The Rice That’s Really Corn

My DIY recipe in last week’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer was for Fried Corn Rice with Tuyo.  For this dish I used a new product called RiCo.  Made from 100 per cent corn grown in the Philippines, it looks like rice, is shaped like rice, and tastes a lot like rice, with undertones of corn.  As such it’s a great substitute for rice, especially since it has low glycemic index and naturally contains lutein, an antioxidant that’s good for the eyesight.

Fortified with B vitamins, calcium and iron, it’s naturally rich in beta carotene and fiber.

Here’s the complete article as it appeared in Inquirer (with additional tips and photos):

Move Over, Rice—Here’s ‘Bigas na Mais’

THE GRAINS LOOK LIKE TINY BITS OF SUNSHINE, sparkling in the clear wrapper that encloses them.  The label says it’s RiCo Corn Rice IMG_2163and on one side an ear of corn is shown yielding its golden kernels while below it, grains of what look like yellow rice shimmer in a white bowl.  Is this rice, or corn or what?

Turns out it’s both.  It’s corn pretending to be rice and tasting a bit of both.

I’ve been curious about this product for quite some time now.  Every time I’d see it in the supermarket, I’d wonder if this could really be what it says it is:  made with 100 per cent Philippine corn, fortified with B vitamins, calcium and iron, with a low glycemic index and naturally rich in beta carotene, lutein and fiber.

IMG_2147: Rico Corn Rice

Display during the launch of RiCo Corn Rice in Rockwell

Enlightenment about this mysterious product that seemed to appear in the market out of nowhere came yesterday, with its formal launching at Chef Jessie in Rockwell Club. Jebe Gayanelo, president of Philippine Leading Infinite Logistics Inc., explained the philosophy and circumstances that led to its creation. The company, he said, manufactures animal feeds that comply with international standards, which means they contain no antibiotics, and zero level of aflatoxins.

“The biggest portion of animal feed is corn,” he said.  “One of our advocacies is to help farmers raise corn and other crops in the rural areas.” Another advocacy is helping growers of hogs, poultry and fish have access to feeds that are free from antibiotics and from aflatoxin, which comes from molds that grow in products like corn (and peanuts).

The company also has piggeries, where they raise hogs used to make La Filipina products such as corned pork and luncheon meat. Naturally these hogs are given only the antibiotic-free and aflatoxin-free feeds that the company itself manufactures.

With the country’s current shortage of locally grown rice, company executives thought of producing corn that could be used as a substitute for rice.  It wouldn’t be that big a leap for them, after all, since they’re already processing corn grown by local farmers into high quality feeds.

IMG_2186: Jessie Sincioco and Jebe Gayanelo

Chef Jessie Sincioco and president of Philippine Leading Infinite Logistics Inc.Jebe Gayanelo, during the launch of Rico in Rockwell

“We have a machine that sorts corn kernels and rejects those that are infected,” said Gayanelo.  Moreover, with the country’s self sufficiency in corn, sourcing the main ingredient is not a problem.

“However many of our countrymen are not familiar with corn (as a staple),” said Gayanelo.  “Mostly they just eat it as sweet corn on the cob.”

It’s different in some areas of Cebu and Mindanao where people sometimes eat bigas na mais (rice that’s corn).  In fact it’s said that boxing champ Manny Pacquiao himself grew up eating bigas na mais.

To make corn more acceptable as a rice substitute, they thought of transforming corn kernels into grains that look like rice. For this they invested in expensive equipment that would dry, polish and shape the corn kernels.

As a substitute for rice, corn rice has its advantages.  Luningning Caravana, a registered nutritionist and dietician, says RiCo corn rice is low in glycemic index, which makes for a slower absorption of glucose, thus making it ideal for diabetics.  It’s also rich in dietary fiber, which helps regulate blood cholesterol level and maintain a healthy digestive system.  Because of its high density nutrients, it quickly fills the stomach.  Complex carbohydrates, iron, vitamins A and B and calcium further add to its rich nutritional contents.  And yes, as the packaging says, it also contains beta carotene and lutein, which is important for good eyesight.

