables, among others.

Cooking your main dish
Hot dish on the table

4. Cook your own main dish

At every restaurant we dined in, we always cooked the main dish on the table. A small pot or pan is usually situated on the side of your starter plate. What’s inside is raw fish or meat in a broth or sauce with whatever ingredients the dish may accompany. The pot is usually on top of a small ceramic or metal “stove” with some kind of burner the size of a small candle. The meat are usually sliced thinly for quick cooking.

This actually was quite a nice experience because we were able to cook the meat according to our liking. My favorite was the Hida beef dish at Irori restaurant in the heritage village Shirakawa-go. Slices of beef, tofu cubes, chopped scallions, bean sprouts (not sure but it may be soy bean sprouts), and miso paste on a bed of dry but soaked in oil ho leaf. It was so good. Hida beef is a kind of high grade cattle meat like Kobe.

Various starters
Small but several portions

5. A meal is composed of several courses

Most of the restaurants we dined in are very fine dining-esque. The dishes come in courses. After the appetizers and while waiting for your main dish to cook, several dishes would come one after another like a plate of sashimi then a bowl of soba noodles then a bowl of miso soup then a bowl of rice then the dessert.

You would think that the meals have small portions but there are several dishes—six to seven courses! You’ll get full but you won’t get that bloated feeling.

rice
A Japanese meal is not complete without rice.

6. Rice comes in late

Like Chinese lauriat, rice arrives towards the end of the meal, usually served with a bowl of miso soup. The rice bowl comes before the dessert. Just be prepared because during our first meals, we were surprised when the rice was served last after we already downed the main dishes. Though some restaurants serve noodles instead of rice and sometimes both.

But like good Filipinos we are, we usually order the rice in advance so we can eat it with the main dish. You can ask politely and they will oblige. But in a non-traditional setting, rice is usually served along with all the dishes.

tempura
Mixed tempura served with fine wasabi salt

7. It gets really authentic

Japanese cuisine outside Japan is already modified one way or another. We were served tempura in two meals and both times, no dipping sauce was served with it. Gasp! We are used to the sweet, soy, and gingery sauce of tempura served here in the Philippines. Traditionally, however, termpura is only served with a small plate of fine salt. Sometimes, the salt are flavored with various herbs and other spices.

When in Japan, expect real wasabi and not the bright green kind that comes in a tube. The real wasabi has a lighter green color, is more moist, and has bits and pieces of the root. The spice doesn’t linger and smoother compared to the fake ones.

So there you go! If you’re traveling to Japan, make sure to try some traditional fare. You’ll really discover how the Japanese really take their food seriously.

Jetstar offers low fares to Nagoya and flies four times weekly from Manila / www.jetstar.com