In Which the Blogger Encounters Bayani Brew…

A carrier-caddy of wholesome refreshment!

A carrier-caddy of wholesome refreshment!

In October 2013, I was surprised to open my email one morning to find that I’d won a giveaway promo from hip, offbeat local food ‘zine featuring the products of homespun artisan tea brewer Bayani Brew.  The prize?  Sixteen bottles of some of the best-tasting herbal iced tea I’ve ever tasted!

Inspired by social entrepreneurship movement Gawad Kalinga (GK), Bayani Brew uses indigenous organic ingredients in its beverages.  Both of the current flavors are spin-offs of the drinks brewed by nanays – mothers and housewives – for volunteers and staff working on various GK livelihood projects and at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan.  In doing so, Bayani Brew promotes social consciousness and responsibility as well as the kind of patriotism born of a genuine love for Filipino ingenuity, perseverance, and locally-sourced ingredients.

Deliciously fruity-tasting with a pleasant herbal aftertaste

Deliciously fruity-tasting with a pleasant herbal aftertaste

Currently, Bayani Brew is available in two flavors: Classic and Purple Leaf.  The Classic is a golden-hued blend of lemongrass and pandan [screwpine leaf] with a pleasant, tangy-spicy flavor that is almost gingery but isn’t too sweet.  Served chilled, it makes for a refreshing and invigorating drink.  Given that lemongrass is also a traditional ingredient for many local home remedies against the common cold and sore throats, it is also a good thing to sip if you’re feeling under the weather as its quite soothing as it goes down your throat.

The other flavor, Purple Leaf, has become my favorite between the two.  This unusual iced tisane is brewed from sweet potato [kamote] leaves.  While the leaves are a dark, almost pine-colored green, the water these are boiled in ends up purple.  These are a good source of iron and a broth made with kamote leaves is often given to girls suffering from anemia.  Bayani Brew’s take on this classic restorative makes taking one’s iron so much more enjoyable: the purple brew is mixed with lemongrass and tastes oddly – yet deliciously – of guava for some odd reason with a pleasant vegetal aftertaste that serves to remind the drinker of the leaves used in making the drink.

Bayani Brew is a great way to cool down and give your health a well-needed boost.  At the same time, it’s also a wonderful way of giving back to the community and helping build a nation.

Note:  Bayani Brew is currently available nationwide via Human Nature outlets and at Chicken Charlie and Bo’s Coffee branches.  If you’re in the Makati area, you can grab your fix via The Market and Commune in Salcedo Village or at Ganso Shabuway and Mesa Filipino Moderne at Greenbelt V.  Click here for a full list of retailers.

In Which One Whips Up Quite a Sandwich…


Fully loaded, potentially dangerous, absolutely delicious…

This afternoon, I made the grave mistake of tuning into Adam Gutler’s Last Call Food Brawl on TLC. Today’s episode featured the late-night eats from Atlanta, Georgia: everything from buttermilk-soaked fried chicken, crisp-edged waffles, collards cooked with fatback bacon, funnel cakes, cornbread, & cobblers. It was all about soul food with a devil-may-care attitude about carbs, fat, & calories. Almost everything is deep fried, crunchy, robust, & boldly flavored.

Just as the on-screen competitors began to tear into the challenge of incorporating things like tater tots and jerk seasoning into their epic platters of deep-fried and soulful awesomeness, I decided to duck into the kitchen and make myself a sandwich. But not just any sandwich; this one throws in everything barring the proverbial kitchen sink. I call it The Bitchfight.


Come to momma, baby!

It is so named because it is anything but ladylike. This sandwich is all about bold, even brash flavors. It features fillings that prim & proper tea-sipping misses would turn their noses up at. It’s the kind of stuff your mother would probably shriek in horror over because it’ll ruin your diet and figure. But, hot damn: it tastes so gosh-darned good.

