Thursday, June 26, 2014

Learning New Things

I've had this truck for about 2 years now and it has gone everywhere. It's job is to haul as much people as it can as far as they want to be taken. That is the job description, but there is also the once in a blue moon job of hauling a family and their belongings along with their daily driver all the way across the country.

I'm quite the responsible one when it comes to changing the oil, but deep down we all know there are plenty of moving parts in our vehicles that need to be taken care of with preventative maintenance. It's simple and the single most important thing you can do for your car to extend it's life. As for the other maintenance things, well that was a different story. You see, when you take your car in to the lube shop to change the oil, it's practically a break even situation for them. They have to sell you something else to make more money. Whether it's a shorter interval for oil changes so you come back more often or a radiator flush or a rear differential fluid change.

I called around and it would cost me close to $100 to change the rear differential fluid of the truck. I told myself that it would be worth it because the truck needed it. Out of curiosity though, I went to Walmart to find out how much the fluid would cost and while I was at it, I called around to see how much the gasket would cost. It was a grand total of $13.50 for those things. Everything else would be the labor. Looking back, it took me 2 hours to do the job mainly because I was recording it too. A professional would have probably taken 30 minutes to do it. Paying $90 for a 30 minute job is a little hard to swallow. Learning to do this myself is the absolute practical thing to do.

On different note, I've learned many years ago that my profession wasn't going to define me. It wasn't that I've conquered every challenge there was being in the kitchen. Far from it. It just seemed like it was all there was and I needed more. I knew that learning new things once in a while paid in dividends. The curiosity needed to be filled in and the sense of accomplishment was the fuel that kept the hunger going. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a more well rounded person. Most importantly, working for those things sets a good example for my daughter. When I tell her that if she puts the work in, she can be whatever she wants, it will be at least a possible outcome instead of a wish.

Dinengdeng (Vegetable Stew)

This is a harvest type vegetable stew. These are the vegetables typically grown in backyards in rural areas in the northern regions of Philippines. It's a no fuss type dish in which the freshness of the vegetables is the highlight. It's great with fried meats or grilled fish.

saluyot (jute leaves)

patola (sponge gourd)


1 medium size onion
2 cups of squash (cut into cubes)
2 - 3 cups  string beans
15-20 pcs okra
1 big patola (sponge gourd) - peeled and cut into strips
2-3 cups jute leaves
squash flower
1  cup shrimp / fried fish/ grilled fish  - whatever is available
3 cups of water

How to cook:

1. In a casserole, pour water and add the onion. Bring to boil
2. Season with bagoong ( fermented fish sause) and continue boiling for 3 min.
3. Add the shrimp, simmer for 3 min.
4. Add the squash, simmer for 2 minutes.
5. Add okra, string bean and saluyot (jute leaves). Simmer for 4 -5 min  or until halfed cooked.
6. Add patola (sponge gourd) and squash flower. Cooked until vegetables are done.
7. Adjust seasoning according to taste.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Misua - Patola Soup (Misua and Sponge Gourd Soup)

We were at the Asian market the other day and found these fantastic Loofah Sponge Gourds. If you were wondering, yes, these are the Loofahs you use to scrub yourself, comes from. They are annual vines that are very closely related to cucumbers. They are grown in tropical areas and are quite common in many Asian dishes. They are high in fiber and packed with vitamins and minerals.

I have to say that this particular one must have been grown locally because it was quite sweet and tender. These fruits have to be picked before they fully mature or they will just be too fibrous. It got me thinking of food miles and the importance of at least attempting to have a vegetable garden. Appreciating how fresh picked organic vegetables really differ from what's usually available to the masses at the market.

I honestly haven't had these in any other dish except for Misua-Patola soup. Growing up, this was one of my favorite dishes and it actually still is. Thinking of dishes to put up in this blog can sometimes get to the point where we actually miss the point. As we get older and the aches and pains begin to linger around longer, we have to be more aware of what we put in our body. Making better choices. Sadly, it may not be as sexy as some cheesy casserole dish but at the end of the day, at least we'll be sexier from better food choices.


1 small onion - diced
4-5 cloves garlic - minced
1 large patola (peeled and cut into strips)
1 cup shrimp
50 grams of misua
4 cups of water
salt and pepper
patis (fish sauce)

How to cook:

1. In a sauce pan , saute garlic and onion.
2. Add shrimp and pour in 1 tbsp of fish sauce.
3. Add water and bring to boil.
4. Add patola and 1 shrimp cube, cook until slightly softened.
5 Add  the misua , cooked for about 1-2 min.
6. Add pepper and adjust seasoning according to your taste.
7. Serve hot and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vigan Longganisa

Everybody knows about Pancit, Adobo and Lumpia, but will Filipino food be truly "mainstream"? I've read different points of views on why it hasn't and will probably never be. Theories ranging from it being as simple as our food is just too greasy to an in depth study in Colonial mentality.

I have my own theory that falls somewhere in between those two. Before a chef goes off trying to make his or her version of a certain dish, make sure you've eaten the original/authentic version. Whether you had it a few times on vacation back home or your Uncle Boy is the master of said dish. This is important because inevitably, someone who has eaten said dish plenty of times or has their own Uncle Boy who makes said dish, you will have no shortage of haters for your own bastardized version. Plenty of Filipino restaurants fall flat because the regional specialties that they put out don't even come close to how they are suppose to be prepared. Stick to what you do well  for now and keep practicing at what you don't. Quality is what will bring our food to that stage.

Now I have to follow my own advice. Vigan Longganisa hails from the Northern Region of the Philippines. There are variations of this salty and garlicky sausage found in areas in the Central Region but it is made famous here in the north. My wife is from the north and she has had this plenty of times and I have actually had it in her hometown. She's definitely a worthy judge of my first go at Vigan Longganisa and I'm positive she'll be honest with the utmost disregard for my ego and this case, it's completely acceptable. :)

Vigan Longganisa

Vigan Longganisa

2 lbs ground pork butt/shoulder
1/2 cup minced garlic
4 tbsp of Filipino soy sauce
4 tbsp Sukang Iloko (or apple cider vinegar)
2 tbsp annatto powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp coarse black pepper

mix well and once stuffed, let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least a day, then put in the freezer if you aren't cooking it yet.... but then again... why wait?