Bicol Express

Bicol Express is one of the Filipino dishes that use coconut milk. Coconut milk or kakang gata in Tagalog is widely used in Southeast Asian cooking. I hardly ever cook with coconut milk since I grew up in a household that isn’t overly fond of eating food made with “gata.”

This dish is a favorite of my husband and he would always get this at the Cafeteria-style Filipino restaurant in our area. Since their Bicol Express is too spicy for me to handle, I made this so I can adjust the level of heat and amount of chiles in the dish.

Get a large saucepan and place over medium to high heat. Add 2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil and saute 6 cloves of minced garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant add 1 medium-sized chopped onion. Cook until onions are translucent. Add 1 1/2 lbs pork butt cut into cubes. Stir and cook until no longer pink and has turned a bit brown on the edges. Place 2 Tablespoons “shrimp bagoong” and stir fry everything for about 2 minutes. Pour a 13.5 oz can of coconut milk and 1 cup of water, and let this come to a boil. Lower heat and continue cooking at a simmer for 35-40 minutes until meat is tender and coconut milk has thickened. Make sure to cook at low heat so that the coconut milk will not curdle. This will give your sauce a creamy consistency. Then add 1/2 cup chopped “siling haba” or Korean green chili peppers and 2-3 pieces thinly sliced Thai chiles or siling labuyo. You may add more if you want it spicier. Season with some salt and pepper to taste. Let this cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

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Korean Vegetable Pancake

This is a family favorite and one of the easiest to make when we are craving some Korean food. It’s also versatile; you can add anything you fancy: meat, seafood, or veggies.

I just buy the Korean pancake mix at my local Asian grocer, and I particularly like this brand.

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To make prepare your batter by mixing 1 1/2 cup pancake mix with 1 to 1 1/4 cup cold water and an egg. Mix until just combined. To these add your grated or chopped vegetables. I used cabbage, carrots, zucchini, king oyster mushrooms, onions, and spring onions. Mix until vegetables are coated with the batter.

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Get a large non-stick pan and place over medium heat. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Scoop 1/2 cup of your vegetable mixture onto pan. Fry until crisp and golden brown on the bottom. Flip and continue to cook until the other side is brown and cooked to your desired crispness. You may need to add more oil to your pan. When done place on a paper lined plate. Finish cooking remaining batter.

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For the dipping sauce, combine 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil and some ground pepper.

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Ube Braided Bread

I have a jar of Ube Spread I got at Trader Joe’s a month ago. I find it too sweet to use as spread for my toast. I was looking for ways to use it up, after watching Youtube videos of Japanese bakery work I was inspired to make this braided bread.

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To make the dough I used this recipe here . I have used this before to make my Korean sausage bread and I really liked it’s texture and taste.

After dough has risen I divided it into 4 equal parts. Rolled it into a rectangular shape and placed a tablespoon of Ube spread on top. Using an angled spatula I spread it evenly on the dough leaving about a half inch border all around. Roll up the dough starting on the longest side, then using a sharp knife, cut the dough log horizontally, leave 1/2 inch of top edge uncut. Then braid and make sure to keep the open layers exposed on top as you do. This will give you the braided effect. Then take both ends and form into a circle tucking ends towards the center to form a knot.

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Place your dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let this rise for another 30 minutes. While waiting preheat your oven to 350F.

When your dough is ready, brush the tops with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes and until tops are golden brown.

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Dorayaki (Red Bean Pancake)

Dorayaki is a sweet red bean-filled snack sandwiched between 2 small pancakes. It’s a traditional Japanese snack that dates back to the Edo period. I won’t bore you with it’s history and beginnings, but if you want to know more you can read it here.

I made this using the Japanese Morinaga hotcake mix and a can of ogura-an (smashed sweetened red bean). To make prepare the pancakes using the package directions. For tips and how-to, here is the link to the Japanese hotcakes I made in a previous blog post. I made my pancakes much smaller just like making silver dollar pancakes. Give the pancakes enough time to cool.

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Once it’s cool take a pancake and place a scoop of red bean filling cover with another pancake. Make sure that the filling does not spill out too much on the edges. Wrap it with cling wrap to help keep it’s shape. Unwrap before serving.

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Purple Sweet Potato Fritters

I wanted to use up the sweet potatoes that have been sitting on my kitchen counter so I made fritters out of them this week. My family loved it so I thought of turning it up a notch and replacing it with purple sweet potatoes.

For this recipe, I used Okinawan purple sweet potatoes. To make peel and grate two medium-sized sweet potatoes and 1 small carrot and place them in a bowl. Add 1 small onion finely chopped, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Mix everything together until well combined.

Take a small pan and add about 1/2 an inch of any neutral oil. Place over medium heat, once the oil is hot drop a heaping tablespoon of your sweet potato mixture. Fry for 1 minute or so, flip, and cook until brown and crisp on both sides. This takes so little time to cook so be careful not to burn it. I served this with the “Chick-Fil-A” dipping sauce I got at my local Target. You may use sweet chili sauce or a yogurt mayo garlic sauce too, the possibilities are endless.

