Custard or Sugar Apple

Our client was visiting our office and we started talking about local fruits that she has tried at the hotel where she is staying. She loves the local mangoes and the mangosteens. Later in the conversation she was describing a fruit that was red and had spiky hairs. The fruit was white with a large seed. I told her that was a rambutan, similar to lychees but the sweetness is entirely different.

I asked her if the hotel also served a locally grown fruit called atis. In other countries this fruit is called sugar apple or sweetsop. Relative to the custard apple since it belongs to the same Annona family, the meat is sweet having a 50-50 ratio of sucrose and glucose. I showed her a photo of the fruit, and she said they didn't serve this in the hotel. So I brought one the following day. She was amazed and surprised with the sweetness and the number of seeds a fruit could have. She still prefers the rambutan though and couldn't get enough of it.

In my research for this entry, I found out interesting facts about this delectable fruit:

- for every 100g of edible meat, there is 88.9 - 95.7g of calories; 40mg of vitamin C and is a good source of iron.
- the meat may be eaten raw, turned into ice-cream, cider or wine
- there are medicinal properties that may alleviate rheumatic pain, dizziness and fainting spells; treat dysentery, colds and fever. However the seeds are said to be poisonous and may cause blindness despite it's healing remedy for hair lice.
- the blacken aborted fruit is part of the ingredients for "unton" ( a pillow pouch pinned to a child's dress to fight against bales or "bati")

From experience, when buying, pick the firm and harder fruit. The size of the "scales" should have defined groves. It is fine to get the pieces with dark firm spots at the top. Place the fruit in a sturdy container, the firmest on on the bottom and the least on top. When it is ripe, the fruit becomes verify delicate and is easily bruised. In storing, keep in room temperature until it is soft. To prolong it's shelf life, store the fruit in the refrigerator when it is almost ripe but not overly so.




Candidate 1: Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

As I have mentioned in my previous entry, I am in search for this year's yuletide treat. I happen to come across Rachel Rappaport's site named "Coconut and Lime". It had an interesting name that was definitely catchy. It made me think of the Carribeans, the islands of Guam or Hawaii, and the ethnic countries of Thailand and Indonesia. It even made me think of home... the Philippines. Probably it was the affinity with the word coconut that made me think of these things... That is another story.

Her site had a wide array of recipes that she herself made. They looked easy to do and from the numerous "happy" comments, I had to try one of her recipes. It might end up in my yuletide giveaways this year. So I chose Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes. I decided to give this a try because of the simplicity and availability of the ingredients. Not to mention, I opened a can of pineapple tidbits used as a pizza topping and had lots left over. Instead of openning another one with whole slices, I decided to use this instead. I arranged them to look like a star/flower which I thought looked timely for the season.

The verdict: True be told, it didn't raise as high as I thought it would. They tasted really good. My mom, cousin M and co-workers thought so too. I had slight difficulty in removing some that got alittle stuck. Some of the tidbits were stuck on the bottom of the muffin pan when I was removing them, but that was just 3 out of the 12. The rest came out whole and perfect. The caramel sauce made it really moist and sticky.

Maybe for a more festive and attactive presentation, I would add a cherry on the center.

With the permission of the author, I am sharing with you the recipe.

Pineapple Uside Down Cupcakes


1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
20 oz canned pineapple rings in 100% pineapple juice, drain and reserve juice for batter

Cake Batter:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup flour
1 egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Butter or spray (with cooking spray with flour) 10 wells in a cupcake pan. Cut a 1/2 inch chunk out of 10 pineapple slices and place the slices (not the little chunks) individually in 10 cupcake wells. They should lie flat in the pan and look like a "whole" ring again. In a small saucepan, melt and stir together butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour about one teaspoon of this topping into the bottom of each pineapple ring covered cupcake well. In a medium sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add the baking powder, mix briefly then add the flour alternately with the pineapple juice. Pour about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter over each pineapple slice and bake for 20 minutes. Cool 20 minutes in pan then invert over a baking rack. You may want to place parchment paper or a towel under the rack because they may drip. Serve on a plate, pineapple side up.


