Spanish Tapas and Madrid Fusion Manila

With Tapas Night happening soon in Manila (on April 11), I felt inspired to make my own tapas at home for my DIY column in today’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Lifestyle Section.  Tapas Night will be the kick off event for Madrid Fusion Manila, slated April 24-26 in SMX Convention Center, Pasay City (near Mall of Asia).

IMG_5661: Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Chorizo

Spanish tortilla with potatoes and chorizo

Here’s my DIY column—and the recipe for Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Chorizo—as it appeared in today’s Inquirer(Lifestyle section, page C3). With potatoes and chorizo in the mix, this dish is rich and flavorful, yet simple to do.  You just have to master the technique of flipping a plate over the tortilla, then sliding it back into the pan. (See tips.)

MEMORIES OF SPAIN have me dreaming of Spanish food lately.  The paella, churros, gazpacho and turrones that I’ve had on previous trips were unlike any I’ve ever tasted and I’ve tried since then to recreate some of these dishes in my own kitchen.

As if by coincidence, there’s a Tapas Night that will take place on April 11 at the Green Sun Hotel, where seven of the best Spanish chefs based in Manila will prepare traditional as well as more contemporary versions of the Spanish pick-me-ups known as tapas. These chefs include José Luis “Chele” Gonzalez and Ivan Saiz of Vask Gallery and ArroZeria), Juan Carlos de Terry (of Terry’s Selection), Pepe López (of Ramblas), Carlos Garcia (of The Black Pig), Nicolas Diaz (of Barcino) and Pablo López (of Donosti).

Representing different regions of Spain, these tapas will be served with Spanish wines, cavas and other Spanish drinks. The event will actually be a preview of Madrid Fusion Manila, a gastronomic festival slated to take place on April 24-26 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. During this event, renowned Spanish and Asian chefs will discuss the latest culinary trends and techniques.  In addition a trade exhibition will showcase Spanish and Filipino food products such as hams, cheeses, olive oils, wines, fruits and sweets. There will be tasting seminars and degustacion as well. Though the trade exhibit will be open only to professionals the first two days, the general public may participate on the last day. (Prior registration is required. Visit for more information).

Meantime while waiting for these exciting events to unfold, I tried cooking one of my favorite Spanish tapas at home: Tortilla Española con Patatas y Chorizo.  It makes a delicious first course or appetizer if you’re serving it at a party, but it’s good for a weeknight dinner as well. You can find very good quality Spanish ingredients such as olive oil and chorizo in specialty delis such as Terry’s Selection and Barcino.

To make a complete meal serve the tortilla with bread and Spanish olives.  My favorite drink to go with this? A cold glass of fruity Sangria.

Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Chorizo

5                      large  potatoes

4                      tbsp  (1/4 cup) olive oil, divided

1                      medium onion, chopped

2                      cloves garlic, peeled

3                      c water

1 – 2                 whole Spanish chorizo, cut into cubes

6                      large eggs


Peel the potatoes and slice them into thin wedges.

IMG_5642: Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Chorizo
Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onions over low heat for about two minutes. Add the garlic and continue sautéing over low heat for about one more minute (use low heat and keep stirring the onions and garlic so they don’t burn).  Add the potatoes and pour in the water.  Simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the chorizo and continue simmering for about one to two more minutes.
IMG_5645: Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Chorizo

With a slotted spoon, transfer the mixture to a bowl. Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until well combined and fluffy.  Season with salt.  Blend in the potato mixture.  Heat the remaining two tablespoons olive oil in the same skillet.  When the oil is hot, pour in the egg mixture.  Let cook over medium heat until the bottom is set.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Place a large plate over the skillet then flip the plate and skillet over to transfer the tortilla to the plate so that the bottom side of the tortilla is now on top. Slide the tortilla back into the skillet so that the previously top side now becomes the bottom.  Cook the tortilla in the skillet until the eggs are fully set. (See tips.)

Transfer to a serving plate and cut into wedges.  If desired serve with bread and Spanish olives.
IMG_5676: Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Chorizo

Cook’s tips:

*Make sure the eggs have set fully at the bottom and partially on top before inverting the tortilla onto a plate. Otherwise the eggs might spill.