Moreover, it tastes just like rice, but with a hint of corn, said brand manager Kare Cristobal.

With such virtuous qualities, is there a catch somewhere? Maybe it’s difficult to cook?

Not really, said chef Joey de la Cruz. Cooking corn rice is as simple as BPS.  Boil the water, pour in the grains, then simmer for around 10 to 15 minutes.

Chef Jessie Sincioco herself has cooked with corn rice and if her menu during the launch was any indication, this product has versatility added to its virtues.

IMG_2153:  Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing at Chef Jessie

Mesclun greens with raspberry vinaigrette with prawns in crunchy corn rice

IMG_2175: Cod Fish Fillet in Pommery Mustard Sauce at Chef Jessie

Cod fillet in Pommery mustard sauce with Rico pilaf

IMG_2171: Grilled Chicken Breast in Creamy Pepper Sauce at Chef Jessie

Chicken breast in creamy pepper sauce with Rico pilaf

For starters she served mesclun greens with raspberry vinaigrette, accented by prawns coated in crunchy corn rice .

The hearty soup of minestrone had corn rice along with the vegetables, while the main courses of pan fried cod fish fillet in Pommery mustard sauce and grilled chicken breast in creamy pepper sauce were served with RiCo pilaf.

IMG_2182: RiCo Dessert at Chef Jessie's

Corn rice crocant roll, silky buttercream enclosed in crunchy corn rice

Dessert was a “wow!” moment, with a silky roll of butter cream encased in crunchy finely grated corn rice.

So what’s not to like about RiCo?  Maybe the price.  At P60 per kilo, it’s a bit expensive.  However, considering that the cheapest rice is now around P48 per kilo and red rice or brown rice (which may have the equivalent amount of fiber) can cost as much as P110 per kilo, RiCo can seem like a bargain.
IMG_2161
Moreover, said Gayanelo, since it’s made of 100 per cent Philippine-grown corn, this innovative product provides increased livelihood for Filipino farmers and helps develop the country’s natural resources.

Enough said.  If RiCo were a person, it would be the person you love to hate:  bright, beautiful, talented, plus kind and gracious too.  But it’s a food product that seems to bear so many advantages and benefits.  Perhaps the only thing that would be jealous of it would be…rice?

IMG_2243:  DIY: Fried Corn Rice with Tuyo using RiCor

Rico fried corn rice with tuyo

I tried cooking RiCo corn rice in my kitchen and what can I say?  It was easy to cook, it did taste like rice with a subtle hint of corn in the finish, perhaps reminiscent of nachos or corn tortillas. And yes, it was versatile.  I made tuyo fried corn rice with it and not only did it blend well with the other ingredients, its lively color also made the dish look so appetizing.

Here are the recipes.  Move over, rice.  As much as we love you, you’re about to have some serious competition.

(RiCo corn rice is available in major supermarkets.  For more info, visit www.yummyhealthy.ph).  Or click on RiCo Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/yummyhealthylife.

Basic Corn Rice

1 ½                  c water

1                      c RiCo corn rice

Pour water into a rice cooker.  Turn on the rice cooker and bring water to a boil.  Add the RiCo corn rice, distributing the grains evenly.  Let cook until the water has been completely absorbed and the rice cooker automatically turns to “warm” or “off”.

Let rest for a few minutes then transfer to a serving bowl and fluff the corn rice with a serving fork.  Makes a little over 2 cups corn rice.  Serve with desired dishes as you would rice.

Fried Corn Rice with Tuyo

2          tbsp cooking oil

1          medium onion, chopped

3          cloves garlic, chopped

1          medium tomato, thinly sliced diagonally

5 – 6    pieces bottled tuyo, drained and sliced into bite-size pieces

2          cups cooked corn rice

Salt and pepper, to taste

¼         c wansuy leaves (optional)

Heat the cooking oil in a large wok or frying pan.  Add the onions and sauté over low heat for one to 2 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and tomatoes and continue sautéing until the garlic is fragrant and tomatoes are softened, around 2 minutes.

