Shrimps, Pumpkin and Long Beans in Coconut Milk

Though I still maintain a balanced diet for me and my family, I think being-slender-is-in-my-genes-I-can-eat-what-I-want is no longer the right attitude. Carbs and fats are slowly yet surely getting into my system (and metabolism) nowadays. Ahaha yeah… I had my wake-up call. The website of a magazine for expats in Beijing has our photo in their gallery and… my goodness! They should have told me they’ll take my picture so I was able to hold my breath for a while and say ‘cheese’. I definitely put on some weight… or is it just the angle? On a lighter note, that particular photo captured A and I in one of our moments in our sweetest smiles.

Oh well… and so I decided to cut on my rice intake and eat more veggies instead. Without the usual 4-hour brisk walking for the next 2 months, I hope this works. Haha enough sulking.

I still have a cup of coconut milk left from the Thai Green Curry I cooked the other day and instantly I thought about setting it aside for a veggie dish. I bought the usual shrimps and decided to use a bowlful for guinataang gulay (vegetable in coconut milk). Yummy! Our lunch last Saturday!

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Rouge Et Blanc

The past workweek was tremendously busy and furious. The kitchen constantly served catering events and group reservations, and at nearly the same labour hours and with more workload at hand, each and everyone in the brigade was pushed and stretched beyond their physical demands. However, this does not occur as often as usual. It’s Christmas again and with all the get-togethers, reunions and parties spotted in the city, it is by far normal to be frenetic, frantic and to what they call here “stupidly crazy” in the hospitality and food service businesses.

It’s indeed that time of the year again when get-togethers amongst close friends; family, compatriots and even ex-lovers tend to happen. The air just changes instantly and for whatever reason, the troubled society and the warring nations somewhat pause to a standstill, becoming warmer and comforting to strangers and a bit generous to street urchins and beggars. This must be the magic of Christmas, the magic brought forth by coming of the ‘One.’ In a couple weeks, this magical mystery tour in what my ‘brother’ coined as a hostile environment will end. Everyone does not want this moment to disappear, I suppose. It’s such a joyful occasion. Who doesn’t want infinite bliss?

Living in a busy and desolate concrete jungle makes me somewhat emotional and sentimental sometimes. It’s only this season that my emotions flare and by far mine is already torched. This is one of the quietest seasons I have celebrated (what celebration?) and for whatever reason; any social gathering or connection to anyone is precious and dear. Almost everyone I have met or bumped into has had plans to be away from the city, away from societal misdemeanours. It’s such time, again, just brilliantly fantastic! And I’m here stuck battling an apartheid of mixed emotional tundra.

In one of those solemn and quiet moments after work, I did feel some real Christmas spirit in the air. On the 14rth of December, Maripi and I planned and hosted a dinner for friends to celebrate this once a year forthcoming. Knowing that almost everyone would be away for the holidays or maybe would be on somebody else’s lap and arms, this gathering would have been the last one for the year, a last hurrah of sorts. Just as what Christmas may have exemplified over and over here and around the globe, it was a joyful hosting of food, wine and good and meaningful conversation.

Maripi had prepared the aperitivo and insalata while I took care of the entree. The aperitivo Maripi concocted was a canape of crackers, dulong and capers. It matched the Sherry and white wines brought by guests. The dulong, which was bottled and preserved in a brine of olive oil and seasonings, made a spiritual and traditional homecoming of a Filipino fish, making the start even more nostalgic. Unfortunately, I had to skip the insalata. It was topped with surimi, making my palate up and arms, and my tummy flipping in despair if I had taken it.
I have never in my life cooked for a group and this became some sort of a challenge. I’ve cooked for two a year before that just to test what I have learned in CulinarySchool, but never for five and I only had two hours to finish everything. I knocked my system out and began the challenge. I prepared the following: Stuffed Chicken Legs in Sherry Reduction, Boneless Chicken Breast in Mushroom Sauce, Roasted Zucchini, and Rice with Tomatoes and Beans. From the way the dinner went, the Stuffed Chicken Legs took a perfect score of ten. The group loved it! And I of course was in LALA land. This goes to prove that being patient in prep work does wonders to food. It took me about an hour to de-bone and stuff 4 Chicken Quarter Legs and another half hour to cook the sauce. I have learned a lesson in this undertaking that I will carry with me for a lifetime. Based on this dish, I have concluded that being patient on something or to someone could be rewarding, I reckon this conclusion goes well too in winning a woman’s heart. I have some more miles to go.

