Pancit Malabon

This dish originated in the town of Malabon which is beside Navotas, the town where my parents and grandparents grew up. History shows that Navotas was originally part of Malabon, it was in 1859 that it became an independent town. Navotas is a coastal town located in the Northwest part of Metro Manila. It is known as the fishing capital of the Philippines. This dish incorporates a lot of seafood, as you would expect something coming from a fishing town. Pancit Malabon is not the same as Pancit Palabok as what most people think. Both have very different cooking techniques and ingredients. Wikipilipinas best described it as “Made with fat rice noodles that are first submerged in boiling water. The noodles are then tossed in a rich garlic-achuete oil sauce. Since Malabon is known for its seafood, in addition to some vegetables and hard-boiled egg, it is topped with oysters, squid rings, and boiled shrimps.”

Pancit Malabon is always served when we have family gatherings, celebrations and during holidays. Friends and relatives would sometimes request for this when they would come and visit. Most families in Malabon and Navotas have their own recipe or way of making this. This is the recipe of my maternal grandmother. Her recipe would call for ground pork in the sauce and for the toppings she would include shrimp and squid. My paternal grandmother on the other hand does not use squid but would add oysters instead and add chopped meat and not ground. For an extra special Pancit Malabon, it would include all three:shrimps, oysters and squid. I have seen how this dish is prepared in our kitchen countless of times as a child because I was fascinated by the way it was made. There really is no precise measurements, each ingredient is added by taste and feel or maybe just from experience. I learned to make this the same way with no measurements that is why for this blog entry there will be no recipe included.

Here in the Northeast, it is sometimes hard to get fresh seafood, I omitted squid and oysters from the recipe since I was not able to get a hold of these ingredients.

The recipe for this dish has been passed down to three generations already and I consider this a family heritage. This is the dish that our family is known for.

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Mix Grain Rice

I was first introduced to this kind of rice at our favorite Korean Barbecue restaurant. This is always included in their buffet selection. I initially thought it was just red rice but after giving it a taste, I found out it is a blend of various grains.

The Korean food store where I frequently shop carries different brands of mix grain rice. They call it Jab Gok Bap. Some brands have very complicated cooking directions that requires a pressure rice cooker while others require soaking the grains overnight. After looking through the various brands they have, I finally decided on this. It is a mix of 6 types of grains; black rice, purple barley, hulless barley, rye berries, red rice and short grain brown rice.

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The cooking directions is fairly simple. First measure 1 cup (I used the cup measure of my rice cooker) of mix grain and rinse lightly then drain. Place your mix grain rice in a saucepan or pot then add 1 1/2 cups water (again using the cup measure of my rice cooker) and let this soak for 30 minutes. Then cover the pot tightly and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let this cook for around 40 minutes or until water is absorbed. Then let stand covered for 15 minutes. When done fluff your rice with a fork.

This is a very good alternative for white rice. It is very filling and loaded with fiber and nutrients.

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Lumpiang Hubad

Lumpia is a dish that was brought by Chinese immigrants to the Philippines. It can either be fried or fresh. It is popularly known as egg roll or spring roll. The Philippines has several lumpia dishes, the most popular is lumpiang shanghai which I blogged about here and lumpiang Gulay or Prito. There is also what you call lumpiang hubad literally translated as naked spring roll. The reason being it is served without a wrapping. It is a mix of different kinds of vegetables stir fried and served with a sweetish sauce.

Lumpiang hubad can either be served as is or cradled within a lettuce leaf. My mom and grandmother always served it in a lettuce leaf or letsugas in Tagalog. In my opinion you can choose whatever combination of vegetables you want. For this recipe I used the following, carrots, jicama, asian sweet potato, green beans, green onion and baby portobello mushrooms. You may also use bean sprouts, napa cabbage and ubod (heart of palm).

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To make, add 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a heated pan. Saute a medium sized onion sliced thinly, 2-3 cloves of minced garlic and 3 stalks spring onion cut into 2 inch length. Cook until fragrant. Then add 3 medium sized carrots cut into matchsticks, a small jicama and a medium sized asian sweet potato also cut into matchstick pieces. Stir and cover for a few minutes. Then add a handful of green beans cut at a bias and a small container of baby portobello mushrooms (around 8 pcs.) sliced. Season with salt and pepper or a knorr chicken bouillon cube. Cook until the vegetables are crisp tender.

To make the sauce, into a saucepan add 1 cup water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp. soy sauce. Cook until sugar has dissolved and let simmer. Then add 2 tsp cornstarch dispersed in 2 tbsp water. Cook until sauce has thickened.

