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.



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!



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  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
  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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The First Crack: Crispy Chicken Skin


Crispy Chicken Skin


Please bear with the lighting and the quality of my video and/or photos. I’m just trying out this D.I.Y. photobox and lights using only my phone’s camera. But anyway, I figured I’d make gaya (using that conio accent) of the people who are doing #instagramyourulam kinda thing and finally share the recipes of the things I’m working on and the food I actually eat. I’m also working (I deliberately used the term to sound as if I’m really pouring my heart and soul into this when in fact I ‘aint got no clue how to go about it) on a book project but the ideas are all over the place. So while my plan is no where near from being achieved, I’d settle for shamelessly making my own hashtag (#jrroyolrecipes and #bigorots) and promote whatever I can.


As for my first post, let me share today’s merienda – Crispy Chicken Skin. I figured this would be the ideal “First” as this is the perfect appetizer, pulutan or ulam. Also, please note that this is as basic as it can get for I only used 3 ingredients. Though most of the time, I toss in some Garam Masala or Curry, paprika and cayenne for that added kick. I didn’t include the sawsawan as this depends on your preference. From pinakurat, catsup, sweet chilli sauce or whatever floats your boat – GO!


Very simple and AFFORDABLE:


Yield: If you can manage peace and order while serving this, this should be enough for at least 3 bellies.

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Visiting CDO and Bukidnon

It was during the Masterchef elimination round that would determine who would make it to the top 15 (later became top 16) roster when I met a very bubbly tandem. As the pressure of the inevitable engulfed the entire room, the Bukidnon-born sisters stood out as the two remaining souls who were really excited on what’s forthcoming. I admired their genuine smile amidst a nerve wracking task, how they cheered everybody to be positive and wishing everybody goodluck. They were uniquely pleasant.  


Battle for the White Apron

Battle for the White Apron


Ma’am Malou, or what I fondly call her – Mamalu (Important note: she is no way close to being “Ma’am or Mama for she still looks like someone from my bracket) was the one who made the cut. We were housed during the taping days so I got to know her better (and Ate Eppie as well from her stories) and somehow, the foundation of a friendship was built.   It was in the earlier part of the show that she had to give up her spot for she will not have a career to go back to if she continues her Masterchef journey– a career she built for more than 15 years. As any decent mother would do, she chose security over uncertainty. We all felt her pain, but she stood in front of the cameras and the Judges, apologized, and managed a weak smile as she turned for the exit.   In most cases, you need not to share sob stories to be “close” with someone, sometimes, you only need to share a couple of good laughs and a very good conversation to know if someone is for keeps. So going to their hometown and breathe the same air they grew up with was an easy choice and thanks to “Piso Fares”, it became a reality.

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