Paksiw na Bangus (Milkfish Stewed in Vinegar)

This one right here is a dish that I learned to love because of my brother-in-law’s version. I mean, I grew up with basically just a straight forward take – fish poached in vinegar loaded with peppercorns, garlic and ginger. However, when I arrived and stayed at my sister’s place in Las Pinas, this was  one of the first dishes I copied. I so love the flavour profile as it was a harmony of all common flavours – sour, salty, spicy, sweet, bitter and umami! One of those fantastic one-pot dishes you will surely love!

 

 

Needless to say, my bayaw, Kuya Joy, was one of the pivotal figures in my culinary journey as he piqued my interest into discovering the international flavors. He practically built some of the foundations that eventually gave me the edge in winning the Masterchef  competition. And this Paksiw recipe has been a regular item in my repertoire.

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The Okara Experiment

 

I have been experimenting with soya  (soya milk, tofu, etc) and I noticed that the okara or the soy pulp has been piling up. I knew I just can’t throw it all away since the volume makes it all very interesting.

Imagine, half a kilo of soy bean (which only costs 30 pesos) makes me 2 liters of pure soy milk and at least 6 cups of okara. There has to be something I can make use for such by-product. So I researched on some recipes that make use of the soy pulp and I mostly encounter bread recipes. So okay, bread it is!

However, it’s evident that they only make use a small portion to their recipes. Like 1 cup of okara to 4 cups of flour (of various combinations like bread, wheat and APF). So I decided to adjust the ratio and see what happens.

Below are the results of my experiments.

Okara Bread

 

 

Ingredients:

2 cups dried okara
1 cup soymilk
1 tbsp molasses
2 cups All Purpose Flour
½ tbsp Yeast
3 tbsp oil

 

Warm soy milk in microwave or in a pot then pour over okara then add salt, molasses and oil – mix well.
This should only be warm to touch (around 98 degrees Fahrenheit) so you can sprinkle the yeast and not kill them, gently mix, cover with wet cloth and let it proof for at least 10 minutes.
Gently fold in flour, cover and wait until almost double in size. This will take at least 30 minutes.
Gently deflate the dough – carefully punching down then transfer on floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes. Transfer to bread pan and cover with wet cloth. Wait for another 30 minutes to rise for the second time. Preheat oven. I had it at around 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 C).

Bake for at least 40 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Transfer to a cooling rack then serve – or not!!!! This recipe needs a lot of adjustments and tweaking. Hehehe!

 

 

The end product looks very promising. It had a great crust but the inside was really mushy. As for the taste – it was Gross! Definitely, the amount of yeast and the use of pure molasses did not compliment. I imagine that the taste needed to be covered by something sweet as it was very sour. I guess topping it with fruit confit or dredging it with different spices will somehow neutralize the awful flavour profile.

 

Here’s something that will surely redeem my initial blunder… An EDIBLE Okara Cookie.

 

 

OKARA COOKIES

 

 

Ingredients:

2 cups dried Okara
2 whole eggs
1 cup sugar

 

 

Preheat oven at 320 F
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Don’t worry if the dough will look somewhat moist or even wet, since it has no flour, I guess it’s bound to look that way.
Scoop two tablespoons per cookie then strategically place them on your baking sheet. You will need to press on it for it does not collapse while being cooked.
Bake for at least 15 minutes.
Transfer to a cooling rack.
Serve with chilled Soya Milk.

 

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You Bet, Pakbet!

Dishes that make up traditional cuisines show our close relationship and dependence on our environment. That’s basically human nature – we consume what’s around us. From the primitive instincts we have for food to finally evolving to what it is today, the simple fact remains – we are more inclined to the foods we are familiar with, that we grew up with and that we encounter regularly. Explains so much why Moms’ cooking lasts for generations. This also explains different palates – why one dish is a staple in one area and would sound totally gross elsewhere.

 

Same as the story of our dear Pinakbet/ Pakbet, an invention of virtually every vegetable in Ilocandia effortlessly mixed with our favourite seasoning (bagoong and alamang). This dish is also a great representation of Filipino Cooking – practical and very straightforward.

