Rural Kitchen of Liliw Laguna

I had dinner here with my parents September of last year. I found out recently that they have permanently closed their doors on October 31, 2019. I’m glad that I was able to experience dining at this small but really wonderful Filipino restaurant.

It was upon my family’s recommendation that we decided to have dinner here on a Wednesday evening. It was before attending a midweek prayer service at the nearby Union Church of Manila. This little restaurant was truly a gem and a find. It was located in a tiny area on Rada St., Legaspi Village in Makati. You are likely to miss it if you didn’t know it’s exact location. It’s very narrow but it has made good use of it’s space. It’s decorated with Solihiya (woven natural cane) chairs which added to it’s charm.

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They provide complimentary bread rolls called bonette (they look like tiny pandesal) with butter and and some kind of local salsa.

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We ordered Ukoy as an appetizer together with Pako Salad. Their ukoy came out as a surprise since it’s not made into the traditional round patties but rather into square thin shapes. It was crisp and flavorful. I also loved the pako salad which was a combination of fiddlehead fern, jicama (singkamas) and kesong puti (local white cheese) with calamansi dressing. I love trying out salads made up of local ingredients.

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Then we had the oxtail Kare-Kare (oxtail stewed in a peanut based sauce) as mains and Pritong Hito (deep fried catfish) which was served with pickled papaya and ampalaya. These were also very well prepared and seasoned perfectly. Food was as expected made the traditional way and very well presented or plated. Prices were reasonable and I might say inexpensive for the quality of food served. If memory serves me right I only paid around 1,400 pesos for the entire meal and that’s for three persons. This is without taxes and tip and converts to around 30 US dollars.

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Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hyatt Manila

There are several 5 star luxury hotels in Manila that offer Afternoon Tea service. The Grand Hyatt in Bonifacio Global City is one of them. I was set to bring my girls here back in 2018 when we went home for vacation but we didn’t have time in our busy schedule. So when I got the chance to go back home again last year I made sure to include this in my itinerary.

We went here for a post celebration of my birthday. Afternoon tea at the Hyatt is served at “The Lounge” from 2:30 – 5:30 pm daily. The classic afternoon tea for two is priced at P1,450.00 which is roughly 32 US dollars without tax and gratuity. I find this quite reasonable and inexpensive compared to afternoon tea service in New York City. Considering that this is in a luxury hotel.

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The classic tea service for two includes the following : classic or raisin scones with jam and clotted cream. For the sweets you can pick two from these choices: strawberry cheesecake, almond Florentine cake, mango coconut, classic tiramisu, mango shortcake, fruit tart, black forest and mocha hazelnut cake. For the savory side you will be be given quiche lorraine, avocado sandwich, smoked salmon, egg prawn and prawn sandwich.

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You can either have coffee and tea with it. The tea selection is quite extensive which I found to be excellent too. As expected service was exceptional.

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Tendon Kohaku

This is a long overdue post, two years to be precise ! When we went home for a month long vacation in the Philippines Summer of 2018, we stayed at an Airbnb in Bonifacio Global City. There we had an unlimited number of restaurants we can choose to dine in every single day. We happened to chance upon Tendon Konaku one evening while strolling inside Uptown Mall, debating amongst ourselves where to have dinner. After a quick glance at the menu posted outside, I realized it’s just like Tendon Hannosuke at Mitsuwa. They specialize in “tendon” or tempura rice bowl. Kohaku means amber in Japanese. It serves to define the color of their tempura which is “fried to amber perfection”. This is also a Japanese franchise and have several locations in Singapore and Malaysia.

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I was impressed how the place was decorated and appointed. Service was also good and servers where attentive. We ordered the following items.

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The Wasabi Potato Salad for starters. Serving is more than enough for us to share. It’s made up of salad greens with a sprinkling of fruit and corn and a scoop of Japanese style potato salad in the center.

Then the girls had the Udon with Tiger Prawn Tempura and Thinly Sliced Pork Niku Udon.

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While my husband and I both had the House Special Kohaku Tendon. It’s made up of an assortment of Chicken breast, tiger prawn, squid, crab stick, green beans, shiitake and pumpkin tempura. It also comes with a bowl of miso soup and pickled radish. This type of tempura doesn’t need a dipping sauce since some sweet and salty kind of sauce is drizzled over it just like in Tendon Hannosuke. You can choose from original and spicy kind of sauce.

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Food was delicious and well prepared.

Bircher Muesli

I’ve had my very first taste of muesli in ’91 when our dad took us to The Peninsula Manila for breakfast. I spotted it on the menu and was intrigued by the description so I decided to get it. I immediately fell in love with the taste. It was like oatmeal and cereal combined but with a distinct flavor that I could not put my finger on. I love that it wasn’t overly sweet and is not too mushy like oatmeal.