*Instead of inverting the tortilla onto a plate, you can invert it onto another skillet of equal size to the first skillet. Brush the second skillet first with olive oil to keep the tortilla from sticking.

* For more information on Madrid Fusion Manila, visit:

More Tips:

*Tortilla is best served when newly cooked.

*A green salad (with your favorite dressing) will also go well with the tortilla.

*For an easy way to make tortilla, get a pan such as EasyCall pan, which has two surfaces.  Instead of flipping the tortilla on a plate, you just close the pan then flip the whole pan over.

* For more information on Madrid Fusion Manila, visit:

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The Ice Cream That Pleased the Pope

After you eat this ice cream, you won’t so easily be content with other ice cream brands.  Here’s my story on Carmen’s Best ice cream, and how it came to be served to His Holiness Pope Francis aboard the Philippine Airlines flight that took him back to Rome. (Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Lifestyle Section, page C4, February 26).

WHEN PHILIPPINE AIRLINES ASKED HIM  last December if he could supply them with Carmen’s Best Ice Cream, Paco Magsaysay thought why not?  After all he had previously provided the airline with ice cream for chartered flights where President Noynoy Aquino would be on board. Carmen’s Best was by then already a brand that PAL was familiar with.

IMG_3929: Paco Magsaysay

Paco Magsaysay

In early January Magsaysay received another call from PAL, this time asking him to supply 280 packs of single serve ice cream. He then prepared 140 single serves of malted milk flavor and 140 of brown butter almond brittle.  Feeling generous, he rounded up the order to 300, adding 20 packs of pistachio ice cream.

Little did he know that the ice cream would be brought on board the flight that would bring Pope Francis back to Rome after his papal visit to the Philippines—and would be served to His Holiness.  When Magsaysay found out that the Holy Father had tasted—and in fact had two servings—of his beloved ice cream, Magsaysay was floored.

“Just the idea of the Pope touching the cup of ice cream and eating it–!” Magsaysay exclaimed.

But even before Carmen’s Best went onboard the papal plane, some members of the Vatican had already had a taste of it.   A few days earlier, Magsaysay’s cousin, Brother Michael Valenzuela, FSC, who’s on the board of some La Salle schools and is institutional animator at the College of St. Benilde, had asked him to supply ice cream for the papal entourage and the Swiss guards who were billeted in Hotel Benilde (which is owned and operated by De La Salle).  Paco obliged with 30 free pints of his most popular flavors; reports have it that the papal entourage loved the ice cream.

Perhaps no other ice cream deserves such a high honor as to be served to His Holiness.  Carmen’s Best, after all, is to ice cream what Kobe beef is to steak:  the highest grade, the most luxurious, the most coveted.  Where other brands use UHT processed milk, Carmen’s Best is made only from pure fresh cow’s milk and cream sourced directly from the family’s dairy farm.  Moreover, says Magsaysay, they don’t pump air into it.  They also don’t add water and other additives.

Indeed, the word “tipid” is alien to them.  For vanilla, only the finest vanilla beans from Madagascar are used.  The pistachios come from Sicily, the malted milk from England, the chocolate from Switzerland.  If the flavor is supposed to contain almonds, there is sure to be an abundance of almonds in every tub.
IMG_2642: Carmen's Best Ice Cream

The result is ice cream that’s dense and creamy, with no rough edges.  Every spoonful has a roundness, like a fluid, well rehearsed symphony that starts and ends seamlessly.

The brand has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings in 2011, when Magsaysay first dabbled in ice cream making. At first he only wanted to maximize the milk production in the dairy farm of his father, former Senator Jun Magsaysay (son of the late, beloved president Ramon Magsaysay).  Using a small ice cream machine, he began with the three basic flavors: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.  When the ice cream turned out to be good, he realized he could do something more and began expanding his production and experimenting with other flavors.

Magsaysay’s first customers were his neighbors in Alabang.  But word soon spread about this artisanal ice cream that was so lush and velvety it was unlike any other ice cream in the market. To fill customers’ need, he established pick up points in Alabang and Makati, aside from making customized ice cream on special orders. To update his skills, in 2013 he took the Ice Cream Short Course in Penn State University—and finished with the top prize, the Keeney Award.

