Healthy Shabu-Shabu – and a movie – with Brother

9 04 2009
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That's me – in my one and only Superman shirt! – enjoying my "free" Healthy Shabu-Shabu dinner!

 

IN JEST, I would always say, “How come a place that makes you cook your own dinner charges so much?!”  Hahaha!

 

Again, I would say that just in jest, especially since I am well-aware that shabu-shabu is a culinary practice steeped in tradition from the hinterlands of Japan and Korea, especially in the wintertime.  And while lately, a television commercial fosters the importance of family meal time, shabu-shabu has done and has been doing the same for hundreds of years.

 

But whenever I go have shabu-shabu, I would always prefer to have my own pot (whether with family or friends).  Which, conveniently, is how shabu-shabu places have set up their tables.  You get your own pot, you ask for your own set.

 

Shabu-shabu is nothing new to me.  I’ve loved it for quite a while.  I even had a phase in 2008, when I had to eat shabu-shabu for every single day, for five whole months!  Imagine that.  It came to a point when the wait staff already knew me and the time I would be coming in, that I was always assured a table would be waiting for me – not the other way around!  I was so addicted to shabu-shabu that even when my 87-year old grandmother was confined in the hospital, I (alone or with my brothers and a niece or a nephew) would sneak out to HEALTHY SHABU-SHABU at Alabang Town Center just so I could get my fix.

 

My addiction was so severe that Batman would understand when I would drag him to a shabu-shabu dinner either at the Alabang branch or at The Podium.  I guess there was even one time when even after we had eaten somewhere else (at The Podium), Batman still allowed me to indulge in a quick shabu-shabu fix.  Gosh!  As a consolation, I shared with him some of my food.  After all, I’m a good cook.  Hahaha!

 

But what I’m writing about now is one recent special shabu-shabu dinner – the belated celebration of Brother’s birthday.  And whenever I’m with Brother, not only do I get free rein in what to order, I don’t have to pay too.  Hahaha!

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The soy-based sauce. To its left is the Korean sate sauce. I didn't need the chili (the server was new)... just the chopped scallions!

 

I guess the best thing about shabu-shabu is that it’s like having a blank canvass that you can color or flavor the way you want to.  At the center of the spread is the clear broth that you shall bring to a rolling boil (when it’s your first time at a shabu-shabu place, the wait staff will be glad to show you how to operate the burners).  Usually, the broth is made from chicken bones.  So free from any seasoning, you shall find the broth to be very clean-tasting.  In the way of condiments, you shall be given a small bowl of the soy-based sauce, the Korean sate sauce, fresh egg, minced fresh garlic, chopped scallions and sliced red labuyo chili.  The lover of hot and spicy food that I am, I’m surprised myself that when it comes to shabu-shabu, I veer away from even the slightest hint of chili!  All I use from this very generous selection is the soy-based sauce which I mix the Korean sate and chopped scallions into.  But the hardcore shabu-shabu fanatics put together everything – including the yolk of a fresh egg!

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The standard shabu-shabu platter that comes with every order.

 

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Notice that the server (she was new) didn't take out the glass noodles. I'm not crazy about noodles in my shabu-shabu.

 

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The "fat" beef!

 

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A serving of fresh, drool-worthy oysters! My mouth is watering just staring at this...

 

For this dinner, I asked for the fat beef set (thin slices of “fatty” beef, the more marbling the better!).  The slices of beef are served separately from the requisite shabu-shabu platter that contains a squid ball, a beef ball, tofu, taro root, a shiitake mushroom cap, a carrot slice, a tomato wedge, a corn slice, baby bok choy or taiwan pechay, baguio pechay, a crabstick, fish cake, thick egg noodles, and glass noodles (sotanghon).  Usually, I would ask for the noodles to be replaced by cups of rice (one for each noodle type).  For extra things on the side, I would always ask for a serving each of tofu, crabsticks, and fresh oysters!

