Sunday, July 30, 2017

Let's Talk About The Laing

(Note:Pls. keep scrolling to the end to watch  a fun video clip of our laing preps.)

     Trying to frame a perfect view for a windy-rainy morning here on this side of the planet. It's a perfect day to cook a family favorite ulam which is none other than the  delectable laing. And because I hail from the province of Oriental Mindoro, I also call it pinangat or pangat for short. The main ingredient of this well-loved Filipino dish is the lowly dahon ng gabi that propagates in your swampy backyard or in your neighborhood's unkempt vacant lot. If you have a friendly neighbor — reword, if you are friends with your neighbor that grows a gabi patch, you can score it for free. The same situation applies to your malunggay and dahon ng saging cooking needs. 

     Gabi, or taro in English, is primarily a starchy root vegetable that has huge green leaves and tuberous stalks. It is loaded with essential nutrients and vitamins B, C, and E, iron, calcium, phospohorous; it is low in sodium, low in saturated fat, low in cholesterol but rich in dietary fibers. The list goes on and on. It also has a long list of medicinal uses but that is for another day. 

     It is the perfect ulam to warm the cold and rainy season as the kakang gata and the little dynamites of green siling haba, red hot chillies, and diced ginger are added to complete the laing DNA. Crunchy liempo and dilis are also added to the ensemble of laing ingredients which made it filling and comforting at the same time especially when you eat it with steaming rice. I call it a marriage made in heaven. 

     The big schools just culminated their celebration of Nutrition Month of July last week. And for the month of August it is the Buwan ng Wika. Tiny schools like ours, which we fondly call The De Chavez Family Homeschool (established in 2005 with two enrolees to wit, one 5th grader and one senior high on the 11th grade), we try making it big by cooking a large batch of laing which is enough to feed an entire village😉  We will store the batch in quart-sized ziplocs and stick them in the freezer to preserve the flavors of freshly cooked laing. Then we will just thaw and heat a portion in the microwave anytime our cravings kick in. Mas masarap pag nabahaw ang laing. Is this Filipino enough? 

     But let me warn you that this green-leafy Pinoy dish is not for the impatient and fast-food oriented brood of foodies. Timing plays a crucial role in achieving the perfect texture and luster of the laing. It is a labor of love as Tita Bebs describes it. You have to keep stirring it every so often for at least an hour, eye-balling it to avoid any hint of burning while the kakang gata cooks it through. Although it is such a simple recipe, patience has been put to good use here in order to achieve a certain laing luster. According to Tita Bebs, that was what she was looking for, kailangan may kaunting kislap. I can not argue with her in terms of why her version of  the laing is one on the pasty consistency side. She is a true-blue Romblomanon but have lived in Occidental Mindoro for the most part of her life. Two provinces in Southern Luzon which are both rich in agricultural resources like coconuts and of course chillies. So, she has my full trust on this laing recipe and among many other things. 

The biko with latik for dessert is perfect with coffee or tea. Back in the days when it was time to eat and we had to call everyone to the family table, we hollered  "hayin na!!! or on some days "dulog na kayo dine!!!"...Is this Filipino enough?😉 


(Video Note: The small blue pot to the left is boiling kapeng barako, our natural kitchen deodorizer and you  would know what I'm talking about if you liked frying crunchy dilis on rainy days. The aroma of kapeng barako neutralizes the fishy odor that would otherwise stick to your kitchen walls. And of course, fume hoods are too noisy and they are just there for show. )

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Ocean

A fishbowl photo from 2009.

Bethany and Noah, seven and one year-old respectively, year 2007.  

Year 2007, when I was "21" and Noah was one year-old. Ha!

Happy birthday, Noah Bear😍

Last year, on the same month of July, our family went to a dinosaur museum in Moscow to celebrate our Noah's 10th birthday.  It was a dream come true for him, a decade-long wait had been over. How time flies around here and now he turns 21 11!  He is our boy from the wild and below is a poem to prove it just in case you can't tell. He's into poems lately. And I guess too much rain in the Philippines lately has been making him write poems to curtail the boredom that's starting to seep in.

