EVERY Holy Week, specifically on Holy Thursday, predominantly Catholic Filipinos go on a Visita Iglesia, which in layman’s terms translates to visits to seven churches in one day. It’s a tradition that devout Catholics observe as part of the Lenten season. Some people choose to visit churches with historical and cultural significance. Others opt for churches that are in close proximity to each other. Yet others choose churches that have personal significance to them.
Flavors of Life attempts to present a series on churches that are worth visiting this Lenten season, not only as part of one’s Visita Iglesia on Holy Thursday but as an act of devotion to the Lord during this time of the year when we recall the sufferings and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his rebirth on the third day.
The first church that comes highly recommended is Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan. This historic church housed the Revolutionary Congress, which convened from September 1898 to February 1899, with Pedro A. Paterno serving as president. In this church, members of the Revolutionary Congress discussed and approved the Malolos Constitution, which was drafted chiefly by Felipe G. Calderon.
When Barasoain Church was originally constructed, Barasoain was part of Malolos. It was officially separated in August, 1859, but became part of Malolos again in 1903. Rev. Francisco Royo, O.S.A., constructed the old church, which was destroyed by fire in 1884, and then it was rebuilt by Rev. Juan Giron, O.S.A., a year later.
Barasoain Church played an important part in Philippine history
The statue of the first Philippine president, Emilio Aguinaldo
In one area of the church premises, near the gate, stands a statue of Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, the first president of the Philippines. He temporarily housed the revolutionary government in Malolos, Bulacan, from September 10, 1898 to March 31, 1899, moving it there from Bacoor, Cavite, due to the impending breakout of the Philippine-American War. He convened the Malolos Congress in Barasoain Church to put together the Malolos Constitution that founded the Republic of the Philippines on January 23, 1899. Thus, the country became the first republic in the whole of Asia.
I LOVE preparing pasta dishes. They are a convenient one-dish meal that is easy to prepare, especially if you are using leftover food such as Chicken Adobo. Adobo is a particularly ideal dish to use because it becomes more delicious with time. In this adobo dish I prepared at home, the Chicken Adobo takes on two forms—one the usual stew and the other one crispy adobo flakes. Combined in one dish, they provide both flavor and texture.
Here’s the recipe:
200-300 grams spaghetti
2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup leftover chicken adobo, flaked, with sauce
1/2 cup leftover chicken adobo, flaked and fried to a crisp
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic, fried to a crisp
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook spaghetti in a pot of salted water until al dente (*firm to the bite, not soggy or starchy). Remove from water and set aside.
2. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and sauté mince garlic just until fragrant. Add flaked leftover chicken adobo with sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss in cooked spaghetti.
4. Plate according to preferred serving size. Top with crispy adobo flakes. Sprinkle with a little fried garlic.
ZOMATO, the online site for restaurants, recently embarked on a food crawl at Westgate Alabang, which is a dining and lifestyle destination South of the metro. Westgate, which is owned and operated by Filinvest, is one of Zomato’s partners and, being a haven for foodies, is made up of several restaurants featuring different cuisines, such as Spanish, Japanese, American and Korean.
The food crawl covered six restaurants—Sushi Ninja, Melo’s, The Sapphire Lounge, Butamaru, Neil’s Kitchen and Detoxify Bar.
Sushi Ninja is a haven for good Japanese food in Westgate Alabang
Sushi Ninja is all about Japanese style casual dining
Pucela Maki by Sushi Ninja
Sushi Ninja’s Sukiyaki
Sushi Ninja, as its name suggests, is an intimate Japanese restaurant that serves basically sushis and other rolls. Its owner went to a sushi academy and specialized in that. The two-year-old restaurant also serves other Japanese favorites. For the food crawl, which included Zomato officials and some media friends, Sushi Ninja prepared Pucela Maki, a modern roll with ham, cream cheese, Gouda cheese, garlic mayonnaise and tomato; as well as Sukiyaki, a nabemono-style hot pot dish usually served during winter in Japan.
Melo’s specializes in steaks
Melo’s Foie Gras Balsamico
Melo’s is the place to go for elegant dining
Melo’s, which was established by Melo Santiago in 1988, was the second stop. It used to serve only Certified Angus Beef (CAB) but now that Wagyu beef has become popular, the premier steakhouse now also serves Wagyu steaks. It has chosen to serve Australian Wagyu, though, because Japanese Wagyu is too marbled for the Santiago family’s comfort. It served Foie Gras Balsamico for the Zomato food crawl, which had a piece of crunchy potato croquette under a piece of perfectly seared foie gras, served with raisin and onion marmalade and balsamic reduction.
