January 2010

The first time I tasted pochero was during a lunch party at my uncle’s house in Cebu. I think that was like more than 15 years ago. Even if it was that long ago, I haven’t forgotten it because it was that memorable!  When I came back home to Manila, no one knows how to prepare it so I haven’t had one since then and ended up dreaming about it once in awhile.

Finally, I’ve had enough reminiscing of that unforgettable pochero meal so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I consulted the all-knowing Internet and found some good recipes and tips.

Pochero of Luzon (not to be confused with the bulalo-like Cebuano pochero) is a dish akin to the Spanish cocido. However, ours is probably more similar to the South American version of cocido (like the sancocho) with the use of plantains or saba (left).

There are two ways to prepare this dish: the first one is what I refer to as the Simple Pochero; and the other is the Fiesta-style Pochero (which has two courses). The latter was the one I had in Cebu years ago, and you only serve it when you have plenty of guests for lunch or dinner.  Since I wasn’t having guests for lunch today, I chose to make Simple Pochero (maybe I can try the Fiesta Pochero in the summer… Woo-hoo!).  Besides, since I’m just a beginner, I thought I’d practice first with the simple version.

For today’s Sunday Lunch Project #4, I chose Panlasang Pinoy’s recipe of beef pochero (Thanks, PP! – You’re MY Julia Childs – haha!):

I did exactly what PP said in the vid.  It was also my first time to cook beef, and understandably, I stumbled a bit with the cooking process. PP said it can be cooked for an hour and a half and of course, the naïve little me believed him.

I ended up cooking the meat for 3 hours before it became tender!  Oh, the pitfalls of being a novice… I even placed a metal fork in the broth (don’t ask me why or the purpose of it because I have no idea, too) but it didn’t do anything to speed things up.

Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble (Right): Hmm, a pressure cooker seemed like a good investment right now.

Another slip-up was I kept adding too much water since it had been boiling for a long time.  The broth was beginning to get too thin and bland.  I replenished it with more tomato sauce and a beef bouillon cube to be sure.

I started out at 9 am but ended up eating at half past 1. Of course, we were famished by the time it was finished…

Sinful, tempting yumminess: Oh, all that artery-clogging goodness! But I made sure I placed lots of vegetables in the hopes of negating that vast sea of cholesterol. Heehee…

My SLP # 4:  The simple beef pochero. It is best when served with a side dish of eggplant-squash salad as shown in the above pic.  Pampatanggal ng umay, I learned.  To make it, I boiled  eggplants (peeled) and squash. I mashed them with a fork and added minced garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper.

So. Was my Beef Pochero a hit or a miss?

Answer: Despite its being an unhealthy dish (something to be enjoyed once in a blue moon), I consider it a hit! I enjoy eating it without rice. I use bread like pandesal instead to mop up the broth from my plate.  The garbanzos, chorizo and vegetables tasted really good in all that red tomato-beef broth.

1 Feb 2010 Update: I made quite a big batch that we ended up eating it for two days! But it was worth it. Besides it tasted better the next day when all the flavors were infused together. Oh, but my poor liver! Heehee. I savored every morsel of it since it’ll probably be a long time before we have this dish again. But I don’t think I’ll wait another 15 years though for that to happen. 🙂

Postscript: Thought I’d reward myself with a break from SLP. So next Sunday is my day-off from cooking. Yay! Besides, I’d rather gear up for Feb. 14 with a Chinese inspired lunch for a double celebration of the Chinese New Year and Valentine ’s Day… See yah!

Next on Sunday Lunch Project – Hainanese Chicken Rice (SLP#5)

Previous SLP Posts:
Sunday Lunch Project #3: My Dad’s Karimbuaya Chicken
Sunday Lunch Project #2: Yakiniku
Sunday Lunch Project #1: Thyme-Lemon Roasted Chicken
Pochero info source: marketmanila.com
Eggplant-Squash Side Dish recipe source: theeatingroom

I spent an afternoon in Tokyo today.

Little Tokyo, that is in Pasong Tamo, Makati.  It is right beside Plaza Fair, and the old Makati Cinema Square.

You know you’ve arrived in Little Tokyo once you spot the earthy orange torii arch at Pasong Tamo (Left).

I went there in search of this Japanese grocery store that some Pinoy otakus on the web were blogging about, called the Choto Shop. Items they said could be bought at Php75 only.  Since I need some supplies for my FooDorama Challenge, I decided to try out this much-talked about shop, too.

I set a date for my adventure to Little Tokyo. I chose this day, a Monday since it was my day-off.

The atmosphere in Little Tokyo can be a bit intimidating if you went there without any purpose or agenda. Good thing I knew what I was looking for.

Choto Shop was easy to find. Even if the attendants were Pinoys and the shop was located in my own country, I still felt like I entered a strange foreign land.  There were a handful of Japanese customers around and almost everyone was talking in Japanese.

