Tesco Comes to Town

Shoppers will surely be delighted with the availability of Tesco products in select SM supermarkets and hypermarkets.  Here’s the story I wrote on the launch of this British brand, published in Inquirer, Lifestyle section July 9.

WHEN HE WAS GROWING UP, narrates British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad, his mother would send him on errands to buy Tesco products in their neighborhood store.  Later, as a married man, his wife would send him on errands to buy Tesco products in their neighborhood store.  Now, as a diplomat living in Manila, he can still  find these same Tesco products available to him—except this time they’re in SM Supermarket and SM Hypermarket, which has just brought the brand to the Philippines.
IMG_8150: Tesco Launch in SM A much loved British brand, Tesco is the largest retailer of British goods, with over 3500 stores in the UK (including franchises) and 500,000 colleagues worldwide. Its range of products covers everything from canned goods to furniture, from toys to books, from clothes to electronics.

According to Luke Elliott, Tesco senior commercial manager for Group Food, Tesco has 28 ½ per cent market share in the UK. It’s so ubiquitous that people in Britain find they can’t do without it. British Filipino TV host Patti Grandidge says that while living in the UK, she had her own favorite Tesco products. After moving to Manila, she missed them so much she would ask friends flying in from the UK to buy her favorite Tesco products for her.



IMG_8144:Tesco Launch in SM

British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad, with SM's Millie Dizon and author Norma Chikiamco



Ambassador Ahmad himself admits to being a big fan of Tesco.  Perhaps because of all those errands he had to do, he knew exactly where everything was in his favorite Tesco supermarket. During the recent launch of Tesco products in SM Aura, he even proudly showed off a Tesco paper bag that had contained his latest haul.

“We are very proud to have partnered with Tesco,” says SM Supermarket President Joey Mendoza. Tesco is a very practical brand; it’s great, it’s very useful and surprisingly affordable to everyone.”



IMG_8140: Tesco Launch in SM

Cake-cutting ceremony during the recent launching of Tesco products in SM Aura. From left: SM Hypermarket president Robert Kwee, SM Market vice chairman Herbert Sy, SM vice president for Business Development Pascale Jimenez, His Excellency Ambassador Asif Ahmad, Tesco senior commercial manager for Group Food Luke Elliott and SM Supermarket president Joey Mendoza



Of the thousands of products Tesco manufactures, about 400 are currently available in select branches of SM Supermarket and SM Hypermarket.  These include snacks, sauces, jams, beans, condiments, spices, chocolate spreads, coffee, cereals, as well as personal care and home cleaning products.   It’s a very focused collection, says Elliott, which they may expand over time.
IMG_8158Tesco Launch in SM Most of these products are manufactured in the UK; some are made from ingredients sourced from around Europe but packaged in the UK, such as green olives (from Spain) olive oil (from Greece) and tomato passata (produced in Italy for Tesco). “They are specifically designed for the UK market.  They have a very British flavor,” says Elliott.  Nevertheless Tesco has also taken into consideration the ever changing tastes of an increasingly multicultural market. Tesco products are now also in Hungary, India, Ireland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, Slovakia and Turkey.

After the cake-cutting ceremony during the recent launch in SM Aura, I browsed around the supermarket to see these Tesco products myself.  People who love to cook will be pleased to know that with Tesco products now in SM, they have a wider range of choices.  Dijon mustard, for instance, is available not just with white wine in the mixture, but also as just plain Dijon mustard (P129.50), an ingredient many recipes call for (and which was not easy to find in the days before Tesco came to town).  There’s a general purpose olive oil, to be used for everyday cooking (P287 per 500-ml bottle).  Tartare sauce (“tasted and approved by customers,” says the label) comes in 165-gram bottles and costs P89, good perhaps for six to eight servings with a meal of fish and chips.
IMG_8201: Tesco Launch in SM And oh so many kinds of spices.  Aside from staples like cayenne, garlic and chili, there are the more exotic kinds like cardamom (P147.50), vanilla pod (P177.50), and whole nutmeg (P187.50). Walnut oil (great on fish, meat and salads) is available in 250-ml bottles for P157.50. IMG_8184: Tesco Launch in SM
For snacks: rich tea biscuits are P79.50 per pack; oaties and digestive biscuits are P99.50, milk chocolate malted milk biscuits P119.50, and chocolate spread P184.50. There are also jams, coffee and even flour with which to bake soft, airy scones like those served during the launch in SM Aura.

Looking at these attractively packaged Tesco products, I can understand why some customers have not only developed brand loyalty, but have also become emotionally attached to Tesco.  The products conjure images of delicious, home-cooked dishes, of  leisurely tea time, of comfort food prepared in the British tradition. For these loyal customers they will always have taste memories of family meals made with their favorite Tesco products bought in the neighborhood stores.