Bongo Room Brunch

I was busy archiving my photos that I have taken on my recent US trip. I decided to add this as an entry because everyone enjoyed the moment.

It was our last day in Downtown Chicago when my brother, mom, I and J decided to spend it together shopping. But before we headed to the stores my brother brought us to the Bongo Room along Wabash. As you enter the restaurant, it had a perky feeling and ambiance accompanied by lively staff.

They had an array of breakfast dishes that would make your mouth water. I decided to get the Crab Lobster Eggs Benedict with a glass of grapefruit. My brother, I and J got the same dish while mom ordered the Ham and Eggs Benedict. They had fresh brewed coffee. As we wait, I peeked at the neighboring table. Seeing how each bite brought smiles and luster in their eyes made me wish that the food we ordered be there ASAP. Looking at servers bringing the food in for other customers made me hungrier.

True enough, after 10 minutes, I got my plate of eggs benedict topped with crab lobster hollandaise sauce over a crusty bread. It was accompanied by a side dish of potato and bacon. The sauce wasn't overly powering nor rich that you would loose interest with the second eggs benedict. It complimented the dish perfectly that you would want more. My brother and I surely did wanted to get my share when they ate theirs in a whiff.

While we were busy enjoying our meals, my brother saw a family order a mouth watering plate of fresh fruit with ice cream. So he calls the server and adds Strawberry Mango French Toast topped with Vanilla Ice Cream. He also added Banana Pancakes with Chocolate-Cream Sauce topped with Oreo Cookie (I am not sure if this is the correct title). One thing I loved about this place is you could request for a smaller serving. The photo below is only 1/3 of the actual regular serving.

It tasted heavenly and wonderful no less but my tummy couldn't handle the amount of food anymore. A great way to welcome the day of shopping.


Prices Soar

My mom and I went to Divisoria yesterday. She wanted to get purse for my aunt. I on the other hand had other things in mind... update my blogs and edit photos. But she won, so I tagged along. Divisoria is place where you can get almost everything and anything at a bargain price - all sorts of foods, clothing, bags, home furnishings, plastic wares, electronics, toys, video, mp3s... The list is endless, in my opinion. Now that the Christmas season is nearing, it is one of the hot spots to go to.

We went around the 168 Mall, and was unlucky with the find. She did set her eyes on the persimmons she saw by the corner of the mall. After haggling with the price we went our way to Tutuban Mall. We searched high and low until we found a store that gave us the purse my aunt wanted at a really good price. It was a Coach body purse in the shades of dark brown. For Php 250, the class AAA, Korea-assembled knock-off was not bad.

Since we were in the area, we decided to buy some fruits to add to the persimmons. I approached serveral stalls and asked for their prices for their persimmons. The price ranged from Php 80 to 100 per kilo and depending on the size. Mom was frustrated because she bought hers at Php 130 She lost Php 30 for the bag she bought. Tsk...tsk...

As we headed to Divisoria Mall, there were a wide array of fruits and vegetables, house hold wares that were being sold. I was there 2-3 weeks back and noticed that the prices increased by 35-50%. I got lucky that I was able to stock up with garlic and red onions. The could last me for a few weeks more. I bought 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of garlic at Php 45 then. Yesterday, they were selling it for Php 60. Fuji apples used to be Php 10/piece and hiked up to Php 50/3 pieces. I was blown away by the difference in price after being away from the area for almost a month. I guess with the prices of gasoline increasing (which is everywhere), product prices will increase as well. The sellers would have to adjust to make their ends meet, and the buyers would wisely budget and spend their hard earned cash to put a decent meal to the table.

