Monday, November 21, 2005

'Nam: (Food)Tour of Duty

Two weeks ago, we got back from a month-long vacation in Vietnam and Cambodia. Oh, the food, the food, the beer. While most travellers arm themselves with a Lonely Planet Travel Guide, we just took LP's World Food Guide on Vietnam and arrived hungry and thirsty.

To all those who are planning a cheap vacation, this is it. Eat and drink all you want for as little as $15/day. Accommodations included! We plan to feature a few food/drink highlights at a time so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Min Sok Korean

A new staple of ours in Makati, Min Sok serves lutong-bahay (home-cooked) Korean food in a house-turned restaurant. MDEB turned us onto this restaurant after squash one night and we unanimously agreed that it was a find. We have been back at least five times since then.

A reliable measure of authenticity is the glaring Korean-ness of the place. There's a TV showing Korean soaps/variety shows. Plus, I've never seen another pinoy in the joint.

Our favorite dish is Sam Gyeup Sal (P200) - slices of what I think is liempo (pork belly) grilled right on your table and eaten in cups of lettuce with rice and about a hundred other Korean side dishes the names of which I have no hope of remembering.

When we first looked at the menu, we were a bit disappointed because we were expecting lower prices. But this was all forgotten once we ordered, because immediately, the yummy side dishes were brought out - and they were refillable to boot. Some of the better ones are large bean sprouts (soy?), radish kimchi, cucumber kimchi, and these little squares of fishcake.

The proprietess is a swell lady. She'll teach you how to eat the dishes and what condiments to add. Sometimes, she'll even throw in a dish for free. When we were first there, we drew some mild rebukes from her for eating the condiments as appetizers.

Other highlights: We've tried two of their soups (P180) - kimchi jigae (spicy and tasty) and djang jeang jigae (less spicy and as tasty). If you're thinking that my spelling is atrocious, I'll have you know that even Koreans don't agree on how to spell their words with Roman letters. You also have to order some Soju - a rice-based whisky. A bottle of Jinro goes for P175 - a bit pricey, I know, but worth trying. If you do order it, never pour your own shot. Unless you're alone, of course. In which case, drink away.

P200 per person should fill you up. Add another P100 if having soju.

5655 Don Pedro Street corner Jacobo. Don Pedro is perpendicular to, and on the Rockwell side of Kalayaan Avenue.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hell Month

To the three readers of this blog. Please forgive us for the absence of nonsense these past few weeks. All the contributors are currently, err.. touring Africa. Please come back in October.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wagyu Burgers

wagyu burgerJust like pizza, burgers are the perfect food. You’ve got your dairy, bread, veggies, and meat, all in one package. But a really good burger is hard to find. If you’re looking for more than a tummy-filler, don’t mess with the fast foods. The relatively new burger restaurants – Brothers, Hotshots, Bite Club, etc., are pretty good. Chili’s is a few notches higher. But, if you want to eat an honest-to-goodness, stuff your face burger (here in Manila), try to get your hands on some Wagyu patties.

Wagyu is a breed of cattle, maybe more well known as Kobe beef when raised in Kobe, Japan. You can find some Wagyu beef here in the Philippines and we were able to get our hands on some one-pound patties.

Used in burgers, these Wagyu patties can transform a so-so burger into a juicy, dripping-down-your-arm, meatfest. We tried four different kinds of burgers: the classic - with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and provolone; the blue cheese burger – a classic with blue cheese; and Michael Schlow’s famous Schlowburger – a classic without ketchup and mustard but with a horseradish mayo sauce and crispy onions; and finally, with everything, plus bacon. Serve with French fries (frozen Frenchies are pretty good).

Take care grilling these Wagyu patties because overcooking them will just ruin everything. Err on the side of undercooking, even if you don’t usually like your beef this way. E. Coli, you say? *&%#$ it! And don’t forget to chill a few beers before preparing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Cheesecake

Good cheesecake is hard to find. I like it firm, tart, and stick-to-the-top-of-your-mouth creamy. None of that soft and jiggly gelatinous waste of stomach space that most restaurants and hotels serve. Some places that serve pretty good cheesecake are Burgoo (below P200) and Italianni's (over P200). I don't remember if Cheesecake, etc. is any good but with a name like that, it better have something yummy to offer.