Add the tuyo and stir-fry for a further one to 2 minutes.  Pour in the cooked corn rice and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently with the other ingredients.  Add the wansuy leaves.  Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.  Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Cook’s tips:

  • After opening the package store the corn rice in an airtight container.
  • Do not wash the grains as these are already clean.  Washing the grains may remove some of the iron and vitamins.
  • For the fried rice, you may add more tuyo if desired.

PLUS:

  • This is best served immediately after it’s cooked, while it’s still warm.
  • Suggested side dishes:  mango chutney, pickled radish, achara (pickled papaya).
  • Instead of tuyo you can use bottled sardines or bottled tinapa.

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Premium Wine Buffet and Legendary Food, All on a Card

Here’s my story in today’s (Oct. 9) issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (on page C2), with additional photos of the fabulous lunch at Prince Albert Rotisserie.

Premium Wine Buffet and Legendary Food, All on a Card

LIKE THE RESTAURANT IT’S PARTNERING WITH, CITIBANK’S dining offer for its clientele exudes  an aura of exclusivity and refinement.  No 50 per cent discount on meals.  No buy-one-take-one deal.  And definitely not—heaven forbid—a coupon to be presented at the end of the meal.

IMG_2122: Prince Albert Rotisserie

Prince Albert Rotisserie at Hotel InterContinental Manila

Instead, from now until July 2015, Citibank platinum card holders and Citigold clients can avail of a two-hour wine buffet for two at Hotel InterContinental’s Gambrinus Bar, for every P5,000 they spend at Prince Albert Rotisserie.

With a wide selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Chardonnay, the wine buffet certainly seems like a fitting reward for Citibank clients dining in Manila’s longest operating fine dining restaurant.  In addition, they can enjoy musical entertainment of pop, jazz and folk music played by a different singer every night.

“It’s all about the experience,” says Batara Sianturi, CEO and managing director of Citibank.  “We understand that our clients want the best in life, whether it’s the best deal or the best products or the best service.”

IMG_2121: Prince Albert Rotisserie

Prince Albert Rotisserie at Hotel InterContinental Manila

For this Prince Albert Rotisserie seems to be the logical choice.  Its plush carpeting, dark wood paneling, subdued lighting and tables dressed in immaculate white are the very ideals of elegance.  In addition, there’s the well-trained wait staff hovering discreetly around the tables, ready to fulfill diners’ requests.  In the evenings, the romantic mood is enhanced by the sweet piano music played by the restaurant’s own pianist.

And of course there’s the food.  Prince Albert’s signature dishes have become almost legendary.  There’s the classic Caesar Salad prepared tableside, with the dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic expertly whisked together in a wooden bowl until it becomes emulsified and creamy, after which it’s tossed with crunchy Romaine lettuce leaves, croutons, and bacon bits.

IMG_0051_FOOD: Prince Albert Roast US Aberdeen Angus Prime Beef Rib with Yorkshire Pudding, Oven Baked Potato, Marinated Vegetables and Red Wine Jus

Roast US Angus prime beef rib with Yorkshire pudding, baked potato, marinated vegetables and red wine jus

The roasted prime rib is 250 grams of succulent U.S. Angus beef, served with puffy Yorkshire pudding, enriched by a silky red wine sauce, plus baked potatoes with sour cream, chives and bacon bits, and crisp, roasted vegetables—all served with flair in sterling silver Christofle de Paris cloches.

IMG_9738IMG_9739: Prince Albert Fine de Claire Oysters

Extra large Fine de Claire oysters from France

Prince Albert is also probably one of the very few fine dining restaurants in Manila that serves juicy, extra large Fine de Claire oysters from France.

IMG_2087:  Prince Albert Parsley and Lemon Crusted Atlantic Salmon on Grilled Marinated Eggplant with Warm Tomato Vinaigrette

Prince Albert parsley and lemon crusted Atlantic salmon on grilled marinated eggplant with warm tomato vinaigrette

Beyond that, diners can even order dishes off the menu, according to hotel manager Christopher Wichlan.  “We can create and customize food for our clientele,” he says.  That may include a dessert of five-spice chocolate mousse with orange gelée and Mandarin sauce, for instance, which can be whipped up upon request.

