One thing about living in Uzbekistan - you can get decent cuts of beef. The cuts don’t exactly look like the conventional American cut I’m accustomed to, but I’ve learned that uttering the magic words “Bon Filet/Бон филе” at the butcher counter will result in almost 2 kg of beautiful skirt/sirloin. That’s 4 lbs. of beef for the equivalent of $20. Now I don’t eat this all in one go (just to reassure you, Mom!), but I’ve divided it up, marinated it, and freeze what I am not eating for later use.
I started doing the South Beach Diet a few weeks ago after noticing that excess carbs were making me feel quite yucky. The diet promotes balanced meals of lean proteins, vegetables, and a stark decrease in the “bad” carbs. For those on Phase One, I’d sub out the rice for a salad - white bean salad is awesome with this. I am now on Phase Two - where the “good” carbs are reintroduced - so I’ve started eating this with veggies and half a cup of brown rice (which is rich in fiber). Basmati also works as well.
This is my “Pinoy-style” tri-tip recipe using quintessential Filipino ingredients - garlic, some form of acid (this time lemon juice) and soy sauce.
1lb of tri-tip = at least 3 meals for me.
On our way to Lake Sebu, we stopped to try the famed Apareja Buko Halo Halo. It is a perfect blend of corn, nata, kaong, banana, sweet potato, tapioca, buko juice, leche flan and of course, ube ice cream. They serve the juice of the coconut instead of water - great palate cleanser between bites.
For all extents and purposes, adobo, is the national dish in the Philippines. You will see this on every menu in a Filipino restaurant and made in different ways, using various proteins. Certain regions like it very tart or stew it in vinegar/soy sauce, while others prefer it with hardly any tang at all. The key to this dish is the base - garlic, vinegar, and cracked pepper. This is used in many Filipino stews. When I quizzed my grandmother and other family members about the prevalence of vinegar in our stews - the answer was quite simple. In the days without refrigeration in a hot, humid climate, preparing food with vinegar as a base helped keep it from spoiling too quickly. To me, adobo is an everyday dish and the leftovers always seem to taste better than the first batch due to sitting in the juices. One of my favorite breakfasts since I was a kid - is leftover adobo reheated on the pan and served w/ scrambled eggs over rice.
The key to any Filipino dish - is cooking by sight/taste/smell - which is the way I learned to cook. The recipe below is just a guide - so adjust according to your taste.
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1kg chicken thighs (or protein of choice - pork is usually my favorite, but not easy to find in Tashkent)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 kg potatoes - peeled and quartered.
- 2 bunches of spinach
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- Peel garlic and mash it w/ the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed casserole or skillet to medium heat and add vegetable oil.
- Add half of onion and garlic/peppercorns until they start to sweat.
- Add half of the vinegar to the pan.
- When vinegar becomes aromatic, add the chicken.
- Make sure chicken is coated in the onions/garlic/peppercorns and cover the pot.
- Turn down heat to low and let the chicken simmer until cooked.
- While the chicken is cooking, heat a small skillet w/ 1 tbsp oil.
- Cook the remaining garlic/onion/peppercorn and vinegar w/ the soy sauce. Add this to the pot once it is cooked.
- Fry the potatoes (or bake them at 375 for 10 minutes) ‘til they are crispy. Drain the excess fat and add them to the cooking adobo. Some people just add the potatoes in w/o frying, but my family has always preferred the extra crunch.
- Prepare the spinach as a side dish - I just cook it down in the same small skillet so it can pick up some adobo juices and serve it as a separate side to add some greens as a meal. If I can find it at the markets, I also like to use bok choy for this.
- Serve your adobo w/ steamed white rice and as an added bonus, a little atchara to enhance the bite.
Two very good friends of mine - George and Amanda - invited me and a bunch of other pals to their new house for dinner this past Saturday. Amanda, a former caterer in Australia prior to her life in the classroom, informed me that she was prepping the following menu: roast chickens, roasted beet root, mashed potatoes, roast feta (this was DIVINE), and salad. Knowing that this was not enough for the 17+ guests, she requested that my contribution be a main dish. I’d previously thought of inviting some friends for dinner this week for some Filipino food since it is our Spring Break, so this seemed like the perfect vehicle to kill two birds with one stone.
I originally thought to prep asado, but I couldn’t get Dad on Skype in time as they had a busy weekend as well in California. So, I decided on Bistek.
