My aunt has been living with my parents for the past few months. A quick note about this particular aunt: she apparently owns all of the family recipes from my grandmother and just dishes them out whenever she can. So when I went home to visit, she pulled these out: puto pao.
If you’re familiar with Filipino food, think of it as siopao in puto form—a Chinese spongey meat bun shaped like cupcakes. She makes these all from scratch—from the sweet meat mixture inside, boiling egg yolks for the filling, making the flour mixture for the cake, cutting little cheese squares for the top, and then finally steaming them. The result is this super spongey and filling bite, that’s apparently steeped in family history! My dad told me their mother—my grandmother—used to make these from scratch and then sold them in their little food store.
It’s good to know the food gene is still influential now, and I will one day learn this recipe and hopefully teach a new generation how to make it too!
Hey guys, here’s a quick post about an awesome restaurant I found: Cité Chicago. Thanks to Groupon (and my 2 year anniversary), I was able to enjoy the French cuisine on the very top floor of the Lake Point Tower (the weirdly-shaped black building by the Lake Shore? Yeah!).
We enjoyed their Escargot Francois which, if you’ve never had Escargot before, was an awesome appetizer. The rich flavor of the sauce it’s cooked in really warms up your palate for the rest of the dinner.
For our main dishes, we got their Fruit de Mer Risotto and Duck a l’Orange. The seafood risotto tasted like it came straight out of the ocean - the risotto was creamy, and that giant scallop, crab, and blue crab were the perfect complement. The duck was something I really wanted - it’s a classic duck dish I have always wanted to try, and I’m glad I did! The orange reduction was really good with the tender duck breast.
Sometimes, we like to get classy with our dinners. And Cité definitely gave us a meal we won’t forget!
When I went home for the holidays, my mom surprised me with a treat from my childhood—La Paz batchoy! It’s a delicacy from my mom’s hometown—a pork broth soup with homemade egg noodles, pork belly, liver, pork rinds, green onion and an egg that cooks in the hot broth. Her family kept this recipe, and she brought it to the big city when she moved when she was older. She opened a restaurant in Manila, and now she’s taking the recipe to the states—and voila! I was able to try it and it took me back to when I spent days tending my mom’s restaurant growing up. Thanks mom for the flashback!
Someday, I’ll learn this recipe, and let the tradition live!
When you do Filipino theatre, you get “eating” as a part of the rehearsal and performance scheduling. And such was the case when we performed for our playwright at a quaint coffee shop and diner in Chicago’s South Loop (a little northeast of Pilsen) at a place called Station E Café. The company I worked for was the first catering event they did at their place, and I’d say it was a success. Why? Because of this little gem:
This is their homemade molé sauce, and it’s probably the best molé in the world. It’s a lot sweeter and thinner than usual molé, but poured over rice and your choice of pan-seared tilapia or pork lumpia rolls… Holy crap. I had two plates. I tell you, that night, I’m sure the chef saw before his eyes the epitome of “a starving actor.” I’m not sure if they have this dish on their daily menu, but based on their Yelp page, a lot of people love their sandwiches and breakfast menu as well! If it wasn’t so far away from me, I would come all the time! If you need a place to go when you’re in that part of the city, be sure to stop by! Tell them RJ from CIRCA Pintig says hi!
Here it is, this year’s Thanksgiving post! Like usual, it was used to celebrate “let’s cook as much Filipino food as possible” for a night. But it was a little extra special this year—not only was it catered by my mother’s catering company (cleverly named “Okra Garden”) that she started a few weeks before the holiday, but it was also my father’s 60th birthday! A LOT of reasons to celebrate, which meant a LOT of food to eat! So here’s a rundown of the food we had—some you may not have seen before!
- Two kinds of “lumpia” - one with vegetables like potato and bean sprouts, the other is your classic “shanghai” made with pork.
- Soy sauce short ribs - my aunt boiled the meat in the soy sauce marinade with garlic, ginger, and other stuff to flavor it. Then she grilled them while she let the marinade reduce to become its sauce. It was freaking delicious. No, seriously.
- "Arroz Valenciana" - it’s a Spanish paella variation that is very famous in certain parts of the Philippines. The rice is stickier than the usual paella, and filled with different vegetables.
- "Embotido" - the Filipino meatloaf as I like to call it. The best part is that it has hard-boiled eggs inside it. That, and the banana sauce ketchup!
- Fish fillets - my aunt made homemade fried fish nuggets with an amazing garlic mayonnaise sauce.
- "Kare kare" - a peanut stew cooked with tripe and beef. Classic!
- An assortment of Filipino desserts: rice cakes and cassava cake, which is a cassava root and coconut milk concoction.
I tell you, my mother and my aunt will have a LOT of success with their newly formed catering company with this kind of menu. They kind of took my dad’s party as a way to advertise, because they got orders for parties as soon as the night was over! It makes me happy to know that the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree. Hey, maybe someday I could open my own catering company…
Okay, this is WAY long overdue, but this summer I went to New York for a few days. Literally an eating marathon. Here were some of my favorites from that amazingly delicious trip!
My friend told me I had to come eat at a ramen house named Ippudo—and he even told me that I should expect at least a 20-30 minute wait because there’s always a line outside this place. We go as soon as they open, and we lucked out on having no wait line.
Now, you guys know how much I love Japanese restaurants. What you might not know is that I have always wanted to experience an authentic ramen house—like in Japan. And this place was very authentic—even with the Japanese shouting from the workers in the background, to the shared dining spaces. My dream came true that lunch.
The house special that night was too perfect to not order—their classic pork shoyu soup with black squid ink ramen noodles (which is a culinary feat of excellence by the way!) topped with pork slices, cabbage, “menma” which is bamboo shoot, a slice of “naruto” fish cake, and scallions. I’m telling you—I guzzled every bit, drank each drop, and licked that bowl clean. It was probably the best bowl of soup I have ever had. I’m telling you—you guys are missing out on a culturally immaculate experience if you haven’t had authentic ramen before.