Japanese Curry Rice

Japanese Curry or Kare is a favorite of one of my girls. This is usually served over rice or udon noodles. Katsu (chicken or pork cutlet) is almost always served with it. This is very different from the Indian style curry as this has a milder taste and is usually made from a curry roux mix. There are several Japanese brands in the market and the most popular is the House Kokumaro Curry mix. This is available at any Asian grocer.

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This is very simple to make and you only need a few simple ingredients: 1 lb. meat (chicken, pork or beef), 3 medium sized potatoes, 2 medium sized carrots, an onion and 1 box of curry mix roux.

Heat a pan and add 2-3 tbsp. of vegetable oil. Saute your diced onion until translucent. Add your meat (cut into bite size pieces) and cook until it changes color. Then add 4 cups water and let this simmer for around 15 minutes covered. Add your potatoes and carrots (cut into smalls chunks) and cook for several minutes before adding 1 box of curry mix roux. Mix well until roux is well dissolved and let this simmer for 10 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Serve over a bed of steamed white rice. Best eaten with just a spoon !

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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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Soy Garlic Pork

I really don’t know how to call this dish as I kind of made it up. I have some boneless country style pork ribs in the freezer which was meant for the grill, but it has been raining in our area for two days now.

I wanted to make something quick and easy. So here is what I did. I cut into cubes my pork (1.5 lb) and marinated it for 30 minutes in the following : 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tbsp. worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp. knorr liquid seasoning, 1 tsp. paprika, 3 cloves finely chopped garlic and about 1 tsp. ground pepper.

I then placed everything in a pot and let it braise over low fire until meat is tender. Then get a non-stick frying pan and scoop out your meat from the pot to the pan and fry until golden brown. Make sure that you drain your meat because it will release a lot of it’s own juices. Note: I did not add any more oil to my frying pan as the pork will render it’s own fat.

Top with fried garlic chips and serve with rice.

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Asian Lettuce Cups

With the weather getting warmer, I find myself constantly thinking of something light and easy to make for dinner.

This recipe is just perfect for those times you don’t want to stay too long in a hot kitchen and be able to fix dinner in no time at all.

To make, you will need a head of iceberg lettuce or boston lettuce. We prefer using iceberg lettuce because of it’s crunchy texture. Separate and wash each leaf and dry with paper towels. Keep in the fridge to chill while you prepare and cook the meat mixture.

Heat a saute pan and add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add 1 medium finely minced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic cook until fragrant and translucent. Add a lb of ground meat (chicken or pork) and cook until browned and all it’s juices has evaporated. Then add a small can of water chestnuts that has been finely chopped. Stir in 1 tbsp of oyster sauce, 2 tbsp of hoisin sauce and 2 tsp of sesame oil. Last add a bunch of chopped green onion. Cook until everything is heated through.

To serve, scoop 1-2 tablespoons of your ground meat onto a lettuce leaf and top with some carrots strips and green onion.

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Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is Japanese style deep fried pork cutlet. This is typically served with finely shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce.

My family loves eating tonkatsu but we usually get to enjoy this only when we eat out or buy it “to go”. My excuse is that I dislike deep frying because of the clean up you need to do after.

I bought some pork cutlets last week as it was on sale and wasn’t really sure what to do with it. But one weeknight I was inspired to finally make tonkatsu because I wanted to make something new for my family.

To make you will need pork cutlets, panko, eggs, flour and salt and pepper.
First season your cutlets with salt and pepper. Then dredge each cutlet in flour making sure to shake off any excess, dip in beaten eggs and finally coat with panko. While you are preparing your cutlets you can heat up your pan with 1 1/2 – 2 inches of vegetable oil. Once your oil is hot enough fry your cutlets one at a time until golden brown. Make sure that you flip it once to ensure even cooking. Drain in paper towels and let rest before slicing.

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Serve with thinly sliced cabbage and tonkatsu sauce and a cup of steamed white rice.

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Filipino Style Meatballs in Lettuce Cups

I think I get most creative in cooking when I have limited options inside my fridge and pantry. I had a lb of ground meat in the freezer, I know I wanted to make meatballs but I don’t want to make the sweet and sour kind nor the ones with gravy on it. The weather is getting warmer here in our neck of the woods and I wanted to make something light. My first thought was to make a wrap or tacos but I didn’t have tortillas and then I remembered I still have a head of green leaf lettuce and suddenly a an idea came to mind.