IMG_2092: Prince Albert Five-Spice Chocolate Mousse with Orange Gelee and Mandarin Sauce

Five-spice chocolate mousse with orange gelee and Mandarin sauce

Through the decades, Prince Albert has become a tradition for some families.  It has seen generations celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. Parents have become grandparents, who now bring not just their children to Prince Albert but also a whole caboodle of grandchildren. And little boys who once dined there with their parents have become young men bringing their own dates to dine at the very same table.

This time, with Citibank’s most recent offer for their clientele, they can avail of the wine buffet too, either on the same day or at most 30 days after their qualifying spend at Prince Albert. It’s like a logical progression of the pleasures of fine dining, or another way to look at it—a way of extending their celebration further.

IMG_0091_CITI_INTERCON: InterCon Hotel Manager Christopher Wichlan, Citi Philippines consumer business manager Bea Teh-Tan; Citibank CEO and managing director Batara Sianturi

InterContinental hotel manager Christopher Wichlan, Citi Philippines consumer business manager Bea Teh-Tan and Citibank CEO and managing director Batara Sianturi at the Prince Albert

“With this partnership, we are introducing our clients to a unique experience that they can treasure with a family member or a close friend,” says Bea Tan, consumer business manager of Citi Philippines.  “They can take advantage of great food, fine ambiance and a special privilege they cannot find anywhere else.”

(For more on this offer from Citi, visit: www.citibank.com.ph or call the 24-hour Platinum Priority Hotline at 995-9888.)

Prince Albert Rotisserie:  Hotel InterContinental Manila, Ayala Avenue, Makati. For reservations call (+63 2) 793-7000

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Seafood Glass Noodle Soup

IMG_1986: Thai Embassy Cooking Class: Seafood Glass Noodle Salad

Thai Seafood Glass Noodle Salad

The recipe in my DIY column in today’s (October 2) issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer is for seafood glass noodle salad.

I learned the recipe during a culinary demonstration held last Saturday at the Royal Thai Embassy in Manila.

IMG_1974: Thai Embassy Cooking Class: Ingredients for Seafood Glass Noodle Salad

The salad dressing of chilies, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, fish sauce and salt creates a harmony of flavors. It's garnished with roasted peanuts.

IMG_2014: Thai Embassy Cooking Class

Embassy chef Supatra Subboon

With its well balanced flavors of the sweet, salty, sour and spicy, the salad typifies the harmonious flavors of Thai cuisine.  Embassy chef Supatra Suboon also also taught us how to prepare three other dishes: chicken galangal soup, fried shrimp cake and water chestnuts in coconut milk. Her instructions were ably translated from Thai to English by Deeda Pama, a Filipina who has lived many years in Thailand.

IMG_2005: Thai Embassy Cooking Class: Chicken Galangal Soup

Chicken Galangal Soup

IMG_2019: Thai Embassy Cooking Class: Fried Shrimp Cakes

Fried Shrimp Cake

All the dishes were delicious.

The culinary demonstration was organized by the Royal Thai Embassy, headed by Ambassador of Thailand to the Philippines Prasas Prasasvinitchai and the Philippine Thai Cultural Organization, headed by Minda Pama.

Here’s the recipe for seafood glass noodle salad.  For more tips, scroll down after the Cook’s Tips section.  To read the entire DIY column, see today’s issue of the Inquirer, page C3 or click on this link: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/173394/seafood-glass-noodle-salad

Seafood Glass Noodle Salad
IMG_1981: : Thai Embassy Cooking Class: Seafood Glass Noodle Salad

150                  grams fresh mussels

Water, for boiling the mussels and for the seafood

100                  grams glass noodles (vermicelli or sotanghon)

4                      c water, for soaking the noodles

100                  grams ground pork

4                      c water, for boiling the noodles and seafood

150 – 200         grams fresh medium-size shrimps, peeled

150                  grams fresh squid, sliced (remove ink sacs)

1                      large white onion, sliced vertically into thin wedges

1                      large tomato, sliced vertically into thin wedges, seeds removed

2                      celery stalks, leaves separated, stems cut into bite-size pieces

½ – 1                cup roasted peanuts

For the dressing:

¼                     c chopped garlic

1 – 2                 sliced fresh chilies (siling labuyo), diced

¼                     c sugar

¼                     c + 2 tbsp fish sauce

½                     c fresh lemon or lime juice

1/8                   tsp salt

Wash and clean the mussel shells well. Boil them in water until all the shells open.  Discard shells that don’t open.  Let cool, then remove the mussels from the shells.

