Friday, July 30, 2010

Jeff Corwin

One of my most favorite food shows is Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin. That goes without saying that one of my favorite food personality is of course Jeff Corwin. Jeff was known as an animal conservationist through the programs The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin's Quest on Animal Planet where he is also an executive producer; and Going Wild with Jeff Corwin on the Disney Channel. When he's not busy saving wildlife, he moonlights as food traveler for the Food Network.

Jeff takes us to the farthest reaches of the world looking for the weirdest cuisine and the oddest ways of preparing them. He presents it with humor that makes you love him more than the food he presents. He's travelled to the countryside of England where he fished in the mud searching for eels; to Scotland where he was made to eat Star Gazzy Pie-- a pie made from the heads of the sardines, gills and all; to Mexico for the oddest corn bread recipe and to others like Morocco, Bangkok and New Zealand.

I wish I can tell more about this "papable" Jeff Corwin but all I know about him is what I see on TV. So check out this funny foodie and traveler at The Lifestyle Network (check local listing). Or visit the Food Network website for the in depth information about him. (I don't want to plagiarize!)

Here's one of his favorite recipes:

Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum) with Grilled Thai shrimp

Jeff Corwin

Recipe courtesy Jeff Corwin


  • 1 large or 2 medium green papaya (see Cook's Note)
  • 1/2 pound green string beans
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, nam pla
  • 4 tablespoons palm sugar, available in most Mexican, Latin or Asian supermarkets, or substitute brown sugar, or white sugar
  • 2 large carrots (peeled and shredded to the same strip-size as papaya)
  • 1/4 cup loosely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup loosely chopped mint
  • 4 tablespoons dried Thai shrimp, optional
  • 2 to 4 Thai chiles also called prik chiles, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and lightly crushed
  • Jeff's Thai Grilled Shrimp, recipe follows
  • Jasmine sticky rice, or steamed vermicelli rice noodles, optional, as an accompaniment


Peel the papaya (I use a standard vegetable peeler), then slice papaya in half and scoop out black, slippery round seeds and some of the stringy flesh, but be careful not to scoop into good, firm flesh for the salad. Shred the papaya on a mandoline or a box grater. Set aside.

Snip off the tips of the green beans. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat and add the beans. Cook until crisp tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and quickly add the beans to ice water. Cut the beans in half, about 2-inches in length and add them to a large bowl.

In a large mixing bowl whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar, until the sugar is dissolved. Mix in the shredded papaya, green beans and carrots until well coated (I like to use tongs for this). Toss in the cilantro, mint, and dried shrimp. Then mix in the hot chiles, to taste. Let salad stand for 20 minutes or up to 2 hours, covered in the refrigerator.

Before serving, mix in most of the crushed peanuts, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish. When serving, mound the salad in center of a plate and sprinkle the remaining peanuts on top. The dish can be served on its own, or with Thai Grilled Shrimp and Thai jasmine or sticky rice, or with steamed vermicelli-rice noodles.

Cook's Notes:

- Green papaya is an unripe papaya, the flesh is very firm, and greenish-white in color (not orange-red, soft and sweet like a ripened papaya). Green papayas are available in most Asian (especially Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese) grocery stores. Check your local Asian shopping center. If you can't find unripe green papaya, you can substitute unripe mango (very hard, woody and sour to the taste or very firm, unripe zucchini, or you could mix the two. If you go with these, follow same directions as with papaya).

- Thai fish sauce (nam pla) is available in most grocery stores. When you first open the container and smell, it may come across as a bit fishy, but trust me, it is often the most important ingredient in S.E. Asian cuisine.

- Peanuts: I prefer to toast my own, it's far easier than it sounds. Heat a large fry pan over high heat for 1 minute, then add whole raw, skinless peanuts. Turn down the heat to medium-low and keep constantly stirring and flipping the peanuts in pan, make sure you don't scorch them, but it is fine for them to get browned little heat (toasted) spots. If you smell acrid-smoke odor, then you are burning them, the aroma should smell almost like fresh peanut butter. Should take around 7 to 10 minutes to cook them. After 7 minutes take a few nuts and let them cool, taste them, if they are crunchy then done, if still a little soft and raw tasting after cooling then toast some more. You can toast a pound in advance and store them in a zip lock bag or glass jar for a couple of months or so. Once you start toasting your own peanuts you'll never buy jarred ones again, but if you don't want to toast your own then you can use unsalted, dry roasted peanuts. For the papaya salad, loosely crush the nuts. I usually do this by placing nuts in a resealable plastic bag or in between a few layers of paper towel. Then roll with a rolling pin or smash with a mallet. Again, loosely crushed, NOT crushed to point of being crumbed or to near peanut butter state.

