Putting a Twist on a Lunchbox Standard

Parmesan Pork Cutlet on White Rice

While I was growing up, fried pork chops or cutlets were a mainstay of the brown Zojirushi vacuum jug lunchbox I carried around until I was a senior in high school.  These would invariably be breaded, seasoned with salt and pepper, and be rather soggy by the time lunchtime rolled around.  Definitely not the most appetizing of meals, but it was a lot neater than a bowl, say, of kare-kareng pata or nilagang baka.

Now that I’m working, I usually have lunch at any of a number of nearby restaurants.  However, this does not mean that I won’t bring a packed lunch to work every once so often.  When I do, it’s usually the previous evening’s leftovers or this particularly nifty spin on those old-school cuts of fried pork.

These are Parmesan-breaded pork cutlets.  I like to think of them as tonkatsu with an Italian accident.  These are tender pork cutlets dredged in a mix of finely grated Parmesan cheese, panko [Japanese breadcrumbs], dried sage, dried basil, and fresh parsley.  Crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, and savory all over, these are the best things you can pack into your lunchbox.  Served on top of hot white rice and sprinkled with a bit of balsamic vinegar, these are quite sublime.

They aren’t only good on rice, but these can also be used for sandwiches.  Try a smattering of Japanese Kewpie-brand mayo with lettuce and fresh tomatoes with this in a slab of ciabatta.

Parmesan-breaded pork cutlets

  • 1/4 kilo pork cutlets, pounded to about 1/4-inch
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup panko
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely minced
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Combine the panko, cheese, and herbs; set aside.  Rub a bit of salt and pepper onto the cutlets.  Dredge in flour, dip in egg, and roll in the panko mix until well covered.

Heat the oil in a wok or a deep saucepan.  Fry the cutlets until golden.  Drain on paper towels before serving.

Serves 4.

Soup with croutons

And may I suggest some homemade soup to go with your lunch?  😉

    Dumplings on Rice: Crisis Comfort

    Black Box

    Over the past few days, I seriously felt like screaming or hitting someone.  The most recent events have been emotionally draining and it did not help that some smart-arsed twits have been snarking most satirically about the Quirino Grandstand tragedy.  Have a heart, you idiots: what if it happened to you?!?

    Times like these are not times for eating healthy.  Times like these demand food that fills the belly, fills it as if there was a void within you that can’t be filled by simple salads or a piece of fruit.  No, these are times that call for starches, meaty dumplings – properly stodgy meals that can help ease the pain even for a bit.

    Double-dumpling on Nasi Lemak Lunch

    The Pao Tsin dumpling kiosk has been one of my favorite go-to places for rib-sticking meals for crises since I was in college.  Back then, the only Pao Tsin along Taft Avenue was located at the La Salle campus.  Since my mom was teaching there at the time, I would ask her to buy me a batch of steamed or fried dumplings whenever the chips were down and the world was with me too much and too soon.  In later years, the dumplings could be purchased on top of greenish-hued Hainanese rice cooked in chicken broth and fragrant with garlic and ginger.

    Recently, they also began offering nasi lemak – lemak rice or rice cooked in savory coconut milk – topped with toasted garlic and pulverized ikan bilis (dilis – dried and toasted anchovies) as an alternative to the usual Hainanese.  Nutty, fragrant, and most savory, it’s actually a great background to a savory meal of dumplings.  In this particular box, I opted for the thick-skinned shrimp wontons (top row) which are porky with just a hint of shrimp but are nevertheless good.  And then, because I was feeling really bad, I also got the crab wontons (orange tipped ones, bottom row) which were most flavorful.

    I don’t know what it is about this combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that makes it so comforting on dark, dreary, depressing days.  Maybe it’s because it’s perfect for filling a void in one’s self or maybe it’s because it provides warmth on a [spiritually] cold day.  But, whatever the reason, on the worst days, this really does help.