Soak the glass noodles in the four cups water for 10 minutes. Drain well.

Pour a small amount of water into a skillet.  Add the ground pork.  Simmer pork over medium heat until the ground pork is fully cooked.  Remove the pork from the pan and let cool.

IMG_1997: Thai Embassy Cooking Class: Ingredients for Seafood Glass Noodle Salad

Seafood for the salad: squid, shrimps and mussels

Drain the glass noodles.  Heat the four cups water in a small pan to boiling. Add the glass noodles and let boil until noodles are tender.  Remove noodles from the pan and let cool.  Do not throw out the water. Add the cooked mussels, shrimps and squid into the same water and let boil, just until shrimps and squid are cooked (do not overcook). Drain all the seafood and transfer to a bowl.

Prepare the dressing:

Crush the garlic and the chilies.  Mix the sugar, fish sauce and lemon or lime juice and salt with the garlic and chilies. Blend well.

Assemble the salad:

Transfer the cooked pork, glass noodles, squid, shrimps, mussels, onions, tomatoes and celery to a salad mixing bowl.  Pour in the dressing and toss well.  Transfer to a serving dish.  Garnish with the roasted peanuts before serving.

Cook’s tips:

  • Make sure the seafood, especially the mussels, are very fresh.  Discard any mussel shells that don’t open after boiling.
  • Do not soak the noodles too long in water. Likewise do not overcook them so they don’t become soggy.
  • For a spicier salad dressing, add more chilies.
  • For a less spicy salad dressing, use less chilies and remove the seeds.

PLUS:

*You can use ground beef instead of ground pork.

*You can serve this salad warm or chilled.

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Meeting the Star of “Rebel Without a Kitchen” Matt Basile

A few weeks ago, I met Chef Matt Basile, host of Asian Food Channel’s TV show Rebel Without a Kitchen.  Basile was in Manila to promote the second season of his show.

Here’s my account of the private dinner held in his honor at Chef Jessie in Rockwell Club, Makati.  It’s my DIY column in today’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, page C3.

Matt Basile 01

Matt Basile

HE BOUNCES INTO THE ROOM, all wide smiles and high energy, and immediately the diners, who had been dawdling over their drinks, snap into attention.  Chef Matt Basile may be a “Rebel Without a Kitchen,” as his TV show on the Asian Food Channel is called, but he’s certainly not without a cause, and not without an audience. In Manila recently to promote his show, Basile was at Chef Jessie’s Restaurant in Rockwell Club to present an extraordinary dinner of his own doing (with a little help from Chef Jessie Sincioco and her staff).

IMG_1630Matt Basile's Octopus with Blood Orange and Fennel

Octopus Salad

It was North American cuisine inspired by Eastern and European influences. To start with: there was a salad of octopus painted with hoisin sauce and layered on a nest of fennel, capers and sweet orange segments.

IMG_1636Matt Basile Dinner:Beef Hearts with Salsa Verde

Beef hearts with salsa verde

Then there were roasted beef hearts that had been marinated overnight in soy sauce, after which they were skewered, grilled and brushed with a salsa verde made of tomatoes, tomatillos, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice and chili peppers.

IMG_1642Matt Basile Dinner:  Lamb Zoupa

Soup of ground lamb meatballs

A soup of ground lamb meatballs and pasta in a hearty chicken stock preceded the mains,

IMG_1657: Matt Basile Dinner: Salt and Vinegar Prawns with Pickled Cipolini Onions and Trinity Sauce

Prawns with trinity sauce

which was a choice between salt and vinegar prawns with pickled cipolini onions and a spicy trinity sauce,

IMG_1667:Matt Basile Dinner: Moroccan Beef Tenderloin with Marian Sauce and Pistachios with Edmame Mash

Moroccan beef tenderloin

or Moroccan beef tenderloin seasoned with spices and dark beer and served with edamame mash and pistachio nuts.

