And so it was on a beautiful sunny February day when we decided to hit the trails for the first time this year. A rather late snowfall has visited Vancouver mid-February so skiers and snowshoers have been congesting the more popular Cypress and Seymour trails. As one not too fond of crowded hike spots, we opted to check out what lesser-known North Vancouver trails would lead us. And we were not disappointed.
Featuring Kaidu, the Siberian Husky, and Kojin, the dachschund, it was a delightful intermediate hike to loosen those taut muscles for more challenging hikes this 2019, I hope. 🙂
Yes! Barbecue season is here and what could be more satisfying than flipping those juicy patties on your newly-cleaned grill on the patio while sporting that one-pack with a cold beer? Well probably the thought that you’ve made your food from scratch—house-seasoned ground meat, those fresh tomatoes and onions harvested from the pot gardens you’ve labored over during the past couple of months, and that light, buttery brioche bun to make all those come together.
So while I’m grinding that slab of beef while being persnickety with my seasonings, let me share this very light version of a brioche bun recipe that I believe would give that extra yum for your homemade burgers!
Light Brioche Buns
*I ran out of bread flour and used APF for the entire batch and it turned out okay. Using this alternative might entail a longer mixing time though.
We tend to cut back on eating enriched bread especially when we have that summer bod in mind. But these brioche buns are so light and fluffy that the idea of an extra burger feels less guilt-free…ish. :p
Enjoy and happy baking!
In the spirit of sharing amidst lockdowns and quarantines during this global pandemic, and as we productively while the long hours away by keeping our kitchens busy and our ovens warm, allow me to share a simple recipe that will hopefully bring some delight into your homes. From my oven to yours, from my heart to yours. Yes! 😉
I’ve seen bakers posting about the new craze of three Pinoy favorites put together—pan de sal (bread roll), keso (Eden cheese to be very specific), and ube (purple yam)—all rolled into a truly delectable and beautiful purple bun! I thought that was a brilliant play on flavors and I could not wait to make some. I’ve read a lot of recipes on this and after a couple of tweaking and several attempts later, it is with confidence that I share this one, my first, ever, yay! 🙂 Friends, I give you, this recipe with love. ❤
Ube Cheese Pandesal
3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Warm Milk
2 tbsps Oil ( I use Canola Oil for a more neutral taste)
1 tbsp Ube Extract
1 cup Cooked and Grated Purple Yam
(or rehydrate 1/4 cup powdered ube with 3/4 cup hot water)
Cheese (cut into sticks)
* If using Ube powder, start by rehydrating. Mix the powder and hot water and let it sit.
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, salt).
2. Add in the warm milk, oil, beaten egg and extract.
3. Mix on low using the dough hook attachment until everything comes together.
4. Add the purple yam. Continue mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
5. Place dough on a lightly-floured surface. Knead for 6-8 minutes. (I tried doing everything manually and I had to knead longer as I was working with a stickier dough.)
6. Once you get a ball of smooth dough, place in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and proof in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
7. Gently remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 12 equal parts (approximately, 90 grams each).
8. Pre-shape into small balls then flatten with a rolling pin.
9. Insert cheese chunks/slices in the middle of flattened dough then fold the sides to tuck the cheese in. If you have extra ube, you can add some with your cheese inserts. *Do not be tempted to put a lot as it might cause underbaking.)
10. Roll dough balls onto the bread crumbs, just enough to lightly coat the surface.
11. Place coated buns into prepared pans, an inch apart from each other and allow to rise in warm room for another 30-40 minutes.
12. Bake in preheated oven (340°F) for 20 minutes.
It might seem like a lot of words but the process can simply be broken down to mixing, kneading, putting in a lot of love, proofing, shaping then baking. This recipe calls for a minimal amount of bicep work but yields a lot of gastronomical satisfaction, especially for the Pinoy palate.
Enjoy unleashing the inner bakers within us and keep safe everyone! ♥♥♥
As someone who grew up in a tourist town that boasts of stately natural landscapes, I have this rather obnoxious instinct to compare places of similar appeal. Such was the mindset I had when we set off to see the prominent Batad rice terraces and the Tappiyah Falls that was the highlight of the village attractions. But I ended up being tremendously awed. It was an entirely different experience.
