Last chance to sample Australian grassfed beef specials at Dean & Deluca, 22 Prime, and more

Last June, the Australian Embassy launched its Australian Grassfed on the Menu campaign. They partnered with several restaurants in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao to create special beef dishes that would only be available for the two-month period of the promotion. And it will end on Aug. 30.

What’s so special about these dishes?

Well, for one, they use only high-grade Australian grassfed beef, which is said to be “healthier” than other cattle meat. Ninety-seven percent of Australian cattle are grown, free range. This means that cows freely graze on fields and mainly eat grass. Some Australian farms even allot one hectare per cow.

This type of beef is not actually new to the Philippines because it holds the lion share of beef imports to the country. According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), 40 percent of all imported beef are from Australia. These products mainly go to fast food chains, hotels, and restaurants.

The promo, however, would like to highlight the beef at its best form, serving it like what Filipinos are used to when it comes to premium meat. While most of us are likely to eat more Australian beef than others, it doesn’t have the same brand recall like USDA Prime or Japanese Wagyu.

The Aussie embassy started this promo two years ago. They held special food trails for the media to try out the different dishes. I attended the first one, which is probably the best food crawl I have ever participated in. Because you know, beef. Fast forward to 2017 to another food trail.

They held the food trail for more than a week, covering participating restaurants in Metro Manila. I attended the last trail that listed five restaurants—Dean & Deluca, 22 Prime, Papa Didi’s, Chef Jessie Grill, and Epicurious. It’s basically eating beef from morning to sundown. I mean, best day ever, right?

Like a food crawl veteran (LOL), I was able to power through the whole day of eating beef. I’ve learned how to pace myself and my limits. Like what we usually do at buffet restaurants. And I must say—again—that it was another amazing food crawl.

Here are the five restaurants and the dishes to try:

DEAN & DELUCA, Rockwell, Makati City

SB Roast beef marmalade on crostini topped with pickles (Dean & Deluca)

Roast Beef Marmalade (Sweet, pulled pork-like shredded roasted beef on crunchy crostini topped with pickles.)

SB Braised beef ragu (Dean & Deluca)

Braised Beef Ragu (Slow cooked beef shank ragu ala Milanese with papardelle pasta and tendon puff. Very hearty!)

SB Ribe eye steak with bonne marrow butter annd served with tabbouleh salad (Dean & Deluca)

Ribe Eye Steak (Cooked to your liking, of course, but topped with flaky sea salt, bone marrow butterm and served with tabbouleh salad to balance things out.)

SB Roasted beef short ribs

Roasted Beef Short Ribs (Super tender roasted beef short ribs served with red rice, green shallot kimchi, and jalapeño puree.)

SB Beef hash

Natural Beef Hash (Heirloom potatoes, bell peppers, onion, topped with two poached eggs, slowly braised beef chunks, chopped tomato, basil pesto, and Parmesan cheese.)

22 PRIME, Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

SB Steak and tomato salad (22 Prime)

Steak and Tomato Salad (Grilled sake marinated skirt steak with heirloom tomatoes, basil, feta cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. My kind of salad.)

SB Oven braised short ribs with seaweed potato puree and wilted garlic spinach (22 Prime)

Oven Braised Short Ribs (Another super tender slow cooked boneless short ribs with seaweed potato purée and wilted garlic spinach)

SB Sous vide striploin with mushroom ragout, asparagus, poached egg, and sambal hollandaise sauce (22 Prime)

Sous Vide Striploin (Served with roasted potatoes, mushroom ragout, asparagus, and sambal hollandaise sauce)

PAPA DIDDI’S, Sapphire Bloc, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

SB Pancit Batil Patung

Pancit Batil Patung (Fresh linguini noodles cooked in beef stock then topped with poached egg, cabbage, onions, and carrots, served with extra stoup, fresh onions, chili, and soy sauce on the side)

SB Pappa Diddi's fusion burger with ube buns

Papa Diddi’s Fusion Burger (Beef patty with banana blossom patty, pineapple ring, sunny side up egg, pickles, lettuce, kesong puti, and honey mustard sauce with your choice of ube, malunggay, or pandan bun)

CHEF JESSIE GRILL, The Grove by Rockwell, Brgy. Ugong, Pasig City

SB Charcoal grilled oyster blade with fries and mesclun greens (Chef Jessie Grill)

Oyster Blade Steak (Cooked in a charcoal grill oven, it is served in mustard sauce with mesclun greens and french fries on the side)

