‘Sup with Sorghum?

During one of our recent forays into a food exhibition we passed by, we tried out what appeared initially to be popcorn. However, something about its texture was lighter than what we expected, leading us to inquire a little further.

 

We were proudly told by the exhibitioner that what we had was not corn at all, but Sorghum.

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Sor….what? Was this another up and coming healthy food trend? Not exactly. We learned that sorghum has been around a lot longer than we thought. The plant known as sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) has been cultivated for thousands of years as a staple in parts of the continent of Africa as well as in the subcontinent of India. It is a hardy plant that can withstand dry and harsh conditions, and has been said to be able to take root even with less cultivated soils. Several varieties of sorghum are used not only as bases for breads and porridges, but even as sweeteners.

 

In recent years, sorghum has caught the attention of health conscious foodies, thanks to its nutrition density. A 100 gram serving of sorghum delivers around 339 to 355 kilocalories, which is a little less than the calories present in a similar sized serving of quinoa. Sorghum also packs more protein, iron, and dietary fiber than other staple foods such as rice. This makes sorghum appealing to those intending to go on a diet limiting simple carbohydrates. Another attractive quality of sorghum is the fact that it is gluten free, making this a great choice for those with gluten hypersensitivities or allergies.

 

How does one cook sorghum? Grainhouse provides two suggestions for cooking sorghum. It can be boiled just like rice until it is soft, or it can be popped just like corn. Sorghum’s mild flavor lends itself well to being combined with flavorful sauces and meats for an entree, or with salt and spices as a popped snack. More adventurous gourmands may want to try out traditional recipes from India or northeastern African, using sorghum to make porridge or couscous.

 

At present, sorghum is not widely available in the Philippines. However it is being cultivated by small scale growers in Ilocos Norte, as part of initiatives to provide alternative grain sources as well as livelihood for communities. This is exactly what Wholly Grain by Grainhouse is doing right now.

 

In case you’re looking for something different from the usual popcorn, or are simply health conscious, sorghum would be a great healthy alternative to consider. We hope to see this crop find a place in our local culinary repertoire.

 

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Ted’s Kitchen

Although we spend 95% of our time in the city, there are occasions when work or classes bring us out of the metropolis. Last June, I spent much of my time with some classmates in the municipality of Santa Cruz, Laguna. The locale is known as being a gateway to many of the natural and historical wonders of the province, as well as a source of the creamy cheese known as kesong puti. After asking around a little about the favorite dining spots and food parks in the town, we decided to make an excursion to Ted’s Kitchen in Barangay Duhat, near the border of Santa Cruz and Pila.

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We quickly discovered that Ted’s Kitchen, in addition to its restaurant, also had its own bakeshop as well as bed-and-breakfast facilities. In fact it was the bakeshop and its assortment of cakes and pastries that caught my friends’ attention when we entered the premises. Over the course of two visits, we got to sample several specialty cakes and cheesecakes, among other meals and entrees.

One bestseller is the avocado cheesecake, a rich and hearty concoction with the subtle flavor of avocado. The texture of the fruit also mixes perfectly with that of the cheese, making it a dessert to travel miles for. Another favorite dessert was the chocolate bomb, a ganache cake topped with crunchy Maltesers. This confection is great combined with brewed coffee, some mint tea or earl grey or better yet the affogatto. These were definitely worth our impromptu tasting session after a long day on the field.

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Chocolate Bomb! We ended up bringing home several slices of this to Manila

Other treats worth trying are the blueberry cheesecake, the tiramisu as well as the lava cake. These are also great with coffee, or partnered with the different herbal teas available at the counter. Various breakfast plates, burger and steak dishes, and homemade pastas are also featured on the menu.

 

Food Score: 4.5/5: Many of the dishes at Ted’s Kitchen are homestyle American specialties done well such as burgers and steaks. However the real attractions are the baked goods, which are not overly sweet, and still preserve the rich flavors of nuts and chocolate.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The atmosphere is very cozy, evocative of toy chests and nooks of plants and rocking chairs. It is perfect for a brunch or lunch catching up with friends, a hearty family dinner, or even just alone time to read a good book.

