From the Hearth Of My Kitchen

The holidays came and went and everyday was a complete blur, what with the craziness in the office and the string of parties on weekends.  So here I am on December 31st wondering how I could’ve missed the shopping and gift giving.

Well it is never too late now is it?  So up I went and baked a batch of butterscotch.  Shaun has brought home tons of dried fruit (yes tons, industrial tons, not the teeny tiny expensive packs from the grocery) so why don’t I go ahead and throw that in as well.  The ending was a sweet, chewy homemade dried fruit butterscotch.  You will find many recipes online and I strongly recommend using local products.  In my case, I used dried pineapples and mangoes.

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Gifts do not always have to be storebought, and home made gifts are not necessarily cheap too.  The time and effort that goes into the homemade ones, especially if it is my time and effort, is very precious!  Kidding aside, I just think that putting in the time and effort into a gift is much more meaningful than just grabbing an item from the store.

I have always believed that the wrapping is just as important as what is inside.  DIY homemade goodies do not always have to come in the plain tin, plastic or cellophane wrapping.  If you know where to look, there are many cute packaging materials out there.  Made in China ofcourse.  Sometimes, I get more excited about the packages than anything else.

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Anyhow, I just gathered up the slices of butterscotch in grease-resistant (read:wax paper) paper.  Put them into boxes and tie up a gift card.  There you go, your diy, homemade gift!

I signed mine, From The Hearth of My Kitchen!  Happy Holidays!

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Homemade Kimchi

The Korean Invasion of Cebu, or the Philippines in general, has grown considerably in recent years.  When a long time ago, you only see them at the popular touristy places, now they are everywhere.  It did not really catch on to me, not the Korean novelas, nor K-pop, nor the sprouting Korean salons (I have a Cantonese stylist of 8 years by the way).  Not even the fact that Koreans bought my high school alma mater and took over the entire school.

But Korean food….ooohhh…now this is something I found hard to ignore.

When in Cebu, you will see quite a few of these restaurants sprouting up.  Being the adventurous foodie that I am, I have had my fair share of trips to sample bulgogi, bibimbap, kimbap, samgyupsal, and the jigaes(stews).   I’ve grown to love the sweet and spicy dishes of Korea.  Not to mention, dining at Korean restaurants gives very good value for money considering the generous refills of banchan(side dishes).  The thing with me is that once I get the hang of a particular dish, the next step for me is to try and make it myself.

So after much research, thanks to Youtube, I finally made my very 1st Kimchi.  I have gone crazy over Korean recipes that I have grown to become a celebrity fan.  My favorite Youtube Korean Chef is Maangchi.  Her videos are easy to follow and fun.  Every once in a while, she will model the funniest (and the cutest) outfits and headdresses.

What better dish to prepare than the world-renowned Kimchi, or fermented vegetable side dish.  Kimchi is said to contain almost 50% of your daily requirement of Vit. C, Vit. A, Thiamine, B1 and B2.  It is so big in Korea that at one point, when prices of cabbage (or was it chili ) went up around 2008, the country (South Korea) I mean, declared it a national calamity.

So here I am, one weekend, making my homemade kimchi.

The steps are very easy and you can always visit Maangchi’s youtube videos.

First, you steep the cabbage in salt for an hour and a half.  Make sure to turn it over once every 30 minutes so it will be even.  Rinse it well, 3 times at least.

While steeping the cabbage, you may start preparing the other vegetables.  Chop carrots,spring onions and radish julienne.  Mince, garlic, ginger and onions.  If you have a food processesor, blend this together with fish sauce.  I do not have a food processors so I just minched the spices and soaked them in the fish sauce for a few minutes.

For the paste, make a congee from flour, water and sugar.  Let cool at room temperature.  Once cooled down, add the vegetables and the spices soaked in fish sauce.  Add your desired amount of chili powder and mix well.  This is now your kimchi paste.

