Sunday, March 31, 2013

Aye Caramba!


Yet another no-meat request by my sister for Holyweek is okoy. Okoy or caramba as my mother calls it, is one of her specialties, so on Black Saturday it was her turn to labor in the kitchen. Okoy, ukoy, or caramba, is a Filipino version of shrimp fritters. It is a medley of bean sprouts, tofu, and shrimps bound together by orange batter, fried and eaten with spicy vinegar on the side. The orange tint of the okoy is owed to a good dose of annatto in the batter. A fairly common street food in Manila (which prevalence predates another orange-colored street food called kwek-kwek), okoy is normally eaten as a snack but my family likes eating it with rice, as a main course.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the kwek-kwek, a popular street food which is an egg (be it either chicken or quail) dipped in orange batter and deep fried to a crisp, was conceived when an okoy vendor accidentally dropped a hard-boiled egg into the okoy batter and decided to fry it.

Speaking of colored eggs-- HAPPY EASTER, EVERYONE!

Okoy

Ingredients
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
2/3 cup Cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Medium Eggs
1 cup shrimp broth or water
1/4 cup achuete (annatto) water (2 tablespoons achuete seeds steeped in 1/4 cup water until the water turns red orange. Discard seeds and set aside resultant liquid.)
3 cups togue (Mungbean Sprouts), washed
1 cup small Shrimps
1/2 cup kinchay, sliced
1/2 cup tokwa (tofu), cubed and fried
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Cooking oil for pan frying

Procedure
Mix together first 6 ingredients to make a batter.

Add in togue, shrimps, kinchay, and tokwa. Season with salt and pepper.

Put just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Place over medium heat.

Scoop the batter (about half a cup) onto the hot pan, and flatten with a spoon until about half an inch thick.

Fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Serve with vinegar, for dipping.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Seafood Chowder for Lent


For the past three days, we have been subsisting on non-beef, pork, or chicken based food and Seafood Chowder. I made a huge batch of the chowder last Wednesday and we have been having it for lunch ever since, in observance of Lent. Tradition dictates that Lent is the time of penitence and sacrifice in all aspects of a Catholic's life. All, including food, and seafood was considered to be the least extravagant of the options. That was true, a very long time ago I suppose, because these days, seafood costs just as much as beef, some even more expensive.

Anyway. At the behest of sister, I made my very first pot of seafood chowder. It took a long time to make for two reasons. First, there are a lot of ingredients and they require a lot of work to prep. For instance-- The clams needed to be soaked in fresh water and given time to cough up sand. The mussels had to be washed well and their whiskers pulled and trimmed. The shrimp had to be peeled and de-veined. Secondly, I made the broth base from scratch which required a good solid hour to simmer. A must, to make really good chowder.

I used Barefoot Contessa's much-raved about recipe for Seafood Chowder (recipe below). As with most of the recipes I've used, I made some tweaks to suit my taste and basically, what available ingredients I have to work with. I did not have monkfish, so I used cream dory. Any white fish will work, I think. I did not have crab meat, so I replaced it with mussels and clams. You get the drift.


Seafood Chowder

Ingredients
1 pound large shrimp (32 to 36 per pound), peeled and deveined (save shells for stock)
1/2 pound scallops
1/2 pound monkfish
1/2 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over to remove shells
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1 cup peeled and medium-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1/2 cup medium-diced yellow onion (1 onion)
1 cup medium-diced celery (3 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced small white or red potatoes
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 recipe Seafood Stock (see recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions
Cut the shrimp, scallops, and monkfish into bite-sized pieces and place them in a bowl with the crabmeat.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter; add the carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, and corn and saute over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are barely cooked, stirring occasionally. Add the flour; reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the Seafood Stock and bring to a boil. Add the seafood; reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 7 to 10 minutes, until the fish is just cooked. Add the heavy cream, if desired, and the parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Seafood Stock:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
Shells from 1 pound large shrimp
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup good white wine
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
10 sprigs fresh thyme, including stems

Warm the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the shrimp shells, onions, carrots, and celery and saute for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add 1 1/2 quarts of water, the white wine, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a sieve, pressing the solids. You should have approximately 1 quart of stock. You can make up the difference with water or wine if you need to.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Organic Cafe at Nurture Village

Chicken Sandwich
Php135

Roasted chicken flakes in wheat bread served with potato chips

"Committed to making life a wondrous experience, Nurture Village create and offers healthy and delicious cuisine including delectable nonvegetarian and vegetarian dishes."


Exodus started yesterday for Metro Manila. Today, Maundy Thursday, is officially a non-working holiday. While almost everybody is going somewhere else from now until Easter Sunday, either for reflection or relaxation, I would most likely be staying at home for both. Besides, the traffic situation going to every popular destination for Lent, as with every year before this, will be like Calvary. Pardon the pun.

If there were some place I would not mind going to though, it would be Tagaytay City. It is a tranquil place, with awe-inspiring views and refreshing cool weather. This, I suppose, explains why the place is replete with convents, seminaries, retreat houses, and churches. 

