February 18, 2015

Ginataang Pechay Recipe

Ginataang pechay.  Why didn't we think of that before?  We grew knowing that pechay was only good for sautéeing, you know, with tomatoes and onion and garlic and meat and soy sauce and water and oil.

We were supposed to make paksiw na ginataang galunggong because we can't get enough of it, but the fish suddenly vanished from the fridge, so we had to make do with the pechay leaves.

You'll notice we don't use cooking oil anymore, even if we've switched to coconut oil.  It turns out we can cook food without oil.  Instead of sautéeing the onions and garlic in oil, we simply let them cook in a little boiling water.  Anyway, whatever meat we're cooking will oil up eventually, so no need for the extra preliminary oil.  Instead of frying eggs, you can simply cook them in water too, sunny-side up.

So back to the Ginataang Pechay recipe:


A big handful of bunch of pechay leaves
200 g Pork meat, cut into small strips
5 pieces green finger chili (deseeded and cut into squares, leave an extra one whole and intact)
Garlic, minced
Onion, minced
Spanish paprika
Coconut milk, 1 cup
Coconut cream, 1/2 cup

1. Rinse the pechay leaves and stalks under running water (Set a bowl beneath to save the rinsewater for your plants).

2. Cut the leaves and stalks in 1" strips.

3. Pan-fry the pork strips, seasoning it with salt and pepper.  Remove from the pork once the pan becomes brown and crusty.

4. Deglaze the pan with a little water and half of the coconut milk.

5. Add the onions, garlic, and chilis, as well as the pork strips.

7. Add the pechay. 

8. Pour the rest of the coconut milk.  Cover with a lid and let simmer until the sauce is reduced.

9. Add the coconut cream.  

10. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

11. Serve with a plate of steaming rice.  Enjoy!

February 17, 2015

A much belated reading of the Griffin and Sabine trilogy

It's the season of love so I thought we'd read the classic and muchly-praised Griffin and Sabine trilogy by Nick Bantock.

Got the set for under PhP 600 at Booksale, which is a steal because they're understandably much more expensive at National's and PowerBooks.  The first time we saw the Griffin and Sabine books was at the Katipunan branch of National Bookstore.  Me and Edge were aimlessly wandering among the stacks, flipping random books here and there.  The Harry Potter series were already completed then, and they had a boxed set on display. Then out of the corner of our eye, we saw the Griffin books, which we initially thought was a YA fantasy series as well.

One book was perfectly unwrapped, free to open and browse.  We read the blurb, something about a love story between two strangers, presented through letters and postcards, and how us readers become privy to their conversation, like sweet privileged intruders.  So we took out one letter from an envelope, and read a few lines, and then put it back because we'd hate to accidentally dent the pages' crisp corners.

And then we forgot all about the book and got on with our lives.  Then last month we saw the Griffin and Sabine books again at Booksale.  We had to check if everything is in place, all the letters properly inside their envelopes, before buying it.  Except for one folded envelope flap and a big forgivable tear on the title page, everything was ok.

Wow, it turns out the Griffin and Sabine books have been around since 1991.  This makes them all the more charming.  Had Nick Bantock written them circa 2009 or so, in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, and smartphones and the bubbly world of Internet, the whole thing would have seemed gimmicky and nostalgic, the impact diluted.

Griffin and Sabine happen to be both artists: he, especializing in postcard illustrations, while she in charge of designing the postage stamps of her island home.  So when the two exchange letters, it seems like a showdown of their art.  Makes us want to redo all those letters we've swapped with Edge in the past, and stylize them with art, you know, in case they make it into a book.  But we gotta admit our story's not metaphysical enough.

February 14, 2015

That Valentine's Day Movie Called That Thing Called Tadhana

This Valentine's Day, do yourself a favor and watch That Thing Called Tadhana.

It's the most romantic Filipino movie you can watch where the two main actors don't kiss at all.