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Sauteed Green Beans with Diced Pork

Here’s my DIY recipe in last week’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer: sautéed green beans with diced pork.  It’s a simple dish you can do in a hurry and it uses an amazing sauce that adds an appetizing flavor to the beans.

ONE OF MY BEST FINDS last year was a bottle of sauce in the condiments section of a supermarket that was simply called Wok Sauce. At first I was wary about buying it.  Would it be too salty, too sweet, too spicy or too bland?  Nevertheless I took the risk of buying a bottle and was soon experimenting with it in my kitchen.


Wok Sauce

It was a risk well taken, as it turns out.  Such an unpretentious brand name belies the numerous uses this sauce offers.  A product of Thailand, it’s made with spices, sugar, soybean oil, coriander and rice vinegar (among other ingredients) and has a mildly sweet flavor.  Best of all, it has none of the dreaded MSG.

I have since used this sauce to stir fry beef, chicken, pork and vegetables—and it has always made the dish more appetizing.  Better than trying to figure out the right combination of sauces, Wok Sauce is like having just the right flavor in one bottle.  It has, in other words, simplified my cooking. I’ve even used it to cook ampalaya because its sweetness cuts the bitterness of the ampalaya, making it more palatable.

Here’s a dish that I’ve recently cooked using this amazing sauce:  stir-fried green beans with diced pork.  This is a dish you can easily cook when you’re pressed for time. And because of its appealing flavor, it may yet persuade the kids to eat their vegetables.

Sautéed Green Beans with Diced Pork
IMG_8120: DIY Stir-fried green beans with Wok Sauce

4                      tbsp cooking oil, divided

¼                     kilo diced pork

1/2                   small onion, chopped

3 – 4                cloves garlic, chopped

¼                     kilo green beans or sitaw, cut into 2-inch pieces


½                    c Wok Sauce (see tips)

¼                     c water

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a wok or skillet to medium.  Add the diced pork and sauté until pork is cooked through.  Remove the pork from the pan and transfer to a clean plate.  Add the remaining two tablespoons oil to the same pan. Over low heat, sauté the onions in the oil until the onions are tender, around two minutes.  Add the garlic and continue sautéing until the garlic becomes light golden brown.

Stir in the green beans and season with salt.  Return the diced pork to the pan. Pour in the Wok Sauce and water and stir-fry just until the beans are tender but still crisp.  Transfer to a serving plate and serve while still hot.   Makes 3 – 4 servings.

Cook’s tips:

  • Trim the beans of any stringy parts that are found on the side.
  • Aside from diced pork, you can add small (peeled) shrimps.  Sauté the shrimps just until they turn evenly pink in color.  Add the shrimps to the green beans together with the pork.
  • If desired you can enhance this by adding grated chicharon on top of the dish just before serving.
  • You can find Wok Sauce in the condiments section of large supermarkets.


  • IMG_8328The brand of the Wok Sauce I used for this recipe is Thai Heritage.  It’s sold in Landmark Supermarket Makati, SM Supermarket and Rustan’s Supermarket (some branches).
  • To make this dish more appealing, you can top the dish with pork floss, chicken floss or beef floss just before serving.  These finely shredded pork, chicken or beef (also called mahu) are available in Chinese groceries and in some branches of Aji-Ichiban.

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Dining in a Dragon’s Pavilion

Marco Polo Hotel in Ortigas is like an oasis in the middle of an asphalt dessert.  What a delight to be in its cool, well designed interiors and to dine in its restaurants.  Here’s my story on Lung Hin, its fine dining Chinese restaurant, plus a recipe for Sichuan Prawns, published in last week’s (June 18) issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

IF THERE REALLY WERE DRAGONS in this world, how would their pavilion look like?  It would be an elegant restaurant, if Marco Polo Hotel Ortigas could have its say.  And it would serve fine Cantonese cuisine prepared by experienced chefs flown in from Hong Kong.

IMG_8059: Marco Polo Ortigas Lung Hin Restaurant: Interiors

Lung Hin Chinese Restaurant in Marco Polo Hotel Ortigas

Such is Marco Polo’s fine dining Chinese restaurant called Lung Hin, which is Cantonese for dragon’s pavilion. Like a true dragon’s lair, it towers way above mere mortals, 44 floors above the ground to be exact.

: Marco Polo Ortigas Lung Hin Restaurant: Interiors

Cozy nooks beside picture windows shows views of the distant mountains and hovering clouds.