SB Charcoal grilled beef striploin with grilled leeks and potato wedges (Chef Jessie Grill)

Striploin Steak (Served with grilled leeks, potatoes, and gravy)

SB Slow roast beef cheeks served with poutine and sauteed spinach (Chef Jessie Grill)

Slow Roast Beef Cheeks (Served with poutine and sautéed spinach)

EPICURIOUS, Shangri-la Plaza, Mandaluyong City

SB Beef fajitas with salsa and sour cream (Epicurious)

Beef Fajitas (Beef strips sautéed with bell peppers, onions, and young corn served with soft tortillas, salsa, and sour cream)

SB Fettuccine beef stroganoff (Epicurious)

Fettucine Stroganoff (Fettucine pasta in creamy beef and mushroom sauce served with garlic bread)

SB Roast beef with mushroom sauce

Roast Beef with Mushroom Sauce (Roast beef served with roasted vegetables and enoki mushroom, rice, and mushroom gravy)

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Find the complete list of restaurants on Facebook/Australia in the Philippines / Twitter @AusAmbPH / #TrueAussieBeefPH

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Beautiful Japan and its colorful food

Colorful in the literal sense but also colorful in terms of flavor, presentation, and texture. Japan has one of the best cuisines in the world and the best way to try this is by visiting the country itself.

I was lucky enough to visit the Land of the Rising Sun last month with a group of bloggers and journalists. It was my first time in Japan. And as I said it in previous posts, it is a dream destination for me.

Sakura in Magome
Sakura in Magome

So when my editor texted me (almost two months ago) if I was available to cover a familiarization tour (FAM tour) to Japan, to say that I was excited was an understatement. I was excited to see this beautiful country, which is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. I was excited to experience the country’s world-famous culture, both past and present. I was excited to taste the food—sushi, ramen, sashimi, tempura, udon, katsu, etc.

The destination was Central Japan, yes we toured not just one city but an entire region. Nagoya was our entry point via Jetstar, the organizer of the trip. The Japanese low cost airline started its flights to the Philippines last year and MNL-NGO (Nagoya) is one of its routes.

Nagoya TV Tower and Central Park from Oasis 21 all viewing platform
Nagoya TV Tower and Central Park from Oasis 21 mall viewing platform

Nagoya is home to around 30,000 Filipino residents. It is also the entry point to Japan’s heartland.

Before we get to the food, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the highlights of the trip.

Matsumoto Castle, the oldest castle in Japan
Matsumoto Castle, Japan’s oldest castle

Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, is the oldest castle in Japan, built between 1593 and 1594. Made of wood, stone, and clay, it’s one of Japan’s best symbols of building skill and design. It’s one of the most beautiful castles to photographs, because the Japanese Alps play as its stunning backdrop.

World Heritage site Shirakawa-go
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO world heritage site located in Gifu Prefecture. The small village is famous for its gassho-zukuri-style thatched roof houses. Situated in a valley up in the mountains, the village is surrounded by hills with lush forests, that is why one of the best seasons to visit is autumn. Wintertime is also best, when snow beautifully covers the thatched roofs.

The famous road of Alpine Route with snow walls on both sides
The famous highland road of Tateyama Alpine Route, flanked by snow walls on both sides

Alpine Route on Tateyama mountain (part of the Japanese Alps) in Toyama Prefecture is one of the most visited spots in Japan and now I can see why. It is famous for the mountain road that is sandwiched between towering snow walls. Located at 2,450 meters above sea level, Tateyama experiences some of the heaviest snowfalls in the world. Workers clear up the highland road of snow every winter but snow still accumulates on each side of the road. Parts of the wall can even reach up to 20 meters high! Best part of the visit was the travel route because of the stunning views left and right like the picture perfect Kurobe Dam. This attraction opens every spring.

Different varieties of begonias
One of several pavilions at Nabana no Sato that houses different varieties of South American begonias.

Nabano no Sato is a garden park at Nagashima Resort. Located in Kuwana in Mie Prefecture, less than an hour away from Nagoya City, the park displays indigenous and imported flora and fauna. The current displays include an exhibition of beautiful begonias of South America; field of tulips; and the Winter Illumination light installation.

Now to the important stuff—the food. As you guys already know, I love Japanese food. So to go the place where it originated was such an amazing experience.

