Monthly Archives: September 2004

Making Larb

spicy beef larbThis is not for the faint hearted…I first tasted this from my Lao friends and students, long, long time ago, in the bundoks of Bataan. There are many versions in Thai cookbooks but over the years this is how I’ve adapted it.
The distinctive taste of toasted rice powder gives it such oomph. Filipinos use it mainly for kare kare as far as I know: as a thickener for the meat stew. I enjoy making this beef salad because I taste as I mix, and before I know it it’s half gone.

Grill a 1 lb. slab of your favorite steak. Slice thinly. Add on the following, according to your taste: fresh lime juice, thinly sliced red onions and lemongrass, patis (preferably Vietnamese), sliced hot sili, toasted rice powder, cilantro leaves, and a smattering of scallions and fresh mint. Season with salt and pepper. Sugar can also be added to balance the hot, sour, salty, sweet ideal. Serve on lettuce cups with hot steamed jasmine rice.
(My Lao friends served this to me using boiled ground pork and pork skin; chicken works well too. They also served it with steamed sticky rice, which takes more time and work. I’ve tried this with raw freshly home-ground beef: the meat got cooked by the lime juice, a la ceviche/kinilaw. I’ve decided my favorite is rare grilled steak cuts like flank, skirt, or sirloin.) . The best I’ve tasted is at Sripaphai, a humble little family restaurant (serving Issan Thai food, featured in Saveur magazine) in Woodside, NY(Queens); heavily laced with Thai bird chilis, very hot and tasty. You will definitely need a huge glass of ice cold Singha for that.

Spirits move me

chocolate mousse cake

IMBB 8: Chocolate Mousse cake “Bake something…” If it’s not too late, I’d like to offer this treat I made for another laborious school/work week for my kittens, to IMBB 8: a reward for waking up early without grumbling. It’s from Rosie’s Baking Book, Chocolate Mousse cake. One day I had a persistent taste memory of the Red Ribbon cake we used to buy near the Circle cinema in EDSA. (Wonder if it’s still there?) So glad I found this recipe. I used to make it with Courvoisier but this time followed the recipe exactly: it called for rum. I think it deepened the chocolate flavor.Equipment: 9-in springform pan, piping/icing bag
and tips optional)

chocolate mousse cake


8 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s
Bittersweet, the hunky block fr.Belgium)
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate (Baker’s)
1 cup (2 sticks)unsalted butter
5 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup rum (Bacardi, the goldy one)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 tsp. sugar
1 & 3/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream, chilled
1 oz. dark chocolate for shaving.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a
9-in. springform pan with a parchment or waxed paper
2. Melt both choc.s and the butter in the top of a
double boiler placed over simmering water.
3.Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing
bowl and allow it to cool to room temp.
4. Add the egg yolks, rum and vanilla to the
chocolate mixture and whisk briskly until blended, 5
5. Beat the egg whites in a medium size mixing bowl
with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until
frothy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add 1/3 cup
sugar and continue beating just until the peaks are
stiff but not dry, about 1 minute more.
6. Add one third of the egg whites to the chocolate
mixture and whisk gently to lighten this batter.
Add the rest of the egg whites and whisk until
7. To form the cake base, spread one third of the
chocolate mixture evenly in the prepared pan with a
rubber spatula. Refrigerate the rest immediately.
8. Bake the base until it rises and then drops,
18-20 minutes. Cool it in the pan in the
refrigerator, 15 minutes.
9. Meanwhile whip 1 cup of the cream until stiff in
a medium-size mixing bowl with an electric mixer on
medium high speed. Fold the cream into the
remaining chocolate mixture using a rubber spatula.
10. Scoop the chocolate mixture on the cooled base
and smooth the surface with a spatula. Stretch a
piece of plastic wrap over the top of the pan and
place the cake in the freezer overnight.
11. The next morning run a frosting spatula (or thin
knife) and remove the side.
12. Place a large plate upside down on the top of
the cake and flip the cake onto the plate. Remove
the bottom of the pan and the paper. Then flip the
cake right side up onto a second large plate.
13. Beat the remaining 3/4 cup of cream with 1 tsp
sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on
medium-high speed unti stiff peaks are formed.
14. Spread half the whipped cream gently over the
top of the mousse cake.*
15. Place the remaining whipped cream in a pastry
bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe rosettes of
whipped cream around the top edge of the cake.
16. Shave the dark chocolate over the top of the cake and refrigerate it for 8
17. Remove the cake from the refrigerator 1 hour
before serving.