The deep, deep ocean
Dark and blue
Is teeming with life
You never knew

Underneath this world
You will hear 
The call of a Whale
That is near

Its scars, visible
From the fight with a Squid
And it is gone
In its stomach, it is hid

Millions of plankton
Lurking around
Is one of the most beautiful things
You have ever found

As you ascend you see a fin
A Shark! Its face, a dreadful grin
As you swim away, you see a fleet
This made the hungry Shark, feel beat

As you go back to shore, you see an Urchin
"Well, why is it here lurkin'?"
As you avoid its sharp spikes,
You go back home, on your trike

As you enter the house so dim is the ocean
And then you wake up, eyes wide open
"It was just a dream," you start to say
Then you decided to go to the sea and play

It may be a dream, but it will be real
You will see, you will hear,
You will touch, you will feel
And then in the window, you peer

At a fleet far away
And then you have a feeling, they are astray
Then you get into a swimsuit, to go tell the men,
They are not lost, in The Ocean
A Poem by Noah

"My inspirations for this poem were my imagination and my first open-sea diving experience in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. My other inspirations are those readings I've had about sperm whales, squids, I mean giant squids, and about sharks. I also imagined about robotic submarines that are remote-controlled by scientists. I was also inspired by the rich merchant character who had a fleet in the book "Dick Whittington and His Cat" by Marcia Brown. And last but not least, my inspiration was having lived in a house on an uninhabited island. It was just my imagination!" ~Noah

Photo Credit: My older sister, Ate Imelda's rendition of The Ocean. 

Left-right: Ate Imelda, Bethany, Joanna (my niece), and Noah doing the dab gesture. Can you see "The Ocean" behind them?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What We've Seen On Our Trip To The Old Arbat Street and Kitai Gorod at the City Center

     The Old Arbat Street is one of the oldest roads in Moscow dating back to the late 14th century. It is a cobblestone-covered pedestrian street that spans 1.25 kilometers and is famous for its lively showcase of street artists and its rows of souvenir shops and coffee shops and restaurants and theaters. We've been to the Old Arbat Street many times before during the summer of last year but there's always something to look forward to each time we visit here. For one is the diversity of people teeming this famous street. We have the red, the black, the yellow, the white, and of course, the brown race being represented here; everyone garbed in their most fashionable outfits making this bustling street their informal run-way; everyone here dressed well, in case I haven't mentioned it yet. It felt like walking down the streets of Paris or Rome! (Though we've never been to Western Europe before.)

      Another reason we looked forward to going here is the opportunity to just walk in a leisurely manner, slow-walking if you please, and stop at every public installation that local Russian artists showcase here for free; the art exhibits, the magicians, the singers, the musicians, this is the place to be. Too bad we missed Steven Tyler when he visited here not long ago and he walked up to a street artist and did an impromptu "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" duet with him.  

When we arrived here a few weeks ago, it was the A Capella month for the street performers. Here's the link to my post which featured a video snippet of the performance of their Barbie counterparts. What do you think?

Now off we go to Kitai Gorod not too far-away from the Old Arbat Street and just beside Red Square at the City Center...but since we got tired of walking a good 10km HHWW (holding-hands-while-walking, just in case I wasn't clear about it), we decided to take a taxi and passed by the Moskva River. Can you see the Moskva River?😉

We were coming close to the Red Square but this post is not about it. And in case you're wandering? wondering😎 please do check this out!

The church bells at Kitai Gorod at 6pm...DIVINE...It felt like someone just got married here. 

The Russian chocolate Alyonka. Two things I know about this decadent chocolate bars: 

  1. They're non-GMOs (genetically modified organisms) because GMOs are totally banned here (yey).
  2. The wrapper that has the picture of a blue-eyed, cuddly-cute baby girl wearing a colorful traditional Russian scarf has been a subject of debate as to who it really was; some Russians claimed it was them when they were young when it was first manufactured in the 1960s, some claimed that it was the daughter of the first woman cosmonaut in space. Maybe it was me?

 The Bolshoi Theater and across the street beside it is TSUM department store, a contender of GUM.

Bosco Fresh restaurant in GUM. Please click here to see more of GUM in case you're  still "wandering"? Barbie Doll was seating next to us, a sight which is commonplace here.

We had bolshoi (Russian for "big") green olives from the land of Canaan!

Emporio Armani Caffe inside GUM. 

Our Ken (opposite of Barbie) baristas were dressed to kill in their Armani suits to the point of intimidating. Rico and I were only outfitted in our rather touristy casual and comfy strolling uniforms. 

But this? This happened. So, thank you, Kuya Ken for photo-bombing our last photo of the day which erased all the intimidation we first felt in your sosy coffee shop. Now, can we also put our tired feet up?

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