In a large bowl, start mixing the cabbage and the paste until all leaves are well coated.  Let sit overnight in an airtight container before transferring to the refrigerator.

After a day, I was so happy when I smelled and tasted my Kimchi, it was the real thing, plus it was home made.  I always take kimchi with fried dishes.  It also goes well with braised pork or Humba.  Enjoy!

Daiji Bulgogi with OeNaengguk

It feels good to be blogging again.  After a few months of haeatus as my lappy hibernated and my cam got busted, here I am!  I got a new cam for Christmas, and my lappy is back!  Geez all the events I missed posting and the thoughts, feelings and fotos that go with them.

It’s the day after Christmas day, which means its been a day since we’ve been eating Holiday left-over food.  It’s been raining as another low-pressure gathers around Cebu.  I thought of preparing something fresh and at the sametime something that can warm up this dreary day.

What is fresher and hotter than Korean food?  Now I’ve been trying out a few Korean restaurants and preparing some of my own Korean dishes for most of this year.  I just never got around to posting anything about them.  I also cannot remember posting pictures of dishes I have cooked, ever.  But for all you fans out there, here’s one and this should be the first of all food posts!

I decided to prepare Daeji Bulgogi(Pork Stir Fry) and Oe Naengguk(Cold cucumber soup). They’re easy to prepare, the ingredients – within reach and all very quick to complete.

It sure was a hit for lunch earlier today!  Let me know if you want the recipe!

Daiji Bulgogi

The bulgogi is hot with nutty flavor coming from the chillis and sesame.  The added spices of onions, garlic and ginger make it all the more fiery.

Wrap a piece with a cabbage…

….and wash it down with cold cucumber soup. Although this soup is usually served during the summer, it’s a nice balancing agent for non-Koreans like me.

The Acacia Grill

I was in Carcar City with friends recently to shop for espadrilles to give away for Christmas.  It was almost 11am when we got there and after an hour of shopping, I was ready for some grub.  I asked one of the shopkeepers where we can find a nice restaurant for lunch, to my utter disappointment I was directed to the local Jollibee.  She may have seen the look on my face as she hastily suggested Mang Inasal as an alternative.

It turned out, we didn’t have to look far.  When my friend came back from a visit to the loo, he said there was a grill at the opposite end of the shoe stalls.  The Acacia Grill.  Now that sounds more like it.

The place was al fresco with heavy wooden furniture.  There were a few old and sturdy acacia trees by the roadside but the restaurant was surrounded by young, shady talisay trees.  They serve familiar native dishes while the price, although slightly higher than normal, seemed fair enough considering there were very few options around.  On a scale of 1-5, 5 being the highest, I am giving them a 3.o for pricing.

There were just a few diners when we got there.

We ordered grilled fish –kitong, fried whole chicken – native style, no batter, no frills, sauteed mixed vegetables, grilled chicken breast and seafood sotanghon or glass noodle soup.

I was surprised when the food was served in less than 8 minutes.  The fact that the grilled fish and kinilaw were fresh was another pleasant surprise considering how far away the place was and how I imagined the low customer turn out.  As I later saw, the place filled up in trickles.  It would seem to me that most of the diners were out-of-towners, those visiting Carcar or those coming from or going to the southern parts of Cebu.  No locals here.

The waiters who wore the requisite short-sleeved barongs were attentive.

I am giving the place a 3.0 for service.

The mixed vegetable was a puzzle to me.  It was a pile of diced carrots, chayote, cauliflower, string beans and potatoes sauteed with squid and pork.  It wasn’t chinese chopsuey, it also wasn’t the native utan or dinuldog.  It had a thin film of grease all over it.  This grease was also evident with the noodle soup.  But they both tasted good.

Overall, together with the fresh fish and the juicy native style fried chicken, I am giving taste another 3.0

This place is definitely the place to go if you are all too familiar with the Carcar lechon, Jollibee or Mang Inasal.  Where else?

My friends, Shaun, Armie and Alexa on one of the quaint wooden swinging chair