Batad is a village in Banaue, Ifugao. It’s a two-hour drive from my hometown, Sagada. Yes, we have several impressive waterfalls and the underrated yet majestic rice terraces (Kanip-aw, Kiltepan, Aguid) but I went there with the expectation that Batad would offer something equally grand, if not more rewarding. And I was not disappointed.
We met Ervin, our very friendly and knowledgeable local guide who was first in line in the queue of accredited guides enlisted for that day. Although my sister was positive that we could find the waterfalls ourselves so long as we follow the trails through the paddies, we understood the town regulations regarding acquiring local tour guides. And we come from a town that thrives on tourism too, we should know better despite overestimating our sense of direction. 😉
A short canopied walk to the village of Batad warmed up our already conditioned legs (or so I’d like to believe as we’ve done a couple of hikes back in Sagada prior to this). We were advised that we should pre-order lunch in one of the restaurants that had stunning views that overlooked the rice terraces. They estimated that we’d do a 3-4 hour back and forth trek hence we’re looking at a late lunch.
The trek going to Tappiya Falls was a delight in itself. Although I have to be honest that the views were no longer new to a village girl like myself, but what made the experience different was all those village folks who we met along the way. Everyone was genuinely friendly and welcoming. They are like us, Sagadians, who wisely took advantage of the livelihood that tourism entails. The village people have strategically set-up small convenience stores and souvenir shops for the trekkers. And every stop was a welcome respite. We stopped for ice cold water, bananas, a souvenir or two, the occasional breeze or simply for the shade and the pleasant conversations that every villager eagerly engaged with.
I could rate the downward trek as easy but the heat was the main challenge. With no trees to serve as shade, it was no wonder our tour guide had thoughtfully brought his umbrella with him. Guess who used it? Haha!
I’ve seen a number of waterfalls in this lifetime but I was not prepared by the beauty that awaited us. This hidden gem just behind a ridge of rice terraces artfully designed like an amphitheater made me feel like I was seeing one for the first time. It was magnificent. It’s imposing beauty towered over us as we waded barefoot towards its inviting pool. We basked in its beauty and its chilly waters before we halfheartedly got back to the same route towards the paddies.
The hike back was expectedly more arduous. The sun was already higher and those giant steps were a pain to the gluts! We were definitely not prepared for that! Whoever came up with the souvenir t-shirt design that read “I Love Tappiyah Falls, I Hate the Giant Steps” was on point.
We got back to enjoy the most fulfilling meal of chicken stew, chopsuey and pancit canton. Although our bold estimate to make the round trip within two hours time was off by a good half an hour, our legs didn’t fail us against those treacherous meter-long stairs.
We did a couple of side trips in the beautiful town of Banaue before heading back home to Sagada. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening trip to a neighboring town that offered similar sights to what we have back home. But now I can say you can’t really compare. Each place has its own unique and identifying charm. The people’s warmth made the experience more gratifying.
A beginner could easily do the trek to Batad’s pride. Doing the trail back is a different story though. 😉 Lots of water, sunscreen, hardboiled eggs and bananas would be a good starter pack for this must-do trip up north.
I fell in love with cakes at a young age. My childhood best friend had older sisters who would often bake what I thought were the most delectable creations. They would huddle over their dining room table with their mixing bowls and recipes and whip up the most amazing cakes that I could only dream of making. I thought they were all so beautiful and dainty as I witnessed them sifting and whisking and mixing. I adored them. And I adored whatever they made.
I was eleven when I summoned the courage to make my first cake. And that came with a lot of sneaky planning. My family was scheduled for a trip to the city and I volunteered to stay home to take care of the pets. I had everything deviously planned out. If whatever I make would turn out to be a disaster, I would just chuck it out. The evidence of my failure would be gone and I will not breath a word to anyone.