Lost in translation: There were a few signs in English translating the products on the shelves.  You can either guess the contents of a package or just ask for assistance.

However, I must have come on a bad time since all the things I was looking for were not available on this day.  For example, I had wanted to buy Morinaga ice cream that blogger Garando was talking about. But most of their refrigerator shelves were empty.  Supplies were coming in later in the day. The shop maybe called Choto (“wait” in English) but I didn’t expect I would do exactly that.

I was a bit disappointed because I thought I had come a long way for nothing.  I do understand that items at Choto are limited to products only worth Php75.  And their items do run out fast.

It was a good thing that there was this one attendant who helped me out. She said that maybe I should try the other Japanese grocery shop just around the corner. You mean, there’s another one? My hopes were raised as she gave me the name and location of the other shop.

Maybe my day wasn’t such a waste after all…

To be continued in Part 2: Yamazaki Grocery

(Note: This is a continuation of An Afternoon in Little Tokyo)

As it turned out, my day had not been a waste of time! I initially thought my adventure in Little Tokyo (Pasong Tamo, Makati) would result to a write-up about Choto Shop. I ended up discovering and liking Yamazaki Grocery instead!

Yamazaki Grocery was just around the corner from Choto, along Fernando St., across the side entrance of Plaza Fair.

Boy, was I like a kid in a candy shop (or in our context, a small kid in a fastfood burger joint)… Store attendants were helpful and courteous, too.

All the sauces I need! Even if their products were costlier than Choto, I found and bought all the items in my list! They even have real naruto (NOT the anime, mind you) – wow!

Grateful that everything was spelled out in English including their prices –whew!

Some of the items I bought from Yamazaki: aonoriko, bonito shavings, and adzuki beans.

They have a restaurant where you can unwind after shopping. They serve authentic Japanese dishes at affordable prices (I mean compared to the ones at the malls).

This is their take-out delivery menu (click pic for a better read). Mmm, if only I live near Makati.

Yamazaki made my afternoon in Little Tokyo absolutely worthwhile. Once I use up the items I bought, I am definitely going back! Arigato gozaimasu, Yamazaki!

Sunday Lunch Project#3:

My Dad’s Karimbuaya Chicken

We’ve been having this dish since I was a kid.  It started when a friend of my dad gave us this plant which he got from the North. Ilocanos called it karimbuaya (also spelled as carambuaya). Dad, being a native of the North as well, knew what to do with it. He planted it in our garden and harvested its leaves from time to time so he could use it for stuffing every time we have roasted chicken.  Since then, we’ve been enjoying this chicken dish so much that it has become a well-loved family recipe.

The karimbuaya plant in our garden with its oblong shaped leaves (at left)

Karimbuaya (scientific name: Euphorbia neriifolia) is often mistaken for a cactus (that’s what we thought, too) for it’s prickly thorns. It is actually a type of succulent shrub that can grow as big as a small tree. It is also known as soro-soro in Tagalog and sudu-sudu in the Visayas; Indian spurge tree in India; and milk hedge and oleander spurge in English.

Karimbuaya is also used for medicinal purposes.  It is considered purgative while its milky substance is used to treat asthma and coughs and can be applied on warts and calluses.

However, people in Northern Luzon like in Vigan, Ilocos and Abra used it more as stuffing for lechon.  When fused with spices and juices from the meat while cooking, it comes up with its own distinct flavor and smell that is uniquely vibrant, tangy and mildly spicy.

I decided to cook Dad’s Karimbuaya Roasted Chicken for Sunday Lunch Project today.  It was my first time to do this (among my many firsts), and it was important that I had to have instructions along the way.

I harvested around 8 to 10 karimbuaya leaves from the garden (feeling Barefoot Contessa! lol), getting the top leaves to ensure freshness.

I washed and chopped them up along with onions and garlic.  And  I cleaned the chicken (my first time to do so! I don’t why I find that funny but haha!) and put in a bath of soy sauce, salt and pepper.  I also added an ingredient that I can’t reveal because it’s a family secret – Sorry! I stuffed the chicken with the mixture of chopped karimbuaya, onions and garlic. After I sealed its cavity with needle and thread, it was ready for the oven. Well, in my case, the turbo broiler (which is a kind of circular convection oven for those who are unfamiliar with this contraption).

I let the chicken cook for 35 to 45 minutes (please note that cooking in the turbo takes less time than an ordinary oven), turning and inverting it so all sides were evenly roasted at a temperature of 250 degrees. And this was the result:

I like the wing part the best, along with a hefty serving of steaming white rice.  This is really good when you eat it with the karimbuaya stuffing and if you are not too health-conscious, mix it with the tasty drippings from the chicken as well. Ooh, yeah!

