In Which We Have the “100 Pesos or Less” Challenge…

Believe it or not: total damage was LESS than a hundred bucks

Dear SybDive Readers:

Here it is: my first-ever blog contest!  In celebration of keeping life interesting and fun despite the rather harsh economic times, I am challenging y’all to feature the most fun meals you’ve had for P 100.00.  It can be a simple rice + 1 viand meal, or a rather exotic thing like the East Asian-inspired lunch shown above (Korean pa jeon + instant pork ramen + bottled tea = P 72.00).

I am challenging y’all to either:

  1. Make a blog post or
  2. Send me pictures with the appropriate captions of meals you’ve had that cost less than one hundred pesos (P 100.00).

It doesn’t have to be healthy or homemade (But yes: plus points for that!): it just has to be interesting, cheap, and – most of all – delicious!

It’s a winner-take-all thing: P 500.00 worth of Starbucks GCs for the winning entry.

Feel free to link to this blog entry to help promote it.  To join, email me the link to your blog entry or send me your pictures with captions vi midge (dot) manlapig (at) gmail (dot) com.  (Spammers beware, though!)  Contest runs from today, 27th September 2012 to 27th October 2012, with winning entries announced in the 31st October blog post.  Promo is open within the Greater Manila Area only, alas, but I look forward to hearing from everyone as to what they think of the challenge.

Good luck, y’all!.

In Which the Blogger Opts for Unusual Flavors at One of Her Favorite Restaurants…


I’ve been a serious fan of Persia Grill for nearly three years now: the quality of the food is consistent and the ambiance is truly reminiscent of a Middle Eastern souk – cosy even when crowded, relaxing even at its noisiest.

Normally, my selections off the menu run towards the deliciously smoky baba ganoush with warm flatbread and the chelo kebab combination plate with beef kubideh and lemony chicken morg.  Sometimes, I’d grab the salad oliveyeh (think of warm mashed potatoes – with all the flavors of a properly done potato salad) rather than the eggplant dip and follow up my meal with either baklava with mint tea or the sticky date pudding (whenever it’s available) for afters.

Really, though, it does get a bit boring at times – and this is what pretty much got me hankering for something different.  Enter a solo portion of Persia Grill’s tabbouli.  Tabbouli (sometimes spelled tabbouleh) is one of those classic Middle-Eastern salads that acts as a common culinary denominator in that region.  In its purest form, it features bulgur (cracked wheat) dressed with parsley, tomatoes, mint, garlic, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  In much of the Arab world, Romaine lettuce is added, either shredded and tossed in or as a bed on which the main salad is served.

The version served at Persia Grill is the Lebanese one wherein it’s actually more of a parsley salad, the poached bulgur grains practically snowed under by the finely chopped herb.  It is a most refreshing salad and is an appropriate starter on scorching hot days: the chopped parsley and diced tomatoes are fresh, crunchy, and just a touch sweet.  The lemon dressing gives it quite a zingy taste and the mint makes it such a cool treat.

I could actually devour a whole plate of this together with some warm flatbread, but as it happened…

Chelo Kebab Makhsos – all beef, all good

…I also ordered the all-beef chelo kebab Makhsos which features classic beef kubideh paired with barg (chunks of grilled beef tenderloin marinated in Perisan spices; I could detect a bit of rosy advieh in it, by the way).  Quite beefier than my usual, but very good and hearty, nevertheless.

Incidentally, perhaps I should have ordered the soft, utterly melting sizzling ox-brain with my tabbouli instead: it would have had a Fergus Henderson vibe to it: like roasted bone marrow with a tangy parsley salad.  Hmm…

In Which We Have a Korean Spin on Stewed Chicken…

Dak Doritang from Korean House

Being a Korean House habitue, it would be so easy to fall back on one’s favorites whenever I mosey up to the counter for lunch.  Seafood pancakes (pa jeon), pork or chicken cutlets (donkaesu / dak donkaesu), bibimbap, and meat dumplings (mandu) are my usual choices and I’m of the opinion that if something ain’t broke, you don’t fix it.

