Singaporian-inspired Sotanghon and Mexican Menudo Rojo

Out of boredom, I stumbled onto LJ this afternoon.  Well, I also wanted to check out who's still on here.  And, since I am already signed on, I might as well chronicle the last recipe two recipes I experimented on.

All those years in Arkansas and Texas (2003-2011) made me miss Menudo Rojo.  So, last Monday, I made my very first version.  After perusing several websites and blogs about this rich tripe and pig's feet soup (sometimes beef foot), I was certainly confident with the process.  I even had all the ingredients listed by most of the sites I checked out:  Guajillo peppers, check.  Ancho peppers, check.

Though I would have chosen to make the stock with beef foot (not available at my market this time), I was partial to pig's foot.  Maybe the next time, I'll use beef's foot.

The result was certainly very satisfying.  I should have been cooking this more often.

Side note:  The addition of mint leaves must have been for aroma for balance.  Don't miss on this, as it might be a good tip after all.  I'm sure Vietnamese cuisine uses lots of mint, and their soups are really good, too.

The Sotanghon dish is a variation inspired by the Singaporean version of this dish.  For this version of mine, I used:  good quality vermicelli noodles(6 small bundles), a bunch of spring onions chopped, 3 whole garlic minced (go for it, the garlic goodness is great), 3 tbps soy sauce, 3 tbps fish sauce, 3 cups wood ear mushrooms soaked and jullianed, 1 lb ground beef, 2 tbps fresh ground black pepper, 2 tbps minced fresh ginger, 2 large onions diced, 2 cups water or as needed for cooking through.  I omitted the curry to make a different version.  The result is a good mix of crunchy bits from the wood ear mushrooms and spring onions, with a good amount of heat fromt he ground black peppers and ginger.

Stir fry the meat until browned.  Set aside.  Start your onions, garlic and ginger with the left over grease from the ground beef (it should be enough), toss all other ingredients and stir continuously until well blended, including the beef.  Add the first cup of water, but only add more water as necessary depending on how hot your wok fire is.

The SIngaporian version I tried before included curry powder and scrambled eggs for topping.  Looking online, several other protean choices could be added such as shrimp, ground pork or even ground lamb.  This could also be a vegetarian dish by skipping all the meats and using tofu or just add other vegetables.  Enjoy!


Lechon (Charcoal Roasted Rotisserie Piglet).  Not entirely Lechon de Leche or suckling pig, the size is just right for a not-too-thick fat around the back and belly.  Perfect!

Our potluck, anchored by the Lechon, was a cornucopia of mostly Ilocano Regional cuisine.  There was Pinakbet (sauteed mix-vegetables with sufrito Filipino and seasoned with anchovy sauce), Green Chili Adobo (native Serano-like chilies cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and cracked black pepper corns), Wahoo Ceviche, Goat Stew, Mung Bean soup and Goat Ceviche.  Added to these are Chef Kevin Mize's American Southern Apple-wood Smoked Ham Hocks with Black Eyed Peas and Mustard Greens; and my updated version of Pancit Bihon Guisado.

For the Pancit Bihon/Canton Guisado, I started with a whole chicken stock seasoned with clove, onion, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Chicken backs, Chinese-style sausages (chorizo), and chicken liver was added for flavor.  The shredded white meat was added to the final dish later on.  Match stick cut vegetables were stir-fried separately.  Noodles were softened separately.  The final assembly was just to put the layers together in a cohesive blend of layers (just like lasagna layers).  Garnish of Napa cabbage, Chinese Parsley (Yuchoy), crushed crackling (chicharon) and slivers of sweet bell peppers.  Served in a large wooden bowl lined with fresh roasted banana leaves and served with a side of lime and fish sauce, this is festive without the typical overcooked and soggy vegetables.

