‘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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Abuzz with Bumble Brew

We never thought that an unexpected run-in with an old friend at an art gallery would lead to us learning about another source of probiotics, but that’s precisely what happened around a year ago. While discussing various digestive woes such as reflux, our adventurous buddy told us about a special tea called Kombucha.

“Komubu—what??” I asked.

“Kombucha. Fermented tea,” our friend explained before going on about the high probiotic load of this new drink, and how healthy it could be. Later, our research told us more about this unusual concoction. Kombucha, also known as ‘mushroom tea’ is essentially black or green tea that has been fermented with the help of a special bacteria-yeast culture. Think Yakult, but made with tea.

Kombucha is said to have originated in Manchuria, and has been touted as having various health benefits such as boosting metabolism and aiding in digestion. At present, kombucha is still under scientific investigation as to its medical uses and benefits for those with illnesses and chronic conditions. It is loaded with B vitamins and probiotics that can be beneficial to healthy persons and those that need some help with digestion. Generally, properly prepared and stored kombucha is deemed safe for human consumption.

Knowing this, we set off on a search for a good source of kombucha, only to find out that there are as many kombucha recipes as there are brewers! Kombucha can vary in its taste and acidity depending on the type of tea being fermented, the temperatures in the area, and the sorts of sugars or sweeteners added (unsweetened kombucha is probably not something the human palate can withstand!). We were lucky to come across Bumble Brew JUN Kombucha, a kombucha drink that is not only energizing but delicious as well.

Unlike other kombucha brews which utilize black tea, Bumble Brew is fermented from green tea. It also is fermented with raw honey instead of sugar, and flavored with fresh fruit and herb infusions. The result is a kombucha that is less acidic tasting, lighter on the palate, and even refreshing. This is definitely something to consider during this especially hot finals week!

We had the opportunity to try several flavors of Bumble Brew. Our particular favorite is the apple-cinnamon flavor, owing to its slightly spicy yet refreshing taste, with just the right amount of sweetness to it.

However there’s a caveat. Since it’s made from green tea, those highly sensitive to caffeine might find it best be best to go easy on the product. However that aside, it is still a great and affordable source of probiotics and antioxidants, right here in the busy metropolis.

To find out more about Bumble Brew, visit their homepage on FB at Bumble Brew PH.

 

The Great Brown Rice Switch

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Kat:

A meal cannot be said to be complete in many parts of the world without a heap of piping hot, soft white rice. In fact for many people, rice cannot be any other color but white. So when the idea of eating brown rice was first mentioned at home, for the sake of health benefits, I could not help but inwardly hope that this would only be a temporary state of affairs. After all, the idea was so alien, and literally not easy to swallow.

 

As it turned out, brown rice was not entirely unfamiliar. Brown rice is actually whole grain rice, which means that it is rice that has only its outer hull removed. Its color comes from the bran layer and cereal germ, which are also removed when milling white rice. In a sense brown rice is analogous to whole wheat bread, while white rice is akin to white bread.

 

One thing that takes some getting used to when it comes to brown rice is the taste. Unlike white rice, which has a soft and mild flavor, brown rice is nutty and occasionally with some earthy overtones. Brown rice also has a less polished consistency, which sometimes makes it difficult to partner with sauces and soupy dishes. In my experience, light cream sauces or curries go well on brown rice. Thick hearty stews such as sinigang, or rich gravies are also great with brown rice. Tomato-based stews have limited success on brown rice, while au gratin is a disaster!

 

Another challenge I face with brown rice is simply with cooking it. Unlike white rice, which is relatively easy to manage whether in a traditional pot or rice cooker, brown rice requires a little more care to get to the right consistency, owing to its more complex layers. It may also need more water to cook. This is one kind of rice that cannot simply be left to boil unattended. Nowadays I am able not only to boil brown rice, but to rejuvenate cooked brown rice by lightly frying in oil with garlic. This is a great way to take brown rice from dinner to breakfast.

 

What makes these trade-offs worthwhile? Compared to white rice, brown rice has higher amounts of rice, Vitamins B1 (thiamin) and B3 (niacin), Vitamin B6, and micronutrients such as selenium, phosphorus and magnesium. Brown rice is also considered a complex carbohydrate, which means that it takes longer to digest and metabolize than simple carbohydrates found in white bread, white rice, and candies. This allows for better control of blood sugar, which is excellent for preventing unexpected spikes and crashes. Brown rice is also a great source of fiber, which helps keep things running smoothly in the digestive system.

 

It’s been around eight or so years since I’ve made the switch to brown rice, at least for meals at home. My body can definitely tell the difference on the days when I do not have brown rice; for one thing I get hungry more quickly in its absence. Of course having brown rice as a healthier substitute to white rice does not mean I can eat as much of it as I like. Even with this, moderation is necessary to stay in good health.

 

Lee:

And then in my case, it was a wake up call to be more health conscious. On a texture and taste standpoint, it isn’t as sweet as white rice and the texture is coarser in comparison. However, after plenty of times eating brown rice, it helped make my bowel movements feel regular during the times that I ate these. Admittedly, it takes a while to get used to, but once you’re used to it, it’s the type of rice you’d look for and it also helps set you up for other types such as red rice.

 

Featured image from: https://pixabay.com/en/brown-rice-risotto-mushrooms-699836/

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.