This particular creation features a peppery mayonnaise that gets its zing from a dollop of hot sauce spread on wholewheat bread. On one side, I lumped on a slice of bistek (sliced pork fillet cooked in a tangy soy & kalamansi lime sauce with onions) and finely sliced lap cheong (Chinese sausage) to give it a hammy smokiness & a slight sweetness. On the other side, I crumbled over some garlicky Sonsi longganiza (native sausage) topped with slices of sweetly mild Cheddar.


A toaster oven is vital for making this sarnie…

Three to four minutes in the toaster oven helps all the flavors & textures, melting the cheese a little, & crisping up the bread. The end result was meaty, peppery, tangy, smoky, crunchy, & creamy all at the same time.

It’s the sort of sarnie that begs to be eaten with a really good beer – and if you’re a girl & anyone tells you that your food isn’t very ladylike, tell ’em to mind their own beeswax. The flavors are bold & strong – just the way a great & powerful woman such as yourself should be.

In Which We Talk About the Food that Feeds the Fire for Writing…

Steakhouse burger.  Fries.  A soda.  STAT!

Steakhouse burger. Fries. A soda. STAT!

I’ve been writing professionally since the age of seventeen during my freshman year at uni when I got a gig writing spiels for EDTV 36, the distance education channel that was, at the time, operating from my alma mater, The Philippine Women’s University – Manila.  Since then, I’ve had a somewhat checkered career in advertising, public relations, and that murky field known as corporate research and white-paper writing.  But what I’ve always wanted to do ever since I was in high school is write stories and novels – and that is something that I’ve finally been doing of late.

People ask me if writers follow any special diets during their most creative periods.  Speaking as a twenty-year veteran of the field, however, I regret to say that no writer I know personally (myself included) follows a diet.  In fact, for most of us, the crunch and grind of writing makes us lose our appetites.  It is after the writing is done – say, you’ve handed the white-paper over to the boss, you’ve turned over the draft to the creative team, or you’ve gone and emailed/mailed your manuscript to a publisher – that we can eat and the food we pounce upon isn’t always the healthy sort.  In fact, nine times out of ten, a writer who has put down his or her pen will most likely go out for comfort food.

In my case, it almost always involves a burger run.  Almost as soon as my email program tells me that the document’s been sent out, I find myself bolting to the nearest burger joint for a sarnie-soda-and-fries fix.  Burger King is my heavyweight go-to-joint in most cases: the Angus Steakhouse Burger has both heft and beefy oomph to it – and Lord only knows how I need all that protein and all those amino acids to replenish my spent brain cells.  The fact that it has crunchy fried onions wodged in between the beef patty and the veg adds to its appeal.  Fries on the side?  Yes, please!  There is just something about salty, crunchy, sometimes soggy, fried potato sticks that I find rejuvenating for some odd reason.

On really bad days, however, I end up at Jollibee where I order the Ultimate Burger Steak – a 1/3 pound beef patty on garlic rice served with a mound of crunchy fries, a fried egg, and generous lashings of mushroom gravy.  Think of it as poutine on steroids, really.  I find it a comforting meal on days when people are being ornery and nothing seems to be going right.

Salted caramel, potatoes, vanilla soft serve...

Salted caramel, potatoes, vanilla soft serve…

And there are the days when my mind doesn’t seem to work and I find myself worrying if I can finish whatever it is I’m writing or if I even make it to my deadlines.  Those are the days when I have to stop and take deep, fortifying breaths; the days when I find that either coffee or hot chocolate is my only friend in the world and I just want to quit the human race.  These are my sundae and fries days, the times when I withdraw from the rest of humanity to try and get my thoughts and words back in sync.

Thank God that salted caramel sundaes are now available at my local McDonald’s!  The combination of sweet caramel made punchy by a sharp hit of salt over smooth vanilla ice cream is a real treat and soothes frazzled nerves like few other foods can.  Dipping the fries in this ambrosial slurry is a must; the bland, starchy flavor of the potato works so beautifully with the vanilla and caramel.  Yes, I know it’s very bad for the hips and the rest of me, but it gets things done!