Tinola or Tomyam

Mash-ups always happen in my kitchen.  Afterall, living with my transplanted husband, Chef Kevin Mize, from southern USA and my best friend, Master Chef Dan Ricci, an Italian American foodie, our pantry is just as varied as Santi's deli.  Okay, almost.

Since I could'nt make up my mind or either tinola or pinatisang manok, I decided to pull tomyam spicyness out to make the traditional tinola new.  Now, calm down.  I do love tinola.  Mind you, I didn't forget the green papaya, ginger, onion, garlic and patis.  I just wanted to make tinola spicy enough for a braised dish instead of a soup.

Skin the entire chicken and render its fat until brownd and crispy.  Set aside.  On a medium heated pan with two tbps of rendered fat, saute onions to sweat.  Add minced garlic and ginger.  Toss in the cut up chicken parts.  Add 1/8 cup of fish sauce.  Simmer in low fire for 15 minutes or until sauce is almost dry and chicken pieces start to brown.  Add 4 cups of water, papaya chunks and fresh ground black pepper.
After 15 more minutes, add okra, scallions and tomyam paste.  Add chili to taste.  Garnish with crushed chicken skin.  Serve with extra crispy garlic fried rice.

NOTE:  Use a microplane to mince garlic and ginger.  The okra helps in creating a thick sauce.  I would add nice ripe pieces of tomatoes towards the end, had my tomatoes been green.  In lower heat, let garlic rice toast to a decided crispier state.  The contrast with the sauce has a great mouthfeel.


It takes more than passion and determination to make it as an entrepreneur.  We all know this.  We also know that there are but a few out there that are naturally both.  

Today, we hired Choi Calalang.  A recent graduate of Hotel and Restaurant Management with over 7 years of actual experience.  Today, we move forward to a future unknown.  Today, we are happy.

Mercado at Resort World

Seafood Thursdays.  5pm - 11pm P599.00 per person all-you-can-eat.  

We were hoping to try something different than the seafood, however, I failed to check that Thursdays (like today) are the only days they do have seafood.  (It must have been a Thursday then, when we were there last.)

To be honest, it was okay.  There were several choices besides the usual.  I started out with a shrimp siomai dumpling and a cup of chicken soup (Thai style).  The lemon grass flavor on the soup with a liberal amount of chili - yummy.  Not exactly tom yam, but a good reinterpretation of it.  The siomai dumpling is very common.  However, this must have been made in-house as there is a decidedly larger portion of shrimp on top.

Next round, I enjoyed the fish salad last time, so I had to have a bigger portion of it this time.  Steamed fish mixed with mayonnaise and topped with raisins, celery, cheese, etc.  This dish reminds me of the '70's style dish that my Mom used to served using delicious  sea bass.  (I am sure any other larger fish would do justice.)

A few trips to the tempura station, I was finally able to coerce the staff to plate me some freshly cooked ones (right off the fryer).  Yummy, calameri a plenty.  Let me have some of those, too.

Bread and Butter Pudding.  Hmmm.  It was not what I expected.  Somehow, it was lame considering I was hoping for the butter to shine.  It was eggy and not in a good way.  Even the sauce (I was hoping for a rum sauce) did not cut it.

To wash it down, I just had to have it.  There was sago gulamam.  My best way to describe this is Italian Ice meets Philippine Ice.  The ice particles are not flake-like.  It has a decidedly sweet sugar water with red food coloring, tapioca pearls and Gello.  I'd usually pass on anything remotely close to this (including this), however, I somehow wanted a confirmation that this drink/dessert is something I've already outgrown from back when I was 10 yrs. old.

The saving grace:  unlimited San Miguel beer.  Now, this alone, with tempura is worth the price.  I just wished the staff behind the tempura fryer would be more generous and just lay out all the pieces on the warmer.  He keeps them out of reach and not in the warmer to control the portions for when one someone does ask for more.

As it is, I am in the Philippines and this restaurant does make me feel like I am in the Philippines.  No, I was not transported to some exotic world resort.

