Quality affordable condos in Manila

Own an affordable Ayala Land condominium in the heart of Manila. It's located beside SM San Lazaro, a five-minute ride away from the University Belt and UST, and a stone's throw from LRT Tayuman Station.

Now pre-selling units in Tower 5.
Studio (22.4 - 23.49 sq. m.) - P1.6M - P1.8M
1BR (39.36 - 40.73 sq. m.) - P2.9M - P3.3M
2BR (45.49 sq.m.) - P3.5M - P3.8M
Loft (39.85 - 66.83 sq. m.) - P3.2M - P5.1M

For inquiries please contact Eva at
or email mhie(underscore)bate22(at)yahoo(dot)com

05 August 2010

Gaaaha. I realized I have not posted here for a long time. I miss the ampalaya-pineapple salad my mom used to make, so I'll try to re-create it here. The sweetness of the pineapple is supposed to balance out the bitterness of the ampalaya, so make sure the pineapple, if fresh, is sweet. Otherwise, you can use the canned sweetened variety used to make fruit cups.

Ampalaya-Pineapple Salad

2 medium-sized ampalaya
1 small sweet pineapple, or 1 439g can of pineapple tidbits in sweet syrup
salt to taste

1. Slice the ampalaya lengthwise and remove the pithy part with the seeds.
2. Now slice the ampalaya crosswise, the thinnest slices you can manage. Wash the slices in water and squeeze to remove some of the bitterness. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and squeeze again (this is important! my mom says it makes the ampalaya less bitter).
3. Slice the pineapple into bite-sized pieces. Alternately, if using the canned type, drain of syrup (you can put the syrup aside to use in other dishes; I use it to make pineapple-flavored jello, for one).
4. Mix ampalaya and pineapple tidbits in a bowl. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.

Serves about four to six.

03 February 2010

This is a recipe I was taught in high school, umpteen years ago, actually. It is different from your usual run-of-the-mill atchara recipe, as it takes longer and is kind of messy, but it is yummier, since the flavor gets more ingrained in the pickles. At least from my point of view. LOL. I still make it when I have the time, as the ingredients need to be prepped a week in advance.

Mixed Sweet Vegetable Pickles

Two medium-sized unripe papaya (green or yellowish, but not ripe)
One bunch eggplants (about 5 - 6 medium-sized ones)
One bunch ampalaya or bitter gourd (about 3-5 medium sized ones)
Two medium sized onions
One head garlic
One head cauliflower
Three big red bell peppers or four medium-sized ones
Four to five jars for pickling
About 16 cups of water
One and a half cups of salt (one cup of salt to 10 cups of water)
One teaspoon of alum powder
Five cups of vinegar
Five cups of sugar

1. Cut the papayas in half lengthwise and shred into strips using a shredder; if you do not have one, a fork will do. Slice the eggplants, ampalaya and onions into bite-sized pieces. Peel the garlic cloves and cut each in half. Also break the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and cut the bell peppers into strips. Wash.

2. In a container, mix 16 cups water, one and a half cups of salt, and one teaspoon of alum powder until thoroughly dissolved. Place shredded and sliced vegetables in pickle jars and fill with brine solution. Cap tightly and store in a cool dry place for a week.

3. After a week, take the vegetables out from the brine solution and wash thoroughly until water is clear. Don't worry if the vegetables look discolored; discard any moldy parts, however. You can also use your pickle jars for the finished pickles if you wash and sterilize them.

4. In a big wok or kawali, mix five cups of vinegar and five cups of sugar and heat slowly while stirring. When sugar is thoroughly dissolved and vinegar begins to simmer, add the vegetables and mix for about five minutes or until the briny smell of the vegetables has been removed. Remove from fire and place in jars, filling with the sugar-vinegar solution to the brim. Seal tightly.

Makes about four to five jars.

25 November 2009

My two roomies said tonight that they didn't feel like eating rice. Instead they felt the need for some pasta. Initially they thought they wanted some instant mac and cheese, but the servings were too small. So we ended up at Puregold looking at the available pasta... and this is what we came up with.

Pasta a la Ulam King

400 grams penne
2 155-g cans of Ulam King spaghetti sauce
1 90-g foil pack Del Monte tomato sauce
half a bottle of UFC tamis-anghang banana ketchup
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/2 cup evaporated filled milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 100-g pack of Cheezee

1. Cook penne according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
2. In rice cooker, or any pot, saute garlic and onion in cooking oil, but do not allow to turn brown.
3. Pour in Ulam King spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, and ketchup and stir.
4. Add milk to dilute the sauce. Stir and break up big chunks of vienna sausage in order to make the sauce smoother.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the sauce is heated through and through, remove from heat and pour on pasta.
6. Using a fork, grate Cheezee over pasta and serve while hot.

Serves 3 with leftovers.

Total cost: About P120.

13 November 2009

...a Black Forest cake.

