Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Takoyaki balls, upended: Bakudan!

Takoyaki balls are among our favorite street food. Andy has in fact made a self-imposed mission of finding the best takoyaki-balls in Manila. Read the blog on Pinoy Takoyaki.

Staying in Roppongi and Azabu-juban area in Tokyo, I searched high and low for takoyaki but to no avail. It was in Musashi-koyama that I had a first glimpse of my much sought takoyaki balls.

(The picture here, however, is taken at Hibiya Park, during the "Global Festa" of non-profit organizations)

Takoyaki balls are served 6 pcs per order, at 500 yen. Uncooked, you'll see a liquid concoction being poured in the metal pan with several half-moon indention. The cook then puts finely chopped greens and meat flakes, and octopus pieces in the middle. Then, while the liquid cooks, s/he will masterfully move the half-liquid-half-solid into a round ball using a pair of chopsticks. Just watching the takoyaki-master is a treat in itself.

When I shared my takoyaki balls to my friends, they all agreed it was good (except for one who begged to disagree). But I had my fill of takoyaki, with large pieces of octopus meat inside and savory brown sauce topped with meat flakes. Yummy, really.

While strolling one day at Okachimachi (one station away from Akihabara), I bumped into these two ladies, preparing something very similar to takoyaki balls, but way much bigger. This is called "bakudan." The base and the ingredients are the same as takoyaki, but with added quail egg and sausage. It also goes with the same brown sauce and meat flakes as topping (although they offer more variety in toppings, e.g. with added mayonnaise, and other toppings that unfortunately I wasn't able to take note of).

One piece of bakudan costs Y315, a little more pricey than takoyaki. The quail egg and sausage added a variety of flavor, but for me, I'd still go for the simpler takoyaki.

Mmmm, that being said, let me venture out and search for a takoyaki stand here in Asakusa.

Note: I finally discovered the Takoyaki ball stall in Roppongi!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Survival Cooking Challenges

Wow. Cooking really is very challenging. Sometimes you have to make do with the available ingredients. Sometimes you just have to decide on how to cook a dish based on images from your memory of a favorite dish. Cooking is sometimes a "trial and error" activity. I don't remember cooking shrimp rebosado or meat balls sarciado or pork giniling BUT these are the kids' favorites. So I ventured to cook these dishes. For the shrimp rebosado, Apple give me online tips on how to prepare the batter and sauce. Cooking the giniling is not difficult since I remember from memory the colorful ingredients of carrots and potatoes. As for the meatballs, Vangie and I just made our own mix of pork, onions, carrots and flour. Then I prepared the sarciado sauce of garlic, onion, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Geof and I love fried "dalagang bukid" fish. To add a little variation to it, I prepared the sweet and sour escabeche sauce of ginger, onions and bell pepper - this was a first for me. I also prepared dishes with vegetables so the kids will learn to eat the greens. But I need to add some incentives like quail eggs in the chopsuey or more pieces of potatoes in the pork nilaga.
Happy cooking to all the dads!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sushi and Sashimi Galore!

Just a note - it might be prudent to eat saltwater raw seafood rather than freshwater seafood since freshwater fish may contain parasites, which is not true for saltwater creatures.

My first introduction to sashimi was in 1987 (sashimi is the general term for raw seafood).

The late Bro. Ceci Hojilla, FSC (bless him) was craving for sashimi and asked me to accompany him. We went to Harrison Plaza(HP) in Vito Cruz, Manila, just behind De La Salle University (when HP was still new and classy). There we were, Bro. Ceci giving me strict instructions on how to eat - using chopsticks and putting tiny wasabi (read: very dangerous green paste!) on the fish. I followed his orders meticulously - I have to put the entire fish slice in my mouth - no biting! So I did -- and just imagine how my taste buds curse the light out of me - I froze with the rawness of the fish and the unexplainable taste of wasabi! In my panic, I took a considerable amount of wasabi and put it in my mouth. Uhum, since we were in an open-area eatery (where people simply buy food from stalls and eat them in designated high-tables - no chairs), I mustered all my will power not to make a scene. But boy, oh boy, I was crying my wits out with that wasabi!

I stayed away from sashimi for a looong time after that. I can't remember anymore when I got enough courage to try it again. But when I did, I was totally hooked.

