Thursday, July 29, 2010

The beginning of Filipino Fusion

There have been a lot of buzz on the popularity of food trucks lately here in LA. For me, I think it started with the birth of The Kogi Truck, but I'm sure it began much earlier than that. The economy has been hard on many businesses, including restaurants. Therefore, many establishments are closing and those owners turn to mobile food trucks as a much cheaper alternative to continue to provide their good food. They also appear at local Farmer's Markets, carnivals, and fairs in hopes of gaining customers.

Many of these trucks serve fusion foods. The Kogi Truck serves fusion Korean food by means of tacos and burritos. I recently discovered The White Rabbit Truck. The first to attempt the Filipino Fusion food circuit. We decided to chase this truck for dinner tonight because they were in the neighborhood. And apparently, many other people thought the same. This truck was a big buzz in the Filipino community because it was the first of its kind. So the sidewalk at our local Menchie's was super crowded.

Their main food is Chicken Adobo, Beefsteak, Tocino, and Sisig. For those familiar with Filipino food, these dishes are practically Filipino staples. Aside from Sisig, all filipino families have their own recipes of Adobo, Beefsteak and Tocino. The White Rabbit guys have put a twist on these Filipino staples and made them into tacos, burritos, sandwiches and the customary rice bowl.

We ordered the Adobo tacos which is chicken marinated in soy sauce and vinegar. I found this to be a little too salty for my taste.

Sisig Tacos - cooked pork meat, mixed with spicy peppers, onions, and vinegar. I found this to be the best taste of all the meats they offered.

Tocino tacos - marinated pork meat with its signature red coloring. The flavor of this tocino reminded me of the meats inside a Chinese BBQ pork bun, but a little saltier and messier.

Adobo burrito - similar meat to the tacos, but wrapped with fried rice and a fried egg. This was pretty filling and a perfect Filipino breakfast.

They also had their rice bowls with the meats. We ordered the adobo with rice for my daughter, because she just loves her rice.

To top off our meal, we ordered their White Chocolate Champorado. A warm, sweet rice dish (similar to rice pudding), Champorado is normally served for breakfast and made with cocoa powder. This was a delicious alternative that you can eat as a dessert. This was my favorite.

The overall assessment of my experience with Filipino Fusion food is......I don't think I'm ready for it. Aside from the White Chocolate champorado (which was super delicious), I'm more used to eating my Adobo, Beefesteak, Tocino and sisig with my rice. And not so salty, I might add. I think in order to make this "Fusion Filipino," they need to take the flavors of of these dishes and create a NEW dish out of it. Not just by merely taking the Chicken Adobo and slapping it on some tortillas. The only thing I think I'd be chasing the White Rabbit truck for is their White chocolate champorado. Although if I attempt to try to make it myself, I don't think I'd be chasing the truck much longer.

I commend the White Rabbit truck guys for trying to make Filipino food more mainstream. Filipino food is not as popular as our other Asian counterparts. Aside from a few other people, Filipinos are really the only ones eating Filipino foods. This truck was an attempt to reach out to different people. But I think if they tweeked their menu a little bit more, they'll be able to showcase the wonderful flavors of Filipino foods.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Banana Caramel Cupcakes

Ever since I discovered the right tools to frost a cupcake, I've been on a cupcake fix lately. This past weekend, my brother-in-law and his family had a yard sale. I had some overripe bananas that I wanted to use up, so I decided to make my Elvis cupcakes to take to the yard sale so we can munch on them. From that batch, I had some leftover, un-frosted banana cupcakes and decided to use them for this recipe.

I got this idea from one of my favorite blogs, Annie's Eats. I've been dying to give this recipe a try and now was the perfect time for it, having the extra banana cupcakes that needed frosting. The frosting is a Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting that I've never done before. I've always been intimidated by making meringue, so I was a little nervous in making this. But it was surprisingly easy to make. The combination of caramel and banana was so yummy. It reminds me of a bananas foster. Its a super sweet cupcake, so if you a have really bad sweet tooth like I do, this one's for you.

1 dozen pre-made and cooled banana cupcakes (I used my banana cupcake from the Elvis)

Caramel sauce
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces, at room temperature
1/2 cup caramel sauce

1) To make the caramel sauce, combine butter, brown sugar, cream and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat to medium and continue boiling mixture until its thickened, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.

2) To make the frosting, combine egg whites and sugar and heat in a double boiler, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture reaches a temperature of 160 deg F.