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Tomato and Lemon Herbed Ricotta Tart

Summer means tomato season. What better way to make use of your Jersey tomatoes than make it into a tart. This is what I served my family for brunch today. It’s a perfect meal for this hot and humid weekend we are having.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Get a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. Take your puff pastry dough (I used store bought ones) and roll it into a rectangular shape on lightly floured surface. Transfer it onto your sheet pan. Lightly prick the pastry all over with a fork. Score the pastry about one inch from the edge taking care not to cut through the dough , this will create your rim. Brush your pastry all over with an egg wash (1 beaten egg plus 1 Tbsp. water). Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

While pastry your pastry is baking, slice your tomatoes and place this on paper towels. Sprinkle with some salt to release some of its juices and prevent your tart form getting soggy. Cover with paper towels and let this sit for 15 minutes. I used different colored heirloom tomatoes, plum tomatoes and some mixed medley grape tomatoes.

In bowl combine one tub ricotta cheese, zest of one lemon, 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1/4 cup chopped basil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

Once your pastry is done, take it out of the oven and cool slightly. Spread your ricotta cheese mixture evenly onto your puff pastry and arrange your sliced tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with some basil that has been chiffonade before serving.

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Soft Scrambled Eggs Over Toast

Breakfast is undeniably my favorite meal of the day. You can do many things to make this meal as fancy or rustic as you want. But I usually make something that not only will satisfy our stomach but also be a feast for our eyes as well.

These scrambled eggs are inspired by Buvette’s steamed eggs on toast. Buvette is one of the many places I still have yet to visit in NYC. The only thing that’s stopping me from going is that it’s really a small and compact place, to begin with, and it’s usually busy and crowded all the time. I wouldn’t really be comfortable under these conditions with covid still around us.

These are not that hard to make, you just need some patience. This recipe is for one serving. To make beat 3 eggs in a bowl with 2 Tablespoons of milk or cream (optional). Get a non-stick pan and pour your beaten eggs into the cold pan, add 1 Tablespoon of butter. Set this over medium to low heat. Stir with a silicone spatula until eggs are starting to set. Continue stirring until soft curd forms, you need to do these on and off the heat. It’s important to note that you need to remove your pan before you reach your desired doneness as the eggs will continue from the pan’s residual heat. Also, this will ensure that your eggs will be moist and silky.

To serve, pour your eggs over 2 slices of thick-cut toasted sourdough bread. Top with salami or whatever cold cuts you have. You may add a dollop of creme fraiche if you wish.

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Bulalang (Tagalog Pinakbet)

In my family we call this Bulanglang or Tagalog Pinakbet. Ilocano style Pinakbet is never sautéed but is simply steamed or simmered in onion, tomatoes and ginger and flavored with bagoong na isda (fermented fish sauce), this according to a good family friend who is from Ilocos Norte. Bulanglang is sautéed in garlic, onions and tomatoes and seasoned with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste).

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This is an updated version of my recipe for Pinakbet. The original one I featured on this site was a bit dry. I just added a little bit of water and cooked it for a few minutes longer but not too long for the vegetable to become too soggy.

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta

It’s undeniable that we love pasta. It’s one of the things I prepare when I don’t know what to make for dinner. It’s easy to prepare and versatile. My mom makes a mean lemon garlic shrimp pasta and it’s from her that I got this recipe.

For this recipe, you will need a box of linguine or fettuccine, 5-6 cloves garlic, about 1 lb of shrimp, 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1- Tablespoon capers, salt and pepper to taste, parsley and 1-2 lemons.

To make, cook your pasta according to the package direction. While pasta is cooking, place a wide skillet over medium to high heat, add butter and olive oil. When the butter starts to melt add your finely minced garlic. Cook garlic making sure not to burn it. Add shrimp and cook until firm and no longer pink about 2-3 minutes. Stir in your capers. Place your cooked pasta and toss everything to combine. Add the juice of a lemon and its zest. Season with salt and pepper. You may add about 1/4 cup of pasta water when you think the pasta is a bit dry. Adjust seasonings to your liking, you may add more lemon juice and salt to taste. Finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

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Mango Tiramisu

My daughter wanted to make a Mango Icebox cake or what Filipinos refer to as Mango Float. I ask my family back home if they have ever made it. They mentioned that heavy cream, condensed milk, and butter are used to make the cream filling. I find this too rich and sweet for my liking. So I thought of making something similar that will better suit my taste. I could have just used whipped cream and sugar but it seems too light and fluffy. That is when Tiramisu came to mind it has the mouthful I wanted without the extra sweetness or heaviness.

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To make, you will need a pack of Lady Fingers or Savoiardi, 4-5 ripe mangoes, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup mascarpone, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 cup espresso or very strong coffee (I used my nepresso machine to make the espresso) and unsweetened cocoa for dusting. Place your heavy cream in a chilled stainless steel bowl and beat with electric or handheld mixer. Slowly add your sugar and vanilla, continue beating until stiff peaks form. Then add the mascarpone and mix until combined.

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Lightly dip your Savoiardi on both sides in the espresso and line the bottom of your pan with it ( I lined my loaf pan with cling wrap so that I can lift my tiramisu out of the pan, this step is optional). Then spread your cream filling on top of the cookie before layering it with your mango slices. Repeat until you have about 3 layers. Chill in the refrigerator for about 4 hours to overnight.

To serve, lift your Tiramisu out of the pan and remove plastic wrap. Place in a serving dish and dust the top with unsweetened cocoa powder. I added some mango florets before serving.

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