Muesli is not something that you can just pick at the grocery store in Manila back then. You are lucky if you happen to get your hands on one at hotel boutiques or speciality food stores which is a rarity then. I can only get my muesli fix back then when we would have breakfast at The Pen as we would call it or stay overnight.

I was happy to be able to indulge on this again when we moved to the Northeast in ’99. I went through different brands looking for taste of the very first muesli I had at the Peninsula. The closest I can get was the Finax muesli sold by Ikea. Sadly they stopped selling this in 2016. Then I discovered Bob’s Red Mill Old country style muesli. It contains generous amount of oats, seeds, raisins and almonds and is not sweet at all.

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When I went back home for a visit last year, I was the one who took my dad this time to the Peninsula for breakfast. To my delight and surprise they are still serving muesli, this time as part of the buffet spread. I am so happy that it still taste exactly as I remember the first time I had it. Photo below is the muesli I had at The Pen.

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I promised myself to make this at home and look for the recipe to recreate the taste I was looking for. After going through several recipes I finally discovered the elusive ingredient that gives the distinct flavor of muesli – apples ! Grated apples is added to the muesli together with milk.

To make, place 1 cup of muesli in a container, add 1 cup of milk and 1 grated apple. Place in the fridge overnight to allow the muesli to soften and the flavors to meld.

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To serve, place your muesli in a small bowl, the add a splash of milk if you find it too dry. Then top with some thinly sliced apples or your choice of fruit. Serve cold.

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Egg and Tomatoes Stir Fry

As I’ve said before you only need few simple ingredients to create the best tasting dish. I’ve had eggs and tomatoes before but never realized that this scrambled egg dish is very much a comfort food for most Chinese immigrants since it evokes memories of home. The one I am familiar with and what is served at our house differs in texture since it’s more like scrambled eggs with tomatoes thrown in and onions are sometimes added into the mix. I wasn’t overly fond of it since the tomatoes can be a bit tart too.

When I saw a recipe for Chinese egg and tomatoes stir fry I realized that we have been making it the wrong way. This egg dish just looks so creamy and luscious that I got so excited to make some myself.

You only need a few ingredients to make this : 3 eggs, one large tomato, oil, sugar, salt and tomato ketchup.

First, wash and cut your tomato into large chunks. Then take a pan and heat 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil. Add your tomatoes in the pan and let it cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes until it has released it’s juices. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon ketchup. Add about 2 Tablespoons water and continue cooking until tomatoes are soft and sauce a but thickened. Remove from heat and place in bowl and set aside.

Get another pan and place over medium high heat, add 2 Tablespoons oil and then add your 3 beaten eggs. When the edges are beginning to set, pour your tomato mixture in the middle of the pan then start pulling the cooked eggs towards the center like you would cooking scrambled eggs. Continue cooking until eggs are set but not dry. Remove from heat and transfer onto a plate. Serve over steamed rice, though I am tempted to try it with some crusty bread.

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Lao Gan Ma (Spicy Chili Crisp) Noodles

I learned about the Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp a couple of years back while food shopping at 99 Ranch, an Asian food grocer. They were doing a food demo on it and they just added this onto cooked vermicelli noodles and some shredded cabbage. The lady doing the demo assured me that I just needed this sauce to flavor it and nothing else. There was a crowd sampling it and later grabbing a bottle. So I picked up a bottle myself to take home.

I initially used this to season my Mapo Tofu and then actually forgot about it. Then my sister casually mentioned to me that is actually very popular among her Chinese friends. She was once served a noodle dish made of just this sauce and some bok choy. From then on I make sure I always have a bottle of this in the fridge since it also nicely season any stir fried dish.

A few months ago my daughter discovered this and asked me to help her make Lao Gan Ma noodles. I did a quick search on the web since I wanted to create a more saucy noodle dish and this is what I came up with. Note: For this recipe I used the Lao Gan Ma Chili Oil with Black Bean since I ran out of the spicy chili crisp.

First cook your noodles according to package directions. I used some dried soba noodles but you can use vermicelli, dried Chinese wheat noodles and I’ve also used angel hair pasta with much success for this recipe.

While noodles are cooking, prepare your sauce. Place 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil in a pan and add 3-4 minced garlic cloves. Cook until fragrant and just turning brown on the edges. Remove from heat and add a mixture of 2 Tablespoon Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp , 1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar, 1 tsp. grated ginger. Stir until combined.

Take your noodles, drain and place in a bowl, then toss in a couple of tablespoons of your sauce until your noodles is evenly coated. You can season it with the sauce to suit your taste. I added spinach in mine but you can top it with some cilantro , green onions or even some steamed baby boy choy.

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Shoyu Butter Pasta with Mushrooms

This recipe is a Japanese style pasta often referred to as Wafu Pasta. The first Wafu Pasta I made had mirin, cooking sake and a bit of soy sauce with Shimeji mushrooms. This differs a bit that it has garlic and butter and soy in it as key ingredients. The Shoyu butter combination on pasta may sound unappealing at first but it does really compliment each other which rounds out the flavor of the dish really well.

