Don’t Stay SUKA Free; Filipino Vinegar

 

Kinilaw, Filipino Ceviche

Ceviche

by Haydee Vicedo

Suka (pronounced soo-ka)  may sound like a figure skating move Michelle Kwan’s about to attempt successfully – “and Kwan landed that triple suka beautifully…”; but it actually means Filipino vinegar. Yes, Michelle landed those triple salchows like nobody’s business, but she was definitely not  aiming for vinegar. Suka, along with patis (fish sauce), toyo (soy sauce) and bagoong (fermented fish/shrimp), is one of the main staples of the Filipino pantry. If you’re making Filipino food, you have suka somewhere in your kitchen. And if you have suka in the kitchen, you probably have at least one or two of the many varieties out there. Some are named after their place of birth –  Sukang Iloko is from a region in the Philippines called, you guessed it, Ilocos, a la New York cheesecake. Others, meanwhile, get their moniker from the plant/tree they originate from. Sukang Tuba, for instance, comes from coconut sap, while sukang nipa (also known as sukang paombong) derives from the nipa palm. The latter is probably the vinegar most widely used in Filipino cuisine. And because you asked so politely (you didn’t know it but you did), we’re going to name just a few of the many delectable dishes in which suka’s presence reigns supreme.

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Oodles of Noodles: Celebrate Chinese New Year with Pancit

 

pancit canton filipino noodles

Pancit Canton, Chinese-Filipino Noodles

By Haydee Vicedo

Chinese New Year is just a few days away and there isn’t a more delicious and appropriate dish to serve and eat than pancit.  Filipino cuisine is a combination of many influences, with one of the biggest coming from the most populated country in the world, China. Quick history lesson for those who don’t know, the Chinese entered the Philippines for trade purposes in the 1600′s, bringing with them noodles. Oodles and oodles of noodles. Since Filipinos are such creative folks, we made about eight million (give or take a few million) versions of pancit. It has since become one of the most well-known Filipino dishes in the world, right next to adobo and lumpia. Noodles (or pancit) symbolize “long life” for many folks in the Philippines, thus many households serve a batch during special occasions, including birthdays, (Gregorian calendar) New Year and, of course, Chinese New Year.

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Filipino Pantry Staples; Banana Ketchup

 

Fried Chicken & Banana Ketchup

Fried Chicken & Banana Ketchup

 

by Allan Roman Reyes

I don’t claim to be a  “ketchup aficionado or even think there’s such a title out there, but an early dinner at Max’sRestaurant got  my mind going about a new career, “Condiment Sommelier”.   OK, it wasn’t THAT dramatic, but the flavor of their “banana ketchup” was so memorable that I went a little bananas(get it?). Banana ketchup was created and formulated in the Philippines during World War II because of a tomato shortage. Ingredients consisted of local mashed banana, cane sugar, and native vinegar with “colorants” added to emulate the red pigment of traditional catsup.

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Game Day Goodness; Perfectly Pickled Awesome Okra

Who Says Filipino Food Aint Pretty!

Pickled Okra with Red Onions & Yellow Peppers

 

By Karena Apollonya Ebora Higgins 

Although many of us hate to admit it, deep frying is one of our favorite ways to get down in the kitchen. For some, it’s the only way.  So it wasn’t a surprise when Chef Sheldon brought it for the “Everybody Loves Fried Chicken Challenge” on last week’s episode of Top Chef Seattle Not only did he serenade his bff with his awesome ukulele, Sir Simeon threw down serious eats with his rendition of a Momofuku recipe. Lucky Peach founder David Chang was in the house, which made this move mad ballsy. Ginger Josh shook things up with his secret spice blend in a brown paper bag. Both cooks gave it their best efforts and dos dishes sounded delicious, but the homie with the handle bar stache  took the top spot. Congrats.

So, in honor of the lard lovers, Super Bowl watchers and Beyonce believers, I’ve come up with two versions of one slightly sweet, super sour, tasty-tangy side dish for that  game day fried chicken, Pickled Okra with Red Onion and Yellow Peppers. They’re the perfect addition that cuts through the “richness” and just compliments the goodness.

