Whole Roast Chicken

I made this the other night upon husband’s request. Now I’m wondering why I never make this often enough. I frequently make baked chicken using drumstick and leg quarters since that doesn’t really take much time and preparation. I guess we just got used to the fact that it’s so convenient to buy a store bought one from Sam’s club or Costco and the other chicken places around town.

To make get a whole broiler chicken, I got mine from Whole Foods since that is where I buy my poultry. Clean and pat this dry with paper towels. Preheat your oven to 425F.

Get a couple of potatoes about 4 medium sized ones, scrub clean and dry and cut into chunks. Peel and cut 2-3 carrots and 1 big onion. Arrange all your vegetables in a roasting pan and season with salt and pepper and add a couple of sprigs of thyme on top or whatever herbs you like. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

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Take your chicken and stuff the cavity with half a lemon that is quartered and a couple of cloves of peeled garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter about 1/4 stick. Then generously season with salt and pepper. Lay your chicken on top of the vegetables. Remember to tuck in the wings under. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the juices run clear when you pierce the leg and thigh. Remove from oven and tent with foil. Let it rest for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Gamjatang (Korean Pork Bone Soup)

This is my first blog post after more than a year of hiatus. A lot of things has or has not happened. Our lives may feel that it has come to a standstill at times because of the pandemic but we still continue to move forward and find ways and things we need to be grateful for.

I chose to start writing again at an urging of a loyal reader. She recently saw a photo of a dish I made on my social media and asked if the recipe is up on this website. I regrettably said no and then decided there and then I should really start doing something about it. Believe or not I have several drafts of recipes written over the past year that remains unpublished. I will eventually get to that later. But for now I will just take this time to fulfill a promise I made.

Since the weather is starting to get chilly, I have been making soup dishes for dinner for the family. I wanted to try something new and this is what I decided on. My girls love Korean food and this seems to be up their alley.

Start by boiling about 1.5 – 2 lbs pork neck in a big stock pot. I used pork collar which has more meat but I believe pork neck bones would yield a more flavorful broth. Let this boil for a few minutes to remove scum. Then drain and wash your pot before putting back your meat (make sure to clean the pork bones in running water before throwing it back in the pot). Fill the pot with water until it fully covers your meat. Then add 1 whole onion peeled and chopped in half, 4-5 cloves peeled garlic, thumb sized ginger sliced, 2 stalks of green onion, and 1 tsp. peppercorns. Let this boil until meat in tender which could take 1- 1 1/2 hours.

While waiting for the meat to cook, prepare your vegetables. Peel and slice about 2-3 potatoes and parboil it then set aside. Clean and slice some Napa cabbage. I used some yuchoy and crown daisy leaves since I think bitter greens goes well will spicy soup.

For the seasoning, place in a bowl 1 Tbsp. gocharu (korean chili flakes), 2 Tbsp. doenjang (Korean soybean paste), 1 Tbsp. gochujang (Korean chili paste), 1 Tbsp. minced garlic, 3 Tbsp. Korean fish sauce or soup soy sauce and 1 Tbsp. water. Mix well and set aside. You can adjust proportion of chili flakes, chili paste and soybean to your liking. I believe that this is really a matter of personal taste.

When the meat is tender remove the meat and place in another pot. Strain the broth in a sieve. You should have at least 5 cups. Then place it in the pot with your meat. Add your potatoes and seasoning. Let this boil for 5-10 minutes until potatoes are done. Then add your greens and cook for a few minutes. I like to add the crown daisy at the last minute on top of my pot.

Serve with a cup of rice.

Afternoon Tea at Home

It’s easy to prepare an afternoon tea in the comfort of your own home, the British have been doing it for centuries. Admittedly it’s fancier to have it at 5 star hotels and posh tea places, but you can still recreate that feel with a little bit of work and preparation.

First, think of the kind of treats you wish to serve. For elaborate afternoon teas they usually give you sweet and savory options. Then to make it elegant select tableware and linens that are somewhat dainty and have visual appeal. So I chose to use a rose gold glass plate which makes for a classy place setting. I also went for whites and pastels and having a tiered serving plate serves to complete the look.

