Monday, 29 October 2007

Lasang Pinoy 21: Pancit Bihon Guisado

The 21st edition of Lasang Pinoy is brought to you by Bryan of Fire Water Husband (blog under renovation) who has this great idea of Cooking for Heroes. It's just as well that our current logo features the exact hero I want to cook for - Andres Bonifacio.

Even in my elementary school days I feel our dear old Andy Boni got a raw deal. I do believe he should be our national hero for he started the Katipunan, he started the ball rolling to begin the revolution and break free from the colonial masters. And what did he get for all his heroism and troubles? He got salvaged (executed) for being a rival party in the election for the head honcho of the revolutionary government. Then he lost out again almost a hundred years later in being a national hero. If that's not a raw deal I don't know what is.

It's no use arguing now about his place in history but what is undeniable is his courage, heroism, and his love of his country and fellow Filipinos. To you Andres, a big lambanog toast for being a real Pinoy! Thank you for all the things you have done for us.

What I have in mind to cook for him is something that can be considered essentially Filipino and at the same practical and nutritious for a revolutionary who had to eat on the go. And I thought why not our classic pancit. It's a complete meal in itself. It's got carbs, protein from the meat, and some wholesome veggies thrown in the process. Sounds like a good idea to me. :)

Pancit Bihon Guisado

For the pancit recipe itself, this is the culmination of several years of my family's sacrifice of eating pancit as soggy and undercooked or dry and a bit tough or almost tasteless (prompting lots of toyo and lemon juice heaped on it). It took me awhile to get the hang of cooking the noodles just right. There is also the case with the oil, I used to put as little oil as possible while at the same time wondering what makes my mother's pancit well separated and really nice. Well I increased the oil exponentially with each batch - et voila! The oil is crucial! (I bet my doctor's not happy about this.) Too little will make it dry (obviously) and will tend to make it clump together. I also took my mother's advice of cooking the veggies separately to prevent it getting soggy. So like most dishes, cooking pancit successfully has a lot to do with timing. One revelation as well is that the richer your stock the better tasting your pancit will be. That my friend is guaranteed. :)

Pancit Bihon Guisado

250 g  thin or medium rice noodles (bihon)
3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 medium onion - sliced
1/3 cup jullienned carrots
1/4 cup sliced celery (optional)
15 pieces mangetout (sitcharo)
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup sliced meat - chicken, pork, shrimp or combination of these*
1 1/2 cups rich stock
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
freshly ground pepper
additional stock or water
  1. Soak the noodles in tepid water for about 20 minutes or until soft. Using scissors, cut into desired lengths. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a wok, heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in medium heat. Saute half of the garlic and half of the onions.
  3. Add the meat and stir fry a little. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add about 1/4 cup stock or water and simmer until done. You may have to add a bit more stock from time to time to keep it from drying out.
  5. When the meat is done, add the carrots, mangetout, and celery. Stir to combine. There should still be some liquid in the wok if not add about 2-3 Tbsp stock and then cook under cover for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the cabbage, stir fry for a few seconds and cook under cover for 1 minute.
  7. Remove from heat and transfer to a dish. Set aside.
  8. Using the same wok (no need to wash unless there's some burnt crust in the bottom), heat the remaining 2 Tbsp oil on medium heat.
  9. Saute the remaining garlic and onion until onion is translucent.
  10. Tip in the stock and any sauce drained from the meat and veg mixture.
  11. Add the soy sauce and season with black pepper.
  12. Bring to boil then add the noodles. Cover and bring to boil again then lower heat to medium-low.
  13. Once the sauce starts getting absorbed by the noodles (about 5 minutes), toss and stir the noodles (preferably with large forks for easier tossing) until all the sauce is absorbed and the noodles are fully cooked. The tossing also make sure that the strands are separated and do not clump together. Don't worry if the bottom is getting a bit crusty. At the end there should be no sauce left but the noodles should still be moist, cooked but not soggy.
  14. Add half of the meat/veg mixture and toss to mix.
  15. Dish up and transfer to a dish. Top with the rest of the meat/veg mixture. Serve with calamansi or lemon on the side.
*Note: You may use precooked meat in which case add it in at the same time as the carrots and mangetout.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Prawns with Peas