Now, as a fanatic of sashimi, sushi, and all kinds of maki, naturally I am feasting while in Japan. The best part of eating them is -- they don't make you fat! I mean, you probably need to eat a ton before you gain weight. In the picture you'll see my usual order of 8 pcs sushi with temaki (nori-wrapped cone-shaped rice with pickled vegetable in the middle) and tamagoyaki (i think this is what the egg omelette is called) on the side. It is served with a small bowl of cold udon, and hot green tea. This lunch set costs Y820 which is already reasonable. Alternatively, one can also order a chirashizushi or a bowl of rice topped with different kinds of sushi. I've tried this too, and it's also good (it also goes with the usual cold udon and green tea, and cost the same).
Gosh, I sound really good, like an expert!!! Here's to more sushi and sashimi while in Japan - VIVA Japan! ... opps, I mean BANZAI!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cheap Thrills in Tokyo: Stroll at the Emperor's Palace

One of the cheap thrills I really enjoy while in Tokyo is walking. The place where I am staying is called Roppongi - it's really a very commercial, very cosmopolitan place (esp. at night). Government offices are also concentrated in this area.

But Roppongi is also near the Imperial Palace - by subway train, it only takes 5 stops. But I like walking, so my friends and I walked - 45 mins to an hour - to reach the Palace.

Some historical facts: In 1456, Dokan Ota build his palace in a mud flat, where an old fort once stood, at the age of 24. The castle was finished in 1457, the generally accepted Tokyo's birthdate. Fast forward to one hundred years - in 1590, Hideyoshi, the de-facto ruler of Japan, assigned Ieyasu Tokugawa, his second in command, to administer Edo (Tokyo). It was Tokugawa who constructed the Palace, 'bringing the massive stones for the thick walls by ship from distant Hyogo..."(Seward, 1971)

The Palace garden is a huge open area that serves as a respite to the crowded and densely populated Tokyo. Foreigners and locals are all over the place - jogging, resting, having a picnic, taking pictures. It is really a cacophony of people, yet somehow, by some invisible logic, all appear to be in a 'picture perfect' frame. I personally enjoy watching people doing their thing, while I craft "stories" in my mind on what their action means - just like my favorite one here - what do you think he's doing? Seems to me he really needs to release some .... gas :-)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Survival Cooking - Fusion Dishes?

The second part of my survival cooking tips is about dishes with a twist. Apple calls them "fusion" dishes. When I posted the photo of my beef steak as beef steak tagalog, I was surprised by the comments of FB friends including my wife on why my beef steak has potatoes. Maybe beef steak tagalog has no potatoes. But I remember eating beef steak with potatoes and I love it. So that's what I cooked for my children. And I know that Geof and Julia love potatoes. I first fry the potatoes before mixing it with the chicken which was marinated overnight and the sauce. To avoid confusion with the "tagalog" version, let me just call my recipe as just "beef steak with potatoes".

I love Max's style fried chicken. Its' crispy and tasty especially when eaten with ketchup and worcestershire sauce. So when I found the recipe in the pinoy food blog, I tried the recipe and was successful in coming up with almost the same as the original Max's style fried chicken. FB friends asked for the recipe and I just sent them the link to pinoy food blog. The last time we ate at Max's, I didn't order their chicken because I already know their secret.

Another recipe that I really miss is the recipe which I will just call as "pork vegetable soup". My cousin, Ate Dina, cooked this recipe one day when we had lunch at their house. I told her I missed eating this soup. According to her, it is an original recipe from Sta. Rita, Pampanga and she doesn't know the recipe's name. Knowing the basic ingredients of the soup - pork, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes - I ventured cooking it. The preparation is very simple. You simply saute' the pork with the garlic, onion and tomatoes and then add the water, potatoes and cabbage. Add salt, pepper and pork broth for the taste.

The final dish in the photo is the pork and chicken adobo. I usually cook adobo by mixing the pork and chicken with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, salt and black pepper together and boil. But this time, I asked Apple to send me her adobo recipe by email which I really love. Her instructions to me: first to tender the pork in water, salt, black pepper and laurel leaves . Then add the chicken and liver. When all the meat ingredients are tender, ONLY then that you add the vinegar (this is a very important advice from her mom). Add a half cube of pork or chicken broth(optional). You may add a little soy sauce for taste and color. Then, in a separate pan, fry crushed garlic until brown and then saute the adobo meat without the sauce. Add the sauce and boiled eggs and simmer.

Happy cooking!