Diced Hopia or Hopia Dice

"Hopia (Chinese好饼Pe̍h-ōe-jī: hó-piáⁿ; literally "good pastry") is a popular Filipino bean filled pastry originally introduced by Fujianese immigrants in urban centres of the Philippines around the start of the American civil occupation. It is a widely-available inexpensive treat and a favored gift for friends and relatives."

Interesting little morsels in one inch "dice" form, I've never had before.  My friend says its too sweet.  Kevin says he's just not into Philippine tea cakes.  There is no convincing them that these tiny cakes are good eats.  After all, I myself am not sure how to improve upon its flavor.  The filling of mung bean puree' mixed with some sugar is definitely on the acquired taste category.  It did not taste sweet to me.  I think it would be a great compliment to a hot cup of tea or a hot cup of latte'.

There were several versions of hopia at the store, however, I've tried all the rest.  Somehow, I keep going for the mung bean ones, instead of the red bean versions.  I, too, have my "acquired taste" .  So, expect more of these morsels in the grocery cart next time.

A Venetto

A huge poster hanging over our table read something like "Le Vino Grandisimo...".  Of course I am going to ask the waiter what it meant.  And, of course, I was going to bet that he would not know, neither.  Why would I even expect the waiter to know what it meant? I suppose that if you have anything in your restaurant that hangs so prominently, you would at least find out what it said.  For instance, it might have said something totally oppose to your concept or menu (besides the two chefs toasting glasses of wine).  

I digress.  

Our visit was more of a "lets give them a try".  The choices given were A Venetto or Jatujak.  Since I have been to Jatujak three times now, I decided to try the former.  Mind you, this time around I have an Italian American with me, who just loves good pizza.  Not to say that my husband is not an expert, for he is a gourmand on pizza as well.  They both should know that what a good pizza is.


Okay, what went wrong.  I'm not sure yet.  I am undecided as there really was not much to mention.  It was not off-putting, but it was definitely a let-me-never-go-back moment when I stood up.

We ordered the Putanesca Pizza with a family appetizer assortment.  Its is interesting to note that the appetizer arrived just as our pizza was being set on the table.  On the appetizer platter were four pieces of fake crabmeat sticks lamely breaded, unbelievable bland fries (could you at least make them golden brown), corn nuggets (this was actually okay) and finally, wait for it, wait for it, four fried chicken wings lazed with Asian sweet chili sauce!

As we left, we passed the halls and saw Greenwich Pizza.  Should I even dare try theirs?  This is the pizza of my childhood.  And, even as a child, I already knew that their pizza was not pizza nor did it deserved to be called one.

The only resemblance to pizza was that it was made of a round dough with toppings.

My Italian American friend was quiet, so is my husband.  Alas, it was bad and it was not something we wanted to discuss.  It will forever be noted that we will never set foot in there again.

Oh Shakey's, bring me my Mojo back.

Soderno@Molito Lifestyle Market

After the Christmas hiatus, FoodLabinc learned a few more lessons.  Keep it simple.  Keep it great.

From three types of cheesecakes, we are down to two.  What a difference in reception.  It was easier to have customers test out among two types and decide, than it was for three.  And, if the numbers hold true, Chef Kevin's Dark Beer Cheesecake is winning a lot of praises.  We only had one slice left by the end of the night.  Not to say that the other type, NY-style Traditional Cheesecake with its equally outstanding lemon and ricotta flavor was not worthy of comparison.  It deserved to be right next to the Dark Beer Cheesecake.

A ploy perhaps?  I wonder if the customers see the dramatic distinction between the "plain" (we prefer not to use this) one versus the feathered design on the dark beer version?  Certainly, the market we sell to provides ample supply of foodies.  After all, this market is for foodies by foodies.  And, if they want to try "plain", then they are indeed in the wrong place.

So, lesson learned. 