Prawns with Peas

The short-lived summer here UK is only alleviated by the onslaught of fresh seasonal vegetables. One of my favourites - green peas - is a very much welcome addition to our table anytime. I tell you frozen peas is no match to the sweetness of fresh green peas especially if it's freshly picked right off your garden. I'm still trying to find the numerous ways of cooking it though this marriage with prawns is not bad at all. In fact, it's more than good because in all its simplicity I love it! This is adapted from my all-time trusted Chinese Cuisine by Huang Su-Huei.

Stir-fried Prawns With Peas

250 g  raw prawns or shrimps - shelled and deveined
1 tsp cooking wine
1 Tbsp egg whites - slightly beaten
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 green onion - cut into 1-inch pieces
6 slices of ginger root
1 cup green peas - precooked
oil for frying

1 tsp cooking wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
ground black pepper
  1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a container. Set aside.
  2. Place prawns in a bowl and season with salt.
  3. Add cooking wine, egg whites, and cornstarch. Mix well.
  4. Heat a wok then add about 2 Tbsp oil. Swirl the wok around so the oil coats it well.
  5. Fry the prawns in medium heat for about 3 minutes. Remove from the wok and set aside.
  6. Put 1 Tbsp oil in the wok, heat up and stir fry the green onions and ginger over medium heat.
  7. Add the prawns, stir fry for a few seconds.
  8. Add the sauce, turn heat to high and stir fry quick just enough to mix.
  9. Dish up and serve.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Peeling Pineapples (Piña)

In my first few months here in UK (back in the mid-90s), I missed Asian food so much that I was always scouring the aisles of our local supermarket for anything mildly Oriental or Southeast Asian. You could just imagine my delight when I saw a stack of fresh pineapples (pinya or piña in Tagalog/Spanish) in our local supermarket. What's more, it's got a sign saying that they will peel it for free. I thought that would save me a lot of effort and time so off I went and bought one. The lady on the counter got my pineapple, chopped off the top and bottom, sat it on a metal contraption with a big lever. Then she got hold of the lever pulled it down in one big motion - whoosh! Out came my pineapple in a perfect cylindrical shape with a hole in the middle looking exactly like what you get from cans. Well, at least it was done in no time at all but I have to lament the large amount of wasted pineapple! I'm one person who hates waste and I was just flabbergasted with how much was taken off it.

As an alternative I'll show you how pineapple is peeled in the Philippines wherein you can get the most out of your 'multi-eyed' fruit. See the series of pictures below on how you can peel your pineapple. It may take a bit more time but the satisfaction of having a more aesthetically pleasing and less wasteful way of doing things will surely encourage you to try this.

[Click on the pictures for a bigger view]

First off you start with your pineapple. Have a chopping board and a sharp knife ready.

how to peel pineapples
Chop off both ends. If you're using this as a centre-piece in a buffet table, don't take off the leafy end to make it more interesting and exotic looking plus making sure that the bottom is level.

how to peel pineapples
Now slice off the skin from top to bottom taking off just enough to expose the flesh.

how to peel pineapples
Once you have peeled off all of the skin you will be left with just the 'eyes' or 'dots' that go deep into the flesh. We're now ready to connect the 'dots'. The idea is to remove the eyes without cutting out too much of the flesh. If you have a melon baller you can scoop out the eyes one by one thereby making it even less wasteful. But if you only have knife read on ...

If you notice the eyes are arranged by nature so that they have natural diagonal alignments. The lines they form are either slanted left to right or right to left. Choose one of the lines to follow (I usually take the less slanted one). Now, connect the eyes along the line that you chose by making a V-shaped canal with your sharp knife (usually you connect two eyes at a time).

how to peel pineapples
Do this for all the eyes until you get a nicely patterned fruit as shown above.

how to peel pineapples
To serve, slice vertically along the core of the pinapple into wedges. Best served chilled with a little salt on the side. Yum!