Today, Paco continues to raise the bar in ice cream production. Strict food safety measures are observed and fresh milk and cream continue to be the prime components that give the ice cream an incredibly rich texture and mouth feel. IMG_2654: Carmen's Best Ice Cream Magsaysay says he even monitors the food that the cows eat because it affects their milk production. And though he knows he has sufficient milk supply because of his father’s farm, he is honorable enough to pay the proper market rate and keep his payments updated.

From the three basic flavors, Carmen’s Best now comes in 40 flavors that include both the traditional and unconventional: from pistachio almond fudge to baklava, from salted caramel to Brazilian coffee, from cookie dough to Nuts About You, a maple-based ice cream with pecans, walnuts and almonds. Likewise, from two pick up points, the distributorship has expanded to include major supermarkets such as Rustan’s and Pure Gold. He’s also thinking of exporting to Southeast Asian countries soon.
IMG_3936: Carmen's Best
Not surprisingly, Carmen’s Best has won a number of awards. It has been given Best Choice Artisanal Ice Cream Brand, was overall winner in Our Awesome Planet’s Ultimate Taste Test and cited in the Manila Survival Guide’s Five Best Artisanal Ice Cream Brands.

Awards and recognition aside, Paco uses Carmen’s Best not just to make the best ice cream in the market but also to continue the Magsaysay legacy of giving to the community and helping others.  Since first starting its operations in 2011, the company has been donating part of its proceeds to the PGH Medical Foundation. Today, its contribution has reached P100,000.

Pope Francis will surely be pleased.

Carmen’s Best Ice Cream is available in Metro Manila in some branches of Rustan’s Supermarkets, Pure Gold, and in Centrum Building, Ground Floor, 150 Valero Street., Salcedo Village, Makati.

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A Danish Village in California–and a Spectacular Drive on the Coast

Apologies to my readers for my long absence from my blog.  I’ve been busy travelling during the Christmas and New Year holidays—and then upon my arrival back in the Philippines there was the visit of Pope Francis to Manila—which likewise kept me busy as I tried to find ways to catch a glimpse of this beloved Pope during his various sorties around town.

In late January I took a long road trip  in Northern Philippines with some dear friends (more about that in future stories).

In the interim I did manage to write a few articles for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, though not on my usual weekly basis. One was a travel story on Solvang, a Danish town in Santa Ynez Valley on California’s Central Coast (published December 27, 2014).

Here’s my story on Solvang.

IMG_7056: Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley, California Central Coast

Hamlet Square in Solvang


IMG_6883: Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley, California Central Coast

SOLVANG, A CITY IN SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, 132 miles north of Los Angeles, has been described by visitors as  cute, charming, quaint, romantic.  Others derisively say it’s “touristy,” “boring” and “fake.”  To me, however, this city, founded a century ago by Danish teachers and since transformed into a Danish village, is the land of whipped cream.  Nowhere else have I seen so much whipped cream piped on cakes, coiled on cream puffs, sandwiched between cookies and twirling on top of fresh fruits as in Solvang.  Even the coffee and hot chocolate come with frothy graceful swirls of whipped cream.

IMG_6895: Cream Puff in : Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley, California Central Coast

Cream puff in Birkholms's Bakery

After a long, scenic drive on California’s Central Coast, it was whipped cream that greeted us in Birkholm’s Bakery, a family owned restaurant and bakeshop founded by Carl and Charlotte Birkholm in 1950. The cream puff we ordered had two pastry shells linked by towering layers of whipped cream, dusted with powdered sugar.  It was like biting into a cloud and savoring its ethereal sweetness. Even the banana cake we ordered had whipped cream piped between its layers.

Elsewhere in the display case, other pastries looked just as tempting:  carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting,
IMG_6914: Solvang: Birkholm's Bakery
chocolate cookies with whipped cream filling, Napoleon Hats with chocolate topping,

fruit boats and butter rings,
IMG_6902: Solvang: Birkholm's Bakery

sugar crusted kringles and buttery pastries with jam on its center curiously called Owl Eye.
IMG_6909: Solvang: Birkholm's Bakery

Not that I’m complaining.  Whipped cream does add volume and glamour to desserts, anointing it with a final touch of indulgence.  Probably it’s this propensity for whipped cream that makes the pastries in Solvang look so mouthwatering.