Transfer the mixture to a clean, dry bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until mixture forms a stiff peak. Lower the mixer to medium speed, and add salt. While continuing beating, begin adding butter, 1 Tbsp. at a time, making sure to thoroughly incorporate butter after each addition. Add 1/2 cup of cooled caramel sauce and beat until well incorporated. Frost cupcakes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Potato Paratha (Potato-stuffed Indian Flatbread)

I think Paratha is the first Indian dish that my friend Kiran had me try. She brought some to work that her mom had made and I was hooked. I always secretly hope that she brings some to work for me everytime her mom makes some :) Its a flat bread stuffed with various things. Most of the time, its stuffed with potatoes. I saw this recipe on the new Cooking Channel with Bal Arneson of Spice Goddess. Kiran and another Indian co-worker of mine would tell me how to make Paratha, but I think I had to have a visual on how to make this dish. So when I saw this on TV last night, I was dying to try to make it today.

It wasn't as hard as I thought, though there just seems to be something missing in the filling. Maybe because I omitted the fenugreek leaves (because I didn't have any). The Garam Masala was a little overpowering, so I may lessen the amount the next time. Overall though, the taste was there. I'll try to make this again next time, with different ingredients.

1 cup mashed potatoes
2 Tbsp. minced onion
1 Tbsp. fenugreek leaves
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. Garam Masala
salt & pepper to taste

2 cups flour
1/2 - 3/4 cup water

1) Combine the ingredients for the filling in a medium bowl. Set aside

2) In another bowl, combine dough ingredients and knead until it forms into a smooth ball, similar to a stiff pizza dough.

3) Take a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll it into a disc. Lightly dust surface with flour, and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the disc into a thin patty (like a pancake).

4) Place about 1/4 cup of filling in the center of the disc then fold the edge of the dough over the mixture and form into a ball. Gently roll the paratha into a flat patty (like a tortilla), being careful not to squeeze the filling out.

5) Heat a skillet to medium-high. Place paratha on hot skillet. Cook until dough begins to bubble and brown, then flip on the other side to cook, about 3 minutes on each side.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Happy 34th to me!

For the past week, everyone's been reminding me of how old I'll be getting. I still say that I don't feel old. But I still love to celebrate :) I've been trying to guess what plans hubby had for my birthday this past Friday the 16th. My only request was for him to take me some place for carnivores. lol! I mentioned a few places, like my favorite Argentinian place, Buenos Aires Grill, or perhaps try a new place called Fogo de Chao, which is a Brazillian Churrascaria in Beverly Hills that I've been dying to go to.

Hubby surprised me by taking me to another Brazillian Churrascaria in LA - M Grill. I was so proud to hear that he got this recommendation from Yelp, which is my go-to website when I need to find reviews on certain places, particularly restaurants. I was happy to hear that hubby is becoming a "foodie" like me.

Hubby confessed that he did plan on taking me to Fogo de Chao until he learned that it cost $56 per person. So he went on Yelp and found that M Grill was comparable to, if not better than, Fogo de Chao, based on everyone's reviews. I don't know how Fogo de Chao is, but M Grill was an awesome place. Its easy to miss this restaurant among the many Korean BBQ restaurants its surrounded by - being that its in "Koreatown."

If you're familiar with a Brazillian Churrascaria, you know that its an all-you-can-eat meat menu, perfect for carnivores. Your table is equipped with some type of device or card that signals the servers to keep piling on the meat when they come around you, or stop serving you the meat. Aside from that, they also have a buffet of other side dishes that compliment the meat they serve you, such as rice, fried yucca or plantains, pastas, salads and salsas.

Our meal started with a basket of cheese-stuffed bread that was to-die-for. My daughter couldn't get enough of it and neither could we.

At the buffet, I started off with a salad and some potato salad.

Then the meat started rolling in.......

I was too busy eating and enjoying my food and my company that I couldn't keep up in photographing all the meats they served - skirt steak, ribeye steak, sausages, lamb. The only thing they didn't have was chicken.

The also served us a grilled pineapple wit a hint of cinnamon. All that was missing was ice cream.

And to wash it all down, hubby and I shared a Caipirinha, which is the Brazillian equivalent to a Mojito.

Hubby and I "shared" this drink, meaning I took a few sips and he took the rest. I have very low tolerance for alcohol, but still enjoy the flavors of certain drinks like this one.

