Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Bacolod City: A food lover's paradise

When we mention the word Bacolod, what comes to mind is its most famous import, the super tasty chicken inasal marinated in a melange of ingredients and grilled slowly over charcoal fire. In the City of Smiles, they even have a whole strip of establishments devoted to their own versions of the timeless inasal. Whether one is hankering for chicken gizzard, feet, ass, leg or leeg, Manokan Country is the place to be. Eating chicken Bacolod-style means settling down in one of those formica tables,sprinkling your hot rice with salt and achuete oil, and dipping your favorite chicken part in a sawsawan of soy sauce, vinegar, siling labuyo or what-have-you. This unforgettable feast costs as little as fifty pesos (soft drinks included).

We were able to talk to Bert Tarrosa who has been selling delicious inasal since the 60s. His joint, Aida's Chicken BBQ, is one of the most popular in Manokan Country, averaging 50 heads of chicken a day. Although he has been very successful in his business, Mang Bert refuses to branch out and keeps his recipe a secret, even among his staff.

Seafood lovers, on the other hand, will revel in the culinary pleasures of Pala Pala. The equivalent of Manila's Seaside Market, one gets to pick here the fresh catch of the day and have it cooked in adjoining turo-turo stalls. Dishes to die for include fish tinola, kinilaw, gambas, calamares, and steamed lapu-lapu, among others.

Bacolod - being the center of Sugarlandia - is definitely not wanting in heavenly desserts. This is after all the birthplace of in-demand pasalubongs like piaya, barquillos and napoleones. Other native sweets include butong-butong (similar to the Tagalog tira-tira), inday inday (Negros version of the palitaw), bayi bayi ( flavored like the espasol), dulce gatas and the puto Manapla.

Other restaurants to try are Aboy's, near the Goldenfields Complex, which offers delectable native dishes (surprisingly, the owner of the place is a Kapampangan and a cozy nook called Calea's Bakeshop which is fast gaining popularity even among the Manila crowd for its heavenly cakes and pastries.

Food-making is such a way of life for the Negrense that in places like Silay,they have the age-old ritual of the manug-libud. This activity happens daily in the market area where enterprising womenfolk barter and display 50 or more kinds of the town's best delicacies. Of course, the culinary excitement peaks during the MassKara Festival where stalls of lechon, barbecue, lumpia and other specialties can be sampled by the revelers.

As we found out, Bacolod is more than just sprawling haciendas, ancestral houses and rolling golf courses. It is also about food, glorious food. There is always something for everyone in this Clean and Green city - be it Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Italian or good old Negrense home cooking.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Caesar's Salad & Lamb Kaldereta (from scrap)

I can't imagine myself being a vegetarian but I swear the picture above turned me into an instant salad fanatic. I first tasted this Caesar's salad Pinoy version at Hotel Pontefino but I found out it is also in prime chef Gene Gonzalez's ensalada book where it was called Salad ni Cesar. After tasting this salad, I did not want to have the traditional version anymore where the thousand island dressing comes straight from the bottle. Caesar's Salad, Pinoy version, has a delightfully sweet tangy taste made more unique by the slightest hint of Balayan bagoong which is native to the province of Batangas.

How to make the dressing: Crush garlic very finely then whisk in some egg yolk. Add the mustard and slowly pour in some canola oil oil and whisk again until the mixture becomes of sticky consistency. Afterwards, add the following: 1/3 tsp. calamansi juice, Lea and Perrins worcestershire sauce, a dash of Tabasco and pepper (eight turns from your pepper mill). For the final touch, add 1/2 tsp. sauce from the Balayan bagoong (if you're using the bottle, be sure to skim the watery portion on top).

Dish #2 was a new dish I tried when I miraculously woke up early this week. A consolation for this lazy cook was that it was duly savored by my officemates and twins. Kaldereta is a spicy Filipino stew, probably of Spanish origin, which normally uses goat's meat (kambing), beef or chicken.

For this kaldereta, I had to use lamb chops. I love lamb but most Filipinos don't. In fact, the cruel carnivores among us prefer dog's meat (aargh!)Which is a pity since lamb has less fat and is healthier than those pork dishes like the lechon and binagoongan we die for.
Because I am always challenged making something from scratch, this kaldereta had to go the way of whatever was left in my ref and my kitchen: lamb chops left over from the weekend barbecue,Jean Brunet confit of chicken liver with armagnac (a.k.a. chicken pate)left over from the office Christmas basket (expiry date: February 2006) in lieu of the customary liver spread and Parmesan cheese instead of the Quickmelt, which I didn't have.

How I cooked: Marinate the lamb chops in vinegar and pepper for at least 30 minutes, best if overnight. You may add garlic and salt. Then brown the meat in olive oil (because I want to save on the expensive olive oil, I make it half and half between the olive and Minola), then saute in garlic and onions. Afterwards, pour in tomato sauce and enough water to tenderize. Add paprika, sliced red pepper as well as a little liquid from the olives. If you want a more spicy dish, throw in some fiery siling labuyo. When meat is tender, add the liver spread (or pate, in this case) olives, cheese, salt and a little bit of sugar to taste. Stir to blend and continue simmering till sauce is of desired stewing consistency.

You may ask, measurements, where are the measurements? One of my greatest sins is that I don't measure except when I bake so forgive me.
Bon appetit!