Pad thai at home

I learned to love pad thai during frequent trips to Bangkok for work over the past few years.  My husband loves pad thai as well, and will order it whenever he sees it on the menu.  We’ve tried the versions in People’s Palace and Benjarong (both expensive but worth it), Silk in the Fort (pretty good, with beautiful presentation), Som’s (seriously, seriously overrated and cloyingly sweet), and Chariya’s (good and reasonably priced).  Recently, I’ve been ordering it from the Sunday Legaspi market, but I decided to try and make my own one of these days so we can have it whenever we want.

Since I don’t like using instant mixes, I’ve searched for tamarind paste in Landmark and Rustan’s for several weeks now but to no avail.  Finally, while we were in Chinatown to buy my favorite hopia from Ho Land, I found a jar of tamarind paste at Bee Tin Grocery for 80 pesos.  With that, dinner for today was decided: some home made pad thai!  Since I’ve never tried making pad thai before, this is one of the few times that I actually stuck to a recipe, which I found online here.  It’s basic enough that I had everything in my pantry aside from the tamarind paste.  First, I soaked the noodles in water to soften them up, then I prepared all the other ingredients.  For stir fries like this, one thing I learned (the hard way) is to have everything prepared and ready to throw in your pan once you start since everything comes together very quickly once you start cooking.  So make sure your peanuts, tofu, beansprouts, onions, garlic and chives are ready to go!

The recipe is pretty simple, it took around 30 minutes for everything to come together but that’s because I toasted the peanuts from scratch (I had fresh peanuts on hand since we like to snack on boiled peanuts every now and then) and fried up the tofu separately.  The verdict?  Pretty good, but next time I’ll probably use different noodles.  The ones I had were advertised as for ho fan and pad thai so they were a little softer in texture than we would like.  Also, it would be better with a bit more sauce.  But the taste was excellent, this will definitely make another appearance in our house with a few tweaks in the near future.  🙂

Tinolang Manok (Filipino style chicken ginger soup)

Coming from my last post on Nilagang Baka, dinner for today is another one pot meal that’s equally delicious and comforting.  Today was a rainy day, uncharacteristic for February in Manila, and few things are better than a piping hot bowl of soup on gloomy days like this.

Any type of chicken soup is delicious, but the ginger in this soup is spicy and soothing at the same time.  Soup is always a great way to throw something together quickly and use up vegetables that you have sitting in your refrigerator bin (this explains the potatoes and pak choi in my version today hehehe).  This couldn’t be more simple to make, here’s how:

Tinolang Manok

  • Chicken (use whatever part you like to eat), I used 6 small, free range chicken breasts from Pamora Farm that I picked up at the Sunday market in Legaspi.  I found them quite pricey at 180 pesos for 300 grams, but we’ve been trying to eat “healthier” so I decided to give it a shot
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 Chayote or young papaya
  • Chili leaves (dahon ng sili) or horseradish tree/malunggay – I used both
  • Seasoning – fish sauce (patis), salt, pepper

Saute your onion, garlic and ginger until fragrant and slightly soft.  I used a whole onion, 1 clove of garlic, and around 2 tablespoons of ginger, but make sure to adjust according to your personal preferences.  Add your chicken and enough water to cover (or more, if you are like me and like a lot of soup) and bring to a simmer – not a rolling boil!  If pressed for time, you can just wait for the chicken to cook, but I let this simmer on low heat for a good hour to make the broth more tasty before adding the chayote till slightly tender.  Last, add the other leaves.  I love pechay (pak choi) so I added some too.

Taste and season with your fish sauce, salt and pepper.  Serve piping hot in a pretty soup pot with a dipping sauce of more fish sauce, lemon, and fresh chili.  And of course, lots of the ubiquitous steamed plain rice.

Nilagang Baka (Filipino style beef soup with vegetables)

Literally translated, nilagang baka means boiled beef.  This soup is an all-time Filipino favorite but I rarely order it in restaurants since the broth usually tastes like beef bouillon cubes (too salty!) and lacks depth and the meat is usually too tough for my tastes.  Besides, it couldn’t be more simple to make yourself, and the results are always much, much better.  🙂

For the meat, you can use almost any part you would like but I prefer using brisket or chuck/beef stew cubes.  I’ve made this with a mixture of chuck and beef ribs and it was delicious too since the bones really added flavor to the broth.

Today, I used a half kilo of grass-fed beef from Down to Earth and brought this to a low simmer along with a roughly chopped onion and a lot of freshly ground black pepper for a good 5 hours.  Good food sometimes take time…but it is always worth it!  🙂  By this time, the beef was extremely tender.  Skim the scum off the top, if any, I didn’t have much today since I used fairly lean cubes.  I seasoned the broth with a few tablespoons of salt and a little soy sauce then added the following:

  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped into medium chunks
  • half a head of cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 bundle of pechay or bok choy

Other popular vegetables for this soup are carrots and corn on the cob but I don’t really like the broth to be even slightly sweet so I didn’t add them.  We had two dipping sauces, soy sauce with calamansi and sili, and fish sauce (patis) also with calamansi and chili.  As with most Asian dishes, this is fantastic on lots of steamed white rice.

Some days, whether it’s rainy outside or not, it’s great to have a one pot meal that is delicious, nourishing, and comforting.  This is one of our favorites.

Indian Butter Chicken

One of the best things about school is the friends you make from around the world.  With them, of course, comes learning that you will never get from books alone, and the culture, beliefs and of course the food that you discover because of them.  When I was in studying for my masters degree, I had classmates from around the world.  There were those from Italy (who were horrified about the way we Filipinos cook carbonara with cream), from Japan (who could not accept that Tokyo Tokyo was Japanese fast food chain), and from India (the vegetarians had a helluva hard time finding real vegetarian food in Manila at that time, and the non-vegetarians were confounded at how their requests for “spicy” in Manila was almost always interpreted as “sweet and mildly spicy” to their palates).

Needless to say, one of the things I developed was a passion for Indian food.  My trip to Delhi and Agra last year to attend a good friends wedding only reinforced my love for Indian cuisine.  🙂  So this morning, while trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I saw some chicken tenders and some spices I bought from Assad along UN avenue, and dinner was set: Murgh Makhani or Indian Butter Chicken.  Good thing my husband loves Indian food as much as I do!

First, I rinsed around 600 grams of chicken,  chopped it up into cubes, and marinated them in butter chicken spice mix, a few squeezes of lemon juice, and around half a cup of water.

Then I chopped up 3 gorgeous tomatoes I picked up at the Legaspi market yesterday and boiled them for around 20 minutes.  You’re supposed to strain this to make a puree but I didn’t bother, I like my butter chicken chunky.  Plus a sieve is one more thing to wash around here!

I then sauteed the marinated chicken in some olive oil, added the tomato puree and some whole milk (to taste) and simmered this for 15 minutes.  I added a tablespoons of unsalted butter, a drizzle of yogurt instead of cream, and dinner was ready!

This was delicious with a lot of basmati rice and some cucumber mint raita.  🙂