I came across an old lady selling all sorts of fruits. She was selling her oranges for Php 10/piece. There was even a sign that claimed the oranges are definitely sweet. There were slightly larger than an baseball and looked sweet and fresh. I bought 5 pieces and my mom was rather skeptic. True enough when we got home, mom opened one and it was sour. So much for guarantees and sweet oranges... I guess I will use them in search for the Christmas treats.


Callos- Asian Style

A taste of my Callos-Asian style
I was inspired to surprise my mom with another dish when she arrives from visiting my brother. She requested that I cook Ginataang Hipon with Kalabasa. Rummaging through the freezer, I found ox tripe, choirizo de bilbao, potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions, tomatoes, tomato sauce and a bottle of garbanzos. I remember seeing a recipe called Callos in www.pinoycook.net and decided to try that. I had most of the ingredients in the recipe except for some items. I went to the wet market to get the missing ingredients but I forgot to buy the herbs (basil and rosemary) so I replaced it with coriander. While preparing ingredients, I discovered the bottled garbanzos were the sweetened kind (the one you add to your halo-halo). Poking in the pantry, I saw a can of pork and beans and I decided to use it in place of garbanzos.

The Ingredients:

Set 1
1/2 k. of ox tripe, cleaned, trim off the fat
1 k. of ox leg, clean the skin from any existing hairs, chopped into 1" rounds (I used pork leg since this is what I had at hand at the moment)
1/2 head of a garlic, peeled and chopped
1 medium whole onion, peeled and halved
5 pcs. of peppercorn
1 bay leaf

Set 2
1/2 head of a garlic, minced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 piece of chorizo de bilbao, thinly sliced into disks
1 medium bell pepper. julienned
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can of pork and beans
1/3 c. of frozen sweet peas
500 g. of tomato sauce
1 piece of chili pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of beef stock, from the boiled meats in set 1
freshly cracked black pepper
1 bunch of coriander (kinchay), chopped

Cooking procedure :

Place the meats in a large casserole and cover with water. Bring it to a semi-boil. Remove the scum floating on the surface. When you have a clearer stock, add the rest of the ingredients from Set 1. Cover and lower the heat. Simmer until the meats become tender (in my case, I boiled the meats approximately 1.5 – 2 hours until the meats are tender and the leg meat falls off from the bone). Add water if necessary. I didn't use a pressure cooker since I used the pork leg instead of an ox's but you may use it to shorten the cooking time.

Set aside the meats and strain the soup stock. Reserve 2 cups that will be used later. You may freeze the remaining stock for future use. I have cut the tripe into strips, about 1/2” x 1” size.

In medium heat, sauté garlic, chili and onions in olive oil. Add the bell peppers and tomatoes; continue stirring until the tomatoes are cooked through. Add the chorizo slices and cook for 1 minute or until the color brightens. Increase the heat and add the meats and stir for about 2 minutes. Pour in the tomato sauce and continue to stir. Add in the broth, carrots, and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper according to your desired taste. Cover and boil until the potatoes are cooked. Add in the pork and beans, and peas. Simmer for a minute to two. Sprinkle in the coriander, stir once and turn off the heat.

My notes :
It turned out similar to callos that mom use to make for my brother. But the taste of coriander blew me away because it made a distinct Asian taste. So I guess I will call this dish Callos-Asian style. Hope you could give it a try and let me know how you find it.

The verdict:
Mom said that the callos tasted good but why did I add the pork leg. It should only be purely made out of tripe. My sister, J, and L loved it. J even brought some home.


Requesting Shrimps

Mom was heading back from visiting my brother. A few days before her departure, I was able to talk with her and told her that I received a very good pumpkin from my aunt. It was sweet and starchy that had a creamy, sweet consistency when cooked. She requested if I could cook the pumpkin with shrimps and coconut milk.