Service Score: 3.5/5: The service here is best described as leisurely, which is perfect for those stopping by for a long lunch or dinner. Not so much for those on a hurry on the national highway.

GERD Score: 4/5: Their selection of meals and drinks here provides an ample amount of choices for anyone dealing with heartburn, from the pastries, drinks, and meals here.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Some of the dishes rely on preserved meats such as sausages, which may be problematic for sensitive diners. However there is a great selection of herbal teas and fresh fruit shakes and juices that are excellent for neurodivergent diners who need to cut back on sugars and preservatives, or watch their food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Laguna may be known for a good many delicacies such as kesong puti and buko pie, but the food from Ted’s Kitchen really should also be on the list of ‘foods to try’ for any traveler. But is any distance too far to travel for good food? We at Team Glasses will let you, our readers, be the judge!

Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 (a book review)

What makes a city? It is more than just the mortar and stone in its buildings, or even the very people populating it. A key aspect of a metropolis is its supply lines for food and resources, which is the very thesis of Daniel F. Doeppers’ book, Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945.

 

Doeppers, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has retold some of the most intriguing chapters of Manila’s history in terms of how its inhabitants regularly (or not so regularly) ate, drank, and sourced their basic needs from nearby provinces. The book goes into interesting details ranging from how the waterways of Bulacan and Malabon were changed to accommodate the rice trade, all the way to the rise of the popularity of chocolate as a beverage, and how it was displaced by coffee. Everything from animal and human diseases, fishing practices, and the potable water supply makes its way into the text.

Apart from these bits of trivia, Doeppers’ text also documents the rise of families and companies involved in the food industry, many of which are still big players in commerce to this day.

 

Although lengthy and at times tedious with its emphasis on economic trends and statistics, Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 provides a fresh look into life in the city of Manila, especially for the denizens who hardly get a mention in textbooks. One gets a vivid sense of the ingenuity, tenacity and good humor characterizing the residents of this old city, all the way up to the devastation that befell it during the Second World War. It reminds people that much of human history is associated with the realities of existence such as feast and famine, all of which go on despite upheavals and grand events.

 

This book is a recommended read not only for anthropologists and scholars of Philippine History, but even for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It is well thought out and spaced under easy to follow subject headings, making it suitable for earnest study as well as casual reading. Since we at Team Glasses Food Blog are not only foodies but also history geeks, this book was a particular treat.

 

Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 is available from the Ateneo de Manila University Press at Bellarmine Hall, Katipunan Avenue. More details may be found at www.ateneopress.org.

(featured image from wikipedia)

Strawless Saturday

One concern that has crossed our minds time and again is the amount of plastic and other waste that is inevitably generated whenever we go out to eat. While opting to ‘dine in’ instead of taking out our food ‘to go’ saves a great deal in terms of plastic bags, paper cartons and other packaging, there are still other ways that plastic is unnecessarily used in restaurants, cafes, and other establishments. One example is the use of plastic straws, to the point that these plastic tubes seem like de rigeur garnishing to one’s iced tea and fruit juice.

 

It was estimated by National Geographic that 500 million straws are used each day in America alone. Although plastic straws are only a small portion of the plastic debris generated each day around the world, they pose their own form of danger especially to marine life. Oftentimes plastic straws are not recycled and thus end up recklessly discarded in places such as our waterways. When plastic straws make their way to the ocean, they can end up being ingested by turtles, fish, and even birds who mistake these for food. Plastic straws can also entangle animals, making them suffer painful injuries or even maiming them for life. Since plastic straws do not decompose easily, they can stay in our oceans indefinitely.

 

This is why we at Team Glasses practice what we have nicknamed “Strawless Saturday”, which is basically not using plastic straws when we dine out. Sometimes it is just as simple as asking the wait staff to refrain from giving us straws in our drinks. Of course, this practice isn’t limited only to weekends; even on our weekday or after school jaunts we eschew straws too.

 

At first it was not easy to start our Strawless Saturdays. Reaching for a straw had become part of our muscle memory, and it took a little reminding for us to learn to do otherwise. However, we soon got used to sipping our drinks the old-fashioned way, setting the straws aside altogether.