But why go out to have when you can make some righteous cheesecake at home in less than 30 minutes (not including bake time). Here is a recipe for plain cheesecake which I've tweaked a bit to my own taste.

For crust: Mix together 1.5 cups crushed graham crackers, 0.25 cup melted butter, and 0.25 cup brown sugar. Press into baking dish and refrigerate while making cheesecake.

For cheesecake: Mix together two bars softened cream cheese (Magnolia is fine), 4 eggs, 1 cup white sugar, and the juice of 1 lemon. Beat until fluffy then pour into baking dish with crust. Bake for one hour at 350˚. Freeze for half a day and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Shawarma Snack Center: Hindi lang pang Shawarma, pang ulam pa!

I recall when, a few years back, shawarma stalls sprouted like mushrooms all over the city. The common wrap was fine for a budget pampalipas gutom but was more reminiscent of cafeteria food - tasted terrible and were not filling at all.

Shawarma Snack Center redeems that tainted image. As the name not so subtly implies, it is renowned for its superb shawarma that on several occasions, I literally had daydreams about it and nightmares about not being able to satisfy that craving. ssc_frontI think the two basic ingredients are responsible for this. In SSC, the pita could be a dish on its own. Also, unlike cafeteria shawarmas, the filling is not replete with day-old coleslaw-like veggies leaving the beef nowhere to be found. When you bite into SSC’s Shawarma you immediately taste the tenderness of the huge portions of beef. A regular shawarma costs 45 pesos and a special one (I think what makes it special is its gargantuan size) costs 60 bucks.

chicken_tikkaBut don't limit yourself to just the shawarma. Everything else we've tried in this place was really good. They usually have six cooked dishes sitting in heated serving plates, carinderia style. Form the ala carte menu, the favorites are tabouleh (bulghur and parsley), a stuffed zucchini dish with some rice and herbs, and kebab with rice or bread (P160). A pretty reliable indicator of the quality of the food is the unfailing presence of middle-eastern men whenever we visit the place.

taboulehThere’s a wide variety left on the menu still unexplored (including the hookah/shisa) which we never get to try since we usually get stuffed with the shawarma first. Don’t get me wrong, there is no regret here, let me just reiterate how eating their shawarma is a must. My advice is just to visit the place as often as possible, and try out new dishes all the time but I’ll bet you will never tire of their shawarma. As they confidently claim, "You can't eat just one!"

SSC is along Salas Street, in Manila. To get there from Roxas Blvd, make a right at Pedro Gil, turn left at Mabini and once you see a Happy Tours and Travel landmark, make a left on Salas and voila, SSC. It's open until the wee hours of the morning. SSC also has little shawarma stalls around the city but somehow, it just tastes better in the main restaurant. Expect to shell out P100 to P200 per person. Street parking only.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Countryside: Chicken Ass Nirvana

I think I've found the place to get my chicken ass fix. At Countryside Grill, P30 will get you a skewer of five small chicken asses. Your order will come with a bowl of spicy vinegar, into which you can dump all the chicken asses. If you're really hungry, ask for a spoon and start shoveling ass into your mouth like you would breakfast cereal. You won't find the need to spit out the bones because they're small enough to chew up and swallow. If something gets stuck in your throat, don't worry, a P25 beer will dislodge it quite nicely. If you're not into chicken ass, you can also get good old pork barbecue and tenga.

Get your fix along Katipunan, on the Ateneo-bound side, just before the fly-over. Dress comfortably (shorts and flip-flops).

