Christmas in my Country

It’s almost December! And at the same time, Christmas is just around the corner. I can’t believe how time flies so fast.

Christmas is one of the most-awaited holidays here. We do it in such festive way. Giant decorations and lights surround streets and alleys. Super sale and huge discounts abound. It’s not hard to find wildly adorned structures, completely filled with Yuletide feels.

Now let me list down the popular activities/food before and after our Christmas:

Simbang Gabi (Night  Mass) – mostly practised because of tradition. Catholics and alike flock to churches all across town and hear their early lecture at roughly 03:00 in the morning. Other parishes also hold evening masses, though this is uncommon. After which, you can expect to be greeted with the salivating aroma of native delicacies such as bibingka and puto bumbong, among others.

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Bibingka – No Christmas is complete without this. My ultimate favorite:  bibingka! This one is traditionally cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves. Basic ingredients include rice flour, egg, coconut milk, sugar, margarine/butter and water. Almost always, you’d see a slice of red salted egg and grated coconut as your topping.

Puto bumbong (Steamed glutinous rice) – Another popular in this season. It is colored purple (which looks yummy) which came from a mixture of sweet rice and black rice. It is usually served with butter, sugar and grated coconut. Yep, just like bibingka’s. Another must-try!

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Noche Buena – probably the most fun-filled event. What can you expect? It’s dinner time! That dinner before Christmas, that is. Exactly on the evening of the 24th of December. Everyone gathers around the table, ready to dive into an array of delicious foods and desserts. These would include, but not limited to, queso de bola (ball of cheese), spaghetti (or other type of noodle), fruit salad, and the famed ham.

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Gift-Giving – or we normally say Kris Kringle or simply exchange of gifts. I don’t know with the others, but we do this after the noche buena. I would usually prepare small gifts for my nieces and nephews, with (kinda) big presents for my brothers, cousins and parents.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!! 

Cute & Creepy Eats

So it’s that time of the year again! Amidst all the Halloween parties here and there, I have decided to gather some leftovers from the fridge. There were some pieces of hotdogs and marshmallows from the previous birthday bash.

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Popular finger food – hotdog & marshie on stick

Those were very popular among children. Now recently, while checking out some foodie blogs, I came across some fanciful desserts that are especially made during Halloween. I thought of giving it a try, considering the ingredients are all available within my reach.

First thing I tried was the cheesy fingers. It’s pretty simple! Just fry the dogs and cut a little in the midsection. I chose to put a slice of cheese to serve as the fingernail. Use ketchup as paste and dip.

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Second I did was the eyeball marhsmallows. I bought a pack of smarties for toppings and ketchup once again for the bloody drops.

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And here’s how it looked like.

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Again, these are all finger foods and can easily be consumed. I think this is perfect for Halloween home parties. Do you have any other flavorful ideas? Share ’em!

Pizza Pandesal

It’s been quite a while since I last made this. Our oven was broken and it took few months to buy a new one. Now that I am free, I decided to do one of my all-time favorites: pizza. But with a twist! Instead of the usual crust that can be bought in supermarkets, I opted to use a local bread pandesal.

 

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The dough for this traditional bread is rolled to achieve a pillow-soft texture, and then dusted with bread crumbs prior to baking. It is a popular breakfast staple, usually dipped in hot chocolate or coffee. Others prefer putting peanut butter, cream cheese, or strawberry jam.

The toppings are pretty much the same as your average pizza. It’s now up to you to customize according to your liking. Mine goes like this:

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slices of SPAM
chunk
pineapple chunks
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store-bought pizza sauce
shreddedcheese
grated cheese
carrot-diced
diced carrots
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onion rings
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potato cubes

 

For starters, preheat the toaster for at least 2-3 minutes. Toast the bread for a minute and spread the sauce on top.

Afterwards, you may add in your toppings (mine were potato cubes, onions, carrots, pineapple bits, and slices of SPAM.) And of course, do not forget the cheese. I like mine pretty much covered, though. Toast again for 3-5 minutes, until cheese melts. By the way, I use a minimum of 8 pandesals (8 x 2 = 16 mini pizzas) for this. You can also make pizza loaves, if you want it bigger. See picture below:

 

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Photo taken from delmonte.ph

So what do you think? Anyone can make this anytime, with minimum cost. Best part is you can create or innovate your own style. Any topping is acceptable, as long as it’s edible. Try it now!

CocoIchi Curry

I have always loved curry. So you can imagine my delight when I first heard the news that Coco Ichibanya is (finally!) opening its first store here in Manila. I personally think that we already have too many ramen shops, cafés, and milk tea stalls around, perhaps it’s time to experience something  new.

