Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Menudo - Filipino Stew

Like many Filipino dishes, Menudo is comfort food and perfect for Christmas dinner! It's a tomato based stew and typically with cubed pork, sausages, liver, raisins, potatoes and veggies.

My Mom's Menudo recipe is one of my favourite stews, minus the liver and raisins.  Here's a quick one-minute video of the Menudo recipe, enjoy;)

- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large diced yellow onion
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (3 medium tomatoes)
- 1 lb cubed pork shoulder or back
- 2 chorizo sausages, sliced
- 1/2 cup cubed potatoes
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- salt & pepper to taste

1) Heat pan at medium heat then add vegetable oil. Saute onion for 2 minutes until softened. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.
2) Add the pork and chorizo then season with soy sauce, salt, pepper & brown sugar. Cook pork for 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes and let simmer for 30-40 minutes until pork and potatoes are cooked.
3) Add red bell pepper and peas and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with soy sauce & pepper to taste then drizzle extra virgin olive oil for a finishing touch. Enjoy the Menudo with rice or pandesal!
Tasty Tip: Menudo can be easily cooked in a slow cooker. It can be made in large batches because it keeps well as left overs and can stay up to 2 weeks in the freezer.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Noche Buena - A Good Night for a Filipino Feast!

Noche Buena  Feast with the Macalino's!
The Christmas season is my favourite time of the year because for my family it's about spending time together and indulging in a Filipino feast called Noche Buena. Spanish for "good night", Noche Buena is a traditional late-night meal celebrated after midnight mass by many Filipino families on Christmas Eve. I still get giddy with excitement during the car ride home from church, anticipating the dishes that my Mom had lovingly prepared earlier that day. 

As we approach my parent's house, it's around 1:30 am and we're looking forward to our second Christmas Eve dinner. My Mom brings out her best china and silverware, a special touch for the holidays, to serve our favourite Filipino and non-Filipino dishes. 

Her Noche Bueno menu changes from year to year but we can always count on the staples: pandasel (sweet Filipino buns) with sliced roasted ham and pasko de bola (ripened cheese ball), buko (young coconut) fruit salad, cold macaroni chicken salad and my favourite, bibingka (coconut cake). 

With my Dad's favourite Frank Sinatra Christmas album jingling in the background, we dig into the festive treats while joking about old family memories, reminiscing about the past year's events and being grateful for spending another Christmas together. By 3:30 am, we're exchanging gifts and slowly winding down for the night. 

There are lots of leftovers from Noche Buena and we're able to easily whip up another large spread when our extended family gathers for Christmas dinner.  To my delight, my Mom always makes sure we have ample bibingka cakes to last until the following day - she knows it's not a Filipino Christmas without them! 

Bibingka Cake!
Bibingka is a soft and chewy cake made with flour, sugar and coconut milk. It's baked in pan lined with banana leaves to help impart flavour and create a natural non-stick surface. Once cooked, the cake is topped with butter, sugar, grated coconut, shredded edam cheese and salted duck egg. 

Bibingka can be enjoyed as a snack, dessert or breakfast and can be found as street food in the Philippines as well as in high-end restaurants and five-star hotels. It's loved by many Filipinos because of the unique flavour combination. The sweet coconut cake with the savoury cheese and salted egg surprisingly go well together. For me, bibingks tastes like Christmas!

Food is and will always be the center of any Filipino celebration, especially during a Noche Buena feast. In addition to basting your turkeys, try adding this bibingka recipe to your Christmas menu. Happy Holidays!

Candice's Cusina Bibingka Cakes

Bibingka with the works!
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (or rice flour)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 coconut milk
2-3 banana leaves

1 cup shredded cheese (Edam, Mozzarella, or Cheddar)
1 boiled salted egg, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup grated fresh coconut 

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line one 8" diameter springform pan or five 6 oz. ramekins with banana leaves. Brush leaves with butter.
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed for 5-7 minutes until the mixture has thickened and tuned a pale yellow.
4. Slowly add flour mix and coconut milk to egg mixture until just blended. Then mix in 1/2 cup cheese. Then pour batter into springform pan or ramekins and top with 1/2 diced salted egg.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove cake and the top it with the other 1/2 diced salted egg and 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Brush top of cake with butter then sprinkle with sugar and grated coconut. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Yummy Modern Indian Fare at Rangoli

As I entered Rangoli, my spirits were immediately lifted when greeted with sweet aromas of Indian spices, rich colours from the hip but simply decorated interior and Bhangra music cheerfully playing in the background. 

Rangoli restaurant & market
This warm welcome is symbolic to the meaning of the restaurant's name. Rangoli is an Indian ancient folk art of patterns, made from coloured ground rice, decorated in front of home entrances. This practice is an expression of hospitality that also enhances the beauty of its surroundings.

Rangoli is Vij’s charming sister restaurant, located right next door on 11th and Granville Street.  Positioned as the more causal eatery that doubles as a marketplace selling Vij's frozen and packaged meals, it is open for lunch and dinner. 

Owner Vikram Vij is spotted regularly on sight, at both Vij's and Rangoli, warmly greeting and serving guests. When I visited, he was out-of-town on his annual culinary tour. He brings 15 to 20 foodies to India and is their personal tour guide, introducing them to his favourite restaurants and markets as well as teaching them how to cook local Indian fare.
Bottomless Chai Tea
In the absence of Vikram, Rangoli's manager, Cory, happily recommended his favourites from the menu. To help warm me up from Vancouver's winter rain, he brought over a steaming hot mug of chai tea. It was a light and creamy brew of black tea and milk with the perfect spice balance of cinnamon, cardamon, ginger and star anise. The chai is bottomless, so I delightfully cozied up to a couple of chai mugfuls before dinner arrived. 

Savoury Chaat
Cory brought out my first course, the savoury chaat, a traditional Indian snack. Served cold, I enjoyed the texture and flavour medley of crunchy wheat crisps with the creamy yogurt and the spicy baked potatoes with the sweet chutney.

Lamb in cumin in light cream curry
For my entree, I ordered the lamb in cumin and light cream curry. I liked there was a good amount of tender lamb tucked among the stewed peppers and onions. The naan, basmati rice and spring salad were all great companions for the curry that had a light richness with gentle hints of cumin.

Meeti Roti
Being stuffed with savoury chaat, lamb curry and three servings of chai tea didn't deter me from ordering dessert. Going with Cory's final recommendation, I ordered the meeti roti, made of chapatis (flat unleavened bread) filled with Demerara sugar and cashews then drizzled with vanilla custard. Strings of julienned mint brightened up the dish and I managed to polish off 3 meeti roti wedges!

Amazing chefs at Rangoli
At Rangoli you can have the best of both worlds - quick and friendly service with dishes that hold the same elegance and modern-Indian flavours that can be found at Vij's, minus the line-ups.

1488 W 11th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 736-5711

My recommendations:
Chai Tea $2.50; Savoury Chaat $8.50; Lamb in Cumin & Light Creamy Curry $15; Meeti Roti $5.50

Rangoli on Urbanspoon