 

Once I bring the broth to a rolling boil, I throw in the corn, shiitake mushroom, carrot, fish cake, squid ball, and beef ball.  Everything else would be dunk (for seconds only!) just when I would munch on them.  I NEVER put everything in the pot.  No, that’s not me.  The oysters, I nestle on the slotted spoon – one at a time – and dunk in for about 10 seconds only.  The leafy vegetables, I literally just dip in the boiling broth.  Then, I dip the food in my sauce and eat them with the rice.

 

Having shabu-shabu is a leisurely dinner thing.  It allows you to take your time and savor each dish component.  But mostly, it allows you to reconnect with somebody else.  After all, sharing a good conversation and a good laugh are key to an overall satisfying dinner experience.

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That's the very generous Brother... Thanks for taking time out from DOTA and treating me to this sumptuous dinner! Hahaha!

 

But oh, there was one time I breezed through my shabu-shabu dinner in 15 minutes flat.  That was when Batman, Friendship and I had to make it to the screening of “27 Dresses.”  Good thing that on this dinner with Brother, we had a good lead time before Liam Neeson’s “Taken” started!

 

 





Selecta Gold Series Chocolate Truffles

9 04 2009

 

EVERY SPOONFUL, designed to delight.”  Thus declares Chef Rolando Laudico of Bistro Filipino fame.

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The new Selecta Gold Series Chocolate Truffles Ice Cream.

 

Of all the advertisement I’ve seen on all glossies I could get my hands on during this week-long break, only one really demanded and captured my attention.  It was the one for the New Selecta Gold Series ice cream.  Visually, the black background really set off the contents of the ad (Friendship is a proponent of this black background visual graphics style).  Content-wise, the names of prominent Filipino chefs brandished on the three-page spread deserved at least one-pass reading.

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The new Selecta Gold Series Chocolate Truffles Ice Cream... definitely for serious chocolate lovers!

 

The ad said that the three flavors were “created exclusively for you.”  And with three culinary masters taking different inspirations to deliver temptingly sounding and looking delights, I couldn’t help but really make a reminder on my planner to go out and grab tubs!  Chef Rolando Laudico (Bistro Filipino) created “Chocolate Truffles.”  Chef Sau Del Rosario (Chelsea Market & Café), “Hazelnut Brownie.”  Chef J. Gamboa (Cirkulo), “Berry Strawberry.”

 

Not only did I make a reminder for myself, I had to send out text messages to Spider-man, Batman, Summit, and Superman that they should also check these out too!  Summit texted back to say that she’s eyeing the Berry Strawberry.  Superman wished me to enjoy my pigging out (haha!) and mentioned that he liked the NSA (No Sugar Added) ice cream, the same one I got for my mother.  From the series, what I first got was the Chocolate Truffles.  The 1.66-liter tub cost Php 275.00.

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So how did I find the ice cream?  Hmmm…  It was really rich and luxurious, no doubt about that.  I liked it that the chocolate ice cream itself was intense and more on the bitter side.  The hand-rolled chocolate truffles were VERY generously mixed into the ice cream – every spoonful I took had truffles.  On their own, the truffles literally tasted buttery to me.  It was really the ganache filling of truffles that they threw in.  And when we say “ganache,” what it is exactly is a half-and-half mixture of chocolate and cream.  So the (buttery) creamy goodness should be as expected.  To up the chocolate ante further, the ice cream was laced with ribbons of thick chocolate syrup.  You could see all of these in the pictures.

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Serious chocolate lovers will love this.  That’s for sure.  I’m actually thinking about giving Superman the 1.66-liter tub for him to try.

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“Extra” Extra Hot Chili

9 04 2009

ONE OF my guiltiest pleasures is Lucky Me! Pancit Canton Extra Hot Chili.

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Only (at least) two packets of Lucky Me! Extra Hot Chili will do!

 

Not one packet, but two.  Always two for one serving!

 

And as if being the “Extra Hot Chili” variant would be enough – or even more – for one person to take, I would always reach out for my McCormick Ground Cayenne Pepper.  When I make my sauce mix, I always hit the flavor pack, soy sauce and oil with three dashes of the cayenne pepper.  Exactly three dashes!

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The burst of red in this photo is courtesy of exactly three dashes of McCormick Ground Cayenne Pepper.

