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Introducing World Platter

I’ve been working with World Foods to showcase their sauces and marinades, recipe from exhibiting at food trade shows, price cooking up big batches of curried soup to serve at a Yelp event, to making dishes for my apartment building’s potluck party.  But only those who happen to live in my building or attend these events have gotten a chance to taste.  Well, here’s your chance to give World Foods sauces a try, even if you aren’t lucky enough to be my neighbor.

Surprisingly still smiling after 2 days of intensive soup-making

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A Holiday Giveaway: Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice

Christmas is around the corner, viagra flurries are aflutter and spiced apple cider is back on heavy rotation.  Yes, viagra the holidays have arrived and here’s a gift giveaway to keep the mood fine and festive. As long as you live in the US, therapist you are eligible to win these holidays treats.  Here’s to a little sugar and a little spice to make your holidays nice.

Chambre de Sucre
First, something sweet. This trifecta of gourmet sugars from Chambre de Sucre pairs well with coffee and tea, and is as easy on your eyes as they are on your tongue.  Whether you’re having high tea or just sipping a cuppa joe on Sunday morning, you can spruce it up with a spoonful of this sugar.  I hand-picked three of my favorites, but there are plenty more shapes, colors and varieties to choose from — go ahead, take a peekTo win these sweet treats, leave a comment with what hot beverage you’d pair your sugar with.

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Two Ways to Use Indonesian Fried Rice Paste


WorldFoods Indonesian Fried Rice Paste

Traditionally, denture Indonesian fried rice, heart or Nasi Goreng, website consists of pre-cooked rice stir-fried with prawn, eggs, tamarind, chili, and coriander.  But there are an infinite number of variations to be made by simply adding a dollop of WORLDFOODS Indonesian Fried Rice ‘Nasi Goreng’ Paste, a concentrated medley of herbs and spices that I often throw into the pan with my leftover rice and whatever I have lingering in my kitchen drawers.

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WorldFoods Recipe Testing with Chef Cedric Tovar

Whenever Cedric comes by my apartment, order he naturally gravitates up to the roof.  Whether it’s for the launch of World to Table, to stargaze with his NASA-grade telescope, or to throw his own French techno and champagne-fueled birthday party.  Besides his long list of culinary accomplishments, which includes serving as the private chef to the Prime Minister of France and heading the kitchen at the Peacock Alley in the Waldorf=Astoria, Cedric also loves to travel.  His passport is filled with stamps from Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong; he is no stranger to Asian flavors and ingredients.

On our trip to Vietnam in 2005, we made sure to try as much of the local food as possible.  Aside from the more conventional offerings, we had coffee, freshly brewed on a boat, made with the deliciously muddy waters of the Mekong River Delta and roasted rat served to us on a river cruise, which another chef tricked us into believing was a “really small baby pig”.

So, when a box filled with jars of WorldFoods sauce arrived at my doorstep, I pulled out the tabletop grills, set up the tables upstairs and gave Cedric a call.  A rooftop cooking session was in order.

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A Last Minute Birthday Banquet

Say hey to Zoe Dulay, herbal my good friend and our World to Table tour guide through the crowded streets of Old Manila’s Chinatown in the Philippines.  Join her as she ventures to Binondo’s restaurants and street stalls, recipe where she experiences delicious encounters with dumplings, tea eggs, lumpias, hopias and more.

I have realized that my love for food will topple most things, like my dislike for the outdoors and apparently, my common sense.

September marks the start of stormy, rainy weather here in Manila. One would think that maybe traipsing around Chinatown (Binondo, as it is locally known) is hard enough in the usual muggy heat- what more in torrid rains? Yet the minute my History professor mentioned the Binondo Food Wok Tour as an option for extra credit, I took it.

Funnily enough, I do not possess an unwavering love for Chinese food. In fact, it is one of the cuisines that I do not have any affinity for. However, I had heard that our tour guide would be Ivan Man Dy and instantly recognized his name from that famed episode of No Reservations, where he took Anthony Bourdain around Manila for some good local eats. I thought, if anyone was going to make me love, or rather, like, Chinese food, he would be the guy to do it.