Mien San Noodle House

Looking for noodles in the San Juan area and tired of the usual North Park / Hap Chan fare? Introduced to me by my Taiwanese friend, Mien San serves cheap and honest (Taiwanese?) food. Since you won't find the usual Cantonese dishes most Filipinos are familiar with, take the opportunity to try out new things. Start with the Tofu with Century Egg, which pairs well with fried Mantou. Get some dumplings while you're at it; they come cheap, at around P50 per eight-piece order. Don't bother looking for soy-sauce with calamansi. In Mien San, they serve the dumplings with a dipping sauce made of black vinegar and soy sauce (my best guess). And then the noodles. Either dry or with soup, the noodles go for a bit more than P100 for a large order. I usually request that the noodles be split into two or three bowls. I always get the Sour Pepper Noodle Soup or dry Spicy Cha-chang Noodles.

It's hard to spend more than P150 per person at Mien San. Find it along Ortigas, to your right when traveling from EDSA to E. Rodriguez, after crossing Santolan. It's a bit hard to spot so keep your eyes open for "Feet 'R Us" foot spa, which is right next door.
 dumplings
tofu
mantou

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Yakimono

Japanese restaurants in the Philippines commonly offer yakimono (grilled stuff) done in two different ways: plain salted or with teriyaki sauce. In my favorite Japanese restaurant, Izakaya Kikufuji, the plain salted yakimono is so intensely flavorful, you'd think they added something aside from salt. And after a bit of sleuthing, I may have stumbled upon the answer. In a Japanese store in Cartimar, where you can get Japanese ingredients for cheap, I saw a bottle of aji-shio or ajinomoto-salt. Now, I'm not accusing Kikufuji of using vetsin but when I tried out the aji-shio at home, the results were very pleasing.

We grilled some chicken wings, aspara bacon, beef sirloin, siling pangsigang, pork with leeks, and good old yakitori. Everything was seasoned with the aji-shio, or, as we now call it, magic salt, and the meats transformed from just good to bursting with flavor. That's cheating, purists will probably say. And I would agree almost every time.
 aspara.yaki
rice.yaki
pork.yaki

Monday, May 23, 2005

Podcast Pasta

I've been listening to podcasts lately. There are huge amounts of worthless, junk podcasts out there, but after listening for a while, you'll find a few that are worth downloading.

I learned this recipe from a podcast of WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show. The guest was an Italian-American chef, Mario Batali. He shared his favorite, extremely simple recipe, which I tried out with some left-over spaghetti. To make, sautee a whole onion (sliced into fine rings) in good olive oil. Add some dried chili flakes. When the onions are soft and translucent, add around one tablespoon of tomato sauce. Season with salt, add the slightly undercooked pasta, and toss for about half a minute to coat the noodles. Don't be tightfisted with the salt. The first taste I had was slightly disappointing but when I added a bit more salt, the flavor just stepped-up. And I was surprised with the depth of flavor, considering the simplicity of the dish. You can have this ready in under ten minutes - perfect for unexpected guests or a midnight food-trip. This should go well with a nice, juicy steak. I'll post a picture when I make this again.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Amici di Don Bosco: Gelato

Gelato at AmiciVanilla Ice, better known as the one hit wonder rapper in the 80s and for a failed attempt at Hollywood stardom, is also a name that makes my tummy gurgle.

I’m a huge ice cream fan. The problem I have with eating too much ice cream is not the caloric intake, but the exorbitant costs for a scoop of gelato. Thankfully, I find refuge in Amici de Don Bosco which does not only have, as Bogchief reviewed, THE dirt cheapest authentic gourmet Italian pizza, but serves THE cheapest gelato as well. A hefty scoop costs only, brace yourselves - 35 pesos while a scoop of gelato at Pazzo’s is a whopping 90 bucks! That’s almost triple the price when you get your dessert fix at Powerplant or Glorietta. And in Don Bosco, you don’t have to be beg, make pa-kyut or make pa-awa effect with the scooping lady “Miss, padagdag naman, ang konti eh, sige na pleeease” 'coz like I said earlier, the scoops are huge.