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My daughter made some homemade scones which I served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. I got several store bought sweets as well : a slice of rainbow cake, a small tiramisu cheesecake, mixed berry fruit tart, egg custard and mini danish pastries.

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For the tea sandwiches I made cucumber, radish, smoked salmon and tomato and avocado sandwiches. These are made using thinly sliced white bread with the crust removed. I must say I enjoyed creating these tea sandwiches because this is where your creativity will come at play. You need to ensure that ingredients go well together and will look delectable as well.

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We all had Jasmine tea, make sure you to use loose leaf not tea bags to better appreciate it’s flavor and for an enhanced afternoon tea experience. We also dressed up for it !

Melt Grilled Cheesery

We were here with my parents for lunch on their 52nd wedding anniversary last July 2018. It was only my family who celebrated with them as the rest were tired since we just all came from an out of town trip the day before and others had to go back to work.

We were excited to try out this restaurant since it’s a change from what we have been having throughout our Philippine vacation. They specialize in grilled cheese sandwich, a fancier and gourmet version that is. My girls love grilled cheese so they were looking forward to trying theirs out.

One of the girls had the CLASSIC MELT – it’s made out of their house blend mozzarella and cheddar cheese melted between grilled buttered sourdough bread served with a side of creamy tomato puree and honey.

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My parents shared the LE THERMIDORE melt – it’s their house blend of melted cheese with shrimp, tomato cream. caramelized onions, and aioli between grilled butter sourdough bread.

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They also offer pasta dishes and I shared with my husband a plate of CREAMY TOMATO MEAT LINGUINI – it’s linguini tossed with their signature bolognese sauce, finished in cream, wine and rosemary oil.

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My other daughter ordered the TRUFFLE CARBONARA – it’s linguini tossed in mushroom truffle cream sauce and bacon topped with arugula and Parmesan cheese.

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We also had the PARMA HAM SALAD and CEASAR SALAD to share among all of us.

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They serve huge portions and I’m glad we opted to share dishes. It also exceeded our expectations being first time customers. This is definitely a place for cheese lovers.

Kimpura

Our family has a long history with this Japanese restaurant. We have been loyal customers since the early 80’s when our dad started bringing us here. We have celebrated many special events, occasions and milestones here. We started patronizing this resturant when they were still at the Makati Commercial Center beside Rustan’s, their original location. We would always dine at their Teppanyaki table. Though at times we would go to the main dining hall for tempura and their private rooms if we want a more intimate family gathering.

On my last visit to Manila, I decided to celebrate my birthday here with my entire family; my parents, sisters, brothers in law and nephews and nieces. I booked a private room in advance for a teppanyaki style dinner.

For starters we had miso soup, kobachi beans and were given complimentary tazukuri (candied dried anchovies) with some pickled vegetables. We also had tuna sashimi and California rolls. I got an additional order of shrimp tempura too for all, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a photo.

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Before dinner is prepared we were given the dipping sauce for meat and seafood as well as separate sauces for the sushi/sashimi and the tempura.

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As customary, the chef first prepared the fried rice. Watching the chef make the rice infront of us brought back memories. The fried rice even taste the way I remembered it, much better than Benihana.

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Then we had the following :

Tofu steak.

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Chicken Teppanyaki

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Prawns Teppanyaki

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And the Steak with beansprouts .

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We had a great dinner overall. Quality of food and taste is the same the way I remember back in the early 80’s. This is among the very few restaurants in the Philippines which has remained in operation for more than four decades and is consistent in the quality of food and service they provide.

Din Tai Fung

The Michelin starred Taiwanese restaurant that specializes in “xiao long bao” steamed pork soup dumplings has four locations in the Philippines. They opened in December 2015.

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Even after three years there are still lines outside all their stores. We went to the one in BGC. Though there was a line as expected the wait time wasn’t that bad . They have an efficient way in handling these using the same number queuing system in Taiwan. Bear in mind that all of your party must be present for you to be seated at your table.

We were all excited to dine at this restaurant, specially my girls who love xiao long bao. After you order they would take time to explain to you the correct way to eat the soup dumplings and the dippings sauce that goes with it. This is soy, rice vinegar with ginger slivers.