 

Nevertheless, we know that there are some people who, for health or hygiene reasons, insist on using straws in their drinks. Thankfully, alternatives to plastic straws are now becoming hip and available, such as metal straws. These durable and reusable straws are safe for culinary use, and are as easy to carry around as personal cutlery. Some restaurants we’ve visited such as Bucky’s and Wild Poppy are also regularly using metal straws for their beverages and desserts.

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Note the metal straw

Metal straws can be ordered online from stores such as Sip PH, or services such as Lazada. This little step can go a long way in keeping our oceans safe, not only for humans but for all creatures that live in it!  

Featured image taken from: https://commons.wikimedia.org

Sunday finds: Kapoke

Kapoké

For a good many people, the idea of eating ‘raw fish’ is equated to eating Japanese specialties such as sushi, sashimi, or our local Pinoy kinilaw. More finicky folks may insist they are eating fish tartare. In recent years though, a new food craze has given these Asian classics new life.

Poké (pronounced as poʊˈkeɪ) has its origins in Hawaii, where it is usually served up as an appetizer. The main base for poké is raw fish or seafood, mixed with onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and other seasonings. Innovative chefs have made new poké combinations with varying sauces such as the infamous Sriracha, and new toppings such as mushrooms and mangoes. One such enterprise here in Metro Manila is Kapoké, a friendly weekend stall enterprise that allows customers to also experiment with their own combinations for poké.

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One breezy Sunday lunchtime, we found Kapoké while exploring a weekend market near our usual haunts. And on their menu, we had to choose the different parts of our customized poké meal. Being first timers in the art of the poké, they were more than happy to guide us along with crafting our bowl. Every bowl is composed of a base (salad greens, sushi rice, and plain rice), your choice of fish (tuna, salmon, or a combination), and a selection of toppings and condiments like green onions and sesame seeds to esoteric ones like chicharon bits, nori, and wasabi mayo.

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Unlike other very strongly seasoned fish dishes, our poké bowl turned out to be light and refreshing. We selected sushi rice with salmon, cabbage, green onions, sesame seeds and chicharon bits, topped with wasabi mayo for a subtle kick. It was right on the money with how most ingredients did not overlap the other. The wasabi wasn’t overpowering and was still able to enhance the flavor of the salmon, while the greens and seeds gave it a crunchy texture. One nitpick is that the sushi rice could have used a bit more mirin-rice vinegar to further stand out. This aside, we definitely enjoyed our shared bowl during that lovely Sunday lunch, and we look forward to trying more poké combinations in the near future.
Kapoké can be found each Sunday at the Legaspi Market, located at Herrera st. cor Legazpi and Salcedo V.A. Rufino St, Legazpi Village, Makati City.

Tablea Xiao Long Bao

Tablea Xiao Long Bao…say what??

 

This is not a drill.

 

One of the frustrations stemming from my food restrictions is a moratorium on eating dumplings and other dim sum, unless I can ascertain its contents all the way down to any additives or seasonings. The particular dumpling I have come to miss is the Xiao Long Bao, that famed soup dumpling purportedly originating from Shanghai. These are usually filled with a mixture of pork and broth, served almost hot enough to scald a careless eater’s tongue.

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I thought myself resigned to having to make my own dumplings until an unexpected side trip to this year’s Ultimate Taste Test event held in Makati City. Among the many delectable and eye-catching entries, one immediately grabbed my attention: the tablea xiao long bao courtesy of Sabaw Dumplings. I had to blink several times to make sure I had read the menu correctly, but there was no mistake. Right in front of me were freshly steamed dumplings filled with melted dark chocolate enclosed in a chocolate dough wrapper.

I was warned not to bite into my tablea xiao long bao, in order to prevent the liquified chocolate from oozing out onto my hands or my clothes. With this advice in mind, I carefully popped the first of three dumplings in my mouth, and wound up with an explosion on my tongue, as if I had taken a shot of a very thick hot chocolate drink. After a little while I was able to more safely enjoy the other two dumplings, and appreciate the slightly nutty, bittersweet flavor of the tablea filling. Who would ever have considered xiao long bao as dessert?

