Book Love: Memories of Philippine Kitchens

Philippine Kitchens Cover

I love a good coffee table book. I savor the feeling of the glossy pages and the heaviness of  the hardbound book in my hands. It’s a visual and tactile feast! They give me joy.


The first time I leafed through the pages of Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa-Dorotan and Remy Dorotan was three years ago. I was perusing the shelves of our city library for just the type of food book. There were many featuring cuisines from France, Spain, Japan but barely anything about the Philippines. So I got very excited when I found this one book that told our culinary stories! Last Christmas, my aunt gave the exact same to our family. Maybe aunts have some sort of ESP.


What I love most about it is the different family recipes the authors gathered from Luzon and Visayas. Being from Mindanao, I was only able to appreciate the diversity of Philippine cuisine when I studied in Quezon City. School trips brought me to different places in the North such as Lucban, Baguio, Pampanga.

Informative and personal, memories of taste are recounted. Native ingredients are reintroduced.


What keeps this book from being truly comprehensive about Philippine Kitchens is the lack of information on Mindanao food. The main focus was Luzon (Ilocos, Zambales, Bicol, Pampanga) and Visayas (Cebu and Bacolod).

Still it is very inspirational. They pose a simple question that garners a multitude of answers worth exploring: What are your food memories?

It is my dream to explore such memories of taste in Mindanao! There will be plenty to unearth and rediscover.


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I wrote this with the intention of submitting it to the Doreen Fernandez Food Writing Contest. However, I was unable to finish and ended up editing and submitting it to World Nomad’s Passport and Plate Contest instead. It’s still up on their website along with other entries from all kinds of food lovers around the world. I am re-posting it here:

The magic of midday in a tropical country lies in the raucous rhythm of lunchtime. This recipe brings me back to my university days when people leave the classrooms and rush to hole-in-the-wall eateries to hide from the burning 38C heat. Voices and the clattering of utensils seem louder in the sweltering noon air. For a while, it’s as though students are always coming, and there wouldn’t be enough seats. After the heavy, greasy and meaty lunch, we unconsciously rub our tummies in satisfaction. For me, the last hurrah of this cheap yet enjoyable budget meal would be the saba con yielo. Though irreverently contained in a flimsy plastic cup and scooped with an equally flimsy plastic spoon, this chilled dessert is the perfect noontime refreshment. The boiled banana and tapioca soak in the sweetness of the syrup. Once cooled, the chilled milk is poured and crushed ice unceremoniously plunked in.
At some point, food has been taken to a level where it’s cooked for the emperor with a jaded palate. Yet recipes like this one takes me back to celebrating food’s simplicity. Sweetened saba is ordinary dessert fare in the Philippines. It is local, accessible and affordable. Its simplest version, without the tapioca, ice and milk, is enjoyed by Filipinos both on ordinary days and special occasions. I remember having it in one of my Anthropology field trips to Talim Island, Rizal (a town a few hours away from the country’s’ capital city, Manila). My classmates and I had lunch on one of the bamboo houses on stilts after swimming. Lunch was a feast of steamed rice on banana leaves, fried tilapia piled on a plate, crisp spring rolls, sinigang (sour soup), fresh deep red tomatoes and a bowl of calamansi (our local lemon). I ate to my heart’s content until I was full but not full enough to refuse the dessert: minatamis na saba. I ate it with delight as though it’s through this dessert that one ends a satisfying meal with gratefulness for a truly sweet life.

September Challenge: Eat One Meat-Free Meal A Day

Temp Brennan once told Booth (in the Bones tv series!) that vegetarians aren’t always necessarily healthy. They can just eat french fries all day. My September challenge was an effort to reduce red meat and increase vegetable intake. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat but I also know how I badly need those leafy greens. Yet as Temp said, the challenge didn’t necessarily make me eat healthy. There were times when my meat-free meal was an orange marmalade sandwich or a bowl of cereal.