Bistek has Spanish roots spanning all of its colonies. It’s not uncommon to see Bistec Encebollado on any Mexican or Latin menu. The Filipino version is quite what I call “Filipinized” as we prefer ours tangy over its salty counterparts from the other Spanish colonies. We use citrus juice, garlic, cracked pepper and soy sauce quite liberally for the marinade. And of course, we eat it over a steaming bed of rice. This is one of my comfort food favorites. Easy to make and satisfies many. By the time the evening was over - it was gone and even my friends who don’t usually eat beef commented on how good it tasted. :)
Given the number of people - I bought 4 kg of beef (1 kg set aside for my dog’s food) at the Alayskiy Bazaar here in Tashkent. Unfortunately, they don’t butcher their meat in any recognizable Western cuts, but this definitely had plenty of marbling and easy to cut which leads me to believe it was tenderloin. Beef tenderloin is the best for this dish because you get the right amount of fat and meat. Also, feel free to modulate the amounts of ingredients according to how many people served. :)
- 3kg beef tenderloin sliced thin (about 1/4 inch thick)
- The juice of 3 lemons (substitute for calamansi)
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 cup of soy sauce (or until meat is covered)
- 2 large onions cut into rings
- Peel garlic and mash together w/ peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Toss together in a bowl w/ salt and meat to coat evenly.
- Pour lemon juice and soy sauce onto the meat. Mix together to ensure meat is fully coated.
- Marinate for 3-4 hours.
- Heat wok/large skillet w/ 2 tbsp vegetable oil on high heat.
- Cook beef about 2-3 minutes on each side. Do not cook for too long to avoid tough meat. Once it is cooked, set meat aside in a serving dish. NOTE: do not get rid of the marinade.
- Lower the heat in the wok and throw in the onion rings. Cook the rings until they start to soften and get a nice char - but not until they’re translucent. Remove from pan and place over the meat.
- Now throw in the remaining marinade from your bowl/container. Allow this to reduce to thicken slightly and pour over bistek/onions.
- Enjoy with white rice.
Atsara. A simple pickled relish for barbecue and other savory dishes (adobo, asado, etc.) that never truly goes bad. The perfect metaphor for my family’s recipes - timeless and sure to sweeten the palette for generations. For the past 2 years, I’ve been mulling over how I could possibly pay a proper homage to my grandmother’s cooking. I’ve read countless blogs, spoken to her about her recipes, and have cooked on my own fairly regularly since I was in high school. The perennial taste tester among my siblings when Dad would cook at home - typically dishes inspired by grandma aka Apu - I’ve picked up the knack for recreating the Filipino food I love and ventured into other types of food that inspire me. Now that I have moved overseas - far from the Philippines and the United States - it seemed even more important to start documenting the family cookbook coupled with my adventures around the globe.
Let’s start with the above pictured atsara. Atsara is usually made primarily of julienned green papaya, but living in Uzbekistan, I’ve had to substitute it out for yellow carrots and red bell pepper for color. This was my first batch and I am quite pleased with the results. It went perfectly w/ the pork tocino I had marinating in the fridge.
- 1 lb. carrots (orange or yellow) - grated or julienned
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. ginger - sliced thin
- 1 red bell pepper - diced
- 1/2 head of garlic - lightly mashed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vinegar
- Peel grate/julienne the carrots. Dice the bell pepper. Place in a bowl together w/ ginger and sprinkle liberally w/ the salt. Let this sit for at least 1 hour to draw all the moisture out.
- Once moisture has been drawn out - wrap carrot mixture in a cheese cloth and squeeze out all excess moisture. Place in a recycled jar for storage.
- In a medium-sized sauce pan heat on a low flame the vinegar and sugar w/ garlic until the sugar fully dissolves, creating a simple syrup. Some recipes I’ve seen online call for water - but I find this a big no-no as it cuts down the tartness of the relish. I like my atsara nice, sweet, and tart. Let this liquid cool to room temperature. You do not want to cook the carrots.
- Pour cooled liquid into the carrot jar. Close and refrigerate for at least a day to get the best flavor.
I love having atsara in my fridge. It keeps for a long time and it goes great with virtually anything - particularly the saltier Filipino dishes. Moreover, here in Uzbekistan, they have their own version of relish - but I find atsara to have more of a kick, particularly the garlic and ginger.