Plus, Angelica Panganiban gives the best performance of her life.  And JM de Guzman's boyish charms and his lovely cleft chin are disarming.

The best part is That Thing Called Tadhana was shot in Baguio, one of my happy places.

February 11, 2015

Making a Sourdough Starter in Ten Easy Steps | Recipe

Suddenly, we're now making a sourdough starter to turn into bread.  We've heard glowing reviews about sourdough bread.  How unique its sour and tangy taste is, how more nutritious and gluten-free it is than plain flour, how store-bought bread simply cannot compare.

Right now we get our sourdough bread from Tour Les Jours and Bakers Fresh, although according to the staff, they don't really prepare and bake it there in-house.  The bread just gets delivered to them so we can't be sure if it's authentic sourdough.  And then we read sourdough is pretty labor-intensive and takes time, so you know you're getting the real stuff judging by the price.  So far the two bread loaves from the two stores are reasonably priced.  Meanwhile the taste of both breads are just so-so.  It's just bread, nothing to write home about.  So maybe it's not really sourdough.  What did we expect from commercially-made bread?  Then again how do we know what it really tastes like.

In the absence of genuine sourdough bread we can sink our teeth on, we've decided we'll just make our own.

Why Sourdough?

So about this sourdough starter.  Wooh.  It's like a fun-filled experiment, like high-school all over again.  The main stars of the show: bacteria and yeast.  Last year we discovered how easy it is to make yogurt (very!), and it's always exciting to know that jar of sour milk is chockful of friendly living organisms.  It turns out a sourdough starter is just like that, teeming with billions and billions of lactobacilli and wild yeasts.  In contrast, storebought bread uses commercial yeast, which is kind of a shortcut way for making dough rise.

In the old days before bakeries became big chains and people made only enough food for their consumption, there was no need for commercial yeasts to speed things up.  Sourdough was the only way to go.

Since sourdough can essentially go on living forever as long you feed it daily, it can be handed down from generation to generation.  Like a living heirloom.  Some sourdough starters in San Francisco's established bakeries are reportedly a century old.  So wow.

Having read this piece of history, we now have a new-found respect for artisan bakers.  Before, we used to scoff when the word artisan was attached to bread, but not anymore.

So let's make a sourdough starter!

February 10, 2015

Anything We Want | Almost a Love Song from Fiona Apple

Because Valentine's Day is around the corner, and we need a non-cheesy love song, here's Anything We Want by Fiona Apple. There's no official music video (as yet), but there are recorded live performances, which is nicer because we get to see Fiona Apple all hands-on on her music. This one is from her Bowery Ballroom performance back in 2012. She's momentarily abandoned her piano to cheerily tinker with a triangle (or something equivalent).

Anything We Want is inarguably the most romantic song from Ms. Apple's The Idler Wheel... album. There's no mention of sunsets or other happy clichés, which why I like it.

February 3, 2015

A Tale of Two Honeys

Buying honey used to be so simple.  Either we bought honey in a lapad rhum bottle from the sidewalk vendor for less than a hundred Pesos depending on your haggling skills and his mood.  Or we bought the expensive branded version called Sue Bee from the supermarket.  Either way, we'd just pour out a teaspoonful and slurp it up with gusto, no questions asked.

We used to think the anonymous honey was superior because that's what we grew up on. Everyday, Mami our grandmother would give us a teaspoonful of the stuff, a no-nonsense dessert and energising tonic after meals.  She bought honey from the street-long market of Blumentritt, it came in a tall glass bottle that used to contain liquor.  

One time Edge bought honey from an old lady in Baguio who assured us her honey was the real stuff.  It came in a big Ginebra San Miguel bottle, the quatro cantos type that's 700 ml, for which we paid 400 bucks.  For weeks, we had a good time adding the honey in our coffee and drinks and bread and dishes, and then after a month or two the honey just hardened at the bottom, like trapped sugar. We felt cheated and swore never to buy the anonymous honeys again. 