There’s a wide variety of flavors as well- ranging from the fruity selection- mango, blueberry, strawberry (this is really yummy and creamy and you could really taste the fresh strawberries); to the nutty- almond, pistachio, vanilla with nuts, chocolate/ choco marble with assorted nuts, hazelnut (a personal favorite that tastes like frozen creamy Nutella/Toblerone.) If you’re lucky, you’ll still get the rum flavored ice cream which I hear is a bestseller. (When you’ve gotten there early and have tried it let me know how that tastes). Or you might have a better chance of trying this at Walter Mart on Pasay Road corner Pasong Tamo (right across the street from Don Bosco) where each cone costs only 10 pesos. Imagine, that’s just like dirty ice cream except it’s supposedly Italian!

One of my favorites is the mint with chips. It gives a good cap to your sumptuous, oily Italian meal. It also serves the purpose of masking the inevitable garlic breath from all that seasoning. And when you get home, you save on water since you no longer have to brush your teeth!
If you’re feeling a bit lavish with your dessert you should get a double scoop combination of mint and chocolate. Their chocolate is so rich. Lasa talagang tsokolate! And the hint of mint adds a twist or mellows the richness! Ang sarap sobra!

What I wouldn’t recommend are the fiordillate and vanilla flavors. They’re not bad; they’re just no Haagen Dazs. I love vanilla when it’s creamy, creamy, creamy. (Sorry for the limited vocabulary, but how do you really describe vanilla?!) So I was terribly disappointed that Don Bosco’s vanilla-based gelato tasted more like it was produced from powdered Birch Tree (it’s everybody’s milk). But hey, for 35 bucks, who’s complaining? A possible justification for this glitch is that Don Bosco is attempting to cater more to the Pinoy palate than the French’s in terms of vanilla flavor.

Finally, you can take home these decadent pleasures (around 240 bucks a gallon) and gorge yourself with ice cream while lazing on the sofa on a hot summer day and aptly grooving to Ice, Ice, Baby.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Amici di Don Bosco: Pizza

Pizza at AmiciFor the past year, my family has religiously made the weekly trip to Don Bosco Makati. If only we attended mass each time we were there, you'd be calling me Pope Benedict by now. But I'd rather just eat their pizza, which just might be as close to authentic as you can get in Manila. It's so good that when I take a bite of the crispy/chewy crust, I can almost smell Venezian sewer water. Caffe Caruso on Reposo street might be able to compete on taste alone, but it sorely loses the price war. Each pizza at Amici costs only P240; and that includes the cafeteria-like ambience.

I think the secret to their pizza is their industrial-sized, wood-fired oven, which can probably get as hot as 750º whereas our home oven peaks at an Antarctic 450º. So if you're willing to shell out P350,000 for an identical oven, let me know how it goes. Otherwise, you can enroll in one of their pizza-making classes, where they claim you can clone their pizza using a regular home oven.

Don Bosco Makati is at the corner of Pasay Road (I refuse to call it Arnaiz Ave.) and Pasong Tamo. Do pay them a visit. I suggest the quattro formaggi and the tutti carni (pictured). If you like it spicy, bring your own chili flakes, as they're often out of peperoncino. Amici is open until 9 pm and closed on Sundays.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

NY Times Dining & Wine: Tired of Being Razzed, Bronx Cheers Its Food

Filet minion, a native New Yorker, insists that her hometown is the center of the universe. I don't particularly love the city, but after reading this article, I might just agree with her. I'd gladly give up my left nut for a chance to sample the food the Bronx has to offer - and this is just a short list: Albanian, Jamaican, Southern comfort food, Puerto Rican, Honduran, Kosher, Irish, regional Mexican, regional African. Also check out the slideshow.