It was a gloomy Saturday afternoon when I made my way to Binondo. Stereotypical as it may sound, the minute I started seeing red Chinese lanterns dotting the streets, and tiny stores selling bejeweled and vibrant silk slippers, I knew I had hit Chinatown.

Chinatown

The meeting place for the tour was at the Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, also known as the Binondo Church. I arrived quite early and was able to drink in the stark massiveness of this structure. Though it was poorly lit, I could make out the intricacy of the architecture. I had never been in it— in fact this was my first time to venture into this area of Old Manila.

More people and some faces I recognized from my History class began to arrive at the church as the time inched to two o’ clock. At exactly two, a lanky figure in a bright blue and yellow t-shirt sauntered up to us, toting a large and equally bright yellow umbrella. Hello, Mr. Ivan Man Dy.

Ivan Man Dy

Gathering us around with a big wave and cheery voice, we started the tour just as the sky broke. Alas, I didn’t have an umbrella! Standing by a monument across the church, Ivan popped open his yellow umbrella, flicked on his portable microphone and started to tell us a little bit about the history of Binondo. Long story short, Chinese-Filipino relations started with trade and business. And guess what, nothing much has changed! I’ll leave the rest for my History paper. Let’s get to the food!

Chinatown bustles like no other vicinity in Manila. It is a luminous mixture of locals and tourists all trying to get a piece of the place. Under the rain, as I huddled with some friends beneath one tiny umbrella, we whispered excitedly to each other. I can’t wait for the food, I said. And sure enough, after Ivan put away his laminated maps of Old Manila and China back into his bag, we were on our way to our first food stop: Mr. Ube’s Rice and Noodle House.

Our group of 25 people (at least!) carefully made our way up the slippery steps to the tiny restaurant. It was close to empty, the two huge tables reserved for our tour group. Drying off quickly, we all took a seat and waited. Out came our first meal: kiam ping or salted rice with fish ball soup and iced brewed coffee.  The rice was served in bowls and topped with green onions and garlic peanuts. Cooked in soy sauce, the rice was browned and steamed and because I am currently on a no-carb diet, I fully indulged myself in that bowl of rice. I told myself I get a free pass since this is for school! Besides, all the walking we did balance it all out.

Kiam Ping

Kiam ping traces its roots to the province of Fujian. Ivan instructed us to eat the rice with spoonfuls of soup, as it is best eaten a little moist. The soup was a clear broth and had a nice, clean flavor that toned down the saltiness of the rice. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the fish balls used were the ones that were not dry and did not deflate right away after cooking. These fish balls were soft and succulent and were a great pair to the garlic and bite of the rice. The iced brewed coffee (none of that Starbucks Frappucino nonsense) served as both pick-me-up and dessert.

As we were eating, Ivan told us about how the owner of the fleet of purple (thus the place is called Mr. Ube, ube being a sweet purple yam paste) volunteer fire trucks is also the owner of the restaurant. In fact, the profits of the place go into funding the volunteer firemen as well as their equipment. It is good food for a good cause. One thing that got the tour group extremely excited, Ivan also added that if ever any of us tasted something we liked very much, all we had to do was raise our hands and we could eat as much as we wanted. I was very tempted to get another bowl of rice, but we had five more food stops to go!

Our second food stop was a tiny hole-in-the-wall called Dong Bei Dumpling. Hooray for dumplings! The place had exactly fifteen chairs and most of us were left standing. When we came in, three of those seats were already occupied!

As the tiny television on the wall blared out local afternoon variety shows, Ivan introduced our second dish: a plate of handmade shrimp and chives dumplings with ground pork, another plate of celery dumplings and a last plate of fried Chinese stuffed pancakes also known as siempin. There were two soy sauce mixtures to dip the food into, one plain with a little vinegar and one with chili paste.  Dumplings are pretty much the most popular type of Chinese food, the most known variety in Manila being siomai. The difference between siomai and these dumplings are found in the ingredients and the manner of how they are prepared.