To be fair, there were other delectable foods to try.  At breakfast the next day I ordered the famous Arne’s aebleskivers in Solvang Restaurant.  I had heard so much about this delicacy from my friend Delores Custer, who’s of Danish descent, as well as from another friend, Mary Grapsas, who showed me how to make them when I visited her in Missouri.  Naturally I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to try authentic aebleskivers right in the heart of this Danish town.

IMG_7098: Aebleskivers in Solvang Restaurant

Arne's aebleskivers in Solvang Restaurant

A Scandinavian specialty, an aebleskiver is a pancake shaped like a ball.  It’s a traditional delicacy often served at Christmas and other festive occasions.My order consisted of three aebleskivers clustered over a puddle of raspberry jam.  Ample sprinklings of powdered sugar gave them a snowy look.  Inside the golden crust was light, fluffy and savory; they were endowed with just the right amount of sweetness by the raspberry jam and powdered sugar.

Since it was December, the restaurant was decked in full regalia with Christmas ornaments. Wreaths and candy canes were hung on the walls, a smiling snowman was suspended from the ceiling. It was just the kind of place where we would love to linger, except that the other restaurants and shops were beckoning to be explored.

It’s probably these shops, huddled side by side on the main streets, that make others describe Solvang as being “touristy.”  But rather than mock such abundance, I actually found them fascinating. The shops, especially at Christmas time, made the street look magical, like a page out of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.  Here was a window shop filled with dolls and stuffed toys,
over there were sumptuous displays of candied apples,
IMG_7130: Solvang
chocolates, fudge, butter cookies and caramels


IMG_7133: Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley, California Central Coast

while in another shop were artisanal cheeses, bottles of preserves, olives, sausages and butter. It was enough to bring out the inner child in anyone.

IMG_6935: Shop in : Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley, California Central Coast

And speaking of Hans Christian Andersen, a museum located above the Book Loft on Mission Drive houses an extensive collection of his memorabilia.  Here one can peruse the Danish writer’s letters, manuscripts, books and photos.

Adding to Solvang’s appeal are the stalls right outside the farms that sell seasonal vegetables, organic produce, flowers, herbs and plants. In the summer there are dance performances on the streets and rides in horse-driven trolleys.  And because Santa Ynez Valley is in the middle of Santa Barbara’s wine country, there are a number of wine tasting rooms around Solvang, where visitors can sample wines such as artisanal Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

In the evening, we took the opportunity to drive to nearby Buellton for dinner in Hitching Post II,IMG_6992: Hitching Post a restaurant known for its barbecues and steaks—and also as the setting for some scenes in the film Sideways. In the film, two friends Miles and Jack (portrayed by actors Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church) set out on a weekend together before Jack’s wedding.  One of their stops happened to be the Hitching Post, where they sat in the bar drinking Pinot Noir while ruminating on life.

Imagining ourselves to be obscure extras in a movie, we sat at our table and ordered prime juicy sirloin steak and Angus rib chop, which were served invitingly charred on the outside and an appetizingly reddish pink at the center.  The servings were huge, so we had to exert a bit of an effort to do justice to the steaks.  Nevertheless we still found room for dessert, a dark moist chocolate cake served with ice cream.
IMG_7009: Hitching Post

IMG_7368: California Central Coast: Hearst Castle

Farm surrounding Hearst Castle

Making the 2 ½ hour drive to Solvang even more worthwhile are the nearby towns with attractions of their own.  In San Simeon Valley, the Hearst Castle looms on The Enchanted Hill, with its majestic gardens, grand rooms and suites, cottages, pools and terraces.  Built by William Randoph Hearst in 1865, the Mediterranean Revival Style estate is open to the public for tours.

Before driving back to Los Angeles the next day, we stopped by the Piedras Blancas Rookery on the California Central Coast,
IMG_7204:  California Central Coast
where the powerful waves lashed at the rocks while dozens of seals swam to shore to sunbathe in the golden California sunlight.
IMG_7324: Seals in Piedras Blancas Rookery, California Central Coast

IMG_7341: Seals in Piedras Blancas Rookery, California Central Coast

I still think of that trip once in a while, whenever I see pastries laden with whipped cream, or whenever longings for the ocean
IMG_7295: Seals in Piedras Blancas Rookery, California Central Coast
and the orderly greenery of vineyards strike me.  It was as magical a trip as one can get in California, away from the bustling crowd and into a land all its own, a wondrous land where sweets form part of the landscape and dreams of castles and movies come with the territory.