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Ginataang Kalabasa at Sitaw

Here’s a very simple but delectable vegetable dish that offers the bright colors of autumn – orange, yellow and red (if you add red hot chili pepper) plus green. I just love its unique taste and texture and the healthy combination of vegies – with or without chili. Ginataang kalabasa at sitaw (squash and long beans cooked in coconut milk). I used pumpkin or winter squash.

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Munggo (Guisado or Soup)

Creamy or soupy, munggo (mung bean) is definitely Pinoy soul food. Cold rainy days and we just love it with fried fish. Summertime and it is still munggo that we crave for. There are also many ways to enjoy it as it could be paired with just about anything – from fried bangus (milkfish) or tilapia and tuyo (dried salted fish) to adobong manok at baboy. You may also add in hibi (dried shrimps), use pata (pork leg) for a flavorful broth or just plain monggo soup sprinkled with chicharon pork cracklings. And just like sinigang na baboy, the veggies I include in it depends on what’s available. Back home, talbos ng ampalaya (bitter gourd tendrils) is a runaway favorite, even dahon ng malunggay (moringa leaves). In Beijing, I can only play around with talong, sitaw and ampalaya (string beans, eggplant and bitter gourd).

Mix it with home-made chicharon. . .

Top it with fried daing bought from a tiangge (flea market) at the Worker’s Stadium that tastes exactly like it’s from Manila.

As A likes it, creamy with Chinese chorizo. Oh well I never tried that before until now and it turned out surprisingly delicious!

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Upo Guisado with Shredded Daing

I’ve been cooking stir-fry dishes Chinese style for so long I miss the way mom does it – gulay guisado Pinoy-style (Philippine-style sauteed vegetables). This takes additional minutes of cooking time. Meat isn’t cooked over high heat for few minutes or so. Instead, cooked with its own juice over low heat until it renders fat. Here is ginisang upo with daing (sauteed bottle gourd with dried fish) – one of those simple, easy-to-cook, everyday Pinoy dishes.

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Stir-fry Chicken and Baguio Beans

Here is a stir-fry recipe that is neither Chinese nor Filipino but a combination of both. Chinese stir-fry veggies normally have ginger and thick sauce while I grew up with ginisang sari-saring gulay (mixed vegetables) with tomatoes and no ginger. Mom’s gulay guisado is never about high heat and meat is always cooked longer. So, I took out the ginger, retained the tomato flavor and cooked it the way I love Chinese stir-fry dishes – the thick sauce and of course, how fast we can prepare a meal this way.

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Stir-fry Pork with Peapods

I remember those days a long time ago every time we were in a Chinese restaurant I always wonder how they can cook the meat so tender in such a short time whilst the vegetable remain crisp and the sauce thick and bubbly. I observed firsthand a real northern Chinese cook their veggies (of course, ate Vi our enterpreter here), tried few stir-fry recipes I found online, discovered the technique myself and now I couldn’t stop experimenting w/ different vegetables.
Here’s another easy stir-fry recipe for those like me w/ a busy sched. You may replace the pork here with beef and the cooking time is still the same as long as the meat is thinly sliced.

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Tortang Talong

I seldom cook meatless tortang talong (aubergine or eggplant frittata) for the reason that I might be the only one to eat it. And yes, I do cook it for myself to enjoy (and others like adobong atay, burong mustasa and nilagang talong) while preparing another dish for the rest of my family. Back home, our torta is always meatless – just the aubergine and the egg and their glorious taste. (Adobong atay – chicken or pork liver cooked in vinegar and spices, burong mustasa – fermented or just simply salted mustard leaves, nilagang talong – boiled aubergine.)

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Stir-fried Pork & Cashew Nuts

For a working mom like me, there really are times when there is so much work to do that I couldn’t afford to cook something tedious to prepare. Kaldereta and the likes are definitely for the weekends. Well at least if we are not rushing to meet deadlines. It’s a good thing we don’t have a boss and home is just downstairs.

Here is a simple stir-fry recipe. I craved for cashew nuts few days ago and still have a pack which I bought at the neighborhood Russian store.

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