Monday, January 26, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Homecoming: Reliving The Old Cuisine And Bringing In Modern Tastes

Having been an international pastry chef for more than a decade, the stark contrast between the Spanish-influenced and unique cookery in my hometown of Dipolog, Philippines, and the modern and varied cuisines I have experienced abroad leaves so much room for exploration. So, I gathered my family and relatives on this exciting day where my mother and I introduced old favorites with a few modern twists.

The menu:

Squid Ink Pita Bread with Shredded Barbecued Beef
Pork Blood Stew
Noah’s Spaghetti in Banana Ketchup Sauce
Lechon – Philippine Roast Pig
Dark Chocolate Mousse with Saffron-scented Philippine Mango Compote
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Philippine Lemon
Halo-Halo Pavlova

As the clock ticked, my mother was scurrying to and fro making sure all the dishes are up to her standards. She used to have a restaurant until when I was about 3 years old. So, she is not a novice when it comes to this. The first on the menu that came out was: “Squid Ink Pita Bread with Shredded Barbecued Beef”. The secret to success is the meat. Make sure you choose the most tender part like tenderloin or sirloin. If using the latter, slice the meat thinly. What I really liked about the steak is that it was grilled using coconut charcoal. The pleasant smoky flavor and smell just can't be denied!

I used a traditional pita bread recipe but I added squid ink. It gives a different flavor component (say, an aroma of the sea). It came out beautifully and it was the first to catch everyone’s attention. In all the hotels that I have worked for, I always have this bread on the menu.

Next out on the table is the Pork Blood Stew. Gross?? It does sound gross if you think how pork blood becomes a major component of the dish. Also, the meat is made up of pork intestines and liver. Maybe the closest comparison in terms of flavor characteristics is the Mexican Mole – a little strong, spicy, a bit sour and thick. Pork blood stew is a thick sweet-sour dish and it is sometimes consumed with rice cake. As for me? Rice is the best accompaniment.

My brother, Noah, is famous for his cooking skills, too, and is every child’s best friend in our family. The reason? He makes delicious spaghetti. But here is the catch: he uses banana ketchup instead of 100% tomato sauce to give it a fruity-sweet flavor that every Filipino kid loves. Ask any Italian who had been to the Philippines and he will tell you what I am talking about. My brother’s spaghetti was a hit and my two nephews enjoyed it to the last bite.

My mother mixing the spaghetti ensuring everyone has his/her share of the sumptuous sauce

As for the main course, the native roast pig is the star. If it’s not on the menu, you would probably lose a few guests (including myself). Who wouldn’t want to have it with its undeniably crispy skin and succulent meat? My folks were too busy digging into the poor pig. Personally, this is my favorite Filipino dish and I always ask for one whenever I go home for a holiday. Sinful yet good!

If Babe wasn't that cunning, he would have ended on our table.

While everyone settled down to their chairs, I brought to the table my special creations:

Dark Chocolate Mousse with Saffron-scented Philippine Mango Compote. I used 64% dark chocolate for the mousse and brownies as base. The reason why I chose mango is that the Philippines is home to the best mangoes in the world. Nothing beats our mango: smooth, sweet, firm and juicy. I cut the mangoes into cubes and sautéed it with butter. And then I made slurry using mango juice to thicken the compote. I added a few strands of saffron last giving it a unique flavor profile. You may also add some cinnamon powder and it would bring this dessert into another level.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Philippine Lemon
Prepared the cake the traditional way, I made the cream cheese frosting with a few ounces of Philippine lemon juice or kalamansi juice. It has a limey flavor but not too acidic. It doesn’t have a sweet aroma compared to lemon.

Halo-Halo Pavlova
Simply topped with whipped cream and laced with tropical fruits like papaya, pineapple, mango, and macapuno (also known as mutant coconut). It is extremely delectable!!!

I was so glad it turned out well and everybody enjoyed every dish I and my mother prepared.

My two nephews who enjoyed the party.

There were so many questions during the party from how I came up with the idea and how it is prepared. And probably, you would also be interested to try a few of the above creations. Below are a few recipes you can do at home.

Squid Ink Pita Bread


1 1/8 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons squid ink (fresh)
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast


Place all ingredients in bread pan of your bread machine, select Dough setting and start. When dough has risen long enough, machine will beep.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll and stretch dough into a 12 inch rope. With a sharp knife, divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each into a smooth ball. With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 6 to 7 inch circle. Set aside on a lightly floured countertop. cover with a towel. Let pitas rise about 30 minutes until slightly puffy.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C). Place 2 or 3 pitas on a wire cake rack. Place cake rack directly on oven rack. Bake pitas 4 to 5 minutes until puffed and tops begin to brown. Remove from oven and immediately place pitas in a sealed brown paper bag or cover them with a damp kitchen towel until soft. Once pitas a softened, either cut in half or split top edge for half or whole pitas. They can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for 1 or 2 months.



4 large egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)


1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
fruits of your choice


Garrett said...

I've used squid ink to dye pasta but I love your idea of using it it breads.

Rowena said...

I second what Garrett said, but I'd also like to add squid ink in risotto!

Need I mention how much I miss lechon? It was a staple at all of the family parties back home.

Nate-n-Annie said...

Congratulations on being selected for a 24, 24, 24 dinner! You have a very interesting menu, a true mix of old and new flavors and techniques. I applaud you.

We are also part of the January "24" class. Our dinner was not so elaborate, but we explored East-West fusion cuisine. Come check out our post!

Nouel C. Omamalin said...

thanks, guys! I knew the squid ink would turn out to be a fascinating item in my menu. Lechon???? Yum, I will be missing it over and over again.

Anonymous said...

Well Greetings Chef Nouel!

Great menu & glad you enjoyed the holidays with family!

Cheers from the Gypsy Chef!