Monthly Archives: March 2010

lumpia, fried; and lumpia, fresh–and a bit of wishful thinking

so who isn’t on a health kick these days? you just can’t escape it even if you don’t have any health issues (lucky you *inggit*envy*)–tv and print ads and emails all beseech you to watch your weight, read food labels, work out, eat less, and on and on.
one of my sincere efforts is to avoid cooking deep fried foods.

lumpiang Shanghai with catsup dip

but alas, the allure and the lure of lumpiang Shanghai (meat and shrimp rolls) got the better of me. i justified it by using ground chicken to replace some of the ground pork, and tried to have the rolls not spend too much time in the deep fat fryer (crucial to use, so that you know how hot the oil has gotten).
the star of this blogpost though is The Dip. i was in a hurry to cook and couldn’t find my recipe for the sweet and soy-y dip so i dug out my dog-eared 22-year-old edition of Galing Galing by Nora Daza for a sweet and sour ketchup-y sauce to which i added some fried garlic.

1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water (or chicken stock)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cooking oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsps. ketchup/catsup
2 tsps. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. water

in a glass cup, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and water and mix well.
heat a saucepan and add cooking oil (you can use as little as you need to coat the pan). brown the minced garlic until fragrant. add the vinegar solution and bring up to a gentle boil and then add the cornstarch solution, stirring constantly until thickened.

i added a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper too.

any guilty feelings after imbibing these forbidden deep fried goodies were assuaged by the opposite lumpia variation.
fresh lumpiang sariwa
after having some fresh lumpia in California–traditionally made with heart of coconut, (the inner core of the coconut trunk, which is not available here)–here made with jicama (singkamas) and other vegetables: green beans, carrots, snow pea pods, celery, all precisely julienned…i had a hankering for some more.

if only i could findeureka!i think i’ve found that prefect white crepe i’m longing for, with a bit of a spongey texture in its thinness, just like my Ma used to get fresh from the lumpia-makers of Nepomuceno Market near Kamuning and Cubao…. :detective:

i’ve been having problems with this webhost, and in the time it took just to write this post i’ve managed to trawl the www and try a few recipes for the crepe. this is it, at least for now:
a white and fine textured crepe that doesn’t overwhelm the vegetables with too much egginess.
(based on a recipe from

200 grams all purpose flour
50 grams tapioca starch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 tbsps. canola oil
525 ml lukewarm water

blend dry ingredients, then add the egg. whisking constantly, add the water in a steady and slow stream. whisk until well blended; use a stick blender if batter is lumpy. cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in the refrigerator, for at least an hour, up to overnight.
heat up crepe pan to medium hot, lightly oil it, then pour just enough to cover the pan with a thin layer (i used about 1/3 cup for my crepe pan).
when top is set, flip carefully–don’t let it brown, or else it will crack and not drape over the lumpia like a velvet shawl…. :glasses-slip:

faraway food foraging

we have been waiting for this new grocery to open up–news had been buzzing around the web, ever since our favorite (one and only) Japanese food purveyors in Cambridge closed down.
new Japanese grocery
we organized a little trip on a sunny cold Sunday afternoon to Medford, to look for our favorite green tea soy milk and soba noodles (chasoba); the kids had a grand time looking up and down the candy and soda aisles, which were blissfully not crowded. yet?
oh no Mom's taking a picture
husband wanted to give the takeaway sushi counter a try. in the process #1 son bumped into his Japanese language professor who took the opportunity to grill him on his skills.
#1son being grilled by professor
the best sushi
after a long wait: fresh, beautiful, perfectly assembled sushi and sashimi. very well worth the time spent. their pickled ginger was the best, crispy and all-natural. (pictured in the trays above, next to the little splotches of lime green wasabi paste.)
fresh and natural wasabi
i picked up a tiny jar of the real thing, freshly grated Japanese wasabi. the difference is unmistakable: the searing hit of the paste is very subtle at the start but then you get that brain buzz, all in a good way.
it was just like that, on our way home we were buzzing with excitement, happy at the thought of this new place not too far from home.
H Mart, Burlington, MA
not like here, a much longer ride to Burlington, and the two times we’ve gone, both on Saturday evenings the chaos was too much that we were not able to enjoy the shopping experience much.
we vow to return when all the fuss and novelty have died down, hopefully. they have food stalls and a bakery with the most delicious red bean doughnuts.

and when we finally made it back, after a quick hop into Chinatown, double-parked in suspense on Harrison street, to pick up a roast duck, i tried to sooth #2son’s craving for miso soup with ingredients we had at home: dashi no moto, miso paste, silken tofu, udon noodles, the magic wakame seaweed, and sliced scallions.
miso and udon soup

vanilla bean and calamansi flan

This post was entered into the “Grow Your Own” roundup, hosted this month by House of Annie.