While I wasn’t able to record every day I did rediscover some easy-to-cook and meat-free meals to share with you! This is purely an idea giver/ingredients list. Just determine quantities to suit your taste!
  • Kimchi Fried Rice:
    • saute garlic
    • onion
    • store-bought kimchi
    • cooked rice
    • cucumber
    • season as you like with salt and pepper. Add tofu for something more substantial.
  • Lugaw
    • rice porridge
    • Toppings: sliced green scallions, century eggs, toasted crunchy garlic ( which you get by putting garlic in oil over low fire til they get crunchy)
  • Seafood Chopsuey
    • saute
    • garlic
    • onion
    • carrot
    • celery
    • broccoli
    • button mushroom
    • canned or fresh baby corn
    • seafood of choice (shrimps, mussels and/or squid)
    • chopsuey seasoning and or oyster sauce
    • season with salt and pepper. Thicken sauce using cornstarch and water
  • Garlic Shrimp
    • saute garlice in butter
    • add shrimp
  • Ginataang Gulay
    • saute garlic
    • onion
    • squash
    • any other veggie of choice (eg. string beans, okra etc)
    • coconut cream when squash is soft
  • Grilled Salmon Head
    • salt the cleaned salmon head and shove it in your oven to grill at 350F until the outside is brown and crisp (just keep checking!)
    • This is so good, you wished you cooked more. Make sure to salt that fish head good.
  • Tuna spread
    • tuna from tuna can
    • mayo
    • sliced onions and scallions
    • salt and pepper
  • Kale and Eggs
    • saute garlic in sesame oil and olive oil
    • kale
    • then eat with soft or hard boiled eggs!
  • Mussels in Broth
    • saute onions
    • ginger
    • lemon grass
    • mussels
    • a bit of white wine (no white wine? no problem. skip it.)
    • water
    • green onions
    • chili leaves or other leafy greens (kale will do)
    • season with salt
  • Chili Tofu and Eggplant
    • brown tofu
    • saute garlic
    • eggplant
    • chili garlic paste (LKK)
Lugaw! Non-vegetarian with the addition of yummy Chinese chorizo.


I still tried to make quickie-kimchi

Italy: Experiences and Discoveries

Florence, Bologna, Manarola and Venice: AirBnb
I’ve been eyeing AirBnb for a while and was finally able to use it on this trip. The accommodations we got did not disappoint or at least most of them. My favorite was the 800 year old apartment in Florence. Our host Paolo was gracious and very knowledgeable about the city. He recommended a really good restaurant and gelato place. I also loved that informative and interesting books about Florence and Italy lined his bookshelves. He has five other Airbnb listings which I would love to see in future visits. The one where we stayed was near Ponte Vecchio. All I can say is that it was simply lovely and if you ever need to go to Florence, book with Paolo.

Modena and Bologna: Amazing-Italy Tour

My trip buddy was such a good researcher and booked a Bologna food tour through Amazing-Italy Tours for our side trip. Our guide, Andrea obviously loved his job. He was so funny and always offered to take our photos. He explained everything from the process of making Parmigiano-Reggiano to curing pork for prosciutto. As for the balsamic vinegar, he recognized how passionate the owner, Romano was about his craft and family business and let him do the talking. After the tour, we had a three hour lunch of lasagna, tortellini, salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar, figs with parmesan shavings, stuffed tomatoes and gelato.


Cinque Terre: Limoncello

You might see bottles of this liqueur a lot around Italy and since I am not an expert, I wouldn’t know which you should buy. I do know however that the best one we had was the homemade limoncello that our host, Franco, poured for us on our arrival in Manarola, Cinque Terre.  If you are so inclined, there is a basic recipe available on Rick Steves website. There is also an informative article about the drink in this post from Walks of Italy website.


Venice: Fried Seafood

We were rewarded well in our effort to ditch the throng of day trippers to Venice and to find the best fried seafood. We got them to-go in paper cones from Vecio Fritolin. I think we got there by accident just trying to avoid the crowd. I don’t know how food writers do it but I am incapable of describing taste right now except by using the word YUMMY. I was happy to part with my 10 euros for it. There was also another hole-in-the-wall one called Frito Inn along Cannareggio which we found out about through Trip Advisor. I don’t know why but that paper cone just seemed bottomless with the fried squid.

image from website

Canada Day and Steveston Salmon Festival

The Steveston Salmon Festival fell in the same Sunday as Canada Day so my family and I went to Steveston, Richmond to take part of the festivities. And what’s my default post like when I get lazy? They say a picture paints a thousand words. Teehee!

*Edit: All the pictures were taken by Astrid of Superboink. She always brings her cam despite how heavy it is. Check out her photo blog for more beautiful photos!

I just had to say that the ice cream guy looked at me for a good two seconds
after I told him what flavours  I wanted. “Wasabi and Butterscotch, what a combination.” He said.
 That was the first time I tried wasabi ice cream and it wasn’t bad at all!

Nothing better than messy and tasty pulled pork and slaw bought from the street!

Salmon, the healthier option.

Boats and “pirates” at the Steveston port!

Pirates serenade while everyone else scouts for the perfect seafood for dinner.

An exhibit shows the beauty and craft of boat making.