First make your meatballs, I used the recipe for the filling of lumpiang shanghai which I made awhile back. After mixing all your ingredients together, pre-heat your oven to 400F. As your oven is pre-heating, form your ground meat into balls and set it in a lightly oiled pan. Then bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

While your meatballs are baking, separate and wash your lettuce then dry with paper towels.

To assemble, get a piece of lettuce and place 2-3 pieces of meatballs. You can top it with diced tomatoes and cilantro which is what I did. You can experiment with the kind of toppings you may want to add like: mango salsa, pickled radish or atchara. My girls and I added some kimchi on it and then made kimchi rice to add to it too.

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Menudo

Menudo is one of the most popular tomato based dish in Filipino cooking. By the name itself you would know that it has Spanish/Mexican influence. In my mom’s side of the family, menudo is always cooked by par boiling the meat and other seasonings first. In Tagalog this is “sangkutsa”. My Lola (grandmother) used to say that this will not only help tenderize the meat but give it more flavor and eliminate unwanted smell of meat sometimes.

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To make, place 1 lb of cubed pork (I used pork butt) in a medium sized pan. Add juice of half a lemon, 1/4 cup soy sauce, enough water just to cover the meat and 1 tsp ground pepper. Let this simmer until meat is almost tender. This is “sangkutsa”.

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In another pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté onions, garlic and tomatoes until the vegetables are softened. Add the cubed pork that was par boiled and sauté for a bit before adding the liquid it was cooked on.

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Pour a small can of tomato sauce and a cup of water and let it simmer for a few minutes. You may add a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce if it is a bit bland. You then add diced potatoes and carrots and cook until these are fork tender but not mushy. Last, add diced red peppers. If you can buy good quality beef liver, these is usually added towards the last few minutes of cooking. Like adobo, each Filipino family has their own style of cooking menudo, some do not add carrots, others would include raisins and so on.

Serve with a steaming bowl of white rice.

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Grilled Pork Chops

Summer means barbecue season for us. It’s not fun to cook dinner when it’s hot and humid. That is why I don’t use my stove and oven that much during the summer months. I prefer to make something that is quick and easy with little to no preparation needed.

This pork chop is a perfect example of a fuss free dinner. I used the center cut pork rib chops because it has a good ratio of meat and fat. It is not too lean that it makes your chops chewy nor too fatty that it makes it greasy. This will guarantee a nice juicy and tender pork chop once it’s done.

Just get your chops and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pre-heat your grill and cook the chops until it’s done to your liking. Mine didn’t take that long to cook. I used my Saladmaster indoor grill to make this.

We usually eat this with rice. My family loves to use ketchup as a dip but I prefer a mix of soy,vinegar and ground pepper as dipping sauce.

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“Nilaga” with a Twist

I don’t really know how this dish is called. I just remember both my maternal and paternal grandmothers serving this on occasion when we come to visit for Sunday lunch. My mom also makes this for us at home.

When I got married, this was one of the very first dish I served my husband for dinner. I chose it because it was the easiest to make with very few simple ingredients. I have not made this in quite a while. I was just really pressed for time in making dinner tonight and when I was looking through what I have in the fridge, I’ve thought of this.

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It’s just like “Nilaga” that I previously posted. The only difference is that you only make use of napa cabbage as your vegetable and the addition of a beaten egg at the end of cooking.

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Adobo

If the Philippines has a National dish, that would be Adodo. It is the most popular and well loved comfort food of all. Every Filipino family has their own recipe and way of cooking adobo. The basic ingredients for this dish are – chicken or pork or a combination of both, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorns and dry laurel leaf. The ratio of soy sauce and vinegar really depends on one’s personal taste and preference. Some like it cooked a bit dry and some with more sauce.

You can get creative by adding other ingredients like mushrooms which is my personal favorite, hard boiled egg and potatoes. The possibilities are endless.

Just combine all the ingredients in a pot and simmer until meat is tender. You can strain the meat from the sauce and fry till golden brown. You then return the sauce to the pan and cook till a bit thickened. This step is optional but will give the dish an added depth of flavor.

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I made pork adobo with mushrooms for last Thursday’s dinner. We almost always eat this with rice.