- Dried shrimp: Some western pallets find this a little too exotic and fishy to the taste, but for me Sum Tum isn't Som Tum without dried shrimp. It you are a wee bit leery about using the dried shrimp then just add a tablespoon or 2, or serve in side dish and let diners add them to their own plates.

- Thai chiles: These are the small, 1-inch long red and green peppers that are VERY hot. If not available you can use jalapeno or habanero peppers. I mince chiles with the seeds. Traditionally Sum Tom or papaya salad is a very spicy dish in Thailand.

Jeff's Thai Grilled Shrimp

For marinade:

  • 1/2 cup Thai sweet chili and garlic sauce (recommended: Mae Ploy now available in most grocery stores)
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup ponzu sauce, or substitute the juice of 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Splash Thai fish sauce, nam pla
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 or 5 sprigs mint, leaves removed and finely chopped, or substitute Thai basil
  • Handful cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 pounds large shrimp

Preheat grill to medium heat.

In a large bowl whisk all the marinade ingredients together. Add the shrimp and let marinate for up to 1 hour. Grill the shrimp 4 to 6 minutes each side until they begin to curl, get pink in color and firm up. Do not over cook or they will get rubbery. Brush the shrimp with the marinade during grilling. Put the remaining marinade in a small saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Cook the marinade for at least 2 minutes and serve it as a sauce on the side. Serve the shrimp with the papaya salad.

Cook's Note:

This marinade/sauce is great with chicken thighs and pork tenderloin. If using chicken or pork then double the marinade recipe, marinate for 4 hours, and grill accordingly.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Counting The Beans

Since I started food blogging just this year, the one person who really never missed a single post is the Beancounter who is a long time food blogger himself. He makes efforts to like my links on facebook and comments on blogspot. That is impossible to reciprocate because he has written hundreds and hundreds of posts mostly about their dinner, their eating out and their travels. And he writes like the food writers you read on food magazines! He also is a great photographer. I admire his stunning shots even on mundane subjects as dahon ng sili. I swear I’ll set a Beancounter Day when I’ll pay for an eight-hour internet block time in my favorite cybercaf√© just to read his blog in its entirety! No Facebook, no Youtube (and Youporn!), no CNET, no NYT online no nothing!

A screenshot of his blog. Check this out at

I’m posting this first article of a series of posts (about foodies, chefs and food celebrities I like) as a gesture of my appreciation for the Beancounter’s patronage of my blog despite how novice, amateurish and so-so I write. Most of the time, I’m writing with only him in mind, incorporating the humor that I know would make him laugh knowing that he’s gonna read my post. In fact, he’s the only one that I’m certain would read my posts! Believe me, fewer than the number of fingers in both my hands and feet read my blog regularly. Some are random readers thanks to the “next blog” clickable at the top of the page. Still, I just carry on with my dream of becoming the next chez pim. And Beancounter.

I won’t spill the beans on his identity because I’ve not asked permission from him, the Beancounter is based outside the country for many, many years now yet he’s a die hard fanatic of Pinoy food and culture. In his blog you’ll see scores, if not hundreds, of articles about Filipino cuisine and his love affair with it.

Check out this great and legendary (not the kind na buhay pa, muka nang alamat ha!) blogger by clicking the link below or type the typographically erroneous on your browser.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Banana Heart

Everybody is familiar with the banana heart. I don’t know if the heart is THE banana flower itself or is just the casing of the banana flower (what about the banana blossom inside the heart?) but I’m certain it is where the banana fruit develops from. So technically it is the banana flower however unflowery it may look. It looks like a fruit to the uninitiated (read: idiot) because it really looks like one. Just like a caterpillar or a tadpole that metamorphose into a completely different being when they mature to the next level of their life cycles.

