Beef Nilaga

Beef Nilaga reminds me of the boiled “corned beef and cabbage” usually served during St. Patrick’s Day. Beef nilaga for me is the easiest Filipino dish you can prepare. It’s just boiling your choice of meat and adding vegetables.

For this recipe I used “kalitiran” (top blade) for the cut of meat. You may also use beef brisket or shank as a substitute.

Start by boiling your meat with onions and ground pepper (whole peppercorns are preferable) until tender. Don’t forget to skim and remove the scum from the broth as it boils. Season with salt or fish sauce, the most commonly used Filipino seasoning. This is similar to the Thai “nam pla” or Vietnamese “nuoc mam”. Just a word of warning for those unfamiliar with it, this has a very strong and pungent smell. This will also give “umami” flavor to your soup.

Add your choice of vegetables, for this I made use of bok choy (chinese greens), carrots and cucumber. As always I make do with what I have on hand. Some purist may cringe at the idea of adding cucumber to nilaga. My family has always used cucumber because it not only enhances the flavor of the broth but gives it a distinct fragrance. We also sometimes add squash for it renders sweetness to the dish.


The commonly used vegetables in making nilaga are potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Hence, it’s similarity to the boiled “corned beef and cabbage”. Since moving to the Northeast I’ve learned to substitute ingredients to what we have locally. It not only makes for an interesting dish but challenges your creativity as well.

My Beef Nilaga


Penguin Bento

I had a little extra time yesterday morning so I was able to make this Penguin themed bento. I’ve already seen photos of this while searching online, so I have a pretty good idea how to go about it. My only concern was if I can cut freestyle the outline of the penguin’s face using “nori”. I tried to make a pattern but eventually ditched that idea. I used regular kitchen scissors to make the cut out. A special bento food scissors would be better I think for a more precise and cleaner look. I still need to source for one at Amazon. It’s really not that hard as it looks.

Shape the rice into a ball using plastic wrap. Make sure the rice is warm so that it will hold it’s shape. Then position the “nori” on rice and gently mold it in place.

Penguin bento.


Pork Afritada

Afritada is a Filipino tomato based stew. I believe this is one of the many Spanish influenced dishes that we have. It is meat (pork and chicken are commonly used) braised in tomatoes, onions, garlic with a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. Tomato paste is then added with broth or water. Lola (my maternal grandmother) does not like to use tomato sauce as she finds it too sour. Bay leaf, salt and pepper are used to season. My family always include vinegar in our “afritada” recipe, I remember my mom and lola saying that this is what makes it different from “Menudo“.

Each family in the Philippines usually have their own recipe or way of making this dish. My recipe may differ from others but this is what makes Filipino cooking interesting.

photo 1
The trinity of Filipino cooking – garlic, onions and tomatoes. The rest of the ingredients I used are potatoes, carrots and red bell pepper.

photo 2
Meat of choice, you may use chicken or beef.

photo 4-1
Pork Afritada

photo 5
Dinner is served, pork afritada over rice.


This is an updated version of this recipe. I added some Spanish chorizo after placing the carrots and potatoes in the simmering stew to give the dish added flavor.




Traditional Filipino Breakfast

We rarely eat rice for breakfast since moving to the Northeast. Our everyday fare would normally be toast, cereal or fruits and yogurt. I was at the Asian store earlier today and saw in the freezer section a pack of chicken “tocino” (Filipino cured meat). I thought of making “Tosilog” (Tocino + sinangag + itlog) with it, a traditional Filipino breakfast. Roughly translated this is cured chicken meat, garlic fried rice and sunny side egg over easy.

photo 2

“Sinangag” or garlic rice is made by browning minced garlic in 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. You then add cold cooked rice, stir fry until hot and season with a little salt.

photo 3

I cook the chicken tocino by adding 1/4 – 1/2 cup water with the meat in a non-stick pan. Let the water reduce considerably and wait till the meat release it’s own juice. Add a bit of oil and cook until browned and caramelized.

photo 1

Tocino + Sinangag + Itlog = Tosilog


Totoro’s Friends Bento

As part of my Totoro series, I decided to make my daughter a bento of Totoro’s friends. Chibi Totoro is a smaller white version of Totoro. It is also a forest guardian. Susu-Wataris are round and black furry creatures seen from the movie Totoro and Spirited away. They are also soot sprites.

For today’s bento I made Chibi Totoro onigiri, Susu-Watari onigiri, turkey meatballs from last night’s dinner, green beans and strawberries.



Totoro Onigiri

Our family is a big Hayao Miyazaki fan. “My Neighbor Totoro” is one of our all time favorite movie. I’ve always wanted to make a “Totoro” inspired bento, but just the thought of it intimidates me. After searching the web and finding a step by step tutorial, It finally got me excited to try.

This is going to be the first my Totoro Bento series. Here is my take on Totoro onigiri. I borrowed my daughter’s plush Totoro collection (Totoro, Chu Totoro, Chibi Totoro and Susu-watari) for this post.




Hinamatsuri Onigiri

Hinamatsuri or Girls Day is celebrated in Japan every 3rd day of March. To commemorate this occasion, I decided to make these onigiri in the shape of the Emperor and Empress.

As a backgrounder, this is the day when people pray for the happiness and health of their girls. They also put up a display of dolls in tiers wearing costumes during the imperial times. With the top most reserved for the emperor and the empress. The remaining tiers would hold the ladies in waiting, court musicians, ministers and guards.

Onigiri “Empress”

Onigiri “Emperor”

The Imperial Couple