When I was growing up in South Cotabato, the word "cake" meant only either a sponge cake or a chiffon cake, the latter being "better" than the former. It more often than not was a plain cake; if you were lucky you'd get white sugar icing on it, and if you were luckier you'd get decorative icing and a few sugar flowerets on it too. I loved the idea of "cake," but grew to hate those kinds of cakes, and took only the thinnest slice out of politeness when cake was served at parties. When my dad brought me home a butter cake for my birthday, it tasted so different from other cakes then available that I ate more than I usually did. Everybody at my birthday jostled for a taste of that cake. Unfortunately, it seemed no one had ever tasted butter before and everyone, except me, had a case of LBM the next day.

So, mention "cake" to me in my grade school and high school years and I could never muster up any excitement for it. Come college, however, my uncle would bring us a Mix 'N Magic chocolate roll cake from General Santos City whenever he came to visit. That was a special treat, although I guess at present it would just be like those plain chocolate roll cakes at Goldilocks. At that time though, the thick chocolate icing tasted heavenly.

Then, one New Year, my sister's best friend Jazz brought us a couple of slices of a chocolate cake she said her sister-in-law, who worked in a bakery in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, had brought for their family. It was laden with chocolate, and whipped cream, and nuts, and cherries, and I only got a couple of forkfuls. I had never tasted anything so wonderful in my life, and it was gone before you could ask "What kind of cake is that?" Jazz said she didn't know, and that her sister-in-law didn't know the recipe either because her boss was the only one who could make it, and he didn't make it all that often. It was such a special kind of chocolate cake that people came from all over just to buy it, she said.

For three years I craved for another taste of that cake, but Jazz's sister-in-law had stopped working at that bakery and it was too far away for us to go there just on the off chance that the cake was available. Even Mix 'N Magic didn't have that kind of chocolate cake in its display case, each time I looked.

Then, I came to Manila and I got used to eating at Goldilocks and Red Ribbon. I realized that the cake I had been craving for for many years was actually a Black Forest cake. I have tried almost all the kinds of cakes available at these two bakeshops, but I still keep coming back to Black Forest. It's still my favorite. It just tastes better and better every time I eat it! So on my birthday, and on Christmas, which are actually just days apart, I usually buy a Black Forest cake to celebrate them with. For me, it's still the best cake in the world.

Recently, KusinaMaria.com and DavaoFoodie.com came up with their Bake Me A Cake contest, asking what cake we'd like them to bake for us. The choice is obvious: Please, please, bake me a Black Forest cake.

Photo: “Black Forest Cake” by eliza, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

10 November 2009

Utan. The dish which all Ilonggo cooks must learn. Unlike other dishes which have a set recipe, utan is actually a flexible dish. Its ingredients follow some general types, and vary depending on what is available. This is where I fail miserably because I don't know what will work with what!

Anyway, when I missed this dish so much that I wanted to try cooking it, I texted my mom, who lives at the other end of the archipelago, and she gave me some pointers.

Utan is generally made up of the available green leafy vegetables, fruit vegetables, and subak. Subak is the protein part of the dish and gives it flavor. My mom uses whichever is available between fried meat, fried fish, or dried fish. The fried or dried fish must have firm, not flaky flesh, such as tanigue or bariles. You can also use dried anchovies (baringon / bolinao).

My mother said that you put in first the ingredients that take longer to cook. The subak doesn't need much cooking because it is usually already pre-cooked; meat or fish used are usually left-overs from a previous meal. Leaves are put in last because they cook fast and you don't want them to be too mushy. Also, you need only enough water to cover the ingredients because once they cook, the vegetables also produce their own juices. This is why utan should preferably be made with fresh veggies. It has a clear, thick broth that tastes salty-sweet-- salty because of the subak and sweet because of the veggies.

Utan a la Mama

Green leafy vegetables (Alugbati, malunggay, tagabang or kulitis (alone or in combination)), 1 bunch
Fruit vegetables (Eggplant and/or okra), 1 medium sized piece or 2 small ones
Subak (cubed dried fish, fried fish or meat, about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
Salt to taste
Enough water to cover all the ingredients in the pot

1. Take your green leafy vegetables and separate the leaves, including the tender shoots at the end of the stems, from the stems. Throw the stems away.
2. Slice your eggplant and okra. Lengthwise or crosswise will do, just remember that thicker and bigger slices will cook slower than thinner and smaller ones.
3. Put the eggplant, okra and garlic in the pot and pour in enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender. Add the subak and simmer for about five more minutes. Taste and season with salt as necessary.
4. Add the leaves and simmer until the leaves are limp and cooked through. Serve immediately.
Serves 3- 4 persons.