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We got the following items:

Pork Xiao Long Bao

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Steamed Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai

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Salted Egg Yolk Prawn

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Stir Fried Watercress

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Crispy Beef Strips

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Shredded Pork Fried Rice

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The Xiao Long Bao was excellent, one thing I realized though that Shanghai Dumpling which is the place near us where we get our dumpling fix in NJ is at par with Din Tai Fung. There is also a window that gives you a peek inside their kitchen. There you can view how they wrap and prep dumplings they serve in the restaurant.

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I was impressed how clean and efficiently run the place was, the servers were attentive and they even gave me a bin to put my handbag in. That was a first for me since most restaurants just have a bag hook underneath the table. I think it’s the attention to detail that sets them apart and what makes them world class.

Shake Shack Manila

I took my sister’s family who was my host for my month long vacation in Manila to Shake Shack in BGC. It officially opened May 10, 2019 at Central Square, Bonifacio Global City (BGC). My nephews were very much interested to know if the burgers served is the same in taste and quality as those in NYC where it originated. They wanted me to do a taste comparison.

Thankfully there was no wait in line when we got there. Though it’s obvious that the crowd hasn’t diminished yet even it’s been open for several months already. We got outside seating since it was already packed inside given that it was only 6pm. It was surprisingly nice and pleasant to be dining outdoors that balmy September night.

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Shake Shack has items that is exclusively offered only in Manila like the ube shake and calamansi limeade. Also Concretes that is specially created for them like Shake Attack, Calamansi Pie Oh My and Uuube-by baby.

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We all had the classic Shack Burger single while my two nephews got the double patty. We got the crinkle fries and cheese fries as sides as well. I tried their calamansi limeade, it’s the Filipino version of lemonade. The burgers and fries tasted the same as the ones we have here in the US. The only difference in taste I noticed is that the burger patties is Manila is more seasoned or saltier. It’s priced almost the same here too, the single costing 250 pesos (US $ 5.16) and the double at 410 pesos (US $8.46).

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And last but not least I got the Uuube-by-baby concrete that I shared with my sister. It’s vanilla custard mixed in with ube, coconut marshmallow, ube cookie, toasted coconut, sago pearls, crispy pinipig topped with leche flan.

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Sentro 1771

Sentro 1771 is said to be the pioneer in promoting Modern Filipino Cuisine. They mixed and played around with ingredients to produce classic Filipino dishes with Western and Asian twist.

They are the restaurant that created the Sinigang Corned Beef which I have blogged about several years back. They have been in business since 2002 and they still try to maintain the kind of standard and quality of food they pledged to provide their guests.

I’ve been to Manila several times but it was only last year that I got to dine at this restaurant, two times for that matter. The first was to take my parents out for lunch after my mom’s meeting at church and the second was during my sister and brother in law’s 25th wedding anniversary.

On my first visit, I had to try their famous SINIGANG NA CORNED BEEF which made them popular. They offer a solo and sharing size. What is unique about this restaurant is that they cook their sinigang according to your preference. The server will let you sample the broth to make sure the sourness is to your liking. He would then asked the kitchen to adjust the seasoning to suit your taste. Sinigang is a sour broth and Filipinos can be very particular on how sour they like their soup to be.

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I also got the BANGUS PANDAN (milkfish with miso-tomato-malunggay stuffing grilled in pandan leaves) and FRESH SMOKED FISH SPRING ROLL for appetizer. This is fresh lumpia of tinapang bangus (smoked mikhfish), salted eggs, mustasa, onions and tomato. Since I am in Manila, I tried their housemade salabat which is the Filipino version of hot ginger tea.

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For dessert we shared an order of BIBINGKA – the Pinoy pancake topped with kesong puti, salted duck egg and grated coconut and BANANA and KAMOTE UN-CUE – caramelized saba banana and sweet potato.

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The second time was when my sister and brother in law celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at the small private room of Sentro 1771. They decided to keep the festivities simple and didn’t invite anyone outside the immediate family so it’s just my parents and us four sisters together with our respective families. My brother in law is known to pull out all the stops whenever he entertains and invites us out to eat. He almost ordered the entire menu since he wanted us to sample all their specialties. He got three orders of each since we were a party of 16. Here are what we feasted on:

SIZZLING TOFU – Diced tofu in a special soy sauce and mayonnaise dressing.

