Gumbo: a foray into Cajun cuisine

Throughout all our (mis)adventures and run-ins with hot and piquant food, we’ve sampled various cuisines utilizing chilis and spices such as Thai, Tex-Mex, Indian, and Lebanese, just to name a few. Oddly enough, one we had skipped was Cajun, referring to a culinary tradition with its roots among French-Canadians who had settled in Louisiana, USA. For many diners, this word brings to mind dishes such as ‘Cajun chicken’, gumbo, jambalaya, and an assortment of meats smothered in gravy and served on top of ‘dirty rice’. This tradition is often confused with, or crossed over with other traditions of Louisiana such as Creole food, which originated among another set of French immigrants in the area.

For the sake of broadening our horizons, we decided to dine at Gumbo, located in Robinson’s Place, Ermita, Manila. The restaurant’s ambiance on this busy Friday night reminded us of a Mardi Gras combined with a wood-and-brick bistro. The staff were accommodating and prompt with showing us to a table, as well as providing menus and a complimentary appetizer. The facilities themselves were spacious and a welcome respite from the chaos of the mall.

After poring over the rather extensive menu, we ordered the seafood gumbo and the chicken jambalaya. Our server asked us if we wanted the dishes to be mild or spicy, thus we decided to have the ‘mild’ gumbo and the ‘spicy’ jambalaya.  We thought that ‘mild’ would be along the lines of peppery or sweetly piquant. Boy, we were in for a surprise.

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The seafood gumbo was definitely a surprise to the palate. I ordered a mild one and at least to Filipino sensitivities and my subdued eating state, it was already spicy. But it doesn’t take anything away from it, rather, with an extra order of rice or two with the meal, and some yogurt or yakult after it should help make the meal even more palatable. Another plus is how well they cooked the seafood, such as the squid. The squid was firm but not chewing gum with consistency, and the shrimps were well cooked, absorbing all the flavors along with the clams.

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The chicken jambalaya was intimidating at first sight: three large chicken fillets atop a sea of rice and sausages. The chicken itself was mildly flavored; the real star of the dish was the rice! We quickly realized that the hotness of this jambalaya was not an explosion in one’s mouth; rather it was a steady, roaring burn accentuated by the slight saltiness of the sausage. Needless to say, we could not quite finish this dish, as our tastebuds were already begging for mercy.

After such an eventful introduction to Gumbo and its rendition of Cajun cuisine, we look forward to trying some of the other entrees such as the ribs or the pizzas. Other diners may also peruse the drinks and desserts selections to round off their meals.

The Food Score:  4/5: The food comes in hefty, very savory portions. There is no skimping here on flavors, which makes this worth a visit. There is a whole range of entrees and drinks for everything from a family dinner out, to pre-gaming before an evening on the town.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5: The service here is excellent, with dishes arriving promptly at the table, and the staff ready to assist diners. The ambiance, as described, is more homey and welcoming instead of going over the top on the Mardi Gras theme.

GERD Score: 3.5/5: Admittedly, Gumbo isn’t quite the places for people in need of heartburn-friendly food, but at the same time, they still have a decent selection of food for anyone to choose. And also, please do take note that their mildly spicy meals like the jambalaya or gumbo is spicy already for Filipino standards. Anything that goes beyond their restaurant is very bad for your stomach in the event of a heartburn.

Epilepsy Score:  3.5/5: Diners with issues regarding highly seasoned food or gluten may be better off elsewhere; while salads and other options are available, this place’s best-selling dishes lean towards spicy, with plenty of grains and meats. That aside the restaurant’s lighting and music are mellow, and less likely to be jarring or overstimulating.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5 : We certainly cannot eat at this restaurant too often, thanks to our health issues, however it is still worth a second visit if only to try the rest of the Cajun food on the menu. We are glad we found this on a rainy night.

Gumbo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Salad Stop: Salad’s Up

IMG_4641Hi Readers! Finally, Kat and I are taking our graduate degrees (she in MPH and I’m in Law), but it does mean that Kat and I won’t be able to publish as much as we would like to. But that said, we’re still going to write and find places to eat, as well as health information to share with everyone, just like my recent quick respite at Salad Stop.

After a particularly rough week with the start of classes and moving to a new place, I wandered around BGC High Street to find a decent meal to de-stress. I eventually found Salad Stop at the other end of the mall.

