A heady broth to start the day right

9 09 2009
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This turned out to be perfect to start the day – Ysma's "Tinolang Manok" (“Chicken Tinola” – Chicken in Ginger Broth with Chayote and Chili Tops).

HARRY STAMPER, one of my good friends and an avid reader of my blog – I guess especially while on an oil rig somewhere out there in the vastness of the seas – knew exactly what other analogy I was going for to make a case of my somewhat disappointing sandwich of chicken and ham with gruyere on Turkish bread.  He made it very clear on the comment that he left on my post.

Once again – and quite obviously – we both turn to Sheldon of “The Big Bang Theory” for wisdom.


Sheldon :  “I believe the Szechuan Palace has been passing off orange chicken as tangerine chicken.  And I intend to confront them.”

Sheldon :  “Howard, I’m going to need another Mandarin lesson.  I obviously didn’t make my point with those people.”

Howard  :  “For God’s sake, Sheldon, if you don’t like the tangerine chicken don’t order the tangerine chicken.”

Sheldon :  “I like tangerine chicken I’m just not getting tangerine chicken.”


I’m not about to talk about orange chicken or tangerine chicken here.  And not even lemon chicken, which I’ve actually loved and with which I’m quite more familiar.  My point is, like Sheldon, we do sometimes have an uncompromising stance on how some of our most-loved dishes should taste like.

Having been proclaimed by Friendship as “Hari ng Sabaw” (King of Soup – however silly that sounds!), I take great pride in all the brothy dishes I make.  I’m particularly fond of my “Tinolang Manok” (“Chicken Tinola” – Chicken in Ginger Broth with Chayote and Chili Tops).  So it goes without saying that I’m a bit critical about other people’s versions of it.  I’m not saying mine is the best.  I just definitely make it the way I’ve been used to.

So when the opportunity to sample somebody else’s chicken tinola presented itself, I jumped on it.  Which literally meant having to beg the person to bring some to work.  Which – quite fortunately – he did.

Ysma’s chicken tinola wasn’t fancy.  It was as simple as the dish traditionally is.  And right through the disposable container it came in, I could see that Ysma took me up on my challenge to fill up my portion with as much sliced chayote as he could fit in.  He couldn’t understand why I love the vegetable so much.  Hahaha!

Eventhough it is made up of only a few and easily sourced ingredients, I have to say that I’ve tasted so many more versions of it that I didn’t like than I did.  So for me, how one makes chicken tinola is a good way to judge his or her cooking.  And as I’ve told Ysma, he definitely passed my chicken tinola challenge.  With the first sip of the broth, I was already able to tell that he first allowed all the bulbous aromatics to sweat in hot oil – mellowing, sweetening, then marrying perfectly the strong flavors of garlic, onion, and ginger.  He then added the chicken pieces to saute, then simmer in just a little liquid (he stressed – “distilled” water) to tenderize and develop a more robust flavor before all the remaining liquid to make enough soup was added.

It’s a very simple dish.  But it is in the way it is prepared that makes the difference.  It takes a little time and it takes practice.  I’ve tasted enough watered down, bland renditions to be able to tell.

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I think Ysma and I share the same secret in delivering a really full-bodied, robust, and heady broth for Chicken Tinola!

A desk full of treats from North to South

9 09 2009

EDIBLE TREATS sent my way couldn’t help but turn me into somebody loved.  I mean, you can’t help but feel you are worth somebody else’s time and effort.  The human gene doesn’t always come with a polypeptide chain for thoughtfulness.  So something has to be said about people who remember.

And it’s always nice to be remembered by friends who come back from trips.  Lately, at least four goodies found their way to my desk – two from Baguio and two from Iloilo.  Three of these I’ve always loved.  The fourth one was a pleasant discovery.  The best thing about all these treats is that I understand – and have actually encountered in my life – all the ingredients on the label.