The Sapphire Lounge serves a wide range of tapas
The Sapphire Lounge’s Spicy Fried Chorizo with Tomato and Onion Sauce
The Sapphire Lounge offers the perfect ambiance for a night out with friends
Third stop was The Sapphire Lounge, a bar lounge that serves a good selection of tapas with its signature cocktails, wines and spirits, with a strong focus on whiskeys. Its owner, Brian Reynolds, opened The Sapphire Lounge three years ago, He had lived in Alabang for 15 years when he was younger because his father used to be assigned there, so when he got the chance to open a restaurant-bar of his own, he opened The Sapphire Lounge at Westgate. One of the place’s signature tapas is Spicy Fried Chorizo with Tomato and Onion Sauce, which Brian had everyone taste during the food crawl.
Butamaru is an original Pinoy concept of a ramen house
The sushi bar of Butamaru
Butamaru’s Shio Ramen
Butamaru’s Cheese Gyoza
Butamaru was the fourth destination. Westgate’s answer to the ramen craze, Butamaru is not a franchise but an original brand put together by youthful entrepreneur Jerome Lim. Lim went to Japan for training on how to make the famous ramen soup but says that the pork (*buta means pork and maru means round) is his original recipe. The broth, which is the base of the soup dish, is boiled for 16 hours, according to how Master Artisan Sugimura-san of Menko noodle company in Oita, Japan, does it, although Lim has adjusted it to satisfy the Filipino palate.
Butamaru’s best-sellers are Shio Ramen (salt-based), Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce based tonkotsu), and Curry Tantanmen (spicy peanut and sesame). For the food crawl, Lim gave participants a taste of Shio Ramen with Toriten (tempura style fried chicken famous in the Oita Prefecture in Japan) and Cheese Gyoza (cheese dumplings).
Neil’s Kitchen at night
Sinigang Paella with Grilled Pork Belly by Neil’s Kitchen
Sinigang Salmon sa Miso by Neil’s Kitchen
Neil’s Kitchen, the fifth stop, was a revelation. A Pinoy restaurant owned by Chef Neil Ramos, it opened in January 2015 but the place has been Chef Neil’s commissary for years. Now that it is a restaurant, it serves Filipino favorites given a new twist. Take the Sinigang Trilogy which the Zomato group got to sample. It consists of three variations of sinigang—Sinigang Paella with Grilled Pork Belly (sinigang cooked from scratch, then rice cooked in the sinigang broth and the pork from the sinigang grilled); Sinigang Noodle Soup (deconstruction of all sinigang ingredients in a soup, with the usual rice replaced by flat rice noodles; the pork rolled, tied and cooked for hours then grilled when ordered); and Sinigang Salmon sa Miso (with salmon instead of bangus, cooked into sinigang na salmon sa miso from scratch, and the salmon grilled).
The cool ambiance and simple interiors of Detoxify Bar has a relaxing effect
Greek Yogurt Smoothie Bowl Topped with Fresh Berries, Nuts and Oats by Detoxify Bar
Apt as the sixth and last stop was Detoxify Bar, which serves light and healthy meals, smoothies, juices and other concoctions. With the first store opened in 2012 because certain members of the Torres family (owners of Detoxify Bar) required a special diet, Detoxify Bar served Greek Yogurt Smoothie Bowls Topped with Fresh Berries, Nuts and Oats for the food crawl.
Zomato’s dining event turned out to be a well-rounded one that gave everyone a good taste of different cuisines and flavors available in Westgate Alabang.
(*This article was first published in Business Mirror’s Cook & Dine section in the June 11, 2016 issue. Photos by Rafael R. Zulueta.)
THERE are different kinds of clams. They have varying tastes as well. But if there’s something in common among them, it is that freshness determines just how good they look, smell and taste. The fresher you are able to get them, the better.
Just recently, my sister Swanie went with her friends to a seafood market, a bagsakan or wet market where freshly caught fish and seafood are sold at wholesale prices. Since we eat more of fish and seafood than meat, she brought home a treasure trove of fresh catch, including a whole kilogram of Pacific clams. They are a type of clam that you find in higher-end restaurants, sometimes simply stir-fried and sometimes cooked in tausi (black beans). When it is really fresh, Pacific clams have a natural sweetness and flavor all its own, and you do not have to do much to make it come out.
So, what we did with my sister’s whole kilo of Pacific clams was just stir-frying. Half of it, we enjoyed just like that, and half of it, she turned into a light and refreshing spaghetti dish. You can make a flavorful clear soup or a creamy clam chowder with it, even combine it with other seafood to make Spaghetti Marinara or Vongole.