 

with bagoong and alamang

 

Wikipedia says that the name came from Pinakebbet [ /pinakeb-bet/] which means shrivelled that translates to being reduced into sauce consistency. Pakbet has many versions, varying only on the type of seasoning you use. The one I grew up with, I dare say, is the authentic version that only uses the hardcore bagoong (anchovy sauce or fish paste sauce) without any addition while some areas use only shrimp paste or alamang. The inclusion of pork, IMHO is a more modern variation meant to cater for mass production (so the dish can appeal and be served in different regions of the country)

 

key ingredients

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Bicol’s Pride – Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk

Any good Bicolano knows his Laing and that’s one of the things that the Royol Blood has passed down to our generation. A dish that is continuously evolving, my Uncle Monching’s and the Senior’s (that would be my Dad) take are the most straight forward and I’d say the most effective in retaining the authenticity and character of this symbolic viand.

 

Laing

 
 
Known to be from the Araceae family (Arum family or Aroid), this plant contains toxins that need to be cooked out to prevent the itchy texture in your mouth and throat. Most Google search results say to cook for atleast 45 minutes over low fire. Which is perfect for the traditional laing dish calls for lots of coconut milk and you would want to reduce the liquid until its character finally stands out. It usually takes atleast an hour and a half to get the right feel but ofcourse, it depends on the volume of coconut milk you put in.

 

the ingredients…

 

Below are the steps – and since ours is a one-pot approach, this should be relatively easy!

 

 

Laing
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Ingredients
  1. 250g dries taro leaves
  2. 350g fresh grated coconut
  3. 180g pork meat (I use the cheapest cut like pork face)
  4. 150g dried salted fish (white bisugo)
  5. 5 cloves of garlic
  6. 3 tbsp of grated ginger
  7. 1 onion
  8. 1/2 cup Bagoong Balayan
  9. 2 liters of warm water
  10. Green and red chillies
  11. 3 tbsp brown sugar
  12. Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, place grated coconut and add 1 cup of warm water. Squeeze a couple of times then finally extract the coconut milk using a strainer – set aside the first batch of coconut milk or kakang gata. Repeat process with the remaining water then pour directly into your cooking vessel (pot, large dutch oven or even a pressure cooker) *Always use fresh coconut for best result
  2. Wash and squeeze the Taro leaves - place in your cooking vessel.
  3. Place only half of the fish paste sauce (bagoong isda) – use the rest if you need to adjust the seasoning. Add crushed garlic cloves, sliced onion and grated ginger.
  4. Place pork meat and whole dried salted fish. I prefer to use the fatty parts of the pig for flavour and make sure to cut your pork meat in large portions if you plan on devouring them later on. Also, I would suggest placing your dried fish whole so you can use the fish bones for added essence. You can just take them out once it’s all cooked. You can also wash them first to rinse some of the salt so you would have better control.
  5. Cover and cook over low fire for 1 ½ hours – regularly checking and stirring to prevent the bottom from scorching.
  6. Add kakang gata, brown sugar and chopped chillies. Simmer for another 30 minutes or until preferred reduction is achieved then check seasoning. Adjust using fish paste sauce, salt and pepper.
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topped with pork and fish

 

another way to serve it

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Tinola, The Ultimate Chicken – Ginger Love Story

Chicken Ginger Stew or Tinolang Manok best describes every Pinoy Mom’s cooking – warm and full of love! A must during the rainy season, it would seem that this has been embedded in our DNAs as our bodies automatically crave for this bowlful of heaven. Gat Jose Rizal and our modern day gladiator Manny Pacquiao will attest how good this dish is.  

 

Every Pinoy knows how to do it, and no matter how advanced things may get or how ground-breaking the food industry becomes, this dish will always be part of our culture/identity and our lives. Simple yet delicious.

 

So let me share with you one of the versions I have learned from La Union which uses Bagoong Isda (fish paste sauce) instead of fish sauce. Done correctly, the fish paste sauce will give the broth a deeper profile and the umami from the fermentation will surely give it a funky character. Also, I wanted to incorporate one practice that I believe is slowly drifting to oblivion as far as Filipino cooking is concerned – the use of “hugas bigas”. My dad taught me this “technique”, saying that it is a must if you want your broth to have more body. Now I use “hugas bigas” to virtually everything – even my coffee and tea.

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