Moving along, we do have chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal and dates cookies.  Two distinctly different cookies.  From the original oatmeal and raisin version, Chef Kevin decided to shake it up a bit by doing dates instead.  So far, the verdict is even.  Although, we did sell out of the cookies, Chef Kevin made more of the chocolate chip cookies in a 4:3 ratio.

The table is dramatically edited.  I wondered for a moment if it was too sparse.  I wanted it to look at lease like something is moving on the table.  Maybe, not.  We'll see.  

Next week, we were thinking of testing a chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake.  See what people think about it.  I am sure mashing two good things in one could work.  How the market will respond, that's what this project is all about.

After all, we are here to learn what works and what doesn't in a more reasonable environment of a weekend market.  Call it being extra cautious.  Since we are new to the nuances of this environment, it sure is worth the try.
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Kamay Kainan at MarketMarket

We keep coming back to this restaurant.  Its not good and its not bad.  Somewhere along the lines of, gee, I wonder if there is something interesting to eat there today.  Okay, let me now refer to this restaurant as another 'default restaurant'. 

When we go grocery shop and find ourselves wondering what to buy, coming up with a grocery list and inspiration sometimes could be a chore.  So, step right in, try some of the dishes.  If anything resonates, aha!  Then, you now have an idea on how to make a better version of this, or a similar version of that.  

On this occasion, we had Dan with us for his very first Filipino meal in the Philippines.  After knowing Dan for the last 11 years, I do know that his adventurous soul would not hesitate to try the familiar or the weird.  Not that I would be surprise if he starts eating bitter melon (I know quite a few Filipinos themselves who would stay away from this Vit. C rich vegetable).  I saw him enjoy escargo in coconut cream sauce, mussels with chili leaves, pineapple, grilled pork belly, pork adobo and eggrolls.  Fairly tame, if you ask me.  But, for his first day in the Philippines, he's got a whole lot more to venture upon.

We are taking him to Soderno on Saturday.  That would be a place where he can try some new Filipino food.  New, as in, new, even to the Filipinos.  Till then, balut (or boiled 14 day old duck embryo egg) will have to wait.

Friday Meeting at Soderno Lifestlye Market

Got there in time for the better parts of the meeting.  As most would expect, Philippine meetings always start late.  So, we intentionally dbloggid the fashionably late entrance.

Another bullshit story of when the water system will be available.  Someone forgot to ask about the rest room facilities.  Parking?  What parking?  Oh, the adjacent lot where all the construction for the newer wing of the Molito Lifestyle Center is expected to be paved soon.  How soon?  Not soon enough.  

It was November 18, 2011 when they opened the doors for Soderno@Molito.  Heralded as the latest lifestyle market in the southern part of Manila, this was to be the newest foodie enclave.  Besides a few interesting finds, they did have a good turn out during the first week.  Through December, supporters kept coming back, but there was a dramatic slump towards the last week of December 16 as the Christmas gift buying frenzy was at its peak.  

Wait a minute.  It died before the Christmas peak?  Not a good sign.  

So, attending this meeting, Kevin had to ask the question.  "What advertising is Soderno doing besides online blogging?"  There was not much of a straight answer.  Not a presentation of sorts where we are spending this amount for ads or this amount for signs, or even this amount for blogging.  Now, wait a minute, I should have gone up and said something.  However, I was reserving my judgement as we ourselves are not quite sure what the next incarnation of Foodlab would be.

What is certain at this point is that we have a successful product in the chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal and raisin cookies.  Also, we did get enough attention on our Dark Beer cheesecake, Hoisin Cheesecake and Traditional NY-style cheesecake.  What is not certain is if this products in this venue would sustain our company.  The answer is obviously no.  The answer leans towards having to expand the market for our successful product introductions to re-sellers.  

In hind-sight, we are glad that we appropriately called our business Foodlab, Inc. as we really intended for it to be an incubator kitchen with revolving products to test.  

Our next test will be decided on shortly.  I am hoping that reception for this would be just as good or better.  
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