For most of the trip, we were treated to traditional Japanese meals, except on the last day. This means no bowls of ramen or tendon or curry or fluffy cheesecakes or strawberry shortcakes.

Since we were in the countryside, the food were very traditional. I will only mention meals and restaurants that stood out for me, after all, there was a lot of food during the five-day trip.

Magomeya restaurant in Magome
Magomeya’s dining space

First eatery is Magomeya in Magome, Gifu Prefecture. The restaurant is located behind the bus parking space at the foot of the famous Nakasendo Route in Magome. It has a simple and traditional dining space but has an amazing view of the mountains.

The food here are set meals that comes with a bento box of starters, soup, soba noodles, rice, and dessert. In our bento box was a variety of proteins like karaage (Japanese fried chicken), braised fish, and egg omelet. It also has a mix of vegetable pickles and seaweed. The miso soup is like no other miso soup I ever had. It’s filled with ingredients like daikon, carrot, thinly sliced pork, and green onions. The broth is very flavorful and perfectly seasoned (this was so good!).

Magomeya set meal
Magomeya’s delicious set meal

The soba noodles was also a meal on its own. The perfectly cooked buckwheat noodles (chewy but still has a bite) was swimming in a warm dashi broth with a mix of mushrooms and green onions. To finish, a simple not-so-sweet jelly dessert with fresh fruits is the perfect light ending to a delicious meal.

Irori hida beef
Irori’s Hida beef cooked on a ho leaf

Another must-try restaurant is Irori in Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture. The eatery in this heritage village serves Japanese meals in its most traditional form. This includes slices of beef cooked on a ho (local tree) leaf with miso paste, tofu, bean sprouts, and green onions. This was, for me, the best beef dish during the trip! What’s even better is the restaurant uses Hida beef, one of Japan’s high grade cattle meats (in the level of Kobe beef). The set meals also comes with the usual starters like vegetables, smoked fish, tofu, and a bowl of rice.

Dinner setup at Bizenya restaurant in Gujo
Bizenya’s traditional dining setup

Then there’s Bizenya in Gujo City in Gifu Prefecture. The restaurant has a beautiful traditional garden and has a traditional dining setup. The restaurant’s setup lets its diners sit on cushioned legless chairs on the floor, covered with the very comfortable tatami mat. The beautifully presented meal has the usual starters. Note that appetizers vary per restaurant.

Fresh sashimi
Uber fresh sashimi
Tempura
Traditional tempura is served with plain or flavored fine salt

Bizenya served us a variety of starters including extremely fresh sashimi (tuna, salmon, etc.) and steamed sea snail. The restaurant also served mixed tempura. At this point I discovered that tempura is originally served with plain or flavored fine salt and not the sweet ginger-soy dipping sauce we Filipinos are familiar with. The main dish is the beef (Hida, no less) sukiyaki, which we had to cook on the table by ourselves.

Hitsumabushi unagi
Hitsumabushi Bincho’s grilled unagi

The last memorable meal for me was the bowl of unagi at Hitsumabushi Bincho at La Chic mall in Sakae area in Nagoya City. Nagoya is famous for its unagi or freshwater eel. The restaurant chain serves the grilled unagi on a bed of rice and different condiments including dashi broth. This dish can be eaten in three ways—as it is; with nori, green onions, and wasabi; and with dashi broth. Diners can divide the big bowl of unagi and eat it however they like. Personally, I like the nori-green onionswasabi combination.

Traditional Japanese food is what I expected it to be—clean, beautiful, and flavorful. Some dishes may be for an acquired taste but most are overflowing with umami goodness. I will detail what to expect from traditional Japanese meals on my next post. And also watch out for what food souvenirs to buy in Japan.

You can also read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

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

Whew!

The past two weeks have been crammed with so many food events. The Madrid Fusion Manila just had its successful second run. The World Street Food Congress is currently ongoing. New restaurants opening and will open before the month ends. I just learned from Tourism Promotions Board chief operating officer Domingo Ramon Enerio III that April is Philippine Food Month!

00 - Arroz Caldoso - Hand cut squid grains, vegetable stew, garlic cream, popped Valencian rice
Arroz Caldoso or squid chopped into the size of rice grains then cooked in a stock and squid ink sauce served with garlic cream and crunchy Valencian popped rice

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend another dinner by a Spanish chef, this time by Michelin Star-trained Chef Kevin Cherkas. Hosted by Makati Shangri-La Hotel and was held at its Bespoke Sage Grill, the dinner featured the flavors of his restaurant Cuca, located in the Indonesian premier tourist destination, Bali.