Different types of banana bear their own respective variety of heart. They differ slightly in shape and size, although all of them are generally in the form that more or less resembles a heart; some are more elongated, some are more like a sword. The colors of their outer “petals” differ, too, ranging from red to yellow to green, but they are mostly red. The heart of the saba banana is for me, the definitive of all. This variety of banana heart is the one you will most likely find sold in the market especially in Metro Manila. But if you stroll in the public markets of Southern Tagalog, chances are, you’ll find other kinds in all shapes, sizes and colors.

Flower or not, this red or reddish yellow heart-shaped plant part of the banana tree (now, I’m confused whether to call it a vegetable or fruit) is highly edible and is treated mostly as a vegetable having made its way into some popular dishes like Kare-Kare, as a vegetable addition to Sinigang na Bangus; or even stand on its own as Ginataang Puso or just plain boiled dipped in bagoong sauce. I know some people from the Visayas that make pickled banana hearts using only the innermost core of several banana hearts, jar them and pour cooked mixture of sugar, vinegar and spices much like making atsara.

Preparation of this vegetable is easy. Just take away the outer petals along with the “infant” bananas that cling which tend to be hard and fibrous. It’s just like discarding the outer layers of cabbage. Then after 3 or 4 layers, you get a light yellowish-reddish layer that is so tightly wrapped around the core that is difficult to peel already. That’s when you know when to stop peeling. Then cut it open by slicing it in the center and it will reveal all the unborn bananas hidden in its core. Heads up because it excretes a mild but nevertheless staining latex that can stain your clothes and it’s almost impossible to get rid of even if you bleach it.

I made a dish, meatless kare-kare with the banana heart as the main “meat”. Stroll down the blog to see the recipe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Pandan Fruit

Just this weekend, my cousin brought home a strange fruit that resembles a pineapple at first glance but develops similarity to an exotic palm fruit as you look closer. Its color is vivid orange fading into yellow in other parts of this spiky round fruit. It is hard to the touch and has spikes of what looks like clustered together pieces of “unborn” bananas that you find when you cut open a banana heart. The skin is similar to that of the pineapple. The name, Pandan Fruit.

Yes, you read it right. Pandan bears fruit. Not the kind of pandan that we all know, though. Yes, you read it right again. There are different kinds of pandan. Usually, the pandan we know is the kind that we put in our sinaing, or the one we boil to extract a flavoring we use for buko-pandan or pichi-pichi and other kakanins. This variety of pandan grows no taller than 11/2 feet maximum and are known for their fragrant leaves.

In far away places like Real, Quezon, people grow giant pandan plants not for food but for the fibrous leaves that can be dried and woven into mats, baskets and other native stuff. It’s a tradition there and a cottage industry, too! You won’t see them in the hi-way unlike the plant that walis tambo is made from.

These varieties of pandan grow larger than human beings around 8 to 10 feet tall, with wide leaves of up to 6 inches in width when mature and they grow flowers and fruits. It is indeed Pandanzilla! They are grown in moist areas without further maintenance on the part of the grower except during harvest time.

Cousin Wek is contemplating on bringing a plant or two to transplant into his front garden. Knowing him and his penchant for everything exotic, bizarre and out-of-this-world, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day I’ll see this monstrous plant will be a centerpiece in his wild garden. It will be beautiful!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Fruit of Passion

Aren't they lovely?
I was watching "4 Ingredients" yesterday and they featured a dessert made of Passion Fruit Yoghurt and fresh berries frozen to make sorbet. Then this morning, I was amazed to find some Passion fruits in the market. I immediately grabbed some.

The seeds are like that of the Dragon Fruit's
Passion fruit is not a regular fare in the market unlike other fruits like guyabano or pomelo, You are lucky if you spot a few vendors selling them on regular days. They are generally not treated as a delicacy by the public despite their rareness; instead they are seen as wild forest fruit in the likes of manzanitas, yambo and starfruit which have a following on a certain limited demographic (usually older people).

Elementary kids like it for its asim.
Chances are, you are more likely to find passion fruit in elementary schools hawked alongside green mangoes, santol and "sundot-kulangot" (a small bamboo vessel containing molasses that you pick with a bamboo stick). The kids like its asim taste. The more sour it is, the better it sells.