So was my Karimbuaya Chicken a hit or a miss?

Answer: Oh, I better make it a hit or else my dad would disown me. Just kiddin! Of course it was a hit! Since it was a time-tested, reliable family recipe, nothing could go wrong.  And unlike my Thyme-Lemon Chicken fiasco, this was much more flavorful. It was an absolute yum-yum, as always! Thanks to my dad’s friend, we didn’t have to travel up North to get karimbuaya. This dish is something we will cherish for years to come.

Postscript: Since it was an easy recipe, I decided to prepare a more challenging and intimidating (well, at least, for me) recipe for my next SLP…

Next on Sunday Lunch Project – Beef Pochero (SLP#4)

Previous SLP Posts:
Sunday Lunch Project #2: Yakiniku
Sunday Lunch Project #1: Thyme-Lemon Roasted Chicken
Karimbuaya info sources:
Asia Pacific Medicinal Plant Database

Welcome to my first ever FooDorama Challenge!

Jdorama Inspiration: Kekkon Dekinai Otoko

Kekkon Dekinai Otoko (The Man Who Can’t Get Married) is a 12 episode jdorama shown from July to September 2006 (btw, this should not be confused with the Korean version; Kekkon is the original one – and still the best!).  It stars Hiroshi Abe as Shinsuke Kuwano, an eccentric, talented architect.  As the title suggests, he can’t get married because he prefers to live an uncomplicated and quiet life, free from the trappings of social, marital, and familial obligations.  However, as the story unfolds, he realizes that shielding himself away from matters of the heart may be as equally complicated and troubling as well…

This dorama has a story I fell in love with since it was intelligently written and had a perfect ending which I think is the best among all the jdoramas I have seen so far. The main character reminds me bits of my own weird personality. The funny episode titles alone had made me smile since I, too, have asked the same questions (…well, sometimes): “So What If I like Being Alone?!” (Episode 1); So What If I Eat the Food I like to Eat?! (Episode 2); and “So What if I Don’t Like to Mix With the Relatives?!” (Episode 7). Hee-hee!

Jdorama Food: Yakiniku

For this challenge, I chose to prepare yakiniku.  Yakiniku is a Japanese-style grilling of bite-sized pieces of food particularly meats. The Japanese (who only began to eat beef in the late 19th century) is said to have adapted this style from Mongolian and Korean style of grilling meats. That is why a typical yakiniku meal also consists of Korean dishes such as kimchi and bibimpap.

The FooDorama Connection: In Episode 2, Kuwano-san stubbornly eats yakiniku in a theme restaurant even after he had been warned by his doctor (played by Natsukawa Yui) to watch his diet . He eats all alone since his work-mates declined to accompany him for reasons such as having a previous engagement or a downright refusal to deal with his acerbic wit and personality.

Kuwano-san’s yakiniku in the Episode 2 scene, sizzling on a gridiron over sumibi (dry distillation).

The Foodorama Challenge: Cooking Yakiniku at home

I have ordered yakiniku one time in a restaurant with my friends before but I have never tried to prepare it at home.

Since yakiniku is a “social food” (best served and eaten when you’re with friends and family), I deemed it best to have it when Sis and family arrived on this day for Sunday Lunch Project #2. Besides, Pchie, fresh from her flight from Japan, came with her pasalubong – a bottle of tare, a yakiniku sauce that can also be bought from any Japanese grocery store. If you prefer to make your own yakiniku sauce, the web is filled with many different recipes you can choose from.

Having a yakiniku party at home was an absolute fun! The food is cooked right on your table so you get to eat it while it’s hot. It would be best if you have a table-top electric griddle (at right) so you can fully enjoy this right at your own dining table.

There were no authentic slices of yakiniku beef in the supermarket so we settled for sukiyaki.  Since it needs to be cooked for a short amount of time, any thinly-sliced cuts of beef, preferably with some fat is suitable.

Other ingredients you may need aside from tare sauce: mushrooms, kimchi (left pic), bite-sized pieces of vegetables like bell pepper and cucumber.  It would also be best if served with real Japanese rice and miso soup. Rice bowls and chopsticks added more authenticity to this enjoyable Japanese-inspired lunch.

How to serve it: you will need to bring out your serving plates since the fresh ingredients and the sauce are served and spread out on the table so your family or guests can easily reach for them using thongs or chopsticks. They can dip the ingredients in the sauce before cooking it on the griddle topped with butter. When cooked, they can get it from the griddle and mix it with kimchi and rice on their plates or bowls (At right).

The only drawback from this was that it could turn out to be messy and painful from all that hot oil splatter. Be sure NOT to wear your favorite white shirt when having this kind of cook-it-yourself meal.

So. Was my Yakiniku Challenge a hit or a miss?