It was a great night to mark my 34th birthday. Hubby did a great job surprising me ♥

The next day, my parents and siblings surprised us by taking us to dinner at yet ANOTHER buffet - Cafe Sierra at the Universal Hilton. This is a favorite of my family's. They serve an awesome array of foods from around the world - Chinese, Japanese, Korean, American, Mexican and Italian.

But better yet, they have a great dessert bar.

Even complete with a chocolate fountain

and cotton candy which my daughter LOVED.

All in all, this was a great birthday. I even got some nice gifts to go with it :) But it was great to spend this special event with the ones that I love ♥ Now its time to plan for hubby's birthday in a little over a week.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thai-Style Baked Rice Pudding

There was a rice cake that my dad used to make that I really loved. It was made of black glutinous rice. He doesn't make it anymore, but I always remind him how much I loved it. Maybe its because he's been too busy lately baby-sitting my daughter, among other things, that he doesn't have time to anymore. He would tell me how hard it was to stir the mixture because it was such a thick and heavy mixture. He isn't getting any younger and he isn't as strong as he used to be. But I would hate to not have a taste of it ever again.

Thanks to my Thai cookbook, I found something similar to my dad's rice cake. Although its a rice pudding, the taste is almost there and I presume that this was a lot easier to make than how my dad would normally make it by stirring a heavy mixture. I've altered the recipe a bit by adding 3 more tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/2 cup more water to make it a more sweet and softer rice. Hubby doesn't really care too much for rice cakes, but I'll be making this again to get my rice cake fix.

1 cup white or black glutinous rice
5 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 cup water
3 eggs
2 Tbsp white sugar

1) Combine glutinous rice and brown sugar in a pan. Pour in 1 cup of coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Stir occasionally. Preheat oven to 300 deg F.

2) Spoon rice mixture into a large dish or divide among individual ramekins.

3) In a large bowl, beat eggs with remaining 1 cup coconut milk and sugar. Strain egg mixture into a pitcher, then pour even over the par-cooked rice in the dish or ramekins.

4) Place the dish or ramekins in a roasting pan. Carefully pour enough hot water in the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the dish or ramekins. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes or until the custard has set, depending on the size of your dish. Serve warm or cold.

No-Fuss Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese

We were in Vegas this weekend and so I haven't been able to make a trip to the grocery store. We don't really have much in the fridge and I'm too lazy to go out and buy anything. But I still have to feed my daughter. So I took out my crockpot cookbook and found this quick recipe. The ingredients are everything I have in my fridge and it cooks for only 2-3 hours - which is the amount of time my daughter naps for before lunch. It came out rather dry, but the flavors were there. This probably won't be a frequent dish I'd make, but its good to know that I have a quick Mac & Cheese recipe I can make in case of an emergency.

2 cups uncooked pasta
4 ounces light pasteurized processed cheese, cubed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 cup skim milk

1) Combine macaroni, cheeses, salt and pepper in crockpot. Pour milk over mixture. Cook on low for 2-3 hours, stirring after the first 20-30 minutes.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Skyline Chili

Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers made his big announcement today that he's leaving Ohio to be in Florida (Miami Heat). In honor of the Ohioans losing King James, I decided to make Skyline Chili. Named after Cincinnati, Ohio's skyline, this popular chili is apparently a favorite of the Cincinnati Reds. While I've never been to Cincinnati to have the original, I've heard about this awesome dish from, where else? The Food Network. It looked so good. So I tried looking up a recipe and found this one from

Unlike its Texas-style counterpart, this chili is more runny and saucy than a normal chili. And its also normally eaten over a bed of spaghetti pasta, topped with lots of shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onions. I've made this a couple of times before and it definitely goes really well with the pasta. Its almost like a spaghetti sauce with a little kick. And you know how I am with spaghetti. Can't get enough of it. This is a chili dish that I can get addicted to. This recipe made so much chili that I froze most of it for later use.

2 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (I used ground turkey)
15 oz tomato sauce
8 oz tomato paste
5 Tbsp. chili powder
2 1/2 Tbsp. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
3 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
4 cups water

1) Brown meat on stovetop. Place in crockpot. Add all remaining ingredients and mix well. Cook on low for 12 hours or more. Serve on top of cooked spaghetti, top with shredded cheese and chopped onions.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thai Cellophane Noodles with ground meat

I've bookmarked this recipe from my Thai cookbook for a while now. It looked quick and easy to make so I thought to give it a try.

