Escoffiette is moving!
I’m pretty excited to announce that I’m merging my personal food tumblr with Randwiches! It means more gifs, more projects and sandwiches galore!
The escoffiette archive will remain here for you to peruse and I hope that it inspires you when you don’t know what you want to eat.
3:01 pm • 3 May 2012 • 5 notes
Deep Fried Bangus
Bangus (buhn-oose) is a common milk fish in the Philippines. Versatile and cheap, almost everyone eats some variation of it for breakfast. One aunt marinates it overnight in vinegar, another just salts it simply; both of them fry it in a lot of oil. Here I am in Ilo-Ilo fearing oil splatter from this delicate fresh fish. I was going for a flaky but crispy texture, so I let it go a little longer one side and merely tickled the other.
9:40 am • 3 May 2012 • 5 notes
Tinola are the leaves of the chili pepper plant, peppery just like arugula but tough. Most Filipino people wilt them in stew. Here we’ve simmered bone-in chicken pieces, a split chili pepper, ginger and onion to make a broth. Young green papaya is peeled and cut into chunks. When they are boiled, they are starchy and soft like potatoes.
9:25 am • 2 May 2012 • 1 note
In Ilo-Ilo, my aunt squatted by a small bbq made of cement. It was so interesting to see such a small scale method of cooking outside. Just some local sea salt and they were done fairly quickly.
10:03 am • 1 May 2012 • 4 notes
I made the mistake of falling asleep while my aunt made pochero or beef stew with potatoes. The broth is thin but flavorful and the beef fell apart when you prodded it with your fork. I slurped up a couple bowls with some rice for texture.
10:01 am • 30 April 2012
Blanched pako with crispy pork and tomatoes
Pako is young, unfurled fern. Much like fiddlehead ferns that grow in Maine, pako is not poisonous so long as they remain furled. I thought the greens were good enough on their own but my aunt had to pile deep fried pieces of crispy pork on top with tomatoes.
10:01 am • 29 April 2012 • 2 notes
Ever wondered what people did with the trotters and the oink? Filipinos roast them to a crisp, chop them with a butcher’s knife and mix the steaming parts with raw onion and ginger. Super fragrant with bits of squishy fat, crispy skin and onion.
10:01 am • 28 April 2012 • 8 notes
Turbo Roasted Farmer’s Market Oysters
I’m not one to correct an older filipino woman but my auntie Minda made these wrong. She was going for the baked oysters with cream that we had at Tatoy’s. After she scrubbed the oysters clean, she sprinkled them with shredded cheese and stuck them in the “turbo” automatic roaster. I never heard of it, but it looks like something from an infomercial. I neglectfully went to check my email and failed to supervise. You know what, I still enjoyed these oysters with their lattice of cheese on top.
10:01 am • 27 April 2012
Lets talk about Filipino kitchens
After all of my gallivanting from island to island, I was ready to get down to business in the kitchen. My aunties Jubeth, Belinda and Minda hosted me for some combination of two weeks in their individual households. Each of them had different styles of cooking and so many things to teach me.
You walk into a kitchen and you see what you’d expect. Tile or linoleum. A small table with 4 chairs. Coffeemaker, dishes stacked on shelves. Eerily undisturbed. Food mysteriously arrives at the table and the kitchen looks spotless! It’s because the food isn’t being prepared in that kitchen. Filipino food is prepared in the dirty kitchen, outside!
Usually a ventilated annex to the house, this is where the action is. The prep, the deep frying, dishwashing and yup —even the laundry.
Let’s be honest. Filipino food stinks. It’s pungent, oily, bold, garlicky and especially fishy. Instead of installing an expensive ventilation system, why not just cook outside all the time! In Ilo-ilo, I worked with 2 burners, a back splash and arsenal of woks. No flat frying pans in this kitchen. All of the knives are big. I watched my aunt cleaver a chicken with skill most people envy in Chinatown shop windows. Preparing food is social, akin to the knitting bee as aunties pick the tinola leaves from their stems. I sat admiring the scene until I was yelled at to stir the squid adobo.
Rice. Always rice. It is not really an accompaniment but a bed of a truck. A vehicle to carry all of the intense flavors you are about to drive into your body.