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MACAU CHORIZO AND CHEESE TIDBITS – Mini spring rolls filled with Macau chorizo, shallots and keso de bola.

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GRILLED CHICKEN BARBEQUE – Grilled boneless chicken leg marinated in their very own barbeque sauce.

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BEEF CALDERETA – The popular Philippine beef stew with tomatoes, spices and bell peppers.

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GRIILED SQUID – marinanted in soy and calamansi.

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STIR FRIED AMPALAYA and MALUNGGAY – Thinly sliced bitter melon Cooked with garlic, onions, chicken, pork and shrimp.

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SENTRO BAGOONG RICE – Topped with omelette strips, Macau chorizo, air- dried beef tapa, chicharon, and green mango strips.

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CLASSIC GINATAAN – Ube, sweet potato, glutinous rice balls, banana and tapioca cooked in thickened coconut milk. 

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COFFEE PIE – Chocolate-cashew crust with coffee filling topped with cream cheese and toffee sauce.

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BUKO SPLIT – Ube ice cream in fresh coconut topped with macapuno and buko jello.

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Nanbantei of Tokyo

Nanbantei is a Japanese franchise specializing in “yakitori” which are grilled meat on skewers. They have several locations in Asia and have been in the Philippines since 1998. My brother in law (youngest sister’s husband) first brought us here way back in 2006 when we first came to visit the Philippines since moving to the Northeast. We really enjoyed the food here and the ambiance. This seems to be a favorite of my family since we always have a meal here everytime we visit.

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This entry was during my visit September 2019, this time it was my eldest sister who brought me here.

As I have mentioned they offer various yakitori dishes. Though their menu is not limited to these, they have rice bowls, sushi, sashimi and other specialty items as well. Once seated they will give you complimentary “namayasai” which are fresh vegetable sticks served chilled. This comes with their special sauce made of miso and other spices. I really love this simple yet flavorful appetizer. I wasn’t able to take a photo of it though.

My nephew and I both had the “Tonkatsu Rice Bowl”, my other nephew got California roll while my brother in law had the grilled salmon head.

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Then we had Surf and Turf Platter to share , this includes beef with garlic, skewered shrimp, pork with asparagus, potato with bacon, salmon balls with teriyaki sauce and corn. I recommend that you order the platter to share instead of getting it per stick if you are eating with a group so you can have a sample of everything. For the more adventurous they have grilled chicken liver, gizzard and skin like those found in typical yakitori places in Tokyo.

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Their portions is just right and enough for you , remember this is Asia where serving size is not humongous like in a typical American restaurant.

M Bakery (Magnolia Bakery BGC)

Magnolia Bakery in Bonifacio Global City opened last August 2018. We’ve walked by it’s location several times while they were still fixing the place up Summer of 2018. When I was back in Manila September 2019, I passed by it and went in to satisfy my curiosity. I wasn’t really planning to grab something there since I have been to Magnolia Bakery in NYC a dozen times being from the East Coast. But at it’s entrance is a big poster showing their Manila exclusive Banana Choc Nut Flavor pudding. Who can resist that right ?! So we decided to get dessert there after dinner. My nephews promising it’s going to be their treat.

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While in line I saw that they also have their own version of ube cake, a Manila exclusive made with homemade halaya and ube meringue buttercream sprinkled with toasted coconut flakes and ube cupcake. That really convinced me that we made the right decision.

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I got both the ube cupcake and banana choc nut pudding. For those unfamiliar, Choc Nut is an iconic Filipino peanut chocolate treat which became popular in the 70’s. The best way to describe it is think Reeses’s peanut butter cup without the chocolate coating. Though Choc Nut is more crumbly in texture than Reeses’s.

The Banana Choc Nut pudding was great though the Choc Nut flavor was quite faint and didn’t really come out. I love the Ube cupcake since it was moist and the flavor of ube stood out. I would have gotten the slice of Ube cake too, if I wasn’t too full from dinner.

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P.S. You may be wondering why it’s called M Bakery in Manila. The franchise owner said that they dropped the name Magnolia so that Filipinos not familiar with the brand would not associate it with other Filipino company or product with the same name.