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Vanilla Champurrado; Rice Porridge with Soft Bananas and Salted Chopped Almonds

Filipino Rice Porridge

Vanilla Champurrado

By Karena Apollonya Ebora Higgins 

JAYSUS! It’s FRESSING! I know folks in other parts of the country are laughing at this statement, but HELLO, I’m a spoiled So Cal lady. I’m not used the temps going below 65 degrees. Because of this unseasonably, yet seasonably cold weather, I decided to make something to warm me from the inside out, champurrado.  Champurrado, the Filipino version, is chocolate rice porridge. It’s usually eaten for breakfast or as a snack. When eaten in the Philippines, Tuyo, salted dried fish, is the preferred condiment. I can’t say that I’ve ever eaten it this way, but I can understand why some people do.  The combination of chocolate, sugar, rice and milk with dashes of sodium makes sense. I’ve developed two alternative versions of this popular AM food.

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Learn Lumpia, Filipino Cooking Classes, What!

Lumpia Love!

By Karena Apollonya Ebora Higgins

Lumpia is, hands down, the house party favorite. I have never thrown a shin dig and had left over lumpia. It just doesn’t happen.  They are the petite, meaty version of a Chinese egg roll. Lumpiyang Shanghai, its “government” name, are deep fried finger foods stuffed with a delectable blend of ground pork, minced onions, sweet  raisins, chopped garlic, garlic powder, fresh ground black pepper and soy sauce. Eggs bind the raw mixture.

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Grab The New Year By The Balls! Ginataang Bilo Bilo

Tray of Bilo Bilo, Rice Flour Balls

 

By Haydee Vicedo

It’s a new year and it’s cold and chilly in many parts of the country. For me, there’s nothing better than warming up with my cozy Raiders throw blanket, watching Bowl games and chowing down on comfort food. Score! One of my faves is ginataang bilo-biloGinataang translates to “cooked in coconut milk/sauce” and bilo-bilo describe the sticky, glutinous (and delicious) rice balls that sprinkle this sweet porridge. Partnered with earthy sweet potatoes, caramelized plantains, jackfruit slices and chewy tapioca pearls, this creamy, fruity mishmash is a fusion of tropical flavors and hearty textures.

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Polvorons; Filipino Holiday Treats

Polvoron, Filipino Short Bread Cookie

Polvoron, Filipino Short Bread
Photo: Sweet Coconut Bakery

I prefer desserts that are dense, moist and almost devoid of nutritional value. Filipino treats like Suman and Bibingka Cassava were two of those sans sustenance. I looked forward to consuming  both, but I particularly loved peeling the soft steamed, sticky, banana leaf wrapping of Suman. Natures perfect package revealed a tube-like mold of fruity, milky, glued together, coconut rice. Bibingka Cassava, a rich custard pudding cake, was thick and heavy, filled with heavy cream and sugar, topped with shreds of coconut.

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Alternative To Eggnog; Filipino Avocado Smoothie

Avocado Smoothie

Avocado Smoothie

By Karena Apollonya Ebora Higgins 

Chunky pieces of avocado with milk, sugar and ice, is there any other way to eat it? Apparently there is.  When discussing this particular recipe with my Mexican friends,  they always seem to get  little grossed out at the thought of a candied version of  guacamole. Regardless, there are numerous ways to prepare this delicate fruit. I prefer a  pureed, slightly sweetened, less rustic interpretation of this chilled concoction. It’s a  fresh filling nutritious breakfast or midday snack.

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Betsy’s Pandesal; Filipino Sweet Rolls

Pandesal, Filipino Sweet Rolls

By Karena Apollonya Ebora Higgins 

I miss Betsy’s. I miss their pandesal. Pandesal are sweet bread rolls and Betsy’s Bakery was the quintessential spot for them. Located on Vermont, in a half ass strip mall, right next to LACC, Betsy’s was the end-all, be-all when it came to those heavenly balls of dough. They were fresh, hot and cheap. A dozen cost a dollar. I can still remember lining up, placing my order (no less than 3 bags), sitting and salivating.  The waiting area was small, a couple of chairs.  The seats were placed to the side of tall steel racks which housed prepackaged goodies, and were positioned directly in front of the shop’s refrigerated cases. The glass displays offered other Filipino favorites like hopia, ensaimada and siopao, but the star, the showstopper, remained behind the swinging doors.

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