IMG_1672: Matt Basile dinner:  Dessert:  Elvis in a Jar

Elvis in a Jar

The dessert, on the other hand, had an all-American ring to it.  Called Elvis in a Jar, it was a tribute to the king of rock, being an adaptation of his favorite peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwich, all piled up in a mason jar.Served with the dishes were Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky, produced by William Grant & Sons Ltd., an award-winning family-owned distiller founded in 1886 and still run today by his direct descendants.

If the dishes all tasted unconventional, full of surprising, unexpected flavors, it was only in keeping with Basile himself. Born in Toronto, Canada, Basile learned cooking early on from his Italian grandfather, who was always busy baking bread and curing meat.  While at university, he worked at various food-related jobs to support himself.  His first job after graduation was at an ad agency, which left him feeling restless and unfulfilled—leading him to quit.  It was the beginning of a culinary adventure that would lead to his present calling.

Matt Basile 02

Matt Basile with his beloved food truck Priscilla

Today Basile is known in Toronto for his pop-up cooking and his food truck named Priscilla, from where he serves robust Cuban-style sandwiches popularly called “Extremo Sandwiches.”  At Lisa Marie, his flagship restaurant in Toronto, he gives further vent to his unorthodox way of cooking by giving an unfamiliar twist to familiar dishes: smoked duck deep-fried pizza, for example, or burgers stacked up like pancakes.

One of the ingredients that intrigued me during the dinner was the capers sprinkled over the octopus salad.  They were crunchy, with a hint of sweetness, much unlike the briny capers in jars.  According to Basile, the capers had been lightly floured then fried in olive oil till they were crunchy and had lost some of their vinegary flavor.

Hmmm, that gave me an idea.  Borrowing this technique, I cooked chicken piccata and lavished the lemon butter sauce with fried capers.  Here, the easy and delicious recipe, thanks to an inspiration from Matt Basile.

“Rebel Without a Kitchen” airs on the Asian Food Channel on Thursdays at 10 pm.  For more information on his show, visit www.asianfoodchannel.com

Chicken Piccata with Lemon Butter and Crispy Caper Sauce
IMG_1730: DIY Chicken with Lemon Butter Sauce and Crispy Capers

For the lemon butter and caper sauce:

¼                     c capers

¼                     c flour

2                      tbsp olive oil

½                     c butter

½                     c  freshly squeezed lemon juice

Drain the capers and wipe them dry with paper towels.  Press the stem end of the capers to open the tips into small flowers.  Or you can snip off the tips opposite the stem ends.   Dredge the caper flowers in flour.  Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan then fry the caper flowers  until crisp.  Transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper or paper towels and let cool.

Meanwhile melt the butter in a saucepan then add the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer.  Stir in the capers.  Remove from heat.  Pour over the cooked chicken thighs.

For the chicken:

8 – 10              boneless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper

2                      egg whites

¾                     c flour

1                      c clarified butter (see tips)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a bowl beat the egg whites until foamy.  Dip the chicken in the egg whites then dredge lightly in flour.  Shake off excess flour.

Heat half of the clarified butter in a frying pan.  Sauté the chicken thighs, 3 or 4 at a time, until fully cooked and golden brown, turning once.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

Pour the remaining clarified butter into the frying pan and cook the remaining chicken thighs similarly.

When all the chicken thighs have been cooked, arrange them on a serving dish.  Pour the lemon butter and caper sauce on top of the chicken. Or you can also just serve the sauce at the table separately (in a sauce boat, for example).

Cook’s tips:

  • To make clarified butter:  Cut 1 cup unsalted butter into large cubes.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, until it liquefies and foamy particles appear on the surface, about 5 minutes.  Strain the liquid over a strainer lined with cheesecloth. The resulting liquid is the clarified butter.
  • Instead of egg whites you can use whole eggs, if preferred.

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