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In Lee’s case on the other hand, he had a go at the bula long bao. After two unsuccessful tries of pushing the dumpling into his mouth without popping the wrapper, third time was the charm. As he puts it, it was all the good hearty goodness of bulalo into one mouthful. The tender meat and potatoes to the slow cooked broth itself, it all exploded and provided a much needed kick for the food-heavy afternoon we both had. In hindsight, he posits, “I should have bought two orders for myself.” Only concern we might have would be not being sure about the actual ingredients and process into making the soup base, but otherwise, Lee still recommends it.

 

For more xiao long bao goodness, check out Sabaw Dumplings at their homepage on Facebook.

On Tagines and Pierogi: Al Fresco Dining at the Salcedo Market

Public and community markets are acquiring additional faces here in the Philippines. Although most markets are still comprised of rows of stalls housed in large buildings and divided into ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ sections, other set ups such as night markets and open-air markets have been established in some communities. One example is the Salcedo Market, which is open on Saturday mornings at Jaime Velasquez Park, in Makati City. This weekly market is not only a place to acquire some choice organic produce, meats, fish, and deli items, but it is also a haven for diners seeking comfort food as well as less well-known cuisines in a more relaxed environment than a food park or restaurant.

We decided to have a late breakfast-early brunch here on one lazy weekend. It took us some time to browse through all the stalls offering all kinds of foods from sandwiches to paella. Eventually we decided on some chicken saffron tagine from The Real Moroccan Cuisine and pierogi dumplings from Babci.

The chicken saffron tagine was served on a bed of saffron rice, with an olive garnish. Although the saffron rice was a little lacking in flavor, the chicken had a distinct lemony taste with hints of saffron that played well on the taste buds. The meat itself was falling off the bone; another sign of careful slow cooking. The black olives were firm, soft, and flavorful, complimenting the dish as a whole,but perhaps they should watch a bit more closely to removing the pit in order to prevent accidents. In summary, it was a very filling dish that would do well to keep you from feeling hungry throughout the day.

Pierogi are filled dumplings, originating from Poland. Babci offers a whole range of pierogi fillings ranging from traditional ones such as sauerkraut and potatoes, to more innovative creations including chocolate and fruits. Since we were having brunch, we decided on a trio of savory pierogi: potato with cheese and onion (also known as ruskie, a classic meat mix, and last but not the least, cabbage with mushrooms and a hint of truffle oil.  All of the pierogi came topped with caramelized onions and cream. The ruskie had a rich but not overwhelming flavor, with the perfect balance of both cheese and onion. The meat pierogi was strongly seasoned, but without being overly salty for enjoyment. On the other hand, the truffle oil lent a distinct sharpness to the last pierogi, but that soon gave way to the subtler flavors of mushrooms and cabbage. It was a welcome change from the more richly filled and flavors dimsum houses or other cuisines with a tradition of dumplings. Babci also offers a variety of sausages (served with pita bread or rice) that are made without extenders or excessive amounts of other preservatives.

Hopefully we will have another opportunity soon to sample more culinary treats from the Salcedo Market. It is fortunate to see many small and medium food enterprises emerging to give diners more healthy and diverse options to suit all palates and needs.

The Food Score: 4/5: Although there were some misses when it comes to the flavors of the pierogi and the chicken tagine, the dishes on the whole were affordable, filling, and satisfying to eat.

Ambiance/Service Score: 5/5: One feature of the Salcedo Market is al fresco dining. The ambiance is bustling but relaxed, conducive at least for casual conversation or taking a rest before rushing off to peruse more items in the stalls. The market is clean, organized, and safe on the whole

GERD Score: 4.5/5: The Real Moroccan Cuisine and Babci offers savory food spiced just the way we like them, as such isn’t a problem unless these have your triggers. But I do say that the serving size of the chicken tangine is great for sharing rather than taking it on alone.

Epilepsy Score:  5/5: Food options in The Real Moroccan Cuisine and Babci are free of preservatives and extenders. Non caffeinated teas and other drinks are available in the former establishment and in other stalls. The marketplace is a haven for health buffs after all.
Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5 Although there is still room for improvement with the food and the set-up of the market, this is a promising place for foodies and those interested in healthy eating and organic products.