To serve, place your vegetables on a plate and top with some fried onions or garlic and drizzle sauce around. You can also serve it on a lettuce leaf drizzled or served with sauce on the side.

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Lechon Pork Belly

Lechon is the star or center of any holiday, festival or party in the Philippines. It is a whole pig roasted over a charcoal pit. It is usually skewered in bamboo and is turned slowly to cook for several hours until the skin is golden brown and crisp.

It is hard to find decent tasting lechon here in our area. If you are lucky to find one it is very expensive. In recent years, I have seen a smaller version of lechon in the form of a roll. I believe it came about as another way of cooking lechon kawali.

I decided to make this for Father’s day because I wanted to serve an extra special dish for my husband to celebrate the occasion. I scoured the web for recipes and this is what I came up with.

Take a 3.5 lb slab of pork belly, wash it thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Then lay your pork belly skin side down and season the meat facing you liberally with salt and pepper. Spread a generous amount of finely minced garlic (I used 5-6 cloves) and lemon grass cut into 4-5 inch pieces smashed or halved to release it’s essential oil. Take both ends of the meat and pull it up towards the center to create a roll. Tie your pork belly roll securely with kitchen twine. Liberally rub salt and pepper on the outside and prick the skin all over with a sharp pointy knife. This will ensure a nice and crisp skin when done.

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Then refrigerate your pork belly roll overnight uncovered, to dry the skin. They say that this helps the lechon form a crackling.

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The next day take your meat out of the fridge and pre-heat your oven to 320F. Place your lechon pork belly in a wire rack set over a pan. Make sure to line your pan first with heavy duty foil for easy clean up. Rub the pork belly roll with olive oil then bake it for 4-5 hours, depending on the thickness of your meat. I just used an instant read meat thermometer to make sure my meat is done (It should read 170-180 F). Then increase your oven temperature to 425F and bake for another 20-30 minutes to crisp up the skin.

Take it out of the oven and let it stand for 20 minutes before cutting. Serve with lechon sauce or in our case a bottled Mang Tomas all purpose sauce. This the most popular brand lechon sauce back home. Lechon is best eaten with steamed white rice.

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Asian Greens Yu Choy and Kai Lan

Our family has to have a side of greens or salad for dinner. Preparing Asian greens is one of the easiest specially during a school weeknight. One of the Asian greens I regularly serve my family is Kai Lan or Chinese Broccoli. I just usually serve this steamed without any sauce or any kind of seasoning. My girls like it simply prepared. I am fortunate that they are not picky eaters.

Last night I decided to jazz it a up a bit. I took a bunch of chinese broccoli and washed it thoroughly. Then I got a pot big enough to hold my greens and added water. Let this come to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer before adding your vegetables. I just blanch it for 1-2 minutes or until it turns bright green then I take it out of the pot. Place this in a serving plate and set aside. Take 2-3 pieces of lap cheong or Chinese sausage and cut it at a bias. Then fry this in a non stick pan until brown. No need to add oil as it will release it’s own grease when you fry it. When done place it on top of your greens and serve.

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Another Asian greens we love is Yu Choy or Choy Sum, it is similar to bok choy but has a slightly bitter taste. Again I usually just serve this steamed. Sometimes I stir fry this with garlic. To prepare, thoroughly wash your vegetable. Then blanch this until the leaves turn bright green and immediately take it out of pot. Heat a pan and add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Then add 2-3 cloves finely minced garlic. Cook until fragrant and then add your yu-choy. Gently toss until everything is coated with oil and garlic. You can season this with a little salt before serving.

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Congee with Youtiao

Congee is the traditional breakfast fare in Far East Asia. In China, Hong Kong and Taiwan it is usually just made up of rice, water or broth and aromatics such as ginger and scallions. Most countries in Asia have their own version of this dish as I have explained in my previous post on Arroz Caldo.

It is often prepared plain when served for breakfast. Toppings are always added depending on one’s preference. In most households and coffee shops in Asia this is usually paired with Youtiao. Youtiao is a long fried strip of dough, also known as Chinese Cruller. In the Philippines we call this Bicho-Bicho. Some refer to is as Chinese doughnut. I do remember this sometimes being rolled in sugar after being taken out of a big vat of oil. Prepared Youtiao are sold in most Asian groceries and you can find them in the refrigerator section.