IMG_8032: Marco Polo Ortigas Lung Hin Restaurant: Chicken with Smoked Tea Leaves

Chicken smoked in tea leaves

Panoramic views of distant mountains and hovering clouds therefore come with the territory, views that look almost dream-like from the cozy dining nooks strategically arranged beside tall glass windows (from where one can also see the buildup of traffic along Ortigas Avenue).

Instead of fire emanating from a dragon’s lungs, however, the fire in this dragon’s pavilion is in the kitchen, where a team of Hong Kong chefs prepare traditional as well as contemporary Cantonese cuisine:  dishes like the dainty siomai dumplings crowned with slivers of truffle, which we had for lunch last week, and the mahogany skinned chicken gently smoked with tea leaves.

IMG_8038: Marco Polo Ortigas Lung Hin Restaurant: Fish Lip Soup

Fish lip soup

The fish lip soup with dried scallops was thick and flavorful.

IMG_8036: Marco Polo Ortigas Lung Hin Restaurant: Diced Beef with Goose Liver

Diced beef with goose liver

The diced beef, on the other hand,  glistened on a nest of green vegetables, and was enhanced by cubes of goose liver discreetly layered on one end of the platter.

The barbecued pork buns, which seem to be all the rage these days, look like unprepossessing pan de sal, until you bite into them and discover the morsels of diced pork subtly sweetened by an enigmatic blend of sauces and spices. Then too, there was the stir-fried squid, with steamed salted eggs incorporated into its crisp golden batter.

Dessert choices in Lung Hin include the standards in Chinese restaurants: mango pudding, for instance, and buchi, balls of glutinous rice studded with sesame seeds.  But there’s also almond soup, a milky concoction upon which floats a sticky ball filled with lotus bean paste.

IMG_8050: Marco Polo Ortigas Lung Hin Restaurant: Sichuan Prawns

Sichuan prawns with candied walnuts

Although Cantonese cuisine is its specialty, Lung Hin also serves other regional dishes, like Fookien fried rice and the Sichuan prawns with a spiciness balanced by sweet candied walnuts.

Here, Lung Hin’s recipe for the Sichuan prawns, which I’ve kitchen tested and adjusted for the home cook.

Lung Hin Chinese Restaurant:  44th Floor, Marco Polo Hotel, Meralco Avenue and Sapphire St., Ortigas Center, Pasig City.  Tel: (632) 720 7777.

Sichuan Prawns

16 – 20                                    pieces king prawns

Iodized salt

2 – 3                             stalks celery, trimmed and cut into six-inch lengths

2                                  tbsp cooking oil

2                                  tbsp chili garlic sauce (bottled)

Ground black or white pepper

2                                  tbsp  sugar

1/3                               c sweet and sour sauce

¼ – ½                           c candied walnuts

Peel the prawns and remove the heads and tails.  Slit open the backs of the prawns and remove the veins.  Season the prawns with salt.  In a medium saucepan boil the prawns in one cup water for about five minutes. Add the celery and let simmer for one more minute. Remove the prawns and celery from the pan.

In a separate pan, heat the cooking oil and sauté the chili garlic sauce and pepper. Add the prawns and celery.  Stir in the sugar, sweet sour sauce and candied walnuts.  Heat through. Remove from heat then arrange the dish in a serving platter.

Cook’s tips:

  • Bottled sweet and sour sauce and chili garlic sauce are available in the condiments section of supermarkets.
  • You can substitute candied pili nuts for the walnuts
  • For a spicier dish, sauté some dried chilies together with the chili garlic sauce and pepper.

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Bananas on Ice

My recipe for last week’s DIY column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer was bananas on ice.  In this easy recipe native saba bananas (similar to plantain) are simmered in a mixture of brown sugar and water until they’re tender and the liquid becomes thick and syrupy.  They can be eaten as is, but they’re even more delicious when served with crushed ice.

Here’s the recipe for bananas on ice.

Bananas on Ice

2                      cups brown sugar

4                      cups water

12                    ripe saba bananas

1                      teaspoon vanilla

Crushed ice

Milk (optional)

Combine the brown sugar and water in a large saucepan or casserole.  Let boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Let simmer until the sugar dissolves, around five minutes.

Meanwhile slice the bananas in halves.  When the sugar dissolves add the bananas and the vanilla.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bananas are tender and the liquid becomes syrupy, around 25 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.

When the bananas and syrup have cooled, crush some ice in a blender or ice crusher.  Spoon the crushed ice into individual bowls then apportion the bananas and syrup.  If desired add milk. Makes around 6 to 8 servings.

Cook’s tip:

  • If the bananas are large, you can cut each into three pieces.
  • If you want softer bananas, simmer them a little longer (around 30 – 35 minutes)

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