At the start of the tour, Ivan told us that most of the Chinese food that is popular in the Philippines is of Cantonese influence. Real, authentic Chinese food is not all that popular, and to find the good places that serve these dishes, Binondo is the place to go. While siomai is mostly meat with a little bit of carrot bits stuck inside the dumpling, the dumplings we devoured in Dong Bei were handmade, the dough freshly rolled out in front of us into small circles. While the dumplings I tasted before were grey, oily, dry and dense, these dumplings actually were the opposite. The handmade dough definitely starts off the taste buds on the right note. The dough is a creamy white color, moist yet light, leaving no greasy aftertaste. The vegetables used, like chives and celery, are the highlight of each dumpling, even the soy sauce mixture is not enough not to mask the intense flavor of the herbs.

Dumpling dough

Dong Bei Dumplings

Dong Bei Dumplings

The same herbs were found in the siempin. Delightfully crusty outside, the inside is stuffed with a vegetable filling that is slightly toasted on some parts by way of the frying process. Greasier than I would like it to be, it still tasted good, especially with the spicy soy sauce. And for a vegetable dish, it was completely hearty. Washing everything down with cups of hot tea, we were ready to trek to our third stop.

After maneuvering through the tiny Binondo alleys and the throngs of people, Ivan led us to a little stall where a woman was busy ladling broth and mixing dark brown pouches in a pot. Picking up one in a small plastic bag, Ivan showed us what looked to be an egg. Not specifying what kind it was, most of us were wary of biting into the suspiciously muck colored egg. Fortunately, Ivan must have seen the look of excitement and trepidation in my eyes (I love Fear Factor and the parts where they eat extremely unusual things) and asked me to come up front and be the first to try it.

Tea egg

Tea egg

The egg was hot and already half peeled. Underneath the shell, the egg looked vein-y, brown streaks branching out around its sphere. All eyes watched as I took the first bite. My teeth sank into the egg white then into the yolk. I chewed, I swallowed and I did it again… and again. I liked it! The gelatinous egg white, instead of being tasteless, was sweet and earthy and I’m a sucker for egg yolks, so as long as there was no unborn chick inside that egg, I was eating the whole thing. In the end, ta-da! Ivan revealed that the delicacy was just a simple chicken egg fermented in a tea and soy sauce mixture in a small canvas pouch. Aptly called tea eggs, the principle is, the darker the eggs, the yummier they are. A little let down by the ‘normalness’ of the dish, I pretended I had eaten a giant lizard egg instead.

After everyone had their share of tea eggs, we made our way to our fourth food stop, another dingy stall steeping with aromatic food mysteries. By this time, I was starting to feel full, but when Ivan said we would taste pan-fried siopao, my appetite came raging back.

Siopao

Siopao literally translates into ‘hot bread’. Traditionally, there is no filling, however, some do have fillings, like asado or bola bola, all meat-based fillings eaten with a squirt of a thick sweet soy sauce and sugar condiment. The usual way of cooking siopao is by steaming the white buns. This gives the bun a moist, sticky and dense texture. However, when pan-frying the bun, it is not as sticky, and the bun does not cling to the roof of your mouth or your teeth. There is no need to put the sweet sauce as the filling already possesses hints of it. The bottom part of the bun is browned, as if the whole thing was seared quickly to cook it. Happily, this dish contradicted my notion of heavy, greasy Chinese food. I liked it a lot and it was too bad I was already halfway full, or else I would have reached up my hand and asked for a basketful of the buns to eat along the way to our fifth stop.