*at this point my kids are usually jumping up and
down, and insist on having some so I skip this,
halving the whipped cream amount (1/2 cup)and
proceeding with step 16 and not putting back in the
You need to make this 2 days before serving, for
freezing and chilling time. My kids, mainly #2 son
usually can’t wait beyond step 15 and it’s ok but
not as firm. The rum and chocolate flavors need to


Thanks, “Tita” Marietta, for sharing this recipe. She thought I needed to learn a survival skill. I’ve never profited from it except in endless compliments…. I can never cook enough, laging ubos. You can change proportions of ingredients and adjust seasonings to your taste. E.g. you may add thyme or oregano as you wish, to the chicken as it sautees. Substitute ground chicken if you’re in a rush.
Make these the day before you intend to serve, preferably with a couple of “assistants”, or kachismis(gossipmates). The filling needs time to chill and for the flavors to develop.Chicken empanada: (Makes about 24, snack size)
4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Crisco, chilled
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup ice water

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in Crisco with pastry blender (or 2 bread knives) until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle ice water and blend just until mixture forms a dough ball. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.

2 cloves garlic,chopped fine
1 medium yellow onion, diced’ or 2 shallots
2 1/2 lbs. coarsely chopped chicken, pref. dark meat
1/2 can cream of asparagus soup
1 diced medium potato
1 diced carrot
1/3 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed

Saute garlic, onion & carrot until onions are translucent. Add chicken and stir fry until chicken meat is opaque(cooked thru) . Season w/ salt and pepper. Add cream of asparagus soup and potatoes and cook until vegetables are tender. Add peas. Remove from heat. Store in refrigerator overnight.

On a floured surface and w/floured hands, roll out dough into 2 logs. Cut logs into 24 pingpong size balls. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness.
Shape into 5-inch ovals. Fill w/ 1 tbsp.chicken filling on half of oval, and fold over into a crescent shape, with top edge just short of bottom edge. Seal edges with fork tines, or twist and pinch for “rustic” edging. Chill until ready to cook.

Brush each empanada with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. milk) and bake at preheated 400F oven, in lightly greased cookie sheets, for 25-30 minutes or until goldy brown on top.
remove pans fr. oven, cool empanadas for 5 minutes in pans. Lift them gently out of pans and transfer to racks and let cool. Or, deep fry at 375F for 3 minutes.
bite empanada

Serve warm. Can be frozen ( put cooked empanadas in single layer on sheet pans in freezer; when stiff, put in ziploc bags or air tight plastic bins and store for maximum 3 months. Reheat in preheated toaster oven).

(Not the same-old, same-old) Escabeche

A bit of a Thai influence…I’ve had a similarly tasting dish in a famous Chinese restaurant in Boston.

For the fish :
2 lbs. of fish, fillets, whole or steaks; these are grouper steaks
a dusting of turmeric (optional)
salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 slice of peeled ginger
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup tamarind puree/liquid, mixed with 3/4 cup of hot water;
or the equivalent from fresh tamarind or tamarind block
1 tsp (or more) chili paste
a smidgen of sugar or more
fish sauce/soy sauce to taste
1/4 cup finely sliced scallions
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
a few sprigs of cilantro

Peanut oil for frying

Rub the fish w/ turmeric(if using), salt and pepper until dark golden brown. Scoop out and drain in paper towels. Pour off oil except for a tbsp. or so and then saute garlic, ginger, & shallots. Pour tamarind water mixture, chili paste, soy/fish sauce, and stir. Turn up heat and set to boil. (At this point,if liquid evaporates, add water or chicken broth.) Add scallions, red bell peppers and fried fish. Simmer and stir gently, taking care not to break up the fish. Season again as needed. Garnish with cilantro. (If you like a thicker sauce add a tsp. of cornstarch dissolved in a tbsp. of water.)

This sauce works well with steam-fried duck legs,too (omit turmeric, fry legs in a “starter” amount of oil, around 1 tsp., over medium heat with a tight fitting cover over your pan or wok. Watch closely and turn, frying for about 12 minutes each side according to the thickness of the meat. The fat that renders out of the duck is great for frying/roasting potatoes, sinfully good.).

Mama land

the only good overdose…of dark and white chocolate chips and grated chocolate

Groggy children, cold mornings. They try so hard to shake off the blearies and uncomplainingly trot off to school. Since 9/11 this nervous mom has been wringing her hands until the kittens are home safe and sound. To relax I make them something good/sweet to eat, and Ginia’s chocolate chip cookies from has become their new favorite. Grating a whole chocolate bar into the batter gives this cookie a dizzying chocolate buzz. (I used Trader Joe’s Belgian bittersweet.) My only dotir also suggested adding white chocolate this case a chopped up Ghirardelli white chocolate baking bar. The wife of a Seattle Mariner player donated the recipe for charity and we are very grateful.