Ichibanya Co., Ltd. owns the top curry rice restaurant chain in Japan, Curry House CoCo Ichibanya, or Coco Ichi as fondly called by locals and patrons alike. It currently owns both direct and franchise restaurants in several countries like the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, and of course, the Philippines. They now have five branches operating across the country.

What I liked best in this curry house is the freedom to customize your meal. You can pre-select the amount of rice, level of heat to your sauce, and the entrées that will go with your curry. You can also upgrade your meal with an additional topping, dessert, or extra soup. Price usually ranges from Php250-500.

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Of course, I wouldn’t pass the chance to try my ultimate favorite: tonkatsu!

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I have tried several versions of this: from Tokyo Tokyo to Yabu. But I must say this one’s got a different blend to it. It sure doesn’t like it, but this was a hefty meal.

Meanwhile, my friends tried the vegetable and omelet hashed beef:

 

My verdict? The presentation of the food looked appetizing, plus the stunning aroma that comes with it. The sauce had the right amount of consistency and a tinge of spiciness. The pork was tender enough and the rice was flavorful. I wish I could’ve tried more though.

 

Nasi Lemak of Malaysia

It was already past lunch time when we realized we are starving. We only had cereals and a cupcake that morning, I remembered. And since the price of restaurants inside Universal Studios are ridiculously high, we decided to look for affordable options outside. Then we found Malaysian Food Street. Although we are not sure if it is indeed authentic, we tried it nonetheless.

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Once inside, we saw a lot of people eating. It was pretty much like your normal food court, albeit bigger. There was a long line of food stalls, with cheap eats ranging from $7 and up. There is a variety of cuisines to choose from:  Thai, Indian, Chinese, Singaporean, and of course, Malaysian.We had some real difficulty choosing which one to eat. But alas, we found one with less queueing and a very tempting aroma.

Nasi Lemak is a popular dish in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and South of Thailand. It is also considered the national dish of Malaysia. It is usually composed of: rice (cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves), sambal, anchovies, boiled egg, roasted peanuts and some slices of cucumber. It is best eaten on a banana leaf for a more traditional sense.

 

The verdict? I loved the garlic chicken and roasted peanuts the most. The sweet aroma of the coconut rice was appetizing. The hint of spice brought about by sambal evened out the crispiness of the chicken and anchovies.The cucumbers and peanuts are a perfect way to finish off your meal.

What are you waiting for? Look out for the nearest Malaysian restaurant you can find and see for yourself. Or might as well make one of your own. I am sure it will be equally delicious!

Mango Ref Cake

I remembered tasting this cake a few years ago during my aunt’s birthday. I was surprised at how good it was. The amount of sweetness was just right and I personally liked the touch of mangoes on top. So I asked my aunt how to make it. It turned to be really easy to make. The best thing about it is that I don’t need to use an oven (we did not have one back then) and that there are only few ingredients.

These are all you need: graham crackers, condensed milk, and all-purpose cream. For my version, I like to put sliced mangoes on top. I have also tried crushed crackers and sometimes, bananas. You may also try to put any kind of fruit you prefer.

 

  • Mix the cream and milk  together. Set aside.
  • Simply lay the crackers on the container. (Make sure it is placed evenly because it will serve as  your base.)
  • Pour the milk-cream mixture on top.
  • Place more crackers again, and pour the mixture.
  • Arrange some sliced mangoes in-between. (optional)
  • Do this continuously until you have used all the crackers and the mixture.
  • Finish off with the remaining mangoes (or other fruit) on top of the creamy mixture.
  • Put it in the fridge and let it rest for 5-10 hours. However, you may leave it there for as long as you like as well.

And voila! Your cake is done!

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It’s as simple as that. There are many variations out there that you may try. But my ultimate favorite would be the mango cake. It is both delicious and healthy, too.

Happy eating!!!

 

Portuguese Egg Tarts

Probably one of the  best custard desserts I have tried are the infamous Portuguese egg tarts of Macau. No wonder majority of the tourists flock at the Senado Square for a taste of this. With so many stores to choose from, you will definitely have a difficult time. But the wait is all worth it, that I guarantee.

Two of the most visited shops would be Lord Stow’s Bakery and Koi Kei. Best eaten when hot! It was a dollar apiece. I guess we saved a lot when we bought a big box and divided it amongst ourselves.

Ingredients include, but not limited to, egg white, milk, honey-egg, and sugar. There are variations of the traditional milk or egg custard, whichever you prefer. I have also seen some flavored ones like chocolate, cinnamon and matcha (green-tea) sets.

 

You can also find several types of egg tarts somewhere in Asia, especially Hong Kong. I haven’t tried those so I cannot compare. I may have to taste it myself to see which one is the best. But you may check out the stores of Lord Stow in Japan and the Philippines, and might as well grab yourself a box of this delicious dessert. Bon appetit!