That's how we switched to Sue Bee.  Later we learned that store-bought honey is rarely pure honey.  It's been adulterated with various sugars, particularly the very nasty high fructose corn syrup.  The filtration process, which makes the honey clear and free of impurities, also strips off all the naturally-occurring pollen that's supposedly healthful, although some say pollen-less honey is still honey.  

Which means we've been spending our money fruitlessly.  And then we read that the only reliable way to get legit honey is through your local bee farmer, the guys selling those unlabeled bottle of bright amber honeys by the road.  Unlike big companies and their distributors, the sidewalk vendors are decent people who won't tamper with their hard-earned product of their labor.  At least that's how how it should be in theory.

* * *

And while there are dozens of home-tests now for telling real and fake honey apart, it's still challenging and very difficult.  How reliable are these tests in the first place?  How sure are we that these aren't just paid articles or paid commenters meant to spread misinformation about real honey, so they can sell us their fake, adulterated product?  Oooh, conspiracy.

What are these pure honey tests?

1. Glass of water test.  Real honey supposedly won't dissolve readily in a glass of water, and will just lump at the bottom of the glass.
2. Blotting paper or white cloth testReal honey supposedly remains solid and viscous on the paper or cloth.
3. Crystallization test.  Over time, real honey can crystallize, depending on the amount of pollen, temperature, and glucose to fructose ratio.  Nothing to worry about, simply place the bottle in a basin filled with hot water to liquify it again.
4. Flow test.  Supposedly pure honey flows slowly when poured from a spoon onto a plate, forming a layered step formation.
5. Burn test.  A cotton ball soaked in supposedly real honey will be flammable.
6. Refrigerator test. Supposedly real honey does not freeze when placed too long in the fridge because of its tiny percentage of water.

7. Bubble test.  When you turn the bottle of real honey upside down, a single big bubble should rise up to the top.
8. Translucency test.  Raw honey should contain lots of pollens collected by the bees.
9. Ant test.  Ants are attracted to real honey, whether fake or not.
10. Color test.  Real honey should be dark amber and full-bodied.  Although experts say honey's color really depends on the kind of nectar the bees feed on.

The problem is that even adulterated honey can pass many of these household tests.  Laboratory tests are more definitive, but very inconvenient if you're not a scientist with access to the right equipment.  The only way to be sure now is to ask your bee seller to take you to his/her farm and watch them harvest and bottle that honey up close and personal.  It sucks that there are no regulatory board for certifying honey.  We live in a world where even supposedly pure and simple things can be adulterated and be passed off as the real deal.

* * *

We recently bought two bottles of honey from two different sellers, who both insisted they were selling the real pure stuff.  

The two honeys we bought differed from each other like night and day.  One was thick and viscous, taking its sweet time to flow and pour out of the bottle.  It was darkly amber but perfectly clear, hardly no dust, specks, or bubbles.  It tastes like the honey of my childhood, syrupy sweet with a tangy aftertaste, which I suspect is because of the rhum the bottle once held.  The vendor was initially selling it for PhP 150 but eventually brought it down to 80 bucks. 

Meanwhile the other honey was quite runny, readily pours out of its bottle (a used one that holds iced tea beverages), and dissolves without resistance in a glass of water.  It's a bit light-colored and cloudy too, with thousands of tiny bubbles suspended in the liquid.  This one tastes sweet, with a floral sugary hint.  And it costs PhP 250 because we bought it from a Sunday market catering to organic stuff.  (Space is rented, that's why the markup.)

So far, the first thick-and-dark-as-lava honey passed majority of the tests in flying color.  As for the pricey honey, it's either watered down, or sugared up.  But we still can't be sure.  We don't gobble up the stuff anyway, just sparingly.  But it would be plenty nice if we can be sure once and for all.  This honey thing is making me antsy.

Comic by Raimundo-fangirl at Deviantart