Unlike the dinner by Michelin star Chef Dani Garcia, this dinner was more casual and family-style. The very personable chef will actually tour his food around Asia and his first stop was Manila. After speaking at Madrid Fusion Manila, he had a successful three-night dinner. The seven-course dinner, he revealed, was a result of months of preparation, researching about Filipino flavors.

00 - Ternera con Patatas - Beef n mushroom, whipped potato, Rioja red marmalade
Ternera con Patatas, beef and mushroom served with whipped potato and red wine marmalade

“We researched for two months the traditional dishes of the Philippines. Things like kinilaw, adobo, sisig, the flavors that you love. We developed the menu based on these flavors. It’s all made for sharing. Food will be served on the center of the table. It’s casual,” Chef Cherkas said.

At his restaurant Cuca, he uses 100 percent local ingredients and makes sure he creates interesting dishes.

Three dishes stood out to me: the Pulpo a la Brasa or the grilled Galacian octopus with fresh apple slices, caramelized cauliflower served on Asian gazpacho; Arroz Caldoso or squid chopped into the size of rice grains then cooked in a stock and squid ink sauce served with garlic cream and crunchy Valencian popped rice; and the Ternera con Patatas, beef and mushroom served with whipped potato and red wine marmalade.

It was another night and another dinner by a world-class chef.

Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Ayala Ave. corner Makati Ave., Makatgi City / +632 813 8888 / http://www.shangri-la.com/manila/makatishangrila/

Two-Michelin star Spanish chef Dani Garcia dazzles Manila gastronauts

Confession: I’m not into fancy feasts (well, that is if I can afford a 12-course meal at a five-star hotel. My job gets me to enjoy this luxury, however). I’d rather have full, hearty meals. Although, indulging once in a while can be a treat to the senses.

So last Monday, I got to enjoy a 10-course dinner by two-Michelin star Spanish chef Dani Garcia (no, we’re not related). And oh boy, it was a treat indeed.

Organized by New World Manila Bay Hotel, the “Dinner with the Stars” special, exclusively delighted Filipino gastronauts with an exquisite banquet by the renowned chef. Known for mixing traditional Andalusian flavors with modern kitchen techniques, chef Dani wowed with every slurp, bite, and munch.

oxtail ravioli
Oxtail Ravioli with Sherry Flavored Consomme

Inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s classic book The Little Prince, the chef showcased his kitchen skills including a demonstration of techniques. The second course was a performance. Hanging on a wire, slices of Jamón Ibérico, was rendered using a kitchen torch. The drippings drop to the waiting pile of tuna tartare below. Doing all this in a room covered with glowing LCD displays, showcasing different scenes of the beach and ocean life.

One of my favorite among the dishes was the amazingly fresh and delicate Yellow Gazpacho with Nirto Tomato. Using his signature techniques (he is one of the first chefs to use liquid nitrogen in cooking), he creates a “tomato”—tomato foam encased in a kind of thin gelatin. He uses a method using liquid nitrogen. The soup was smooth, fresh, light, and garnished with fresh cherry tomatoes  and cilantro.

smoked eel shavings on savory mousse
Smoked Eel Shavings on Savory Mousse; this is not pretty to look at but it’s damn good.

Another amazing dish is the Oxtail Ravioli with Sherry Flavored Consomme. The tender oxtail meat mixture in a thin envelope of pasta burst with flavors and complemented by a light and crisp consomme. The garden fresh garnish, complete with flowers, made the dish so pretty.

But the most memorable for me is the shavings of smoked eel on a soft bed of savory mousse with orange pulp. The thin shavings immediately melt in your mouth upon contact, having the texture of fine foie gras. The mousse makes the eel even more rich with a burst of citrus tang from the orange pulp.

The menu was a sample of Chef Dani’s special culinary concept “Cocinacontradición” which was inspired by Alice in Wonderland. He currently runs Dani Garcia restaurant at Hotel Puente Romano in Marbella, Spain, which was awarded two stars by the prestigious Michelin Guide.

yellow gazpacho
Yellow Gazpacho with Nitro Tomato

Aside from orchestrating the fabulous dinner, he is also here for the second Madrid Fusion Manila as one of its special speakers. Currently ongoing, Madrid Fusion Manila is the first and only Asian edition of the international gastronomy congress and is considered as one of the best and important food events in the world. The congress will run until Saturday, April 9.