Answer: A Hit! Yay! Kuwano-san would have been proud of me… 🙂  My lunch guests were obviously satiated and happy. We’re definitely going to try this again soon. Only if Pchie can give me more of that tare, then we’ll set another yakiniku date, for sure!

My Next FooDorama Challenge:
Takoyaki! (Jdorama Inspiration: Gokusen & At Home Dad)
My Sunday Lunch Project links:
Previous post: Lemon-Thyme Roasted Chicken (SLP#1)
Next post: My Dad’s Karimbuaya Chicken (SLP#2)
Yakiniki info source: wikipedia.com
Jdorama info source: wiki.d-addicts.com

The first time I saw model turned actor, Hiroshi Abe was in that butt-kickin’ Thai martial arts movie, Chocolate (released in Japan as “Chocolate Fighter”) playing a role of Yakuza leader, Masashi. Then I saw him again in the Japanese movie, Aoi Tori as the mild-mannered teacher, Murauchi.  But I didn’t realize it then that they were the same actor until I researched about it.

That’s how Hiroshi Abe is.  Despite his tall frame and dark looks, he has a subtle, almost relaxing aura of gentleness about him. You fail to notice him at first but eventually that understated and elegant charm would quietly sneak up on you and before you know it you have become a fan for life.

I’ve seen him perform all kinds of roles – he can be dark and dangerous in one show and outright silly in another. Even in dramas where he has a minor role, his presence alone can make the shows worthwhile to watch. He does have a few shows with him as the major star (he needs more!), I’ve noticed that he chooses his projects well and that they haven’t disappointed me so far.

Among my favorites are: Kekkon Dekinai Otoko, At Home Dad, My Little Chef, Shiroi Haru, Change, Dragon Zakura, Tenchijin, and movies like Glorious Team Batista.

Here is my screen shot collection of Abe-chan’s roles, proving his versatility as an actor (the reason why he is such a dream catch for any casting director in Japan) and just like fine wine, he gets to look better and better every year:

In his most popular role as the paranormal skeptic, Jiro Ueda in the “Trick” TV and movie series (2000 – still ongoing).

As the gourmet restaurant owner with impeccable taste, Kensaku Tachibana (My Little Chef, 2002)

As advertising director, Kazuyuki Yamamura, forced to swallow his manly pride to take on the domestic role of an At Home Dad (2005).

Abe-chan as the eccentric, introverted architect, Shinsuke Kuwano in Kekkon Dekinai Otoko (2006).

The serious lawyer Kenji Sakuragi on a mission in Dragon Zakura (2006). Take note of the Boracay poster at the back.

With actress, Yuko Takeuchi, he plays Keisuke Shiratori in the medical drama/whodunnnit movie, Team Batista No Eiko (The Glorious Team Batista, 2008).

As the down-on-his-luck, former conman, Haruo Sakura in Shiroi Haru (2009), he is forced to take on odd jobs such as a traffic aide.

As Uesugi Kenshin, the powerful daimyo of 16th century Japan (Tenchijin, 2009-ongoing)

In the Thai action flick and international hit, Chocolate (2009) as a Yakuza gang boss, Masashi

This is his latest role as Akiyama Yoshifuru in the period drama, Saka no Ue no Kumo (Cloud on a Hill, 2009-ongoing) with “Departures” actor, Motoki Masahiro.

And finally, for his fans, feast your eyes on Abe Hiroshi as his glorious, 6’2″ self, clad from head to foot in Dolce & Gabbana on the March 2010 cover of Uomo (Japanese edition):

私は、阿部寛愛しています! Sigh! V (^_^=)

I stay away from cooking since I was a kid due to certain reasons: I think I don’t have a gift. I don’t have an acute sense of smell.  I distrust my taste buds (if I have any). I just like to eat.

But as Gusteau’s motto goes: “Anyone can cook!” does that include me? Hah! Wait, if a rat could do it…

Actually what inspired a non-cook like me to start learning was watching –whoa, no surprise here- Julie and Julia… AND! those addicting jdoramas

Amy Adams (left) as former blogger turned author, Julie Powell (pic source) from Julie and Julia.

What can I say? I love this movie as do countless of others. Especially for bloggers like us who could relate to Julie’s joys (and sufferings) when it comes to blogging.  Her hardships, personal tests, and triumphs seemed like ours, too. And it was great knowing that both of them -Julie and Julia-started out as non-cooks, as well…

…especially Julia Childs, as portrayed by Meryl Streep (at right; pic source) who started out late (she was in her late 30’s) with her culinary career but eventually became a legend.  Yes, there’s hope for the hopeless and hapless cook wanna-bes like me.

So with that, I have decided to come up with two food projects (Dalawa! – kinakareer talaga!). These are The Sunday Lunch Project (click here) and The FooDoRama Challenge (click here).

Let the cooking (and the eating) commence!

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