 

And this is how O.C. I could get with cooking the noodles.  I bring the water to a boil, throw in the noodles.  Time it for exactly one minute.  Take off the lid of the pan, stir the noodles.  Replace the lid.  Time it for exactly another minute.  Then, remove the lid and count exactly 30 seconds!  I turn off the fire.  Run cold tap water through the sink, then drain the noodles (but not under the running cold tap water!).  I run cold tap water just so I could take the steam down a little bit, as well as prevent the pipes from getting shocked.

 

I always use an alarm timer when I cook my noodles.  I would throw away batches that would appear or taste overcooked or soggy.

 

Once I mix the noodles well with the sauce, I hit it one more time with one dash of cayenne pepper.  Then  I top everything with blanched cabbage, baby bok choy, or “Pechay Baguio.”

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My "extra" extra hot chili Lucky Me! Pancit Canton.

 

That’s how I want my instant pancit canton.

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Even with just instant pancit canton, I've got to have my veggies!

 





The Soup Kitchen in Glorietta 5

9 04 2009
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The very nice interiors of The Soup Kitchen at its new home in the new Glorietta 5.

 

ONE REASON I have kept coming back to the newly opened Glorietta 5 is because I have been craving for my favorite soup from – wherelse?! – The Soup Kitchen.  The first time I was there, the first level security guard politely told me that it (The Soup Kitchen) was still closed.  I took a moment’s pause as I gathered back my composure that got shaken by the unequivocal conviction with which he told me, “Sir, still closed.  Second level po yun.  Dun!”  Borrowing the signature pouting of a very Zoolander male model, he punctuated his sentence with the pursing of his lips towards the direction of panels of wood and tarpaulin that said something like “soon to open…”  I sort of got amused with this seemingly crafty (in a good way) guard that I quizzed him to no end about the many stores.  Pleasantly surprising, he knew everything about this new shopping and dining hub that is Glorietta 5.  So, mad props to the guy!

 

Returning a couple of weeks later, on the evening of the 9th of March, I found myself finally comfortably seated at the well-appointed The Soup Kitchen.  First thing that jumped right off to me was how much more spacious and better lit this new outlet was, compared to its Glorietta 1 predecessor.  I instantly took a mental note that I would definitely keep coming back to The Soup Kitchen to take my early evening light dinners when I do my weekly “special” Monday night grocery shopping.

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My favorite Hearty Vegetable Soup... and yes, the Pepper Mill!

 

Unike other patrons who request to sample each and every soup offering at the store (which the staff politely and so graciously offer), I’ve stuck to just one – the Hearty Vegetable – which to me was more like their own version of the classic Minestrone.  Minestrone, after all, is soup made from a variety of vegetables, with lots of tomatoes and flavored with generous dashes of Italian seasoning (think rosemary, thyme, basil, etc.).  I love how they make their Hearty Vegetable Soup.  They always serve it piping hot (not quite but almost boiling!).  And it has always been chockful with chunks of fresh vegetables – cubes of golden potatoes, diced tomatoes, Spanish onions, and celery stalks.  As I would always like my soup “hot and spicy,” I asked for ground (white) pepper.  The staff went a notch higher by offering me the pepper mill instead!  Now that was something!  You see, one thing I like about cooking is the chance to freshly crack pepper over my dish.  There’s something about cranking the head of a pepper mill that feels chef-like to me.  The sight of a dusting of pepper that just got crushed through the mill, on the surface of my soup, fills my soul.  Weird?!  To accompany my soup, quite overkill, I would always ask for a cup of their really Hot Chocolate for my drink!

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Obviously, this is The Soup Kitchen's Hot Chocolate. Frothy!