Oh, how it truly gets things done!

Yes, I run the risk of becoming plumper than the proverbial partridge, but it helps me get things done – and then some.  And as I write an ending for my current project, I know that this particular end is but a herald for a new story to be told…


In Which the Adobo is Given a Fruity Twist…


All that sweet, savory goodness…

Adobo is the sort of dish that brings tears to the eyes of many an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) or émigré who ends up someplace where the food of our tropical nation is nowhere to be found. Unless you also take sinigang (a clear, savory fish or pork soup soured with green tamarind paste) into consideration, this dish of pork braised with vinegar, black pepper, & garlic is the most quintessential, most fundamental item in the entire roster of dishes in Philippine cuisine. It is said that, before one leaves the country for an extended period of time abroad, one needs to learn how to cook adobo; in that way, the flavor of home could be enjoyed in just about any part of the world barring both North & South Poles, as well as the Sahara Desert.

Adobo is to Filipinos what chicken soup is to Jewish communities or pot-au-feu is to the French: a taste of home adapted to the palates of generations of one’s family or to what ingredients are most available in the local markets or even to whichever part of the country your ancestors came from. Nevertheless, its most basic building blocks involve the ingredients used for the braising liquid: vinegar, black peppercorns, & plenty of garlic.

Some families such as mine add soy sauce for color and to add a savory richness to the dish. My friend Klowi is from Bicol and rock salt is what adds the savor in her mother’s version. Chinese-Filipino families like theirs sweeter – like a cross between the classic version & sweet red-cooked pork – and add spices like cassia bark or star anise. Those of Spanish extraction also opt to toss in fresh tomatoes or add some Castilian fire in the form of pimenton picante or cayenne pepper. There are even some froufrou types who use lamb, balsamic or red wine vinegar, and those rare pink peppercorns – but those people ought to be hung, drawn, and quartered for making a pretentious mess of such a wholesome dish!

Most Filipino families use a mix of pork & chicken for the dish, but we prefer to use just pork as the meat is substantial enough in both flavor & heft to stand up to lengthy braising. (Chicken adobo does nothing for me, really; it almost always is too dry & stringy!) The amount of fat in the pork also works as a preservative along with the other ingredients, and this sort of staying power means that you can braise a batch today & stick it in the fridge to reheat or to fry up till crunchy for another meal.


What goes well with adobo? Ginataang langka!

I confess that I’ve never cooked adobo before. For one, I’m an absolute chicken about using pressure cookers – which is how the dish is usually prepared at home. But a recent rummage among my cookbooks & food magazines led to what we had for lunch this afternoon: adobo sa piña.

My mother got the idea for adding tinned pineapple – syrup & all – to adobo from a television commercial touting the merits of adding the fruit to savory dishes to help throw in more fruit into Filipino diets. It’s an idea that actually works: the tangy sweetness of the fruit balances the sharp acidity of the cane vinegar & offsets the saltiness of the soy sauce. Plus, the enzymes in the pineapple help to tenderize the meat throughout the length of the braising process.

Now, I confess that this is also a bit prissier than most conventional adobo recipes due to the addition of Worcestershire sauce in the last quarter-hour of cooking, but believe me when I say that it does make the finished dish more delectable. Be sure to use pork belly as it’s the best and most substantial cut of meat for a proper adobo. Just be sure not to forget the rice!

Adobo sa Piña

  • 1 kilo pork belly or spare ribs, cut into large cubes
  • 1/2 cup cane or white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dark soy sauce
  • 6 – 8 cloves garlic, crushed, peeled, & coarsely chopped
  • 3 dry bay leaves
  • scant 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 235 grams pineapple tidbits, liquid drained & reserved.

Place the pork, vinegar, soy sauce, water, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, & reserved pineapple syrup or juice in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or wok. Stir & cook over medium heat until it begins to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Leave to cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally & making sure that the sauce doesn’t boil dry.