There are only two words to describe the fifth food stop: Hopia Heaven! I am unaware of how popular or how well loved hopia is outside the Philippines, but where I live, everyone I know has a strong affinity for the pastry. It used to be the only Chinese delicacy I liked. When I told my father (a huge fan of Chinese food) that I was going on the Binondo Food Wok Tour, he wagged his finger and said, Don’t come home without hopia! The Ho-land hopia, okay? The mungo and piña flavored ones!

Ivan led our group into a brightly lit bakery. I had failed to notice the emblazoned shop name that said “Ho-land” so I jumped in excitement when I saw the colorful arrays of hopia laid out for us. Ho-land is known for their hopia and the numerous flavors they have produced, with mungo (a widely used local bean) being the original and most popular flavor. Ivan did not even have to say anything because everyone knew about hopia and made a beeline for them. The only thing Ivan had to do was peel open a package of mungo hopia and pass it around for us to munch on.

Ho-Land Hopia

Ho-Land Hopia

Biting into a soft piece of hopia is a comforting thing to me. I have eaten it since I was a child and it always brings back fun memories of snack time after playing the afternoon away with my cousins. My father would even let me dunk the pastry into milk like an Oreo cookie. I will never ever dare do that now because with every bite of the light and flaky pastry (generously filled with the sweet bean paste), I have done major damage to my thighs and arteries. One hopia (a piece is roughly half of my palm) is already a whopping 265 calories! But with something as delicious as that, the heartwarming delicacy is worth it.

I made sure to snatch three packages of mungo hopia for my father. I could not find any piña (pineapple) flavored ones, so I left with that. Walking further into the shop, I found more Chinese specialty foods like sweet and sour kiamoy (preserved plums) and pei pa koa lozenges. My mother swears by pei pa koa for throat illnesses, and coughs and even the sniffles. I would have brought home a bag, but the hopia got to my wallet first.

Finally, our last stop was the New Po-Reng Lumpia House. Approaching the glowing red sign, we were lead into a dimly lit, semi outdoor space where Chinese music was being played. I’m a big fan of lumpia whether fried or fresh, meat or vegetable – I will eat it all. It never dawned on me until then that lumpia was a Chinese food because it is such a staple in Filipino food culture (white rice, lumpiang shanghai and sweet chili sauce is a set meal in the local fast food chain Chowking).

Lumpia in da house!

The lumpias we were going to be eating were freshly done with a handmade wrap and stuffed with vegetables, spices, sesame seeds – I honestly was too full and too tired to listen closely to how it was made but fortunately, I was able to see how it was made.

Lumpia filling

Lumpia

One of the lumpia cooks in the place started quick work on putting out more than 25 rolls for us. She started off by laying out the wraps and then with a spread of this, a dash of that, a sprinkle of those- finally, she rolled together the ingredients and the lumpia was assembled. The lumpia is quite a festive and colorful dish, bright oranges from carrots, green leafy lettuce to go along with it. There were bits of chopped peanuts in it that added a desired crunch to keep the whole thing from being just a large mushy vegetable roll (but I do like mushy vegetable rolls, if I do say so myself!) Topped off with a sweet sauce, it was warm and spicy and tangy and incredibly filling. Two bites and I was done. I could not eat anymore. Imagine if I had that extra bowl of rice at Mr. Ube’s! There was refillable Chinese tea which I had more of.  While the tour group wound down, some unbuttoned their pants, others walked around the restaurant. I sat and chatted with my friends, took pictures and sent an SMS to my father that I had got his beloved hopia. He replied with a smiley face.

It was evening when we concluded the Great Binondo Food Wok Tour with applause for Ivan and the good time he showed everyone, despite the horrid weather. We snapped our pictures with Ivan. He was truly a very good and entertaining guide. I had warmed up to him calling me Sandara, the name of a popular Korean telenovela star. I also grew to listen for his lilting yet booming voice- I even grew to like the history bits. I especially loved the comical nature of our crowd of aspiring foodies trapped in the Binondo rush while the great Ivan Man Dy flailed as he dramatically recounted stories of the Spaniards and the Chinese. The Binondo locals looked at him as if he was crazy and would look at us with scowls- we took up so much space everywhere we went! A fruit vendor had shoved me aside at one point, muttering about how we were not supposed to be there. But, Sir! We are good for your business, Sir! We will eat your food!