Aside from religious establishments, Tagaytay City is also home to places that devote themselves to pampering and relaxation, among them, Nurture Village. That said, an ideal trip to Tagaytay for Maundy Thursday would be to do the Visita Iglesia among the churches and religious sites there and  thereafter head over to Nurture Village, if not for a massage, a Holyweek-compliant meal.

I say this because as I rifle through the food notes filed in my brain, there are not many restaurants that make healthier food options central in their menu. The cafe at Nurture Village is one of the very few that do. Another delightful tidbit about this place is that they grow their own organic vegetables, so you are sure that whatever you get in the cafe is fresh as can be.


Nurture Village is located in Barangay Maitim II West, Tagaytay City. Visit their website at http://www.nurture.com.ph.

Aside from spa services and dining, Nurture Village also accepts reservations for corporate functions, Glamping, and weddings. For more details or reservations, contact:
Mobile - (0918)8888SPA; (0917)6878873; (0920)9505724; (0922)8988654
Landline - (02)7109786; (046)5126273

Friday, March 22, 2013

There is no C in Krazy Garlik

Garlicky Crispy Pata
Php695
Iced Tea (refillable)
Php110
Since we're on the topic of birthdays, after my sister, it's my brother's turn to celebrate his. We could not celebrate it on the exact date of his birthday so we decided to do so on March 9, 2013, a Saturday, at the SM Mall of Asia. There's the rub. Unlike the rest of the country, we had no idea that that Saturday was one of the designated dates for the wildly popular 4th Philippine International Pyromusical Competition. Naturally, the place was packed to the hilt. So packed that my brother, who went there ahead of us, could not even get to any parking of the lots of that massive mall. So we had a slight change in plans.

We headed towards Resorts World Manila. We got there past 8PM, so we were decidedly hungry and thirsty. I remember thinking to myself that I want a restaurant where I can get good refillable iced tea. Because that is the first thing that I am ordering, and I will require lots of it. So, after climbing to the second floor of the Newport Mall, we immediately decided to have dinner in another Bistro Group member restaurant, Krazy Garlik, where of course they had "infinity" iced tea.

Baba Ghanoush
Php275
Fortunately, the little detour from MOA proved to be a good one. Service was fast and attentive at Krazy Garlik and the meal was lovely. For appetizer, we ordered Baba Ghanoush.

40 Kloves Garlic Chicken
(to share) Php695
Grilled Tuna Belly
Php425
Black Squid Ink Rice
(to share) Php365
Our main courses comprised a full-on feast-- Grilled Tuna Belly, 40 Kloves Garlic Chicken and Garlicky Crispy Pata. We had two kinds of rice, plain and Squid Ink Rice. 

Forest Pizza
Php495
We even ordered pizza. We chose the one called Forest, which had "button and shitake mushrooms, cream, Italian Cheese, and a dash of truffle oil." While everything had rave reviews from our hungry family of 5, The pizza, for me, is the most memorable of the bunch.

Krazy Garlik Newport Mall is at 2nd Floor, Newport Mall Resorts World Manila, Newport Blvd., Pasay City. For reservations contact (02)621-7148.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Little Sister's Birthday Dinner at Ma Maison

Torikatsu
served with rice, side salad, and miso soup
This year, we celebrated little sister's birthday at Ma Maison. A member of the Bistro Group of restaurants, Ma Maison serves up Japanese food with visibly European influences at surprisingly affordable prices.

When I first heard about Ma Maison, I never would have guessed that it was a Japanese restaurant. The name itself is French, which translates to "my house" in English. This rings true even after you have walked into the restaurant. The interior design of the establishment made me think I was stepping inside an English cottage. And if I had not researched about the restaurant's menu before I went there, I could have easily ordered fish and chips for dinner.

Tonkatsu
served with rice, miso soup, and side salad
Gyudon
The menu of course, listed down classic Japanese food favorites along with some famous western entrees like Scotch Egg and Escargots Baked with Garlic Butter. Creatures of habit that we are however, we stuck to the tried and tested. We ordered Tonkatsu, Torikatsu, Gyudon, and Beef Skewer Teriyaki. The Tonkatsu and Torikatsu came with rice, side salad, and miso soup.

For drinks, we mostly had their house iced tea, which came refillable at Php110. I liked their house iced tea, which I think is identical to the iced teas of most of the Bistro Group restaurants.


Ma Maison-Greenbelt 2 is located at G/F Greenbelt 2, Esperanza Street, Legazpi Village, Makati.

Contact (02) 729-9122 for reservations.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Buddha-Bar Manila (Last of 3 Parts): The Place to Be when in Manila


"First opened in Paris, France in 1996, Buddha Bar is as a world class bar, lounge and restaurant chain located in major cities such as Paris, Washington, Dubai, Monte Carlo, Keiv and now in Manila. Located at Picar Place Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City, Buddha Bar Manila is a 3-storey establishment that can accommodate over 500 guests to its lounge, restaurant and roof deck. In the Buddha-bar wonderland, your taste buds travel to distant lands and inventiveness nests in your plate."


