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It Only Takes Common Sense to Be Healthy

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naturalI just discovered a great resource for natural medicine or naturopathy, an example of alternative medicine that focuses on natural remedies and the body’s ability to maintain and heal itself.

I have to admit that I’ve been suspicious about alternative medicine ever since I started showing interest and passion in the medical sciences, but when I read more about naturopathy, and especially when I discovered WellWire, I realized that it’s really all about going back to basics and learning to live a sustainable, self-sufficient, and balanced lifestyle, which are things that I also personally uphold.

When we go back to basics and when we acknowledge how much we’ve been underestimating our bodies’ capabilities, you’ll realize that you can totally do away without taking in all those pills and multivitamin capsules and acai berry drinks, and still be healthy. All you really have to do is, again, look around you and embrace what nature has to offer. And I think WellWire‘s pretty good at advocating this philosophy.

Going back to basics when it comes to health is something that I work on each day, what with all the health trends being endorsed by models and so-called health gurus every hour on TV. It’s tough; I often forget about what my body really needs. And there’s also this ongoing paranoia when it comes to sickness, when really, at the end of the day, health and wellness isn’t about completely obliterating disease from the face of the earth. I think we’ve allowed this fear of disease (and death from disease) to take over our every day lives, that we end up stuffing ourselves with all sorts of meds that end up destroying our liver anyway. What’s even worse is when we shrug it all off and say, “Ah, to hell with it. We will all eventually die of cancer anyway. Let’s live in the moment!” and allow our bodies to waste away in drunken escapades and cigarettes.

Naturopathy is such a refreshing avenue in healthcare because it reminds us of the common sense we tend to overlook each day. Yes, it’s pretty much common sense, really — “eating the rainbow” (every color of fruit and veggies), managing stress to maximize your immunity to the flu, staying outdoors early in the morning to absorb all that sunny, Vitamin D goodness, etc. And with the ridiculous expenses attributed to hospitals and treatments, going back to basics also means saving yourself if not hundreds, thousands of dollars just to stay in shape. The sun is free, for one thing!

So, like I would always tell you guys — just look around you! Nature demands our attention… and for a pretty good reason, too.


It’s bananas

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sabaI really miss saging na saba which is so difficult to find here.  It is most similar to burro bananas, and when I went to the fruit stands in the Asian store last weekend, they only had overripe scraps of it, which was a real bummer.

We would, instead, load up on plantain, but it’s not the same. 

Saba is usually really sweet and almost gooey when fried ripe, chewy and sticky when eaten raw.

Plantain doesn’t go ripe the same way, and it doesn’t have the gooey consistency at all, which is less fun.

I will surely look for saba when I come back in June.  I’m excited to snack on it raw, deep fry it, and have my lola make turrón (saba and jackfruit wrapped in springroll wrapper, dipped in brown sugar, then deep fried) and bananacue (saba rolled in brown sugar and deep fried). Oh yes.

EDIT: Oops! You can’t eat saba raw.  I confused raw saba with boiled saba.  My bad, folks! 🙂

Written by Karla Mercado

March 19, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Doing the RP justice

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I’m very pleased with the Philippine episode of No Reservations.  Back in October, “Tony Bourdain in the Philippines” was the ultimate hype.  The NR production team made sure that the itinerary was kept secret, but of course there would always be those random little birdies dropping teasers here and there (“He went to Cebu!”; “I heard he went to Bacolod, too!”; “He’s in Pampanga just right about now.” ; “He says that sisig should be our national food!”; “He’s at the freakin’ Intercon lobby smoking!”), which made the long wait seem even longer.

Finally, I got to watch it tonight during its American TV premiere.  It kicked off with the Ivan Man Dy walk (or should I say, “wok”) in Food Street, Chinatown.  On top of the YouTube teaser I posted previously, Ivan also brought Tony to a wet-market-slash-foodcourt, a place where you get to choose ulam straight out of your suki food stall and have it cooked whichever way you want.  Tony had adobong hipon, crabs cooked in coconut milk, and pinakbet.

