Congee: Memories of Warmth

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Author Ramon C. Sunico‘s essay in the anthology Comfort Food is called Rainfood and talks about a dish that has been much maligned but at the same time held dear by its devotees: the humble rice porridge.

Throughout the Asian region, people know it by many names: congee in China and areas where many people of Chinese descent have settled, juk in Korea, zosui (for the thick stuff) and kayu (watery gruel) in Japan, and lugaw in the Philippines.  Whatever you call it, its most basic ingredients and the process used to cook them are practically the same.  You have rice and some liquid to cook it in – broth or water, the choice is completely up to you.

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Sweet and Peppery is the Choc for Me!

This has to be one of the most unusual chocolate treats I’ve seen in ages: Sarotti Grand Chocolat in Mandel-Chili – milk chocolate with almonds candied over with a chili-infused caramel!  Interesting, ne?  The smooth creamy sweetness of the chocolate (and mind: it’s not too sweet) goes a treat with the peppery almonds.  The combination seems innocuous at first bite, then it has an eye-popping heat to it as you swallow. 

I found this huge bar in the imported chocolates section of the Landmark supermarket; at about PhP 131.00 for 200 grams, it’s not a bad deal.  This is fantastic for nibbling on your lonesome with a cup of unsweetened latte or a capuccino – or for sharing with friends who aren’t squeamish.  (Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to see what will happen if I substitute 50 grams of this instead of plain milk choc in my chocolate-chunk cookie recipe…) 

The Kitchen Maven’s Guide to Holiday Gift-giving

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It’s that time of year again when I start browsing through supermarket shelves for the nicest ingredients to put into edible gifts for the people I hold very dear to me.  You see, I’m one of those kitchen-crazy girls who would rather make presents rather than buy them.    It’s my personal opinion that you show how much a person means to you by actually taking the time and putting in some extra effort for them as opposed to just buying something from a store.  (Sounds like something from a Christmas song, ne?)  Take it from someone who actually stayed up one night to do some heavy-duty baking to impress one guy: the effort is always worth it.  (As to whether or not the guy was impressed, however, is something I still don’t know the answer to up to this day…)

I started baking for family and friends nearly eight years ago when I baked apple pies like the one above as presents.  Later on, my Holiday kitchen repertoire expanded to include old-school gingerbread cookies, chocolate chunk cookies, brownies, and toffee bars.  I’ve mentioned before that I try one new recipe every year along with the usual fare; this year’s newbie – my Bad Girl Cookies – are a definite keeper.

When everything’s said and done, of course, you still have to keep a few things in mind with regard to making and giving food as Holiday presents.  Here are my personal guidelines:

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Nom-nom-NAMA!!!

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I blame Vince for the recent spate of nama chocolate madness that swept the office last week.  Our great and mighty leader was in Bali for much of the previous week and returned with a small sky-blue box holding the most decadent white chocolate truffle cubes on the planet: Royce White Nama!

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Nama chocolates are essentially an amalgam of chocolate and cream molded into cubes and rolled in either cocoa or – in the case of the white nama – grated white chocolate.  Nama means “naked” or “pure” in Japanese; in this case, the name applies because you’re looking at chocolate in its purest form.  Indeed, the cream only seems to serve to give solidity – but, oh!  How toothsome to the bite, how it melts in one’s mouth!

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