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SpamSiLog and Friendship are Good Things

14/03/2014

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For the longest time, I have been telling friends about the way I Spam, the meat coated in brown sugar then fried until crisp, the sugar melting into a beautiful sweet glaze whose sweetness perfectly complements the Spam’s oversalted flavor. I talked about it so much that one of them began to believe that I was making it up. I had to prove him wrong by making Spamsilog– glazed Spam, sinangag (garlic-fried rice) and itlog (egg–in this case, scrambled).

I’m a big fan of breakfast food. I believe that breakfast food should not be limited to breakfast, especially since I’m never awake to enjoy it at that time, anyway. So Spamsilog became dinner.

First, the rice. I peeled and smashed a whole garlic, fried it in oil mixed with a lot of margarine (we forgot to buy butter), dumped in about four cups of yesterday’s rice, mixing everything until heated through.

I like to use a ton of garlic in my garlic rice because garlic is yummy, and because they repel vampires. This was confirmed during the grocery store run beforehand, where a passer-by saw the garlic my friend was carrying and asked, “For vampires?”

The Spam was sliced, coated on both sides with brown sugar, fried in hot oil until brown on one side, then flipped over until the other side achieves the same color. 

Then the eggs. I beat six eggs until no trace of whites were left, put in about six teaspoons of cream and beat everything until fully incorporated. The mixture went into a pan with hot oil and margarine (which I really wish was butter), where it was mixed and mixed and mixed, the spatula never leave the pan until the eggs reached the right consistency–cooked thorugh but still creamy.

I also made Masala chai, basically black tea, green cardamom, black peppercorn, cinnamon, and star anise boiled in whole milk and strained, served with sugar to taste.

One friend said the Spam tasted like tocino. Another said the eggs were creamy without being runny or overcooked. The biggest compliment, I think, was when one of them passed out on the sofa.

Food always brings people together, but there is a special kind of togetherness that happens when the meal shared is homemade. There is a baring of emotions, an opening of a psychic vein.

The cook exposes vulnerabilities, letting other people into his or her world via taste. The eaters voluntarily put themselves at the cook’s mercy, carrying the burden of their relationship should the food not turn out well.

It’s a gamble, one that pays off if the meal is a success.  The cook is happy that people agree with his or her idea of what tastes good. The eaters are happy because they just had a lovely meal and are relieved that they do not have to lie about it.

But most importantly, there is community and sharing, a strengthening of bonds, a renewing of camaraderie; the making of a memory to look back on fondly.

Barcelona in wintertime, like a jewel in the sun

04/03/2014

Churros con Chocolate

Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia in northeast Spain, is a popular destination during the summer. Between May to October, when the sun shines bright, it has perfect beach and sightseeing weather. But what people are starting to realize is that Barcelona in the winter is beautiful too, and offers a different experience from the more popular warmer months.

For one thing, there are fewer tourists. The city is still alive and packed with people, with stores open until late and restaurants serving diners in the wee hours of the morning. Winter in Barcelona means temperatures that range from 14° to 5° C, shifting from mildly chilly to quite cold as the day wears on—an excuse to bust out your winter gear.

The city is an art and architecture lover’s dream. While architect Antoni Gaudi and artist Joan Miro are the two that first come to mind when you mention Barcelona, the city is also home to sculptures by Frank Gehry and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as lots of interesting street art. It is also full of galleries and boutiques, as well as access to both beach and mountains. No matter what time of the year you find yourself in Barcelona, there are some places that are worth visiting.

Read the rest on GMA News Online.

Eat, drink your way through Taipei

04/03/2014

Taipei Coffee Alley Iced Latte

Taipei has been touted as a dining destination for years now. Taiwan’s capital is full of restaurants and coffee shops that serve excellent food and drinks—so much so that it’s almost come to the point where you can just enter any random restaurant or coffee shop or stop by any food stall or cart and you will be guaranteed a good meal.

Read the rest of the article on GMA News Online.

On Accepting Food from Strangers

12/05/2013

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You know how your mother tells you never to accept food from strangers?

I broke that rule during my first time in Laoag, the capital of Ilocos Norte.