After Manila, they drove two hours down the road to Pampanga, where he met with witty Claude Tayag.  It was where Tony first had his decent bile meal (papaitan), a bunch of other kinds of laman-luob, sisig (his “come to momma” moment), barbecue, and of course, Claude’s amazing array of homecooked dishes (which includes sinigang sa bayabas, kare-kare, and adobong pugo).

He then went to Cebu, where he enjoyed stuffed crabs, bulalo (of course he excitedly dug through the marrow) and a warm, Cebuano dinner with Augusto Elefano (from the FAN-atic series, the guy who actually convinced Tony to do the Philippines) and his family.

The show was wonderfully capped off with yet another Cebuano feast of lechon (whole roasted pig) and other notable Pinoy dishes, al fresco.  And tonight, on his blog, he officially announced what he called the Hierarchy of Pigs.

It can now be said that of all the whole roasted pigs I’ve had all over the world, the slow roasted lechon I had on Cebu was the best.  This puts the standings in the Hierarchy of Pigs as follows:

#1: Philippines

#2: Bali

#3: Puerto Rico

If Tony Bourdain says that when it comes to the Philippines, “it’s all about the food”, tonight made me realize a lot about how I viewed, not just Philippine food culture, but being Filipino in general.

Tony’s running question about the Philippines was: “Why is it that the Philippines is almost always a blank page in international cuisine?”  Some Filipinos would say that the world hasn’t quite experienced the Philippines as they should experience it.  They haven’t tried the food they should try or go to places they should go to. In short, the world is just flippin’ ignorant.

But tonight, when Augusto opened up to Tony about not knowing who he really was, being Fil-Am, it kind of hit a spot, so I put that judgment on being ignorant to myself, and I believe that I can speak for some Filipinos too;  not all, but some.

Last week, I did an essay that wasn’t exactly due until next week.  The professor instructed us to write something about our culture.  I didn’t think twice and instantly (and quite jadedly) entitled my essay: “Borrowed Identity.”

I kicked it off by expressing how I didn’t exactly know what to say about my culture except that it confused me.  I wasn’t sure that Filipinos truly had a cultural identity, and finally admitted that I didn’t fully believe in the term “Filipino” at all.  We were invaded by Spaniards for over 400 years, bullied by Americans into believing that they saved us from Japan, and let the Chinese, and eventually, Koreans, run schools, communities and businesses.

In short, not that I wasn’t proud, but I just didn’t know where the word “Filipino” stood in this sea of different cultures.  We can be Spanish, American, Chinese, Malay and sometimes, even Polynesian.  Tony Bourdain said himself in an old interview for the PDI that he was surprised with the strong fusion of flavors in our food.  Where is the “Filipino” in this?  Who are we exactly?

This episode of No Reservations nailed it.  Tony composed his monologue with the exact same theme: finding out who we really are.  I know this’ll sound cheesy, but I’m just using his words: “Who you are is where the heart is.”  Yes, we were all surprised with how Tony was so mellow, nice, well-mannered, and, *gasp* humble, all throughout the segment.  I bet he was surprised himself.  But, yes, that was what he said, and it’s very true.

My heart is in how I find this melting pot of a nation beautiful and so unlike any other precisely by being the melting pot that it is.  The host of the Cebu segment mentioned that the Philippines has taken the back seat all this time because Filipinos usually mesh well and adjust so fast with other cultures (in his words, though not verbatim, Filipinos can easily get used to shawarma from the Middle East) that Filipinos and Philippine culture in general, eventually blends with everything else.

To me, we can actually make this openness precisely what makes us stand out from the rest of the world.  Tony commented that Filipinos are “too nice.”  And I guess he’s right.  Just like how families welcome visitors with an enthusiastic “Kain tayo!”, even when there’s not exactly enough food to satisfy every single stomach in the room, I think Filipinos stand out by how they welcome and embrace the new, especially in a world that is often unkind to extraordinariness these days.

Tony Bourdain wrote:

I’m all too aware of the fact that the country is made up of over seven THOUSAND islands and that I visited exactly two of them.  The food is intensely regional… I mean, even the difference between the food in Manila and Pampanga — only a couple of hours away — is striking.  So I missed… a lot.