1 kg. Pacific clams
2-3 Tbsps. vegetable oil
6-8 slices ginger
pinch of sugar
1 bunch sili leaves
1. Wash Pacific clams and soak in a basin of water to allow the clams to choke out the sand within their shells.
2. Heat wok or pan, and add oil. Throw in the ginger slices and cook until they release their aroma.
3. Add clams and stir-fry. Then cover with lid and allow clams to release their own juice and cook in the water and steam. Remove scum that rises to the surface.
4. Season with a pinch of sugar to balance the flavor of the natural saltiness of the clams.
5. Add sili leaves.
6. Discard shells that did not open, and enjoy the rest with freshly cooked rice.
Hotpot dining at Coca Restaurant gives diners the unique pleasure of enjoying two kinds of soup base–Chicken Stock and Tom Yum.
HOW do you usually enjoy your hotpot?
With lots of flavorful broth, accompanied by a variety of delicious premium ingredients such as meat, fish, shrimps and other seafood, mushrooms and vegetables, of course!
At Coca Restaurant, located at the Sky Park of SM Aura Premier in Taguig, you get to enjoy your hotpot with two variations of flavorful soup—Chicken Stock, just like other hotpot restaurants; and Tom Yum Soup, which is the base of a Thai soup with a spicy kick. And you do not have to choose because the cooking pot has two sections, so you can have both soups and actually make two delightful dishes.
After having your fill of the two soup concoctions that you’ve whipped up right at the dining table, Coca Restaurant also encourages you to end your hotpot dining experience with yet another exciting treat—the Ojiya.
Derived from Khao Tom, a breakfast staple in Thailand, the Ojiya is essentially a porridge that can be enjoyed plain or teeming with a variety of ingredients. It is a delicious combination of pre-cooked rice slowly cooked in hotpot broth basically with sesame oil, egg, spring onion and fried garlic into a light porridge. Or you can drop other premium ingredients into the hotpot broth, such as crab, prawns, mushrooms and green, leafy vegetables, to come up with a rich and hearty Ojiya. The art of cooking Ojiya actually begins with heating leftover broth and remaining ingredients in the hotpot, scooping cooked rice into it, letting the broth come to a boil, then beating in an egg, seasoning the broth with light soy sauce, sprinkling in some spring onion and toasted garlic, and finishing it with a few drops of sesame oil.
Coca Restaurant staff shows how the Ojiya is prepared
Fresh, premium ingredients go into Coca Restaurant’s Hotpot and Ojiya
Cooking rice in the stock with premium ingredients…
A bowl of flavorful goodness!
The art of Ojiya completed with a bowl of delicious congee
The Ojiya that you enjoy depends greatly on how you cook it and what ingredients go into it, so it is safe to say that no two Ojiyas are ever alike because they take on the flavor and character of your personalized hotpot experience.
Aside from the Hotpot and the Ojiya, Coca Restaurant also carries a number of sumptuous dishes on its menu that are guaranteed to give diners an incredibly enjoyable dining experience. These include:
Salted Egg Salad with Pork Belly and Shrimps
Salted Egg Salad with Pork Belly and Shrimps. It is a nice and savory Thai style salad with cucumber, tomatoes, pork, shrimps, salted egg and coriander leaves.
Pacific Sunset. It is a seafood platter with king crab, squid, tiger prawns, pork sausage and segments of sweet corn with a hint of the spices that were used to give it more flavor and character. Best enjoyed with freshly cooked rice or bread.
Yang Chow Fried Rice
Yang Chow Fried Rice.Fried rice is always a good accompaniment for rich, savory dishes such as Pacific Sunset. Yang Chow Fried Rice happens to be one of the most frequently ordered rice specialties of Coca Restaurant.
Braised Tofu with Taiwan Bokchoy in a Clay Pot
Braised Tofu with Taiwan Bokchoy in a Clay Pot. A light and healthy alternative to the usual meat, poultry and seafood dishes, this vegetarian dish is surprisingly flavorful and satisfying.
For leisurely drinks, Coca offers White Sangria, which is white wine with orange juice, lime juice, dalandan juice and soda with apple and pear; Sunset Sangria, a concoction made with white wine, watermelon, dalandan juice, lime juice, soda and lemon; and Mango Mint Sangria, a mix of white wine with rum, lime juice, soda, apple, mango and a hint of mint.
(Coca Restaurant is located at the Sky Park, 5th Level, SM Aura Premier, Taguig City; with telephone numbers 955-2022 and 0917-8139760.)