Going inside the restaurant, I noticed the light wooden panels complementing the grey concrete walls, surprisingly giving off the feel of breakfast at a garden with the well-lit ambiance

For this solo adventure, I chose the “Go Geisha” salad instead of its wrap counterpart. Normally, when one says ‘salad’, one expects a plate with leafy greens and carrots, but in this instance, it was much more than I expected.

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Go Geisha! (without the red and white lettuce)

The ‘Go Geisha’ salad has romaine, red, and white lettuce, firm tofu, asparagus, carrot, snow peas, soba noodles, cucumber, sesame seeds, and sweet corn, with their Japanese miso dressing. One could also add on baked salmon or fried garlic, which I unfortunately did not do for this trip. The sesame bread stick was a quaint touch as well.

While the restaurant ran out of red and white lettuce that night, the servers added some more romaine lettuce to address the discrepancy. After a few minutes of waiting, my salad bowl arrived. The lettuce greens and assortment of colors made for an appealing meal in itself, which tasted as good as it looked. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, the tofu soft and firm, and the miso dressing brought out another layer of complexity to the salad, with its slightly sweet and sour flavors.

The salads here are definitely a good start to a meal, or if chosen as a wrap, a vegetarian meal all to itself.

Food Score: 4.5/5. One main draw of the food here is the healthy and varied menu. There are salads to suit various tastes and appetites.
Ambiance / Service Score: 4.5/5. From start to finish, especially with the late hour that I got in, the staff maintained a professional and friendly demeanor to them. This Salad Stop has quick service, and the lovely dining experience is a welcome place to share a meal with friends of a light afternoon snack.
GERD Score: 5/5. While not all their selections are heartburn-friendly, the menu shows warnings as to what are spicy and those that trigger allergies from seafood to gluten.
Epilepsy Score: 5/5. An attraction about salad bars like this place is that one can pick or omit ingredients, thus making it easier for persons to avoid ‘trigger foods’ or ingredients that may interact badly with medications. On the whole, the selections are safe for people with seizure conditions.
Team Glasses Score:4.5/5. All things considered, we’re grateful for Salad Stop for being a great place to dine in for people like us who deal with medical conditions and allergies, and have to deal with limited dining options everytime we go out.

The Negative Space Cafe

Negative Space Cafe
Team Glasses’ Student Specials: Part 1
A major change we’ve been hurdling over the past few weeks is that both of us have begun our graduate studies. Among the various challenges our new situation presents is the need to find places where we could spend hours quietly studying, preferably with access to good food and Internet. In the interest of fulfilling all these criteria, we steered clear of the more ubiquitous coffee shops and cafes near our workplaces, and headed back to a familiar area frequented by university students: Maginhawa Street in Diliman. This time we tried out the Negative Space Café, located in Teachers Village.

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The café’s name already suggests a different feel and aesthetic from other ‘art cafes’. Instead of boasting of brightly decorated walls filled up with canvases, sculptures, installations, and kitsch, the Negative Space Café has a spacious, relatively uncluttered interior. The artworks featured on the walls are carefully curated, providing a balance that arouses cafe patrons’’ interest but do not prove too distracting for work. The general feel is that of a straightforward yet welcoming place that is conducive for quiet reading as well as group discussions.

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The menu here at Negative Space Café boasts of an extensive selection of beverages, as well as Japanese-themed snacks and entrees. For our afternoon sojourn here, we tried out the cha soba with vegetable tempura, as well as the Japanese cheese curry bake. The cha soba noodles were firm and lightly flavored with sesame, providing a refreshing contrast to the richer flavors of the vegetable tempura. The tempura went beyond the usual kangkong and radishes; over here even mushrooms and eggplants could be turned into a delectable fried dish.

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On the other hand, the Japanese cheese curry bake was served in a no-nonsense fashion in a ramekin, with a side of coleslaw in Japanese mayonnaise. This entree was not too heavily spiced, and well-balanced by the melted cheese; however, it was not as sweet as we had expected from other Japanese curry recipes. Nevertheless, it was still a filling, satisfying choice for an early dinner.