If any of you know of any interesting ethnic restaurants, keeping in mind the criteria (cheap!), please share.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fruit With Shaved Ice

Fruit With Shaved IceOver the past few days, the temperature has been averaging 35˚C. Here in the city, it feels much hotter. I have a technique to beat the heat. As I write this, I'm eating fresh mango with shaved ice and evaporated milk. After a couple of spoonfuls, it feels like December. I sometimes use avocado, canned sweet corn, halo-halo mix, or chico. I like it a bit sweet, so I add some unpasteurized honey or Splenda.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Chicken Ass: The Holy Grail

Bacolod SugbahanKing Arthur, and later, Indiana Jones, had less trouble finding the Holy Grail than we did in trying to get our Chicken Ass fix. Our first trip was to Inihaw Circle on Mandalyong Rotunda - out of stock. Our second trip was to JT's in the Gilmore area - we were able to order, only to find out later that they had run out. We finally hit paydirt last night, at Bacolod Sugbahan. This 4-5 table, air-conditioned restaurant is at the corner of J.P. Rizal and Pasong Tamo. The closest parking spots are along the street - up near the Santa Ana racetrack. Prices are reasonable: Paa/Petcho (P75), Pak-Pak (P52), Isol (P34), Baticolon (P34), etc.

IsolWe ordered Isol and Baticolon. Both were excellent - very tasty. What struck me about the Isol was that, although it was grilled, you would think it was fried because the skin was so crispy. Watching them grill, I noticed that the grate was just an inch and a half over the coals. I'll try cooking this at home and let you know how it goes. They say the trick is using lemongrass and ginger in your marinade and basting with annatto infused oil.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Salsa!

salsaI love themed food combos. One of my favorite groupings is salsa, chips, and cold Corona beer. Yummy! I used to make fresh, no-cook salsa. But recently, I tried boiling the tomatoes before mixing all the ingredents together. I liked how it turned out - thicker and tastier.

Boil around six large local tomatoes for around one minute and then plunge them in cold water. Peel and crush the tomatoes, then mix in around half a head of roasted garlic, cumin, salt, jalapeño (or chopped labuyo), lime or calamansi juice, one each of red and white onion, chopped cilantro (a.k.a wansoy), and around three chopped uncooked local tomatoes. Cook the mixture in a pan until the flavors blend, chill, then serve with tortilla chips. Nacho Fast sells chips (P90) which are imported but fried locally. You can also get imported Tostitos (P120) at most supermarkets. Does anyone know where I can get cheaper chips?

Banana Shake

Some people say that the reason monkeys are so energetic is because of all the bananas they eat. Before a workout, the monkey in me enjoys a super-nutritious banana shake. I put in three ice cubes, a few fresh strawberries or strawberry jam, two bananas - I like them frozen for a creamy consistency, a tablespoon of raw oatmeal, and dairy/soy milk to soften everything up. Put everything in a blender and pulse to a smoothie-like consistency. If you're feeling a bit hungry, add one raw egg! To mask the eggy taste, you might want to put a bit more strawberries or a bit more jam.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

배 고프니 ? (Bae Go Pu Ni? / Are you hungry? )

I love Korean food and learned to cook a few dishes this weekend. My half-Korean classmate had a birthday party on Saturday. Her mother, who owns a Korean restaurant in Hong Kong, flew in and hosted a food-fest for us. I asked if I could get there early to learn how to make a few dishes. We ended up preparing Galbi-jjim (Short Rib Stew), Gimbap (Rice Wrapped in Seaweed), Japchae (Mixed Vegetables with Noodles), and Bulgogi (Barbecued Beef).

I'm not going to post the recipes here unless there are any requests. Some comments though. For a short-rib stew, the Galbi-jjim was pretty clean. Fat was trimmed off and skimmed off the top. But the flavor was all there, and the ribs were nice and tender. Gimbap is made pretty much like Japanese rolls except for the ingredients. The rice has a bit of vinegar but no sugar. For flavor, hondashi, sesame oil, and sesame seeds are mixed into the rice. For filling, we used blanched spring onions, pickled radish, Bulgogi, scrambled egg, and hotdog. Although we learned to make Bulgogi, we didn't eat it by itself. We just used it in the Japchae and the Kimbap. I ate so much and ended up feeling like a 돼지 (dwaeji / pig).