To make, cook your spaghetti noodles according to package directions. I used 3/4 of a box of dried pasta.

While your pasta is cooking. Place a pan over medium high heat. To it add 3 tablespoons olive oil and 3-4 finely minced garlic cloves. Cook until fragrant and just starting to brown around the edges. Do not burn or overcook. Then add 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms. I used baby portobello and white mushrooms. You can also use Shimeji, oyster or shiitake. Cook until softened. You may add more olive oil if you feel it’s necessary for this step. Then place 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons soy sauce (preferably Kikkoman brand) and about 1/2 cup pasta water. Cook and stir until the sauce is thickened. Then transfer your cooked pasta straight to the pan with mushrooms. Stir until pasta is coated with the sauce. You may add more pasta water and adjust seasoning according to your liking. I added 1 tablespoon more of butter to give it a glossy finish.

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One Pan Egg Toast

I am always on the look out for new and exciting breakfast options. This recipe is an upgraded version of your typical eggs and toast combo. I discovered this while watching food vlogs on Youtube. This apparently also went viral and several food vloggers have featured this on their site with step by step instructions.

What’s neat about this is you only need a pan to make this breakfast, hence the name of the dish.

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To make start by beating two eggs in a bowl. Then dip a slice of sandwich bread that is cut in half on the eggs and set this aside. Take a pan and place it on medium heat, add a about 2 tablespoons butter and pour your beaten eggs on it. Then before it’s set place your sliced piece of bread (with the side dipped on egg facing up) on top of the egg making sure that there is about a centimeter gap in between the slices. Once the egg is fully set carefully flip your eggs over. Fold the eggs hanging on the all sides towards the center creating a neat package. Then lay a couple of ham slices on one side and cheese on the other. Fold the two pieces of bread together creating a sandwich. Continue frying until bread is golden brown and crisp on both sides. You may need to add more butter for this step.

Remove from pan and serve immediately. It’s best eaten piping hot.

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Beef Tapa Onigirazu

Onigirazu became popular about 6 years ago. I featured it in this blog that time it became a rage, you can read it here. This is my third recipe for onigirazu on my site but not necessarily the number of times I’ve made it for my family.

What’s great about it is that you can really get creative in making different combinations of meat and fillings for your sushi sandwich. You can mix and match various ingredients keeping in mind the texture, color and flavor if you want to create an appealing onigirazu. I love adding Filipino flavors to modern Japanese dishes such as this. I have previously made an adobo onigiri and this time I added shredded beef tapa.

To make you will need 1 sheet of nori, about 1/2 – 3/4 cup cooked white rice but in this case I used my 7 grain rice which turns into a lovely purple hue, shredded beef tapa, some sliced avocado, salad greens, omelet and a sheet of cling wrap.

Take your nori and lay it on top of your cling wrap. Place 1/2 a cup of rice in the center of nori and spread thin making sure not to get too close to it’s edges.  Then lay your filling starting with the omelet on top of your rice followed by the beef tapa, sliced avocado and finally some salad greens. Top all this with your remaining 1/4 cup of rice. Gather the edges of your nori in the middle like what you would do when wrapping a package. Press tightly to seal. Slice your nori parcel in the middle and serve.

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Japanese Korokke (meat and potato croquettes)

It’s been challenging to plan dinner menus lately. It feels like I have made all the dishes I can think of since the pandemic started. So I constantly try to look for new and inspiring dishes to serve my family.

Japanese Korokke is one thing I haven’t attempted to make. We have had these several times in Japanese restaurants in New York City as an appetizer not as a main course. In Japan this is mostly considered as snack since it’s sold in convenience stores and supermarkets.

To make, peel and cut into big chunks 4-5 medium sized potatoes. Place in a pot and add enough water, let boil and cover and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and place back into pot and mash until smooth.

While your potatoes are cooking, get a pan and saute in a little olive oil a medium sized onion finely chopped. Cook until translucent, then add 1 lb ground beef. Cook until meat is well browned, season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain excess fat before adding it to your mashed potato.

When your meat and potato mixture is cool enough to handle form into oval or round patties.

Then prepare a light batter by mixing 1 egg, 4 Tbsp. flour, 3 Tbsp. water and 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise. Mix until smooth. Dip your potato patties into this mixture before rolling into panko bread crumbs. Place your korrokke patties in a parchment lined tray and place in refrigerator for about 15-30 minutes. I did this to set the panko so it won’t fall off while frying.

Meanwhile, heat enough oil in pan until it reaches a temperature of about 320F. Fry your korokke until brown and crisp on all sides. This will only take a couple of minutes so make sure to keep watch. Drain in paper towels and serve with finely shredded cabbage or green salad. I made a dipping sauce of 1 part ketchup and 1 part mayo with a teaspoon of sweet relish. You can also use bulldog sauce (the Japanese Tonkatsu sauce).

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