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DIY Recipes: Strawberry Jam Cookies, Lamb Rendang, and More!

The following were my DIY recipes published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer these past four weeks. I’ve kitchen tested them all, so they’re guaranteed to be doable, achievable and affordable.  And they’re delicious too.

DIY on November 27:  Strawberry Jam Cookies

THIS RECIPE was inspired by a visit to the Good Shepherd Convent in Baguio City.  In their store overlooking the pine trees and rolling hills of Baguio, the nuns sell bottles of strawberry jams and preserves, ube jam, adobo peanuts and  cashew brittle, as well as guava jelly, pickles, assorted pastries and, appropriately enough, a delicacy called angel cookies.

While strawberry jams are also available elsewhere in the city, the jams and preserves made by the nuns and their helpers have a unique appeal.  I like to think their virtues and values are poured into every product they make.  As the label on their much coveted ube jam says, “Made with care and diligence, cooked with a prayer and wrapped with the mission, these blessings in bottles/jars feed not only the body, but also nourish the soul.” Among the missions of the nuns is helping to send the students of the Cordilleras to school.  Every product sold helps put them through college, a noble cause indeed.

On a recent trip to Baguio I bought a few bottles of strawberry preserves. Aside from spreading the preserves on toast and crackers, I’ve also used them as topping for some light, airy cookies.

Try baking these cookies for the Christmas season, using the strawberry preserves made by the Good Shepherd nuns.  Not only are the cookies delicious, you’ll also be helping fund the college education of some worthy students.

Strawberry Jam Cookies
IMG_1931: Strawberry Jam Cookies

2                      c all-purpose flour

½                     tsp salt

1                      c butter, at room temperature

3/4                   c powdered sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

2                      tsp vanilla extract

½                     c strawberry preserves or strawberry jam

Sift the flour and salt together.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until the mixture is fluffy. Blend in the flour mixture and vanilla and continue beating until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to one hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325º F (165ºC).  Grease two cookie sheets lightly or line them with nonstick baking paper.   Drop the chilled dough  by tablespoonfuls, about 1 ½ inches apart, on the prepared cookie sheets.  With the back of a teaspoon, flatten the dough slightly and make indentations on each dough.  Fill the indentations with strawberry jam or strawberry preserve.

Bake in the preheated oven, one cookie sheet at a time, for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Transfer the baked cookies immediately to a cooling rack.  Let cool then sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Makes about 32 cookies.

Cook’s tips:

  • Don’t overfill the cookies with jam or preserve so it doesn’t spill over during the baking process.
  • You can also use apricot and mango jams or preserves.
  • Use a sieve to sprinkle the powdered sugar on the cookies.

DIY on December 4: Baked Mashed Potatoes with Cornflakes Topping
IMG_0305: Baked Mashed Potatoes with Cornflakes Topping

THIS IS A  very rich, upscale version of mashed potatoes.  With half a cup of butter, a whole can of cream of chicken soup, sour cream and lots of cheese in the mixture, it makes for a very hearty dish that’s sure to please guests in any gathering.

Try this delightful potato dish during the holiday season.  It goes well with roast chicken or turkey, meat loaf, rellenong manok, and barbecued meat.

Baked Mashed Potatoes with Cornflakes Topping

6                      medium to large potatoes

½                     c butter, softened

1                      can cream of chicken soup

2                      c sour cream

2                      c grated cheddar cheese

1 ½                  c chopped green onions

1                      teaspoon salt

1 ½ – 2             c coarsely crushed cornflakes

Peel the potatoes and boil them in enough water to cover until tender.  Mash the potatoes then let them cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).  In a large bowl, mix together the butter, cream of chicken soup, sour cream and cheddar cheese.  Fold in the cooled mashed potatoes and the green onions.  Season with salt then mix until well blended.