Doesn't that look delicious?
I, too, have seldom encountered passion fruit. Like, in my entire life, I have only eaten the actual fruit about 20 times yet. That's less than twice a year. But I do consume food products that contain passion fruit as in yogurt, juices and confectionery.

I would describe it as a yellow round citrus with quite a hard skin (not that would give when you press it). Inside you'll see black seeds surrounded by juicy yellowish pulp that are not segmented unlike most citruses. You take out the pulp with a spoon or even with just your tongue or teeth and the juices will burst in your mouth wonderfully. You can choose tos pit out the soft seed or swallow them. It tastes citrusy like a lemon or calamansi, only sweeter.

I made a juice drink out of it.

Another way to enjoy it is by making a juice drink out of it. I made one this morning.

Passion Fruit Lemonade

The pulp of 5pcs Passion Fruits
1/2 cup simple syrup
1/2 liter drinking water
ice to fill the pitcher

Mix everything together in a pitcher and serve.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Visiting Mom

Mother dear eating spaghetti.  We had fun together at the hypermarket this morning.

I've been meaning to visit my mother for the longest time and finally I had the chance to do so this weekend.  It was mid-May when we last saw each other and despite exchanging frequent calls and text messages, seeing her personally puts the  connection to a different level.

I arrived home Saturday afternoon and I was welcomed with a mug of Nescafe with CoffeeMate and 2 tsp washed sugar--the usual.  It's nice and relaxing having chit-chats with mother, Nonoy and Kuya Munding over cups and cups of coffee.  I brought them the biggest Monay I could find and they were amazed by the sheer size of the P50.oo monay I bought from Maligaya Bakery!

Cousin Elsa's MotherCat. It has four kittens whom she nurses simultaneously.

After drowning from liters and liters of caffeine, I then went to WalterMart to buy earphones for my digital media player from CD-R King and browsed the mall a little.  On the way home, I dropped by my tambayan and stayed for a while and exchanged stories with my friends.  Of course I also went to my longtime barber and had my head shaved for just P40.00.

Next stop: courtesy call to my financier/cousin Elsa who is the lending diva for all things consumerist and disposable. I paid my dues.  I played with her cats and I was soon off to home.

Dinner was inihaw na paa ng manok, also known as Adidas; and headphones--grilled chicken head.  I ate too much.

Then the rest of the night was spent on the internet until the unholy hour of 2am the next morning; updating FB status, downloading/converting youtube videos, peeking from time to time in some adult sites, making blogs and YMing friends.

I kissed the dogs goodnight and laid my back on the sofa.

Cousin Mak-Mak giving his dog a bath.

I was awakened by the licking of Dwight and Pepito, our mini-pinscher dogs.  It was 8 am.  Mother bought me my favorite pancit malabon from the market and I ate it with the monay.  

Internet again.  I wanted to maximize use of the unlimited Globe Supersurf 50 which I paid P50.00 for unlimited surfing for a full 24 hours; stopping for cigarettes, play with the dogs, staring at the fish and gossiping with my cousins.

I saw Mak-mak, my dog-loving cousin giving one of his dogs a bath at the sidewalk of our street.

Then mother and I went to SM Hypermarket just across our street to buy Roasted Chicken for lunch.  We browsed a bit and I ended up buying a set of underwear and deodorant.  She bought a pair of slippers and some grocery.  I decided to make spaghetti for the afternoon's merienda and so I bought the ingredients.

Mother and I were very happy as we walk towards home with our best buys.

I cooked this spaghetti. 

We had lunch and the chicken was very delicious and satisfying.  We left some intended for dinner later but my brother Ryan came and ate it up.  That's fine.  It was nice seeing him and hearing his always never-ending stories about the happenings in his life.

The sofa seemed pulling me to its coziness and so inviting me for a nap but I refused, deciding instead to go online. Blog, blog, blog!  

After a while, I cooked the pasta. Then came the couple Kent and Michelle, desperately looking for LPG gas.  Mother lent them her reserve tank.  It was also nice seeing them.

Peng liked my link on FB--my blog about Meatless Kare-Kare.

I also put creamcheese sauce for more cheesy taste.

We ate spaghetti and left some for Ryan and his family.  I went again to Elsa and we had fun laughing about other people's lives.  Then I went to the riles ng tren to get Banaba for my mother.

Our street.