i spent a week in California to hang out with my parents and siblings–our kuya (older brother) flew in from Manila with a suitcase full of goodies.
vanilla-bean-calamansi flan
i’ve had this recipe printed out and magnetically attached to the fridge for quite a while now. i saw it on a PBS special about Mexico, hosted by Tyler Florence, who is just about the only food network hunk chef i watch nowadays. he made it with lime zest.
calamansi, flown in fr CA!
in my carry on bag though was a small basket of these, handpicked from a garden in Camarillo, Ca.
(there were also saba bananas, pickled green mangoes, polvoron, and Ricoa flat tops. i tried to look as innocent possible when a little leak of pickled mango juice was detected in the overhead bin. :glasses-slip: )
vanilla bean pod
two quite rare ingredients blended together in an easy flan recipe…there was a bit of an overflow from leftover mix that i poured into a little ramekin and that i had–all by myself.
calamansi and vanilla bean flan
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finally, sunshine; and the Irish soda bread recipe

we’ve survived 10 inches of rain in three days (not totally unscathed, as we sustained roof and ceiling damage, but all in all not too bad, in this state where some families were totally devastated, sad to say), and the reward was a glorious day of sunshine this St. Patrick’s day.

my family has always celebrated this day, not because we’re Irish, but because it is our parents’ wedding anniversary day.
Baguio,Mom & Dad, '68
i don’t recall my Ma ever cooking Irish food on this particular day, though i know she would have if she could’ve–she’s always been adventurous in the kitchen (frogs, rabbits, all sorts of cuisine…)
today marks my Ma and Dad’s 54th wedding anniversary, and husband requested a “traditional” dinner…as traditional as i could manage anyway.
first though he took me to dimsum lunch. yippee, he had the day off today! an endangered day off it is too, so we enjoyed it as much as we could with a quick trip to Boston’s Chinatown and China Pearl. what do you know, we saw his parents and two of his sisters there too.
yes, it was that kind of a day, when everyone just had to get out and feel warm sun on skin.

it was like a flash of lightning when we got home…i remembered Mrs. O’Callaghan’s recipe for Irish soda bread in the March Bon Appetit, in an article written by Andrew McCarthy–one of the brat pack and whom i remember from the movie “Mannequin.” [cook’s note: i followed the recipe from the magazine and used only 1 tsp. of baking soda, and added a teaspoon of salt as well. i also used a rectangular pan similar to Mrs. O’s.]
Irish soda bread
it was very easy to make and quite a memorable un-yeasted bread. it was great with the corned beef brisket, sauteed Brussells sprouts (i added rendered salt pork though), mashed potatoes, and the totally non-traditional chicken livers and caramelized onions (recommended for the anemic member of the family, ME!).
i wish i had found a you tube video for this old old James Taylor song, “Sunshine,” as it is just perfect for the feeling we had the morning after the nameless Nor’easter that flooded the Bay State…

sounds of laughter here comes sunshine
smiling faces all around
they possess you bless you sunshine
now you can never let them down
I say sunshine
sunshine, sunshine
is that a cloud across your smile or did you dream again last night
it’s best you rest inside a while
as blue doesn’t seem to suit you right
things ain’t what they used to be
pain and rain and misery
illness in the family and sunshine means a lot to me
i say sunshine
but could it be sunshine is drifting with midnight
and lonely when everyone’s gone
blue crystal spirits and gardens in moonlight
leave weak alone and bleak all quiet and grey by dawn
sunshine sunshine
rising too late to chase the cold and failing to change the frost to dew
she’s trading her mood of yellow gold for frost bitten shades of silver blue
friends and lovers past and gone and no one waiting further on
i’m running short of things to be and sunshine means quite a lot to me
i say sunshine… sunshine

–James Taylor, 1968

fish cakes, Thai-style

shrimp and fish cakes
i must confess, i made these fish cakes specifically so i could enjoy them with this dip.
spicy cucumber and onion dip
it’s very easy and quick to make, especially if you use a food processor to chop up the seafood. otherwise if you’re handy with a knife or mezzaluna, you’ll just end up with a chunkier mix.
my kids don’t like wild lime leaves (from “kaffir” limes) so i just used, sparingly now, but maybe more and more as time goes by to get their tastebuds acculturated, Maesri red curry paste (a mix of garlic, shallots, lemongrass, lime leaves, dried red chili peppers, cumin, coriander, cardamom bay leaves, and sugar and salt).

just mix up ground fish (haddock, scrod, cod or other firm, white-fleshed fish), ground shrimp, 1 beaten egg, chopped scallions, a few drops of fish sauce, freshly ground black pepper, and a teaspoon or so of red curry paste. you can add bread crumbs (i used panko) or not (or a dusting of all-purpose flour instead), and you can add finely sliced dark long beans or green beans for a bit of color and texture (not to mention vegetable goodness!).

heat vegetable oil to a depth of about an inch then gently drop in spoonfuls of fish and shrimp mixture coated with bread crumbs or flour and fry for about 2 minutes per side (depending on the thickness and size).

enjoy with a cucumber and red onion mix steeped in a vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper dip–with a bit of red chili if you like!
i dissolved 1/2 cup of sugar in 1 cup of white vinegar (or rice vinegar) in a small saucepan, brought up the mixture to a gentle simmer while stirring, then added salt and pepper to taste, before pouring into finely diced cucumber and red onions.
delicious! and gone in a flash…