That is, of course, till palate fatigue looms overhead and you’re looking for something that has neither been steamed nor has spent any time anywhere near a frying pan.  This is the sort of occasion that calls for dak doritang.

Normally served to warm up bellies in the dead of winter, dak doritang is a chili-laced stew featuring chicken, potatoes, and white onions.  The fowl is cooked till absolutely tender in chicken broth which is considerably thickened with heaps of kochujang (Korean red pepper paste, like ketchup only made with capsicums [bell peppers] and chilies) and sweetened a little with either rice syrup, rice wine, or just the teensiest bit of brown sugar.  Modern Korean cooks, I’m told, use tomato ketchup (!) as a shortcut for both thickening and sweetening the sauce.  Believe me when I say it sends horrified chills running down my spine, but I digress…

The funny thing here is that I have never seen dak doritang on the menu of any of the more established Korean restaurants.  This, in itself, is something I find odd because similarly rustic stews such as sundubu jjigae (tofu and shellfish stew) and samgyetang (Cornish game hen or poussin boiled with ginseng and jujubes) are common offerings.  Then again, I’ve not seen budae jjigae (literally: army-base stew; deli meats like luncheon meat and sausages boiled in a chili-laced pork stock) on the menus of local Korean restaurants, either.

Korean House’s dak doritang features a rich, tomatoey gravy made spicy by the addition of kochujang and dried red pepper flakes.  The chicken seems to fall off the bones when prodded with the tips of one’s chopsticks or a fork and are richly flavored, almost gamy and more like quail or pigeon (!) than chicken.  The potatoes are tender while the onions still have a bit of a crunch to them and are rather sweet.  The gravy is a bit on the sweet side with a hint of smoky nuttiness from the addition of toasted sesame seeds; any leftover gravy should be slopped over one’s rice and consumed with completely blissful impunity.

If you love afritada (the local version of chicken stewed in tomato sauce with carrots and potatoes), this is one spin on it that you definitely must try.

In Which the Blogger Turns Another Year Older…

Fancy a slice – or two – of cake?

The last time the Year of the Dragon rolled ’round, I turned twenty-four amidst the hustle and bustle of the scene I found myself in at the time.  I was between jobs, taking a stab at freelancing, and had just made a foray into the local animation biz (as a scriptwriter and story developer; I cannot, alas, draw for the proverbial toffee).  It was, alas, not the easiest year for me.  I won’t go into the details, anymore, as some memories remain painful, but suffice it to say that I found myself disillusioned with what I was doing at the time.  And, for a few years, I felt that I was adrift and alone.

Fast-forward to 2012, yet another Dragon year.  I turned 36 today – not a bad age to be, perhaps a bit long in the tooth now, probably (!) a little wiser than that green girl I was a dozen years ago.  That girl baked the driest cinnamon buns, rock-hard foccacia, and had a tendency to burn and cut herself in the kitchen.  While I still burn or cut myself occasionally in the process of cooking, I take pride in saying that at least my cooking is a whole lot better than it used to be.  Plus, my repertoire of recipes has expanded considerably over the years.

Admittedly, I still suffer from bouts of depression – this, I think, will always be a given.  I am only human, after all, and some wounds will – alas! – never heal completely and have left dreadful scars and horrible memories.  But, I can cope.  I’ll manage.  I have people who love me and who believe in my talents.  I have faith, even if I seem to be on the verge of giving up at times.

And, who knows?  Things can only get better from here on out.

In Which We Have a Dish for the SERIOUSLY Indecisive…

Pizza AND pasta?!?

Are you one of those people who like pizza and pasta and usually end up dithering whenever they appear on a menu at the same time?  Sbarro has the dish for you.

This is one of those stuffed pizzas which pretty much has everything in it – literally.  In this case, it has Sbarro’s popular baked ziti Bolognese baked into a thinnish pizza crust.  It’s pretty good: a rich tomato ragu enrobes the al dente pasta, chunks of bulk Italian sausage are evenly scattered throughout the dish, and there’s a proper amount of cheese and herbs dusted over the top.

If this doesn’t satisfy your double-cravings, I doubt if anything will.  :p