‘I’ve had my fair share of failures in the kitchen, but they were part of the learning experience’
Ever since I was young, I was always fascinated by the activities in our kitchen. I watched the kusinera, my grandmother and my mom cook. My curiosity led me to help them in whatever way I could and learn the skills to try out recipes very early in life.
As my grandma got older, she would delegate the cooking of family favorites like fried meatballs, oyster cakes, noodles, kiampong, adobo and barbecue to me. Of course, I, too, had my fair share of failures, like my first brownies being so tough, my bread refusing to rise, my chiffon cake having a sole-like layer underneath, my leche flan having too many holes. But they were all part of the learning experience. They did not discourage me, but instead challenged me to keep trying.
High school weekends or summer breaks were sometimes spent attending classes with Sylvia Reynoso. She was my first culinary teacher. Those were the weekends I looked forward to. That gave way to a wider repertoire of what I was able to serve the family.
I took up BS Food Technology at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. It gave me an even deeper understanding of the intricacies of food: the science behind ingredients and how they react, how certain foods are processed, a better understanding of how different flours and starches work, the importance of proper food handling, the chemistry and microbiology behind food and so on. Understanding all these made cooking and baking easier.
My favorite pastime was attending cooking classes. It was a never-ending process of learning. Some of the best teachers I’ve had were Reggie Aspiras, Beth Romualdez, Pacita Martinez, Maur Lichauco, Joy San Gabriel and many more.
I had a stint teaching at Nestlé’s Homemakers’ Club for a few years, too. Though the work was tiring, it was worth seeing the joy in the faces of my students when they liked the dishes I taught them.
My children and I love the adventure of trying out new food. Trips abroad are pretty much foodie adventures for us. Before leaving, we would research and, if necessary, make reservations at restaurants. These explorations are what we enjoy the most, aside from the new places and sights to behold.
Since we do not eat out these days, we cook and enjoy a wide array of food. In fact, we bake our own breads. Now our benchmark is our homemade bread—everyone else’s pales in comparison. We also always compare the food we eat at home and that in restaurants, and often, we think our food at home is better.Making good food is an expression of love for family and friends.
Soup stock:1 kg pork bones, blanched and washed
1 kg chicken bones, blanched and washed
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, roughly cut
1 stalk leek, roughly cut
Half a handful of cilantro roots (optional)
6 cloves garlic
8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms
Enough water to cover
Combine ingredients for soup stock and simmer over very low heat for at least two hours. Strain and use as stock for shabu-shabu.
Other components of shabu-
shabu proper: Fish balls, assorted
Meat balls, assorted
Shrimps, unpeeled, skewered Angus rib eye, sukiyaki cut
Polunchay Fresh shiitake mushrooms
Fresh shimeji mushrooms
Noodles of choice or cooked rice
Sauce for dipping:1 c Bull Head satay sauce or barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp sugar or to taste
2 Tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
Chili to taste
Chopped spring onion
Combine ingredients for sauce. Adjust to taste.
Put the stove at the center of the table. Fill the shabu-shabu
pot with enough stock. Bring stock to a boil.
Allow each person to cook their choice of ingredients in the boiling stock. As for the beef, just boil until color changes. Dip each piece in the sauce as you eat. At the very end, when the stock is very tasty, add noodles or rice as a finale. —CONTRIBUTED by Imelda Tan
The author’s family runs Chefs’ Nook Baking and Cooking Supplies in Mandaluyong, source of hard-to-find Thai ingredients, premium baking chocolates and cocoa from Europe, and other imported baking ingredients.
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