    A Time of National Crisis

    This post is going to look seriously out of character given the nature of this blog, but I feel the need to scream in serious frustration with everything that has happened over the past twenty-four hours.

    In one fell swoop, a single madman made history by destroying the Philippines’ reputation across the globe.  Through the deaths of several hostages yesterday, this lawkeeper turned lawbreaker has thrown a wrench into the new administration’s plan of making positive changes.

    And who will end up – who are currently – suffering because of his stupidity, his misplaced yearning to return to the police force?  Us – the Filipino people.

    My heart grieves for our domestic helpers, factory workers, and tutors working in Hong Kong.  I fear for their lives, knowing well the potential for violent retaliation inherent in the situation.  Because of one man’s madness, their lives are now in danger.

    My blood seethes with anger at how this incident will have a seriously negative impact on tourism and commerce.

    I want to know why our authorities did not move faster.  In their desire to be cautious given that the culprit was an experienced policeman, they overdid it and this caused the needless loss of lives.

    I want to know why the media swarmed the crime scene like so many maggots over a rotting carcass.  Don’t these newshounds have any sense of decorum or propriety whatsoever?

    I want to know why the police didn’t cordon off the area ASAP.  As a result, bystanders came flocking in out of curiosity.  What if there was a bomb in that bus?  What if the hostage-taker wasn’t dead and decided to set it off, taking more lives in the process?

    This whole fiasco is a horrible black mark against the Philippine National Police, but the Hong Kong government has taken things to the extreme by declaring the Philippines as unsafe ground, calling home its nationals, and pretty much painting a gory portrait of our country as an ongoing bloodbath run by idiots and nutcases.

    This is no time for us to just sit still, twiddle our thumbs, and do nothing.

    The gauntlet has been cast.

    I pray and hope that this incident will not lead to just finger-pointing, a whole new blame game on top of the one that has been playing out for years.

    I pray and hope that this bloody incident will galvanize the Filipino people, that it will unite us in the common cause of washing away this bloody stain, this slur upon our identity as a people, as a nation.

    Baked Pasta and Other Suggestions for Feeding a Crowd

    Trays of Baked Mac!

    People often ask me what they could feed guests whenever people suddenly drop by or if they get invited to parties where one has to take potluck as far as the food is concerned.  Here’s my personal list of crowd favorites:

    • Baked pasta I mean, come on: it’s practically a no-brainer as everyone likes pasta.  You can go as simple as baked mac with meat sauce or macaroni and cheese, or do something decidedly baroque like a lasagna, a Greek pastitsio (baked mac with cinnamon in the sauce), or – goodness me! – a timbale of macaroni tubes cemented with a lobster mousseline and filled with a zarzuela of mixed seafood sauteed in butter and garlic;
    • Pancit Malabon, bihon, sotanghon, palabok, miki-bihon – if it’s savory sauteed noodles, people will eat it;
    • Stews You can never really go wrong with a good pot of caldereta or, better yet, kare-kare.  If opting for the latter, do not forget to bring some home-cooked bagoong alamang.

    With these three standards in mind, I sincerely hope people will stop bringing those vile macaroni, fruit, and potato salads.  (Unless, of course, they’re bringing Russian salad.  But that, dear readers, is a story for another day…)

    JiPan’s Tendon: Some Things are Better Sweeter

    Sweet, sweet, sweet...

    Admittedly, I’m not really a fan of savory dishes that have more than just a hint of sweetness.  There’s just something so wrong about it.  But there are a few dishes I actually find good, excellent even: Thai-style braised pork (one of the very first recipes I featured on this blog), Chinese pork asado, and the bowl of tendon shown above from JiPan.

    JiPan’s tendon has a tentsuyu (tempura sauce) that is decidedly sweeter than the usual.  Rather than being sweetened with sugar, mirin – sweet Japanese cooking wine – is poured generously in the mix.  The alcohol evaporates, leaving behind a beautiful sweetness that goes wonderfully with the savory shrimp and the properly-boiled rice.