We call it Ginataang Hipon at Kalabasa. There are many variations depending on the household with regards to how they prepare this dish.I have known others to mash the pumpkin to make the stew thicker while others just let the pumpkin break up on its own. I know some prefer theirs with a thin

This will be my first attempt to prepare the dish the way she does it. I hope I pass :)

Ginataang Hipon at Kalabasa

300-400 grams shrimps
1 tablespoon oil
1 thumb size ginger, peeled, sliced into disks
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 medium sized onion, sliced
4 cups pumpkin, peeled, seeded and sliced into ½ inch cubes
1 cup eggplant, sliced into ½ inch length, quartered
1 ½ cup coconut milk, 2nd extraction
1 cup coconut cream or milk, 1st extraction
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1-2 pieces finger chilies (siling pang sigang)
1 bunch swamp cabbage (kangkong) leaves, approximately 1 to 1 ½ cup

Remove the whiskers from the shrimps. Season it with salt. Do not season too much else it will end up too salty. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a casserole in medium heat and sauté ginger, garlic and onion. When the onions are almost translucent and the garlic is tender, add in the pumpkin then the eggplant. Saute the vegetables well. Pour in the 2nd extraction into the casserole and lower the heat. Season the pumpkin with ½ tablespoon fish sauce and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper.

When the pumpkin and eggplant is half cooked add in the shrimp. Stir for a few seconds and cover. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add in the 1st extraction and simmer for 2 minutes. Drop in the finger chilies. Adjust the taste by adding remaining fish sauce and black pepper. Continue cooking until you get the desired consistency of the sauce. Add the swamp cabbage then stir once. Turn off heat. You don’t need to worry with the swamp cabbage because the remaining heat will continue to let it cook.


I asked my mom when she had it for dinner yesterday. I passed with flying colors. :D


Banana-Apple Turon

We had a bunch of saba bananas that were deliciously ripe. Not too soft and mushy but definitely sweet that I decided to turn it into turon. Turon is a sweet spring roll filled with bananas that is eaten either as a snack or dessert. Some would pair this up with strips of jackfruit, a serving of vanilla ice cream or a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. I remember growing up with in the provinces and eating this during the summer afternoons after a good game of tag or hide-and-seek. We still enjoy this simple treat up to this day. :D

I wanted something different to go with the turon by adding apples. I had a few that were just sitting on the fruit bowl. I thought it would be a twist by adding it with a hint of cinnamon. So when I served it for Sunday brunch, it came out pretty good in my opinion. Somehow, it reminded me of apple pie. My sister said so herself when she tried it. But she still preferred the traditional kind - just plain saba please or with a hint of jackfruit.

Saba-Apple Turon

10 saba fingers, medium ripe, peeled and sliced into 4 strips per finger
1 – 2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into strips
white sugar
20-30 egg roll (lumpia) wrapper
oil for deep frying

Mix ½ cup of sugar with 1/8 – ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. Make sure the cinnamon is evenly distributed. I roughly estimated the amount of cinnamon. I would advise that the amount be adjust depending on personal preference. If you prefer to add more, by all means do.

Dip the 2 strips of banana and 2 strips of apple into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Arrange the coated strips on the egg roll wrapper. Roll the wrapper to almost mid-way. Tuck in the sides to the center thus encasing the fruits in the center. Then roll until you have almost reached the end of the wrapper. Brush the end with water to make is slightly moist but not wet. This will help seal the wrapper and avoid the fruits from spilling out.
Repeat the process until all the fruits have been wrapped.

Heat about 1 cup of oil over medium heat. Fry turon in batches of 5-6 pieces (depending on how large the frying pan is. I use a 8” skillet). This would prevent the oil’s temperature from dropping and avoid from over-crowding the pan. This way the rolls would cook evenly through. Drain in paper towels.

The excess rolls were placed in an air-tight freezer container then placed in the freezer. We just thaw the rolls to almost totally defrosted then fry it into the hot oil. Just be careful of the splatter.

Additional variations:

- Sprinkle over some sesame seeds after draining the turon rolls.
- Instead of rolling the fruits into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle it over the egg roll wrapper before rolling.
- Omit the sugar-cinnamon when rolling the fruits into the egg roll wrapper. After draining, dust it over the cooked rolls instead.