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Although we had heard of the varied coffee blends available in Negative Space Café, we opted to try the Italian sodas, particularly the watermelon soda as well as peach soda topped with whipped cream. These drinks were refreshing, avoiding the usual sickly sweetness of other carbonated drinks.  The addition of whipped cream to the peach soda turned this concoction into a delightful cream soda that was good as a drink on its own or as a light dessert.
The Negative Space Café is a promising example of what a student hang-out ought to be: affordable, with a variety of quality snacks and light entrees, and with ample facilities for different types of study sessions. We hope that more students as well as patrons from other offices and businesses in the Diliman area will consider this café as a venue not only for solo dining but for group ventures and meetings.
The Food Score:  4/5: The food was reasonably priced and filling, with flavors that were familiar and not too jarring. The selection, though mostly Japanese themed, is varied enough to cater to different appetites and tastes.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: This place goes beyond the usual café setups of small tables and cushy chairs; here there are no-nonsense wooden chairs with wide tables that are more suited for spreading out books and worksheets, or setting up laptops. As mentioned before, the décor and art collections here are quirky yet not overly distracting, thus making the place more conducive for study.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. Considering the size and heftiness of the meals on the stomach, and at the same time, some triggers for food and drinks, one should share meals from the better part of their selection.

Epilepsy Score:  3.5/5: Alas some of the foods here such as the curry cannot be prepared from scratch, and may rely on highly seasoned mixes for quick cooking. Gluten free foods are in short supply here as well. However there is a decent selection of non-caffeinated drinks for those diners sensitive to this substance. The lighting and sounds here are mellow, without flashes or overly loud blaring that may trigger a seizure episode.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. This cafe is not a place for diners looking for haute cuisine or novelty eats. However if one needs an area to work in, with a snack or hot drink on the side, the Negative Space Cafe is a place to go.

Negative Space Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Turning the tables: Capsaicin for people with heartburn

 

 

For many of us dealing with heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), spicy food is a thing of the past for most of us because it triggers the acid and burping. There are exceptions of course, which I’m grateful from an extra pinch of ground pepper to some wasabi paste, but nothing quite beats the heat chili peppers bring.

However, a 2016 study titled “Influence of capsaicin infusion on secondary peristalsis in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease.” by Yi et. al., shows that repeated intake of capsaicin / chili peppers may help reverse the effect of heartburn, as far as people who have triggers with chili peppers are concerned.

According to the said study, people who ate a meal with chili peppers makes the symptoms flare up at the first instance, but repeated exposure to capsaicin may reverse the effects of heartburn. Yet despite these findings, there are still a number of people who complain that consuming chili in any form makes their reflux symptoms flare up. When it comes to GERD, there’s no really telling what sets one’s symptoms without a little carefully thought out trial-and-error.

 

Before one hits the pickled jalapeños, one has to keep in mind that mild chili peppers are the ones best suited for consumption for most people, with or without reflux. In fact some of the hottest peppers can even give chefs and cooks slight burns just from touch.. Tasting and handling aside, the best way to check a pepper’s heat level is with the Scoville Heat Scale. The higher a chili pepper is on the heat scale score, the hotter the pepper is.

 

 

 

Scoville Heat Units Chilli Pepper
1,569,300 – 2,200,000 Carolina Reaper Pepper (PuckerButt Pepper Company, Fort Mill, South Carolina).
350,000 – 577,000 Red Savina habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
100,000 – 350,000 Habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
100,000 – 225,000 Birds Eye pepper
50,000 – 100,000 Thai pepper (Capsicum annuum)
30,000 – 50,000 Cayenne pepper (Capsicum baccatum and Capsicum frutescens )
30,000 – 50,000 Tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens)
5,000 – 10,000 Chipotle, a Jalapeño pepper that has been smoked.
2,500 – 5,000 Jalapeño (Capsicum annuum)
100 – 500 Pepperoncini, pepper (also known as Tuscan peppers, sweet Italian peppers, and golden Greek peppers.
100 – 500 Pimento
0 Sweet Bell pepper

Unfortunately with heartburn, nothing is completely certain since different people have different reactions to their own set of personal triggers, so on one hand, there is hope that repeated attempts to eat chili peppers will increase resistance effects in the long run. On the other hand, it could also give one a pain in the neck after trying something out and the acid shoots up crazier than before.

Personally, I think it’s worth a shot at least once, not because YOLO, but the long term benefits helps one with heartburn live a step nearer to normalcy. Think of it as someone trying to adapt by increasing resistances to an allergy like seafood. But as a precaution, keep heartburn medication on hand in case it doesn’t pan out. Good luck and we hope this helps you out.

References:

http://www.refluxmd.com/turn-heat-turn-heartburn/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28018112

https://www.chilliworld.com/factfile/scoville-scale