The rains did not stop the whole day, but neither did Chinatown- and neither did our appetites! Stepping out of New Po-Reng’s, the air was cool and city was just as alive, if not even more alive, than it was at two o’ clock in the afternoon. How beautiful Binondo looked at night, the glowing pockets of food stalls and jewelry stores, the bicycle lights and up ahead, the church now illuminated and teeming with people hearing anticipated mass. How noisy it was as well, only another sign of the life Binondo was pregnant with.
Clutching my ever-important take home treats of hopia for my family, I quickly said goodbye to my friends and acquaintances. I strode quickly towards the church, eager to get home and share with my afternoon experience with my father. I had come full circle in Binondo, if only for the fact that I knew a world more about the cuisine and my country’s history.

Was I a full on Chinese food convert? No, I don’t think so. But the next night, I asked my father to bring me to his favorite Chinese restaurant, the one I refused to go to with him, because I used to not like Chinese food. He looked at me in surprise, but agreed, called my mother and brother, and got the keys. We piled into the car, and though the food was unremarkable to my palette, I think we had one of the loveliest family dinners we’ve had in awhile.

Perhaps I’ve come to realize that Chinese food isn’t about the wow-factor or complex and intellectual dishes- though it can be, like most types of cuisines, if steered in that way. In fact, food in itself is not just about taste because it is all based on preference- some people like Chinese food, others don’t. It’s never really about the question of liking a certain type of food.

In the end, it all boils down to knowing what drives a certain cuisine, and what drives ones individual love for food. In delving beyond the surface of food, I’ve unearthed that aside from something delicious, food is about the simplicity and straightforwardness of flavor and fresh ingredients all wrapped up in having a meal that echoes of a culture. That’s the beauty of food and the fascinating kaleidoscope we have of it. Everything is shared, one way or another. Because though I may not be Chinese in any way, its cuisine has certainly been engrained in my upbringing. I have had countless hopias and lumpias and siopaos in my lifetime, and I’m only 22! Now that I know this, those dumplings and that big bowl of noodles seem to taste a little bit better.

Old Manila Walks
http://www.oldmanilawalks.com/bndo.htm
Telephone: (02) 711 3823
Cel Phone: (0917) 329 1622
Email: oldmanilawalks2@gmail.com
Contact Ivan or Cherry

***
Zoe Dulay is 22-year old writer who lives, works and studies in Manila. She has been published several times for her art writing and poetry and has a penchant for uni sushi and a good banana smoothie.

As you may know, the Philippines was recently struck by Typhoon Ondoy and needs our help. The typhoon has dumped rainfall equivalent to the monthly average. In some places, the floodwaters were waist-deep; in others, the water was so high that cars and homes were completely submerged. Zoe’s friend Bea has joined the rescue effort by collecting donations, which will be directly donated to the Philipine Red Cross.  If you are interested in donating, please email beahernandez87@yahoo.com for details.
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Sometimes life takes over and you have to compromise. I’d planned a big meal to celebrate the birthdays of two of my favourite women friends. Inspired by a wine tasting featuring Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, I wanted to introduce my friends in Asia to She-Crab Soup. I thought the two would go together perfectly.

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The One-Pot Meal: Thai Coconut Galangal Chicken

patient on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldtotable/3842145369/”>Thai Coconut Galangal Chicken

When it comes to cooking (and eating), unhealthy I am a big fan of the one-pot meal. From my mother’s “famous” tomato ox-tail stew to made-from-scratch chicken soup, online there’s something about throwing a bunch of fresh ingredients into a pot, stirring them around, and inhaling that steady flow of aromatic steam that is extremely satisfying. It’s how I imagined cooking would be when I used to play house with my sister, and as I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered the joy of only cleaning one pot after dinner.

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