06 November 2009

Ah, noodles. In the Philippines, the word usually refers to only one kind of noodles: the instant kind. You can choose between Lucky Me, Quick Chow, Nissin's Ramen, and all those other brands of noodles (hey, I don't see Maggi around anymore...) but they all come with the same instructions: Bring water to a boil, add noodles, cook for three minutes, then either drain the noodles or not, depending on the kind of noodles they are, add the seasoning, and serve. Noodles with soup usually come with only one little foil packet of powdered seasoning; those without usually come with a little packet of oil and soy sauce, and if you're lucky, dried veggies and sundry toppings. Well, after a while, this sort of fare becomes bland and boring.

So this is what I do with my instant noodles.

Laya's Hearty Noodles

One pack of your favorite instant noodles (I usually choose Lucky Me beef)
Three cups of water
One tiny onion, chopped small
Leftover fried or grilled meat from your last meal (I use fried chicken, or pork chop, or even barbecue), cut into bite-sized pieces
A couple of cabbage leaves, shredded into bite size pieces
One egg
One teaspoonful of chopped leeks (sibuyas dahon) for garnishing
Two pieces of chicharon, shredded

1. In the pot you're going to cook the noodles in, use the oil from the pack of noodles to saute your onions until golden. Add the meat and give it two or three quick turns.
2. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the shredded cabbage leaves.
3. When your cabbage leaves have softened, add the noodles and seasoning. Stir until the noodles have softened, then turn the heat to low and simmer for about five minutes.
4. Turn off the fire and crack the egg into the mixture. You may choose whether to stir the egg into the broth, or to just let it poach whole. If you want a heartier soup, I suggest you stir the egg.
5. Top with the shredded chicharon and chopped leeks and serve.

Good for two to three persons with regular appetites.

25 October 2009

Contrary to what my mom would have you believe, I can actually cook rice. I just have to ask you first whether you are amenable to "malabsa" or moist rice. LOL.

I remember a scene from "Jewel in the Palace" where Jang Geum's mentor, Lady Han, has to compete against her best friend and worst rival, Lady Choi, for the position of "punong tagapamahala" or head administrator of the palace kitchens. The test was simple: cook rice. Everyone agreed that Lady Choi cooked a perfect pot of rice, but voted for Lady Han. Why?

Because Lady Han knew how everybody liked their rice, and so cooked according to individual tastes. She knew that some people like their rice moist almost like pudding, and some like their rice not so moist, but fluffy, while others actually liked the burned part at the bottom. And so she won.

My two roommates and I have different tastes in rice. Although we all agree that we like our rice fluffy and chewy, they both like their rice drier, while I like it moister. So when it's my turn to cook the rice, I get my portion first, then let the rice dry some more before serving theirs.

Yeah, yeah, how to cook rice? First wash your hands carefully.

1. Measure the rice into the pot. You may use a measuring cup for this; my mom just uses a clean medium-sized (around 370 ml) evaporated-milk can that she calls a "leche" (not a swear word, I assure you). Half a leche is good for one person; heavy eaters get one whole leche. So if you have like three women and a man in the house, that would be two and half milk cans. Pick out any noticeable pebbles or seeds.

2. Wash the rice by running water into the pot and stirring up the rice with your hands. My mom used to do this twice, until the water was clear, but now that she knows that rice bran is actually good for you, she now washes the rice only once and tries to keep the milky stuff. Carefully pour off the water including any chaff that would have floated to the top.

3. Put water into the pot. Theoretically, the amount of rice and water should be equal, i.e., two and a half milk cans of rice = two and a half milk cans of water. My mom measures the water level by dipping her hand into the pot and measuring the rice level, then the water level, with her knuckles. She then uses her hand to splash water in or out of the pot as needed. I always add a splash of water (heehee).

4. Put the pot on the fire, or if you're using a rice cooker, plug it in and punch the lever down to cook the rice. Put on the lid.

5. When the water starts to bubble up around the lid of the pot, lift the lid and place it askew on top so that the water will not boil over. It WILL boil over if you don't put the lid askew, no matter what you think to the contrary; if it doesn't, you probably haven't put in enough water.

6. Wait until the water has boiled off. That's when you open the lid and see that there's no longer any water in the pot, but cooked rice. However, it's still partly cooked rice that needs to be kept warm to finish cooking. If you're using a rice cooker, it's okay; the lever just pops to "warm" and you can put the lid on straight and let the rice stay at "warm" for about five to ten minutes before you unplug it.
If you're using a gas stove, turn the flame down low; if a wood or charcoal stove, scatter the coals a bit and let them burn down.

To know if the rice is thoroughly cooked, take a grain and bite through it. If it's soft all the way through, it's cooked; if you still see a hard white part in the center, it's not and you have to put it back on the fire. If it looks too dry, meaning you haven't put in enough water, you can just splash in like 50ml (about one finger thick at the bottom of a regular glass) and put it back on the fire to finish cooking. Make sure it's at warm, not cook, or you will end up burning the bottom part.

Okay, so why did something so simple end up so... complicated?


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