Read my full experience here.

 

Local cocoa

We love chocolates. I love chocolates. I wanted to write about chocolates because there’s a fresh stash of these sweet goodies in our fridge. My aunt and uncle is currently visiting from the US and what do they come home with? Chocolates, all the way from New York!

Last year, when news about a possible global shortage of chocolate went viral, many people could not believe it. This can’t be true. Is it? Is it the end of the world? Why?

According to reports, cocoa producing countries, mostly in Africa, allegedly use child laborers in their plantations. That’s a big no no. If proven true, then authorities have no choice but to stop these farms’ operations until they comply with labor standards. This will thus create a gap in production, hence the shortage.

Another reason is some cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast, the largest cocoa producer in the world, are switching to other produce because it is difficult to farm cocoa. Cacao trees are vulnerable to diseases causing it to produce less pods. According to the story by The Guardian, farmers are giving up their plantations and turn to planting rubber trees instead, which is more profitable.

The main reason, however, is the increasing demand for chocolate. The demand goes up every year that producers cannot keep up.

One positive news about comes from our own cocoa industry. The Philippines is betting high on its rising cocoa production. The island of Mindanao produces most of the country’s cacaos. And in 2020, according to this news item, the Philippines will produce 100,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans.

This had me thinking: If we support our own chocolate makers, then production will increase. Instead of buying imported and incredibly generic chocolates, why not buy local. Yes, we love our Choc Nut and Flat Tops and buying these already means supporting the local industry, but there are high quality local chocolates available in the market today that can compete with premium international brands in terms of quality.

Theo & Philo is an artisan chocolate brand that produces high quality, delicious, and unique chocolate bars. Its founder realized that most of the best makers of quality chocolates come from Europe, which is funny considering that these northern countries can’t grow their own cacao. Cacao can only grow in areas located 20 degrees north and south of the equator that is why the top cocoa producing countries are located in South America, Africa, and Asia.

Some of the brand’s best sellers are its 70% Dark Chocolate bar and Labuyo bar (dark chocolate with chili). Last year at the Global Pinoy Bazaar, I was able to sample Theo & Philo chocolate bars. I bought its other best seller, the Barako, milk chocolate with organic barako coffee. I also bought the Green Mango and Salt chocolate bar, which was sweet, salty, and sour at the same time. Very good. These bars are so much better than commercial brands.

The chocolate bars are carefully made by both machines and hand. It is then beautifully wrapped with the colorful and unique packaging. This careful attention to standards make their chocolate pricier than commercial brands. At P100 each, the bars are all worth it, though.

You can check out their website to find out where to buy their products.

Food Quest: The perfect mac and cheese recipe

mac and cheese 1
My meh mac and cheese

This is the beginning of my quest for the perfect mac and cheese recipe.

I remember the first time I cooked mac and cheese I only used two ingredients—macaroni and cheese slices. After draining the noodles, I immediately mixed in the cheese slices until they melted. I then added salt and pepper to taste and I was done. I was in college then so I didn’t mind the taste and I thought that’s how everybody made mac and cheese. I was wrong.

If you google mac and cheese recipes, you’ll get more than 13 million results. That’s a lot of mac and cheese recipes. Since this dish is not a staple in my part of the world, I always looked for the perfect mac and cheese dishes in restaurants and the recipes, of course.

Most of the recipes online require cooking the French bechamel sauce as the base for the cheese sauce. The differences vary from the type of cheeses added, usually multiple kinds, like sharp cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère, Mozzarella, among others. Then there’s the spices, most only use salt and pepper while some put cayenne, freshly ground nutmeg, paprika, etc. On the other hand, some require the smoked flavor of bacon or the salty goodness of Italian pancetta. For the topping, a combination of breadcrumbs and cheese is pretty commonplace.

So, last week, I made mac and cheese with the available ingredients from our fridge and the pantry. For the cheese sauce, I cooked bechamel as the base and used two types of cheeses—cream cheese and regular cheese. What exactly is regular cheese? In the Philippines, the market is dominated by processed cheese food, small bars of cheese that are just processed food with cheese flavoring. Yes, like American cheese. These “cheeses” have a light and creamy taste to them and doesn’t have the bold flavors of real cheeses. I then added dijon mustard and ground chili pepper to flavor my sauce and of course, salt and pepper. I used fine bread crumbs and regular grated Parmesan cheese for the topping.