Spread the mixture into a large oven-proof dish (measuring about 9” x 11” x 2”).  Sprinkle enough of the crushed cornflakes to cover the surface of the potatoes completely.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes.  Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Makes 12 – 15 servings

Cook’s tips:

  • Save time by grating the cheese and chopping the green onions while waiting for the mashed potatoes to cool.
  • For an easy way to crush the cornflakes:  Put the cornflakes in a re-sealable plastic bag.  Seal and flatten the bag (make sure there’s no air inside).  Pass a rolling pin over the cornflakes until the cornflakes are coarsely crushed.  (For more texture, do not crush them too finely.)

DIY on December 11:  Lamb Rendang

THIS IS THE recipe of chef Mark Legasto.  As executive chef of 22 Jupiter Bistro Bar in Makati, he has crafted a menu that defies convention, with dishes ranging from the European (paella, Italian beef stew) to the American (hamburger) to the Asian (laksa, Hainan chicken) and not to forget, to the downright Filipino (bagnet, goat kaldereta).

“I create my own cooking,” Legasto says. “I don’t like copying other people.  I like creating my own flavors.”

Not for him the use of anything canned, bottled or powdered. The callos, for instance, is made only of slowly tenderized oxtail and tripe, simmered with stewed fresh tomatoes and saffron threads (definitely no canned tomatoes, he says). For the truffle pasta, he makes his own truffle paste using real truffles.  To cook the bagnet, he uses a technique he learned from the cooks in Ilocos:  after boiling the pork very slowly in cooking oil, he dries it in the oven over very low heat.  The pata is then carefully set aside and fried only when it’s ordered, resulting in a pata that’s crisp and tender.

I tried Legasto’s recipe for lamb rendang, adjusting it for the home cook. I was pleasantly surprised at how hearty (and spicy) it was. But then again it took me a while to gather all the ingredients, what with curry leaves, lemongrass, dried chilies, fresh chilies and coconut milk being only part of the equation.  Then there was all the chopping, pounding and grating. If this is what Legasto goes through in his kitchen, no wonder he can create such amazing flavors.

Lamb Rendang

DIY: Chef Marco Legasto's Lamb Rendang

300                  grams lemongrass, flattened and finely chopped

¼                     c curry leaves

1/3                   c finely grated ginger or galangal

1/3                   c dried red chilies, soaked in water then finely chopped (remove stems)

3                      medium size fresh green long chilies, chopped

¼                     c  shrimp paste (bagoong)

2 – 3                tbsp cooking oil

500-750           grams lamb, cut into chunks

2                      medium onions, finely chopped

1                      head garlic, finely chopped

2                      tsp dried shrimp fry (hibe)

3                      c water

3/4                   c light sweet soy sauce

2                      c coconut milk

2                      bay leaves

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fish sauce (patis), to taste

Remove the green leaves from the lemongrass.  Flatten the white stalks then chop them finely.  In a food processor, mix to a paste the lemongrass, curry leaves, ginger, chilies and shrimp paste.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large pot and brown the lamb pieces on both sides.  Remove the lamb from the pot.

In the same pot, sauté onions, garlic and dried shrimp fry.  Bring to a boil then add the shrimp paste mixture and the water.  Stir in the lamb and let simmer for one hour or until liquid is reduced.  Pour in the sweet soy sauce and coconut milk.  Add the bay leaves.  Cook until lamb is tender. Season to taste with either salt and pepper or fish sauce.

Cook’s tips:

  • Curry leaves are available in the chilled vegetable section of some supermarkets, in weekend outdoor markets and in Indian groceries.
  • For a less spicy flavor, remove some of the seeds from the chilies.
  • Be careful when handling the chilies as they could burn your skin.
  • If desired, strain the sauce before serving.

22 Jupiter Bistro Bar is in 22 Jupiter St., Bel Air, Makati (towards the EDSA side).  Open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.  For reservations call (02) 556 7097.

DIY for December 18: Tom Yum Kung

THE WEEKS LEADING TO Christmas have been a whirlwind of activities, with products and places being launched in various parts of the city.  Last September Contis Bakeshop and Restaurant opened its twelfth store.  Located in Blue Bay Walk, Metro Park, Pasay City, this branch of Contis has a full restaurant menu in its 330-square meter space that can seat up to 78 guests.