In search for this year's delicious Yuletide treats

A photo of me last year during the holidaysEvery year we would send home-made pastries to all our relatives, friends and co-workers as Christmas presents. I remember it started with my aunt who loves to cook and bake. She would send us at least two out of the three pies their household would prepare. That would either be the Pecan Pie, Pineapple Pie or Apple Pie. How much we loved these and always ask for more for the New Year. When she decided to hand down the recipes to us, we made these as part of the the holiday feast at home and in Christmas parties. It ever reached to a point where people would specifically request what to get for Christmas (and it is still true till now). I guess it has become a holiday staple for them too.

But when work took most of my time during the holidays, I had to come up with goodies that would consume less time and produce more. A pie would take atleast 1 to 1.5 hours and my oven isn't huge enough to accommodate all the requests. Aside from that, normally it is a 2 man team. It would either be my mom or the household help who assists me in slaving away these creations. I have been yearly searching for new pastries, cakes and cookies that would be out of the ordinary and special that you could say, "I can taste the wonderful goodness of Christmas!" :D

This year, I am still contemplating on which of the recipes that I will retain and what to try that is extra special and spectacular. If I do find it, I will be more than happy to share with you the toothsome goodness this yuletide will bring.


Crusty Crustacean

Met up with dad at the San Francisco airport and headed to Red Lobster for lunch. Was it lunch or breakfast? I really can't tell anymore with the time difference and the long flight.

Upon entering, I was fascinated with the large tank filled with lobsters. I wanted to just grab them and see if they are as strong swimmers as Larry Lobster. If you do watch SpongeBob SquarePants, you would know which character I am referring to. If not, he is the lifeguard stationed at Goo Lagoon of Bikini Bottom. If not, probably ask if the saw Sebastian crawling in search for Princess Ariel. Kidding.

I remember the first time I had lobster. It was in Red Lobster too but in a different franchise. I told myself that I should have a taste before I head back home. So my aunt brought me and my mom to the nearest branch in Darien, Illinois. I had expectations that it would taste far different from Sebastian's kin, the crab. When I placed my order and tasted the first bite, I was suprise. It felt and tasted like a cross of white shrimps and king crabs. I guess I expected too much but then I shouldn't sell this crustacean short. I am sure there are other ways of preparing that will bring out its potential. I wonder if it would go well if it was prepared like the Chili Crabs of Singapore or cooked with rich coconut milk, ginger, finger chilis and leaves of swamp cabbage. Hmmmm yummy.

In writing this entry, I tried to search through the net for interesting tidbits about this decapod and found out that:
  • Lobsters may outlive us. They are estimated to live up to 100 100 years (unless they were caught and cooked).
  • Spiny lobsters gang up on their attacker by displaying their spines outward (their tails are pointing inward to bring out the spines).
  • If a predator gets hold of one of the lobster's leg, the lobster casts of the limb, seals the area to avoid infection. The damaged leg will then regenerate or regrow producing a brand new one. Similar to their cousins the crabs. (Pretty neat. Wonder if they are distantly related to Wolverine by any chance :D )
  • The largest lobster found weighed around 44 pounds, 6 ounces, 3 feet 6 inches from the end of tail fan to tip of largest claw.
  • Lobsters are blue blooded. Not referring to royalty, but to the color of their blood. If iron makes the color of human blood turn red, copper makes lobster blood be blue.
  • Lobsters may survive in storage without eating for a year if the shells are hard and are full of meat or reserves.
  • The lobster capital of the world is located at Shediac, New Brunswick where the largest lobster sculpture is found.
  • The age of a lobster is determined by its size and the hardness of the shell.
  • Lobsters are actually red in color caused by a carotenoid pigment. Combined with protein, the pigment reacts and a the greenish-blue color which we naturally see on lobsters.



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