My companions and I were checking out Dap-Ayan ti Ilocos Norte, the hawker food court where you can get fresh Ilocos empanadas and other provincial treats, but mainly Ilocos empanadas, which are quite tasty. A mixture of meat, shredded green papaya, and other vegetables, and hopefully an egg are stuffed into an orange-colored flour-based casing and deep fried so that it’s crisp on the outside and piping hot on the inside. It is street food at its best, and the Ilocanos are very proud of it, as they should be.

We stopped at the first empanada stall in Dap-Ayan and my companions struck up a conversation with the vendors. I noticed that one of the proprietors was having dinner. She was spooning tiny fish swimming in a cloudy liquid onto a plate of rice and eating everything with gusto.

My friend asked what the lady was eating and the lady said it was kilawin na dilis (ceviche), and would she like some? My friend declined, but jokingly asked me if I wanted to try the dish.

Not being one to back down froma challenge (and from the offer of food), I said yes. The lady handed me her spoon. I scooped a few small fish with some of the vinegared sauce and put it in my mouth.

The dilis was salty and a bit bitter, not my thing at all. I’m happy the lady was nice enough to offer me a bite of her dinner. Now I know that kilawin na dilis isn’t for me, and that the way I found this out is a story in itself.

Just don’t tell mother.

Buhay na Bato in Leyte’s Rafel Farm

12/05/2013

Leyte Rafael Farm_1

A few years ago, I found myself in Rafel Farm in Leyte. The farm is a beautiful events place where one can hold elegant parties and host casual but classy lunches.

After such a casual yet classy lunch made up of Filipino favorites, we were left to explore the breathtaking surroundings.

I was looking at the garden near where our van was parked when one of the guys on the trip, a seasoned news photographer, tapped me and surreptitiously pointed to a nearby rock.

“That’s a Buhay na Bato,” he said. “If you look closely, you’ll notice that the crags make it look like a human face, but you’ll only see it if the elemental that lives in the rock lets you.”

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Buhay na bato means “living rock,” he explained, and refers to rocks inhabited by earth elementals. You can tell th by their vaguely humanoid features, which come from having been inhabited by an elemental for so long. He learned about living rocks durung one of his many trips to Mt. Banahaw, one of the most mystical places in the Philippines. The mountain is rife with them, he said, one of the reasons why travelers in the wilderness must always watch where they step.

“Can you see its face?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“Look closely,” he urged. “I’m sure it will show itself to you.”

I waited, wondering just how crazy my companion was to be talking aboy stuff like that, and how much crazier I was for believing him.

And then, I saw it. Two shadows for eyes, a sharp jut of nose, the ridge of a knitted brow, mouth set into half-frown.

Maybe I imagined it. Maybe my brain willed my eyes to see what they wanted to see. All I know is that my companion told me to snap a picture, which I did (he said the rock wouldn’t mind), and whenever I look at it until now, I can still see that elemental’s slightly annoyed face posing for me.

Finding Heinlein in a Hotel

23/04/2013

Penang - Tune Hotel Heinlein Quote

The rooms numbers in Tune Hotel Penang has quotes under the room numbers. My favorite is this one by Robert Heinlein that says, “To love is to place our happiness in the happiness of another.”

Aside from the surprise and delight of finding a quote from a science fiction writer in a tourist hotel, the quote is also a reminder that the best stories, even if they are couched in genre, are ultimately about the human condition, something that he was big on. I loved Starship Troopers, both the book and the movie, even though both were very different from each other. But it doesn’t matter. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you’ll know that it’s more than just about people going off to space. It’s about finding love and friendship, despite the rockets and aliens thrown into the mix.

Leyende Notebook Giveaway

25/03/2013

 

I’ve been a fan of Leyende’s handmade, organic skincare products ever since I heard about the brand sometime in 2008. This Easter, Leyende is giving away some notebooks that I made from their old catalogues.

This collaboration happened by accident. I had given the notebooks to Leyende’s founder, Neva Talladen, who decided to give them away in a contest because people kept asking her about them (pats self on back).

You can find out what the notebooks look like and how to join the promo on Leyende’s Facebook page.

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