For residents and workers in the nearby areas, this branch of Contis is a welcome addition to the burgeoning park developed by Federal Land.  Now they don’t have to drive far to enjoy some of Contis’ specialties, such as the baked salmon served with green peas and corn and the angel hair putanesca.

While Contis is known for its tall, elegant mango bravo, with its layers of thick, whipped  frosting drizzled with chocolate, and the nuts and mango cubes folded into thin, crunchy wafers, it has other cakes worth trying. My latest favorite is the almond choco sans rival, a mélange of creamy chocolate buttercream and layers of meringue, crowned with a generous topping of nuts.

Another restaurant that was recently launched, albeit rather early, is Marriott Hotel’s signature Chinese restaurant Man Ho, which will open in 2016.  During the launch, executive chef Law Wui Wing prepared steamed live pink garoupa fish, marinated pigeon with soya sauce, and pan fried beef short ribs in black pepper sauce, among other specialties. All these were served before the curtains opened for a fashion extravaganza presented by designer Frederick Peralta, who was celebrating his 30th year in the industry.

Guests were likewise given a preview of Marriott’s grand ballroom, set to open in March 2015.  With its own wedding chapel, bridal suites, private gardens and exclusive entrances, Marriott’s grand ballroom is bound to be a popular wedding venue.

Meanwhile Hotel InterContinental recently announced the formation of its Culinary Panel of five celebrated chefs:  Theo Randall, Sam Leong, Ross Lusted, Dean  Bretschneider  and Ian Kittichai . All winners of major awards, the chefs have been appointed IHG Culinary Ambassadors.  For the InterContinental group of hotels, they each created 20 recipes, ranging from appetizers to main courses and desserts. Starting January 2015 these dishes will be served in select restaurants and in the in-room dining menu of InterContinental Manila, Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria, Holiday Inn Manila Galleria, Holiday Inn & Suites Makati and Holiday Inn Clark.

During the luncheon presentation at Prince Albert Rotisserie, Chef Ian Kittichai’s tom yum kung brought back delicious memories of dining in Thailand.  His version of this well loved Thai soup was both classic and innovative.  The tiger prawns and oyster mushrooms were grilled to a smoky flavor before being incorporated in a heady broth fragrant with the aroma of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.

Here’s Chef Ian Kittichai’s recipe for tom yum kung, which readers may want to try in their own kitchen.

Tom Yum Kung

Grilled tiger prawns and oyster mushrooms in a kaffir-lemongrass broth

Makes 2 servings
IMG_2751: InterContinental Hotel's Celebrity Chef's Tom Yum Kung

4                      tiger prawns

4                      oyster mushrooms

2                      cups chicken stock or chicken broth

2                      stalks lemongrass, white part only

7                      kaffir lime leaves, torn and bruised

8                      round pieces thinly sliced ginger or galangal

2                      pieces bird’s eye chilies (siling labuyo), smashed

2                      tbsp roasted chili jam (Mae Pra-Nom brand)

3                      tbsp fish sauce (patis), or to taste

¼                     c evaporated milk

1                      tsp sugar

3                      tbsp lime juice, or to taste

To garnish:

Kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced

Wansuy leaves

Preheat a grill pan to medium high heat.  Peel the prawns but leave the shells on towards the tail part.  Grill the prawns and the mushrooms on the preheated grill pan until slightly charred.  Set aside and keep warm.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock or broth to a boil over medium heat.  Pound the lemongrass stalks to release their flavor and aroma then add them to the broth, together with the kaffir lime leaves, ginger or galangal, and the chilies.  Bring to a simmer.

Stir in the roasted chili jam, then the fish sauce, milk and sugar.  Turn off the heat then season with lime juice.

To serve:  Arrange two mushrooms in each of two soup bowls. Pour in the soup, dividing equally.  Top with the grilled prawns.  Garnish with kaffir lime leaves and wansuy leaves.

Cook’s tips:

  • You can find kaffir lime leaves in weekend outdoor markets and in the chilled vegetable section of some supermarkets.
  • If you can’t find roasted chili jam, use chili paste instead.
  • A substitute for the lime juice is the juice of calamansi or dayap.

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