Like all the Thai dishes I've made, the rule of thumb is to always have all the ingredients ready to toss in the wok because cooking is quick. This recipe called for something called "Magic Paste," which supposedly was found at Thai markets. Well I couldn't find it, so I googled to see what was in a Magic paste. All it was are cilantro and garlic pounded together using a mortar and pestle to create a paste. Cool. I can see how important the magic paste is to this dish. It is the flavor of the dish and it was delicious and really easy to make. We all loved our dinner tonight.

7 oz cellophane noodles
2 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. magic paste (4 cloves garlic and 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, pounded together using a mortar and pestle to create a paste)
8 oz ground meat (pork, chicken or turkey)
1/2 green or red thai chili, seeded and finely chopped (use 1-2 whole chili if you like it spicy)
3 cups bean sprouts
3 spring onions
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar or dry sherry
2 Tbsp. chopped peanuts, for garnish
fresh cilantro for garnish

1) Soak noodles in boiling hot water in a bowl for 10 minutes. Drain and snip noodles to shorten the strands. Set aside.

2) Heat oil in a wok or large pan. Add magic paste and cook for 2-3 seconds. Add ground meat, making sure to break up large pieces. Cook for 2-3 minutes until brown.

3) Add chili and mix well. Add bean sprouts and spring onions and mix well. Add noodles, soy sauce, fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, sugar, and rice vinegar and stir until well incorporated. Continue cooking until noodles are heated through.

4) Place noodles on a serving dish and top with chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fruit Tart

Happy 4th of July!!!

This time around last year, I made my (White Blue and) Red Velvet cake. Because it's 4th of July, I thought it would look really festive to have another red, white, & blue dessert. The Farmer's Market is in abundance of fresh fruits (especially berries), and so I was inspired to make this beautiful and delicious dessert. I think I may have started a new tradition - makin red, white and blue desserts for the 4th of July......

I've always been so intimidated by making Fruit tart. But I so love eating it. I found this recipe at Joy of Baking. It looks like a complicated yet elegant dessert. But it only looks harder that it really is. There are a lot of steps into making a fruit tart, but it isn't complicated at all. I think the hardest part, however, is making the dough. Maybe its because I don't have a nice granite countertop to roll the dough on (I still have the tile countertop, that I'm hoping to eventually replace or upgrade to). Or maybe its because my rolling pin wasn't long enough. Whatever the reason, I had to sort of improvise because the dough came out too soft (maybe it was too warm in the house? Oh well). What's great about this dessert is that you can use any of your favorite fruits and design it any way you like.

This tart came out so good. Hubby thinks we may not have to buy the tart at the bakery anymore. We'll see.

Tonight, we're doing a tailgate to watch the fireworks. Everyone is bringing something to munch on. We're ordering pizza and also bringing my Brown Sugar cupcakes, and of course this Fruit tart.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

1) Measure out flour and salt. Set aside. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, beating just until incorporated. Add flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.

2) On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle large enough so that it sticks out about 1 inch of your tart pan. Once the desired size has been reached, lightly roll dough around rolling pin and unroll on top of tart pan. Press the dough on the bottom and sides of the pan. Roll the rolling pin across the top of the pan to trim off the excess dough from the pan.

3) Prick the bottom of the dough a couple of times to help prevent the dough from puffing. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 deg F.

4) Once chilled, line the dough with wax or parchment paper. Fill the pan with pie weights, rice or beans. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove weights and cool completely while making the pastry cream.

Pastry cream
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1) In a stainless steel bowl, mix sugar and egg yolks with a wooden spoon. Sift flour and cornstarch together and add to egg mixture. Mix until it becomes a smooth paste. Set aside.

2) In a saucepan, combine milk and vanilla bean. Cook on medium heat just until it begins to boil. Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Slowly whisk milk mixture into egg mixture (If some of the eggs curdle, pour through a strainer). Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the seeds into the egg mixture.

3) Return mixture back on medium eat and heat just until boiling, making sure to whisk constantly to prevent burning. When it begins to boil, turn off the heat and whisk for another minute until it becomes very thick.

4) Place custard in a clean bowl. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface of the custard and refrigerate until cool.

To assemble the tart
pastry cream
2-3 cups of fruits (various berries, kiwi, peaches, mango, etc)
1/2 cup apricot glaze (apricot jam or preserves, heated until it becomes liquid)

1) Brush a thin layer of apricot glaze on the bottom and sides of the crust to prevent it from getting soggy. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes until it dries.

2) Spread pastry cream about 2/3 of the way of the crust. Arrange fruits on top of the cream.

3) Brush more apricot glaze on top of the fruits. Refrigerate until ready to serve.