Sea salt, raw and harvested locally. It feels like sand and probably has some sand in it. It’s unapologetically crusted onto most things and probably why diabetes and stroke run rampant in the Philippines — but that is for another blog another day.
It depends on where you are but you will also have some combination of fresh chili pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and/or calamansi in small ramekins. When Filipinos sit down at a restaurant, they will idly perform the task of making their own brand of sauce while chitchatting about what they’re going to order. It’s like mixing wasabi with your soy sauce at a Japanese restaurant. Occasionally dip your spoon into it to perk up your next bite or straight up dunk a chicken leg when you feel like it was under-seasoned. I prefer a squeeze of calamansi, a pierced thai chili pepper, aged palm vinegar with a smashed clove of garlic; amazing with fish.
So much vegetable oil. I am embarrassed about the amount of oily things I ate for a month straight. But this is how they cook, I had to learn!
At the Table
If you’ve been following this blog’s stream of photos, you have to realize that each steaming dish of food wasn’t a meal in itself. It was only 1/6th or 1/8th of a sit down journey. A typical breakfast spread is rice (fried if it was from last night), a fish, a vegetable, a stew, a meat, perhaps a shellfish and fruit to finish. I’ve explained the multiple meal Hobbit-like nature of Filipino culture but you have to understand the intensity; every meal is heavy.
The thing is, it is rude to leave food on your plate. Even worse, it’s also rude to tell grandma to stop ladling onto your plate. Small eaters like me were referred to as takawmata, a negative term for people who don’t finish their food.
You won’t find a fork and knife at your place setting. Instead you’ll find a spoon and fork. A fork is not used in the Western way of stabbing, but scooting things into the spoon for you to gorge. I’m serious, you can fit more onto a spoon than onto the tines of a fork. Most things are stew and rice anyway!
If you’re eating out farther in the rural areas or with old people, you sort of just use your hands. Pretend that your hand is a duck and its beak is closed. You grab up some rice with the tips of your fingers and then stamp bits of whatever else you’re eating into it. You get a compact bite of everything that way.
Now you’re ready for the rest of my cooking trip!
10:01 am • 26 April 2012 • 32 notes
Best of Makati
I spent a month in The Philippines, a place that I confirmed to be raw and magical. It was important to see where my family came from, to meet distant relatives and to breathe in my heritage. I knew that my family loved food, but I didn’t know that it was so central to Pan-Filipino circuitry. Zipping between metropolitan sprawls to beach resorts to rural compounds, I got a kaleidoscope glimpse of where I come from. It was familiar, but an off feeling of returning to a place you’ve never been. I’ve resolved to go back, there is too much to discover still. Here, I will highlight my favorite dishes in each city.
- Deep fried bangus from Mesa (Greenbelt) - I loved how crispy this fish was. Pretty scary way of plating it though.
- Crispy pata from Mesa (Greenbelt) - More deep fried pork knuckle!
- Mango salad from Mesa (Greenbelt) - Surprising bite of yuzu with unripe mango salad. Something I definitely want to make at home.
- Tacklings from Mercato - Mini tuna tacos with garlicky aioli
- Cheese stick from Cafe Mary Grace (Serendra) - A sweet bun with a large baton of edam cheese inside. So nice.
- Chocolate ensymada with apple cinnamon iced tea from Cafe Mary Grace (Serendra) - Ok, this is where I hit the wall. So much sugar, but no one else was eating it so I shoved the whole thing in my mouth!
As the varnish of vacation started to wear away, I caught my relatives going back to their routines of work and school. I was left alone to reflect upon my weeks of exploration and to go through all the photos. Another set of aunts (surprise surprise, I have billions), invited me out to the Makati area of Manila for the weekend. It’s a 30 minute subway ride from Quezon City. It’s shinier. There are condos, new malls and bigger businesses out there. All we did was mall hop! It was rewarding because we capped off the trip with a visit to the Mercato, a late night street food faire. This was what I was looking for! The drunk food !
It’s hard to draw conclusions about my experience—because it isn’t over! Even though I’m back in New York, I’ve been constantly thinking about how I can use something I’ve learned from my trip. The next couple of posts are going to be about the specific dishes that I learned how to make.
11:01 am • 25 April 2012 • 1 note