Good Shepherd Lengua.  Usually, this is called “Lengua de Gato,” literally translated as cat’s tongue.  The name is descriptive of how the cookies look like.  I’ve had this many times before and I do remember always buying the ones a former office cafeteria concessionaire made and sold.  But this was the first time I got the ones “Good Shepherd” makes.  I’ve always thought they only churn out their legendary ube jam (purple yam jam).  I have to say their lengua is the best I’ve ever had.  It’s really sweet – actually on the fence of being cloying and just right – but is not annoyingly so.  I love how the very porous underside of the cookies slowly turn into mush in my tongue, releasing all that buttery goodness tempered with the fragrance of good vanilla.

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Good Shepherd Lengua


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Each Good Shepherd lengua boasts the goodness of fresh butter and the fragrance of really good vanilla.

Good Shepherd Ube Jam.  The first time I went up to Baguio, this was the only thing I was adamant to get.  I fortunately got a couple of bottles.  But being the inexperienced traveler that I was then, I ended up with a duffel bag of clothes stained with the bright shade of purple, with the contents letting off an arresting sweet scent once the zipper parted the two toothed edges of my genuine leather bag.  I felt sorry that some of my tops became adorned with shards of glass.  But I was beyond consolation when I realized that my dreams then of purple bliss went kaput.  But by this time, like most of the country, I’ve loved this ube (purple yam) jam for years.  It has become synonymous with the country’s summer capital and has arguably remained to be the best commercially available version of this Filipino treat.  It’s still the smoothest and it’s not so dense.  And, as claimed by bold uppercase letters on the label, Good Shepherd Ube Jam has remained to be “NO ARTICIAL COLOR ADDED.”

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Consistently smooth and yummy, a bottle gets wiped out in one sitting.

Mama’s Kitchen Mango Chewies.  Proudly declared to be homemade in Arevalo, Iloilo City, Mama’s Kitchen’s Mango Chewies belong to my short list of the best Filipino cookies.  Though this one has the reputation of being hard-to-find (or should it be “hard-to-come-by”?).  Only one person knew where to get this exactly.  That was, until one of my new friends brought back this box for me.  And where did he find it?!  At the domestic airport of all places!  I’ve been to Iloilo myself a few times and I had never seen this in any of the airport stalls.  What I like about this cookie is that it does taste original, not a dumbed-down version of any western cookie like the chocolate chip or the classic butter.  What I love most is its tender crumb that turns into a really chewy, almost taffy-like consistency, foiled only by the candied mangoes and the cashew nuts.  And it has to be said that its best quality is that it is not sweet at all.  Sinfully delicious but not sweet.

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Left at my desk – Mama's Kitchen Mango Chewies. This is arguably one of the Philippines' finest!


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Up close... see the candied mangoes and cashew nuts generously embedded in each "mango chewies" cookie!

Guimaras Fruits Fruta_Piaya with Real Guimaras Mango Fruit.  I’ve never appreciated the “piaya,” which is simply an unleavened flattened bread with muscovado sugar filling.  But with this “Fruta_Piaya” from Guimaras, I made an exception.  This is still the usual piaya, but instead of the muscovado, it’s Guimaras mangoes that’s inside.  Why are they so good?  It’s all in the label.

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Guimaras Fruits "Fruta_Piaya" filled with delicious Guimaras mangoes.


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That's the look of perfectly baked piaya! Definitely loved this!


9 09 2009

TODAY marks the 40th day of former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino’s passing.  Most everywhere I go, I still see yellow – a reminder of our nation’s beloved icon of democracy.

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Yellow ribbons are still around Town.


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I loved how the wind brought this ribbon to life. My camera just didn't really capture it.

In the flurry of the many things that were demanding my attention this morning – many approvals that had to be sent on their way – I was told by a colleague that Sen. Noynoy Aquino had already made at announcement at Club Filipino.

He has accepted the nation’s call.  He has responded to the invitation of destiny.

All the best to you Noynoy.  I could hear Kris’s voice ringing in my head, “Go, Noy!”

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IN ANTICIPATION OF SEPTEMBER 9th... I've never taken off my yellow Nike baller ID, a very simple homage to the late president and the Aquino family. Unlike the "livestrong" line, this one says "GOOOAL!"... how apropos to Noynoy's presidential bid.