It was my first time at Buddha-Bar Manila and I was not quite sure what to expect when I got there. Sure I have read about Buddha-Bar time and again in celebrity news as it seems to be one of the favorite hangouts of Hollywood royalty like Madonna, J-Lo, and Cameron Diaz but still, I was awe-struck as I entered its massive ornate doors. A golden Buddha that I would otherwise find to be a completely serene vision had it not be intimidatingly gigantic in girth, sits above the first floor lounge. It looks after a meticulously designed interior that is both impressive and welcoming at the same time.

Buddha-Bar Manila has three floor levels. The first floor houses the lounge, one end of which is an imposing well-stocked bar. At the other end is an Asian-inspired staircase that reminds me of fight scenes in restaurants from period Chinese movies. It leads the guest to the restaurant proper which is located on the second floor of the building. 

The second floor is home to more Asian and Buddhism inspired artifacts and other artwork. Against this backdrop are beautifully arranged table-settings and at one side, a sushi bar where diners can watch Buddha-Bar's skillful sushi chefs strut their stuff. There is also an outdoor area, for guests who prefer to lounge al fresco.

The third level is an open-air roof deck that offers a breath-taking view of the Makati skyline called the Terrace. You could get there by stairs, but everybody there will recommend you take the elevator (For good reason, I should say). It also has a bar, but unlike the one downstairs, this one has a more Caribbean vibe to it.

The restroom located at the basement is also a sight to behold. Decked in intriguing images and prints and adorned with elegant fixtures, it is a fashionably designed restroom, easily at the top of my list of best restrooms in the country. If I ever thought about making one up...

Buddha-Bar also has a boutique that sells exclusive products like Buddha Bar CDs, spa products, T-shirts and other novelty items. The stuffed Buddha Bar panda bear is really adorable.

By the numbers, Buddha-Bar Manila, touted to be the biggest in the world thus far, has a total of 528 seats, 2 bars, 1 restaurant, 1 lounge, 1 terrace, and 3 VIP rooms.

Buddha-Bar Manila is at Picar Place, Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City. For inquiries and reservations, contact (02)856-6719 or (02)856-6859.

Find out more about Buddha-Bar Manila at:

OPERATIONAL HOURS
Monday - Thursday: 12noon - 2AM
Friday - until 3AM
Saturday - 5PM-3AM

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Buddha-Bar Manila (Part 2): Elegant Food and More Exciting Promos

Thai Curry Prawns
Fresh Tiger Prawns in Red Thai Curry Sauce with coconut and lemongrass rice

(Click to enlarge)
More than just a bar, Buddha-Bar is also a restaurant that serves up artfully plated cuisine that does wonders for the taste buds. Try the Thai Curry Prawns on for size. It is an exotic mix of fresh tiger prawns, red Thai curry sauce with coconut and lemongrass rice.

Oh, and they create fantastic desserts, too. The Chocolate Sesame Bar, for instance, is a unique dessert made up of layers of of wafer, sesame seeds, and dark chocolate. I loved it to bits.

These and the rest of the best of Buddha-Bar's menu graced the stage at the 7 Stars event held last March 1, 2013, and they made up for a delectable parade of gastronomic delights.

Buddha-Bar Signature Iced Tea
Kiwi and Lychee Syrup and special tea combinations
Crunchy Rice Shrimp Jalapeno (Deep fried Japanese rice with topped with Shrimp, Avocado and Jalapeno served with Unagi and/or our Buddha-Bar Sauce) and Boneless Chicken Wings (Deep fried boneless Chicken Wings tossed in Chinese Wine with Shallots and Red Onions served with spicy Thai Ginger Sauce Dip)

Sea Bass Tamarind
Roasted Sea Bass marinated in Ginger,
Lemongrass and Cumin with Sweet Tangy Tamarind Sauce
Black Pepper Beef with Thai Basil (Deep Fried Tender Beef slices tossed in signature Black Pepper Sauce) and Pink Lady (Breaded Shrimp with Avocado, Cucumber topped with Surimi Mix. Best served with Unagi Sauce and/or Buddha-Bar Sauce)

Buddha-Bar Chicken Salad
Marinated Grilled Chicken
tossed in Buddha-Bar Chicken Dressing
with Sesame Seeds, Chinese Cabbage and Crispy Wanton Chips
Chocolate Sesame Bars
Signature crunchy bars with wafer, sesame and dark chocolate
Chocolat
Dark Chocolate Cake with silky Valrhona Ganache
Trio Of Creme Brulee
Classic French custard in three flavors- vanilla bean, coffee
and chocolate
It was a memorable night, and many many things make me want to go back. One of them being the awesome promos that Buddha-Bar Manila has lined up for beloved guests-- the Business Lunch (Php895 Net/person from 12-2:30PM, Monday-Friday), Early Bird (20% off on all food items from 6-8PM, Monday-Saturday), and After Work (50% off on all standard drinks by the glass from 5-8PM, Monday-Saturday), and not to mention the fabulous Weekends at the Terrace.

(Click images to enlarge)

Buddha-Bar Manila is at Picar Place, Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City.
For inquiries and reservations, contact (02)856-6719 or (02)856-6859.

Find out more about Buddha-Bar Manila at:

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