And perhaps I did, too, and it makes it even more embarrassing since I’m pure Filipino.  The essay I wrote for class (and fortunately haven’t submitted yet) clearly proves that.  But I should stay true to what I think being Filipino is all about — embracing the discovery and defense of the new.  That being said, I look forward to revising that darned essay into something that would do my wonderful Filipino-ness justice.  🙂

Written by Karla Mercado

February 17, 2009 at 6:58 am

Veggie Tales

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I started missing meat last week.  I do not exactly miss consuming meat, but I really miss cooking it.  In a way, Anthony Bourdain was right when he made the comment about vegetarian and vegan meals.  I do feel more challenged (ergo, I enjoy it more) whipping up a meat dish compared to the veggie and fruit dishes I’ve been cooking for my recent daily consumption.

For one thing, almost all kinds of meat need to be cooked.  I’m sure some of you would disagree, but let’s face it — meat tastes, not necessarily better, but wonderful when grilled, seared, baked, whathaveyou.  You can play with different sorts of ingredients to bring out its delightful meaty flavors even more.  There is room for contrasts, not just in flavor, but also in color, texture, and smell.

Now, when it comes to vegetable and fruit dishes, the main ingredient (vegetable or fruit) can almost always be served raw.  You can eat and run with fresh picked, ready-to-eat fruits and veggies.  They do have wonderful color contrasts, but they almost always feel, look, smell and taste the same.  You can only do so much when it comes to adding other ingredients that would bring out their wonderful veggie and fruit flavors.

And, let’s face it, veggies and fruits aren’t as filling as meat dishes.

I refuse to give up though.  I may find cooking meat dishes more exciting than vegetable and fruit dishes, but I think doing the latter can be so challenging that I can’t help but keep creating as many new recipes as my creative juices can allow.

Yesterday proved me wrong in one aspect of making veggie and fruit dishes though.

Since we observe French holidays, I was able to take a day off from work during Armistice Day yesterday.  The ‘eat and run’ concept was debunked yesterday, when I realized that it’s just a matter of finding the right amount of time to whip up something amazing using the most seemingly trivial of all main ingredients.

Stir Fry Broccoli with Bell Pepper and Baby Corn

(I don’t do measurements unless I’m baking, so please excuse me for the lax approximations)

A handful of broccoli, sliced into individual heads
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
A handful of baby corn, the 5 in. kind
Crushed garlic, about 5 cloves
4-5 onion leeks
About 1/4 a whole ginger, sliced into strips
Oil for stir fry base (I used canola)
Chinese soy sauce (I used Kikoman), stop when you hear the 6th “glug”
A splash of white vinegar
A splash of rum (I used good ol’ Tanduay, one of Earl’s leftovers, before we both quit alcohol!)
About a tablespoon of cornstarch
About a tablespoon of butter
A splash of hot sauce or chili flakes to taste
Salt to taste, and lots of fresh ground black pepper

I prefer to use the traditional wok, but any ordinary frying pan will do.  Just make sure your oil is heated to its loud sizzling status.

After heating oil, toss in ginger.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to bring out its flavor and aroma.  Add the garlic and let cook until transparent.  Add broccoli, bell pepper and baby corn.  Stir and toss for about 3 minutes.  Add soy sauce, vinegar, and butter.  Keep stirring and tossing until butter melts;  it shouldn’t take long.  Add onion leeks and hot sauce or chili flakes.  Stir and toss a few times, then add corn starch and rum.  If you use a fire stove, light up alcohol-splashed pan to dissolve, but this is not necessary.  Lower heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens and alcohol evaporates. 10 minutes, give or take.  Lower heat once again, cover pan and let simmer until broccoli and corn are tender, but not soggy.

Serve with brown rice or as is.  Enjoy!


Appreciation for Brown RiceAppreciation for brown rice

TV DinnerYeah, I should probably get a TV dinner table.

Written by Karla Mercado

November 12, 2008 at 12:14 pm