To make this congee, I just placed 1 cup measure (I used the cup that came with my rice cooker) of jasmine rice in a medium sized pot. Then I added 5-6 cups water, 1 stalk of scallion finely minced (white part only) and a thumb sized ginger cut into slivers. Let this come to a boil, after which let it simmer under low heat until the rice is softened and broken down. Make sure to stir it once in a while to prevent scorching.

Ladle in bowls and serve with Youtiao. I got prepared Youtiao and just warmed it in the oven for a few minutes. You can serve this on the side or cut up as topping.

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Adobong Pusit (Squid in Black Ink Sauce)

In the Philippines Adobo is a method of cooking that uses vinegar. Vinegar has and is always been a key ingredient in Philippine cuisine primarily because it helps preserve food. This held specially true during the Spanish colonial times when most do not have access to refrigeration, to make food last longer.

Nowadays, it’s purpose is not only for preservation but more for flavoring. Filipino food is characterized as either salty, sour, bitter or sweet or a combination of these.

The most popular form of adobo is Adobong baboy or Pork Adobo which I blogged about here. Adobo is not only a cooking method for meats but seafood as well.

Adobong pusit (squid) is the second most popular form of adobo. The key to making this dish is getting the freshest squid you could possible. I was finally able to get some while food shopping early morning at an Asian grocer. After living here in the East coast for more than a decade this was the first time I have ever seen fresh squid at a market. I usually only find frozen ones which won’t do for this recipe.

First, clean your squid by gently pulling the head with it’s tentacles from the body.

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The innards which is on the lower part of the head contains the ink sac, gently remove this with your fingertip and place in a small bowl. You will need the ink sacs to flavor your adobo and to achieve the black color you want for this dish.

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Rinse and remove the innards from the head and set aside. Take the body and remove the cartilage from inside by pulling it, don’t worry it will slide out easily. Then rinse the inside of the squid and remove any innards left. Repeat the procedure for the rest of the squid.

To make, heat a medium sized pot and add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Then saute until fragrant 2-3 cloves finely chopped garlic. Add your cleaned and prepared squid and stir fry for a bit. Then pour in the ink sacs you have set aside and add about 1/4 cup cane vinegar.

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Add salt and pepper to taste and cover. Cook and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Do not overcook because the squid will get tough and rubbery. Serve with steamed white rice.

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Crispy Anchovies Over Rice (Dilis Rice)

Anchovies or Dilis in Tagalog are usually sold dried. Dried anchovies are widely used in Asia, in Japan and Korea they are used to make stock and as savory snack or appetizer. Southeast Asians on the other hand usually fry these in a little oil until golden brown and crisp. It is commonly eaten with rice but each country in the Southeast has it’s own unique way of serving it.

Malaysia and Singapore has Nasi Lemak a traditional breakfast of rice, sambal, dried anchovies and boiled or fried egg. Indonesia has Nasi Goreng which means fried rice but they have a version with anchovies on it. In the Philippines, Dilis or Dried Anchovies is a typical breakfast fare served with garlic rice and sunny side egg.

To make my Dilis Rice, I heated a non stick pan and added about 1-2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Then placed about a handful of small dried anchovies. I let this cook over medium heat until golden brown and crisp. Make sure to watch it as the small anchovies tend to cook fast and can burn which will make it bitter.

To serve, place your cooked white rice on a plate and top this with some egg crepe strips. Then liberally sprinkle your anchovies on top of your egg. Serve with a couple of tomato slices and chopped cilantro.

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Mom’s Mapo Tofu

This is not an authentic recipe for mapo tofu. It’s adapted from a dish that my mom always makes when cooking tofu.

First, add 1-2 tbsp. vegetable oil in a heated wok or pan. Then saute until fragrant 1 tbsp. finely chopped ginger, 2 cloves garlic finely minced and 1 small finely chopped onion. Add in 1 lb of ground beef and cook until brown.

While your meat is cooking whisk in a small bowl 1/4 cup cooking sake, 2 tbsp. oyster sauce, 2 tbsp. sweet chili sauce and 1 tsp. sesame oil. Then slice one block of silken tofu into small cubes then set these aside.

When meat is done pour in your sauce and mix to combine. Then add your cubed tofu and cook until everything is heated through and sauce is thickened. Garnish with chopped cilantro or green onions before serving.

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Summer Strawberry Salad

I made this a couple of weeks back, after strawberry picking at a nearby farm.

I just put together some green leaf lettuce, a bunch of cilantro and a handful of sliced berries. This salad was meant as a side for our grilled pork ribs chops. You can add some walnuts and feta cheese or even grilled chicken to make a hearty Summer meal.

Make sure everything is chilled before serving. Drizzle with some raspberry vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing.

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