Finally, I took a bath and said goodbye.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chili & Cheese

Chippy Chili and Cheese. The first of other Chippy flavors to be launched after decades of its existence in the Philippine snack market as a barbecue flavored corn snack. I remember eating Chippy in canisters during childhood.

The first time I heard about chili and cheese was when the legendary band Color It Red appeared in the Chippy commercial for its Chili and Cheese flavor corn snack. I've tasted it and it became my favorite immediately. The taste lingered in my mouth but what really is chili and cheese? A combination of Chili powder and cheese powder? Is it just flavoring? Or is there really a chili and cheese dish (I suppose Mexican)? If there is, I haven't seen one.

Color It Red, one of the coolest bands that came in the 90's. Always referred to as the "New Bohemians" of the Pinoy Rock scene

So I toyed with the idea of making a literal Chili and Cheese using real chilies and real cheese, but how? Would it be raw chilies dipped in cheese sauce like you would dip nachos? Pwede. Would it be a mixture of chopped chilies and cheese wrapped like a cheese stick? Pwede rin. Then one day as I was making calamari, this idea of a chili calamari struck me like eureka!

Japanese breadcrumbs is really my bestfriend.

Or is there really a chili and cheese dish
(I suppose Mexican)?
If there is, I haven't seen one.

10 pcs. finger chilies
2 tbsp flour, dissolved in
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup Japanese bread crumbs
1/3 of a pack of cheese, sliced into strips
oil for frying

Slit open the chilies lengthwise on one side and scrape off the seeds from the inside using the end of a fork handle.
Using a bread knife or any knife with teething, lightly scrape the outer skin of the chili to create some roughness to it so the batter would stick.
Insert a cheese strip or two inside the chili.
Coat with batter made of flour and egg.
Dredge in Japanese bread crumbs.
Deep fry until golden brown then drain in paper towels.
Serve with sweet chili sauce.
At first I had problems of breading the chili because the chili skin is quite smooth and breading of any kind wouldn't stick to it. Or if they ever would, you just lose the breading once you slide the chili into the hot oil. After many attempts, I figured that if I scrape the skin a bit with a knife I'd create some grooves and expose some moisture for the breading to stick to. Then I went further by coating the chilies first with batter for a reinforced stickability before dredging it in Japanese breading. So there you have it, my interpretation of Chili and Cheese. Whatever it is.

Chili Oil

Along Washington Street in Makati, there used to be a mami house owned by a Chinoy we knew by the name Ponga. He served only 3 products—beef mami, chicken mami and asado siopao. And I couldn’t choose which was the better of the two. All I knew was that they’re best paired with his homemade siopao (which according to legend was made of cat meat). A bowl of mami would cost P15.00 (quite costly at that time during the 80’s) and you got a sizable coil of freshly-made noodles, two steaming hot ladles of broth of your choice from two ever afire pots, each representing the flavors; chunks of either beef or chicken (although some speculated that the beef was actually carabao meat), shredded Chinese cabbage and a sprinkling of green chives. Upon serving the bowl on the plainly mantled wooden long table that had seen better days, you will then be faced with a confusing line of add-ons like toasted garlic, finely ground pepper in plastic shakers that we used to loosen up the lid a bit so the next user would be blooped into pouring its entire contents into his mami; vetsin, soy sauce and the divisive chili paste. Divisive among eaters because you’d either dread it for it’s extreme hotness, or love it for the same reason.

I loved it. It made a whole world of difference to an otherwise routine taste. It had this kick that makes you want to eat more, sip more, ask for more!

The mami house was long gone. We lost it when developers inched their way into the innards of our barangay and started changing the landscape with high rises of glass and steel. Ponga was said to have sold the place for a hefty price and transferred to another town. I miss him. I miss his mami and I miss his chili paste.

Here’s my version of chili paste of the dreaded kind. It’s lovely.


10 pcs finger chilis

10 pcs red hot chili peppers

3 cloves garlic

½ tsp grated ginger

½ tsp annatto powder

½ tsp salt

¼ cup corn oil


Mortar-and-pestle all ingredients except oil until they turn into paste.

Heat oil in a sauce pan and add the paste.

Simmer over low heat for 8-10 minutes.

Turn off heat and let cool.

Transfer in a dry jar.

Best to spice up any dish, or as a dipping sauce. Use as you would chili peppers.