The result: meh.

The flavors are underwhelming, it’s more milk than cheese. I didn’t get the right cheese flavor a proper mac and cheese has. The topping didn’t help either because the Parmesan was not enough. It was okay but it needed a bit more kick.

This was unsuccessful but I will sure cook up another one in the future. I will shop for better cheese this time.

Just keep cooking.

Of coarse, it’s fine

One sign that you have aged is how you get easily excited about simple things like getting a new shirt (I need that!) or getting a new pair of underwear (yassss!). In my case, there’s nothing in the world that could excite more than new kitchen tools. Yes, I’m a simple man.

Last December, which was also my birth month, I got two amazing gifts, one from my nieces and the other from one of my best friends. Two kitchen tools that is changing my life! Okay, well, I haven’t used one of them but I’m sure I will soon.

pepper mill
Wooden pepper mill

Ever since I saw this tool in cooking shows, I have wanted to buy one. But back then, this was not common in the Filipino kitchen, so finding one was difficult. I am talking about a pepper mill. That wooden tool that looks like a chess piece that grounds whole black peppercorns into varying levels of graininess—from coarse to fine.

I love how chefs hold this thing over pots and meat and twist it rhythmically creating a rain of black spice. It’s so mesmerizing to me, I sometimes weird myself out. Finally, I can do it myself! Thanks to my good friend, Kat, for giving it to me as a birthday present. Yay, for friends!

The second one is something—I’m guessing—every baker has. It’s called a decorating pen. It’s a pen-like silicone device where you can put frosting or chocolate in it (like ink in pens) and use it like a pen to write your decorations on cakes and pastries. It works like a syringe so you could suck the frosting in from the tip but it works like a pen (you hold it like a pen) when it’s time to squeeze out its contents. It looks simple but I haven’t tried it yet. I hope my sometimes shaky hands can handle it. This Christmas gift was given by my nieces Justine and Pia. It came with the sweetest note. I love it that they know me so well.

deco pen
Baker’s decorating pen (Masflex)

I consider these two as the best presents I have ever received last year. Simple but useful and both give me more reason to cook.

It runs in the family

Eating good food makes me happy but serving good food makes me even happier.

So where does this love for food come from? You see, I grew up in a family that loves to eat, more so, loves to cook.

My mom is an excellent cook and was oftentimes the cook of the whole clan. During the days when I was still a lanky little kid, she was always tasked to cook for family gatherings. Back then, she also ran a small canteen where she cooked and sold her merienda (afternoon snacks) meals like arroz caldo (rice porridge with chicken), palabok (rice noodles in shrimp bisque and assorted toppings), mami (Filipino style noodle soup—egg noodles in pork broth and topped with shredded chicken, Chinese cabbage, toasted garlic, spring onions, and boiled egg), and many more. Her signature Filipino dishes like caldereta (Filipino beef stew), kare-kare (ox tail stew in peanut sauce), and binagoongan (pork stewed in fermented shrimp paste) are famous in the family. The best, actually, and dare I say, “Wala kayo sa mommy ko.”

My dad is a good cook, too. Being an Ilocano he knows his vegetables well. His pinakbet is the bomb! Huge chunks of pork and assorted vegetables—bitter melon, eggplant, and okra—slowly braised in salty fermented fish paste broth. It doesn’t sound appetizing but Filipinos love this flavor combination. He loves his dinengdeng as well, fried fish cooked in a simple broth with varying vegetables like saluyot (a leaf vegetable that is very slimy when cooked) or malunggay (moringa, the healthiest vegetable there is, or so they say). It’s very healthy but it’s for an acquired taste.

My sister got her cooking skills from mom. But for me, I learned on my own. Yes, my mom taught me to cook the classics but I started experimenting in the kitchen when I was in high school. I failed miserably the first time but knowing how my brain works, this is how I want to learn, to research on my own and cook food on my own. It’s not that I don’t need help, I actually ask for help every time, but I had to know how far I can take my innate cooking capabilities. So, I did, and look at where I am now—a writer who loves to cook on Sundays and during birthday celebrations; starting his own food business with little knowledge of the industry; and a foodie whose desire for food is boundless, thanks to the many restaurants that open and the amazing Filipino food culture.

When you have a family that knows good food, you are destined to peel, chop, fry, and sweat in the kitchen. I know that good taste in food is wired in every strand of my DNA. With hope, this blog will show you that.