Next time, we'll learn to make Kimchi!
 radkimchi
springonion
kimbap
galbijjim
japchae

Friday, May 06, 2005

Free uni

uni - extracting

A few weeks ago, while at the beach, I mentioned in passing to one of the residents that I liked uni or sea urchin. He offered to jump in the sea and get some for me. I accepted, of course, and he got his goggles and went on his way. Around 30 minutes later, he came back with a net full of the black, spiny creatures. He extracted the roe by chopping the body in half and rinsing it in a bucket of seawater to get rid of the grit. Apparently, fresh water will melt the roe. Ater rinsing, the roe was spooned into a container.

uni - prepared

It was good, though not as sweet as the kind you can get in a decent Japanese restaurant. But I'm not complaining - it was free! I'll remember to bring some light soy and wasabi next time I go the beach.

Party you, sushi me


The title of this post was inspired by a catering service flyer seen in downtown Vienna.

The subject was inspired by Marketman's Seaside post. MDEB and I decided to make a trip to Seaside market to buy some sashimi. We got there at around 10:30 am and would have had trouble finding a parking space, but we got lucky and a spot opened up right in front of the Baclaran church.

Before buying anything, we walked around the whole area to get a feel for the place. Pretty much everything looked good. Aside from the wide variety of fish, we saw lobsters, crabs, prawns, octopus, eel, shellfish, and - though I'm not sure this is legal - a few live leatherback turtles. They sell uni as well but by the time we arrived, there was no more left. There was also a bit of chicken and pork, looking out of place.

We bought some tuna and salmon for sashimi. Each cost P380/kilo and we got a whole kilo of the salmon and half a kilo of the tuna. Since we had some money left, we decided to get some tuna panga as well, which cost around P160/kilo. We tried to make tawad but didn't get anywhere so I hope these prices are regular and fair. We put the fish on ice and waited until evening.

After squash, we grilled the panga and sliced the sashimi. The panga was just slightly salted, grilled, and served Japanese style, with finely grated radish, soy sauce, and calamansi. On the side, we had some Korean kimchi, which was generously supplied by my half-Korean classmate.

First the bad. The panga didn't taste fresh. Before buying it, we smelled it and didn't detect any foul or malansa odor. But when we opened the cooler later in the evening, the smell was obvious. The tuna sashimi looked and smelled good when we bought it, but when we served it, there was an off taste. Nothing like the top quality sashimi you can get at decent Japanese restaurants.

Now the good. The salmon was excellent - firm, rich, and almost sweet. It coated our mouths with a buttery sensation which was best cut by scotch with ice and water. I think we're going to do this again.

Ralph, my tuna farmer friend gave me some tips on buying tuna:
...how do you tell if tuna is fresh and good in case you have the good fortune to come across some? It should be dark pink, almost red and reflect irridescent colours. The muscle fibers should not peel apart. It should be hard to the touch above all. Firm not mushy. If the fish lying on its side flattens like a tire without enough air leave it lying and go to Burger Machine. Look at the eyes and the skin. If the eyes are grey, almost dried out and cloudy its old. If the skin has a yellow sheen and the slim is dried out, fins curled and dried, there probably isn't much point in checking any further because it hasn't been handled properly.

Off-topic: We got the Scotch (JW Red Label 750 ml.) at Wine Depot along Zuellig Loop. It was much cheaper than Rustans (P650 v. P900+). We also bought some Cooper's Dark Aussie Ale and drank it on the spot; very refreshing after the trip to Seaside. I know, it's not cheap, but we really wanted to try it.

About bogchinoypi

We like to eat. Our standards are: (1) food must be cheap, (2) food must be good, (3) it must be in or near Makati, (4) food must be cheap. When I say cheap, I mean Ilocano cheap. Cleanliness is not a factor. Neither do we care about ambience. Basta busog, OK na.

Sometimes, we're lucky enough to sample some excellent but expensive food. Food should be cheap; I stand by that. But that doesn't mean we can't live it up once in a while.

11 April 2006: We were about to shut down a few months ago for lack of time to make contributions. But thanks to the infusion of new blood - Kara and Miguel - we're back up and as prolific as ever. Yehey!