Add the pineapple & stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Cover & cook an additional 15 minutes or until the pork has become meltingly tender. Remove from heat & serve immediately.

Serves 6.

In Which the Blogger Heads to Chop Stop…

Diet?  What diet?!?

Diet? What diet?!?

I’ll be honest: the little anti-diet sign overhead caught my attention and put a smile on my face.  In this fitness-stupid day and age when all people seem to think about is how to shed pounds and look like an extra from The Walking Dead (I’ve never gone for the “looking like an emaciated cadaver is chic” schlock, honestly), it’s nice to know that there are still places here on Earth that encourage you to grab a rib-sticking meal.  Chop Stop happens to be one of them.

Part of the same group as the Adobo Connection chain that has become popular in recent years, Chop Stop is exactly what its name says it is: a little place where you can stop by for a chop – pork or chicken, it’s entirely up to you.

Industrial kitsch + road signs

Industrial kitsch + road signs

If the Army/Navy branch next door looks like an old-school Quonset hut decorated with scraps off the set of Last Resort or some other nautical drama, Chop Stop has a street/road/industrial kitsch vibe going on with regard to its decor.

Quirky pseudo-road signs encouraging diners to stop, look, and chow down decorate the walls alongside exposed pipes and blow-ups of famous street scenes, including one of The Beatles crossing Abbey Road.  Stop-signs will make you laugh as they feature two generations’ worth of song lyrics: Stop in the Name of Love by the Supremes can be seen on one sign while the chorus from the Spice Girls’ Stop! may be read on another.

Don't know what to eat?  Read the writing - and the pictures - on the walls...

Don’t know what to eat? Read the writing – and the pictures – on the walls…

The menu covers all the bases from breakfast, lunch, and dinner to bar chow you can share with friends.  Aside from the usual round of iced tea and sodas, Chop Stop also has a liquor license and serves beer and has a small selection of cocktails.  Coffee and dessert are also available if you feel the need for something to round out your meal.

As I said above, pork and chicken chops are this little diner’s main stock in trade.  The pork dishes cost P 145.00 a plate, while the chicken dishes are all pegged at P 165.00; both are served with a cup of rice and a small salad and you get unlimited iced tea refills for an additional P 45.00.

We love chops, yes we do...

We love chops, yes we do…

The first time I dropped by, I ordered the tonkatsu pork chop which is pretty much a spin on the Japanese classic.  The well-seasoned chop was served with a small dish of thick, sesame-topped sauce on the side along with the rice and salad.  Since I was feeling rather hungry on this particular visit, I ordered a fried egg (P 20.00) to mash into the rice.  The pork was pretty good: a thick, meaty, deboned chop that was seasoned well enough that I pretty much pushed the sauce to one side.  My only issue here was that the breading was too thick.

The side-dish wasn’t too shabby, either.  Rather than a plain lump of shredded cabbage, the cabbage salad is reminiscent of another Asian classic: Indonesia’s gado-gado.  This is due to the fact that the dressing tastes nicely of peanuts: smoky, toasty, nutty, and rich – it goes quite well with cabbage and the end result is great foil for the taste of the pork.

Another time, I had the gravy pork chop which has a batter-fried chop served with mushroom gravy.  While the flavors are the same with regard to the meat, I still had some issues with the thickness of the coating.  Still, it made for a good lunch with the creamy mushroom sauce which had a generous helping of sliced button mushrooms.

Dessert?  Yes, please.

Dessert? Yes, please.

To finish up, I suggest you go with the Red Velvet mug-cake (P 85.00).  As the name states outright, it’s a red velvet cake cooked in a glass mug – and it is, surprisingly, delicious.  It’s rather chocolatey which sets it apart from other red velvet cakes whose sole claim to the name is a generous dose of scarlet food coloring.  This one is lush with cocoa and vanilla and the cream cheese icing drizzled on top adds a welcome tang.

While the food here is pretty standard, I don’t mind coming back.  Any place that encourages you to have a proper square meal is A-OK in my book.