 

I usually ask for my soup to come with warmed Cheese Bread (more like a semolina bun!).  But that night, for the first time, I asked for half of their Crabstick Sandwich.  And was I in for a pleasant surprise!  I devoured the sandwich and struggled if I would ask for another half (bummer that I asked for just half!).  Hahaha!  The grainy wheat bread was moist and preserved well by the saran wrap.  The mangoes were fresh, soft and sweet, providing the perfect counterpoint to the mayonnaise (taste-wise) and the sole crisp lettuce leaf (texture-wise).  But the star of the sandwich was the crabstick!  And I know my crabstick.  I would even buy frozen packs for when I feel like making myself my own “kani” sashimi or sushi at home.  The ones The Soup Kitchen used were topnotch.  The flakiness was as close to real crab meat as crabsticks could get.  The red stain was not off-putting.  And most importantly, the flavor was just how a tub of freshly picked Maine crabmeat would taste – sweet with the slightest hint of saltwater.

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The Soup Kitchen's Crabstick Sandwich (half). Worth coming back for!

 

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Doesn't this crabstick sandwich want you to just lick it?

 

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...and bite it?!

 





From Bacolod City – Bob’s Bakery Café’s Pavlova

9 04 2009

 

ONE THING I have always been thankful for is being on the receiving end of other people’s kindness.  In mid-March, one of our engineers (John Francis) kept telling me to be on stand by for something he wanted me to try.  I think it took about a week of almost constant reminders from him.  And I have to say, with every mention, my mouth watered and my curiosity got piqued all the more.

 

And I didn’t even know what I was in for!

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On a lunch break from a day-long training, he approached me and handed me a box that finally revealed to me – almost revealed! – what my palate was in for.  The box said, “BOB’S BAKERY CAFE.”  And even before I could tug at the ends of the environmentally sound biodegrable ribbon, the giver told me that it was (lovingly) hand-carried by his girlfriend on a flight back from one of the queen cities of the south – Bacolod City!

 

Now, how could one not feel thankful about that?!

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Opening the box, the object of curiosity finally really revealed itself to be a classic – the Pavlova.  I opined to the giver that beyond being a dessert consisting of a meringue base slathered with whipped cream and filled with some kind of fruit, the Pavlova is actually a dessert named after the famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova!  He was kind of surprised that I knew that bit of trivia.  Oh well, I guess it pays to be a voracious reader.  Just some tricks I could pull from my magician’s hat when the moment was right for it.

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I learned that Bob’s Bakery Café is an institution in Bacolod City.  I’ve only been to that city once, for a couple of days when I spoke to the ECE graduating class and conducted interviews at the University of St. La Salle.  The only local delicacy stop we made was to a hole-in-the-wall place that specialized on something called “inipit” (layers of sponge with a cream filling).  Clearly not to Bob’s Bakery Café.  So I was so glad I would finally get to try one of their specialties.

 

Before anything else, I have to say that this Pavlova was quite sturdy, having been able to withstand air travel and come out of it, not only alive, but really “standing tall.”  It was a proud stack of four meringue layers, sandwiching in between a stain of mango puree, thick slather of whipped cream, and really generous layers of sliced ripe mangoes.  The top was beautifully finished with crushed meringue and slivers of almonds.  It looked so much more like a work of art that I couldn’t get to slice through it.  But then again, the flesh was weak – and Spider-man was waiting too!  Hahaha!

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Spider-man beams at the sight of Bob's Bakery Café's Pavlova!

 

The one best thing about Bob’s Pavlova was that it wasn’t sweet at all.  I mean, in an annoying way it wasn’t.  The sweetness was actually playfully shy – teasing even – that I found myself just taking forkfuls.  The mangoes were really fresh, bursting with the actual sweet component that blended well with the “creaminess” of the whipped cream.  The texture of the meringue was at first a little fluffy, then it became more chewy.  But it was never like taffy at all.  That would’ve been disaster to me.  Bob’s Pavlova was unlike that.  The texture of the meringue allowed for the four layers to stand firm without crushing the one at the bottom.  A part of me was actually half-expecting to open the box and see a dessert or a cake that suffered from all the handling.

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The slice standing went to Stave Michael.

 

But Bob’s Pavlova was a testament to pastry skills that give forth a dessert that was truly an achievement in form and in substance.  How I wish I could easily get it from here on a whim!  I would’ve wanted to keep the pavlova to myself.  But I guess, I’d rather earn brownie points (from Spider-man!) for sharing.  Hahaha!