So the long awaited day came when it was just the cat at home to witness my first trial. I rolled my sleeves up and baked. It was good. And no, it’s not a biased conclusion of an 11-year old girl. It was truly good! It took a lot of self-control to not finish the whole 9 x 13 inches of chocolatey goodness! I had to painstakingly wait for everyone to come home so they could taste it, be gobsmacked that I made something unbelievably good, (yes, I was that confident, haha!) so that they will let me do as I please with the oven now that I’ve proven I could work with it. Boy was I so full of myself that time! 😉
I was not able to make cakes that were as good as that first one the next couple of times, or years for that matter. But I achieved my purpose then–for them to let me tinker with the oven and play with whatever ingredients I could find in the shelves. My love for pastry and baking grew as my search for the perfect cake began.
Cakes as we know them today have come a long way from the first ‘kaka’, believed to be of Viking origin. The ancient Greeks then popularized ‘plakous’ (meaning flat) which consisted of flour blended with honey, eggs and nuts. Now we have modern cakes, fancy entremets, multi-layered paves, and visually out-of-this world cake designs that I cannot even dream of conceptualizing. But throughout the years and a couple of unwanted pounds after, I realized that if I want to eat cake, I want to taste cake. By that I mean enjoying it with its wholesome basic elements–a flavorful base and just the right amount of frosting or not, no garnish necessary.
These days when I gave myself the opportunity to try out different recipes with whatever stuff I can find in the pantry, I realized that there are those I love to make and those that I hate. Some I could finish a slice and some I could not even bring myself to taste. I’ve grown a very discerning palate or sense of preference but it weirdly does not have anything to do with flavors but more of how a recipe speaks to me. I realize that I always delight in something that brings nostalgia.
Like with most foods and smells, our senses get excited more strongly when we can relate, and such associations are mostly founded on memories. In my case, I always go back to those days when every slice of cake regardless of what it was made me giddy with excitement. To those cakes that were made by my best friend’s older sisters. My aunt’s banana cake with lemon glaze. My sister’s squash cake that was so delightful even without any frosting. My mother’s big, fat pancakes. And to that one fateful day that I schemed to bake for the first time.
I haven’t found my perfect cake yet. Because there probably isn’t one. But it is for this reason that I’m equally excited every time there is a new one to slice and try. It might just be that.
The pack decided to revisit some trails down Lower Seymour a couple of weeks ago before summer totally ended. We love the numerous trails offered by the vicinity because they’re a combination of easy to intermediate in terms of difficulty. We do have to take into consideration that as much as our sturdy dachshund proves to be the leader of the pack, he has the shortest, stubbiest legs that render it impossible for him to go through some obstacles along the way without assistance.
I personally recommend this area for hikers with smaller dogs. It’s pet-friendly, terrain-wise as well. Next time we might bring some bikes as they do have some challenging and challenge-free bike trails that I’ve been wishing to try.
Sharing some clips of our gang’s little adventure in one of the many hiking trails of this beautiful city.
At the Philippine Consulate a year ago, a kindly gentleman was awed when he read that my hometown is Sagada. He was so impressed with the place that he enthusiastically described the sites he has seen there when he went to visit. He went on to say I was lucky to live in a place away from the city’s daily hustle. Sagada, he says, is Vancouver’s Kelowna–that drive away from the urban where you could just enjoy the serene beauty of a quiescent place. Such was his description hence I was doubly excited when the opportunity came to have a day trip to the gateway of Okanagan Valley.
This sunny city boasts of pine forests, provincial parks, expansive vineyards and orchards, and a lakeside cultural district. Truly a day was not enough to explore most of the place’s highlights but we made the most of it. Sharing some snippets from this marvelous trip with equally awesome ladies.
We went home spent and full, not just with the beauteous sights but with the first pickings of Fall apples, peaches, plums and grapes. You are indeed a nice respite Kelowna.
A hatchling fell from its nest a couple of days ago and Dalifer brought it home with the hopes that we can nurture it back to health until it gets strong and old enough to fly that we can release it back to the wild. It was with us for two days then it dropped dead. That broke me. I grieved for it thinking we might have done better, or we thought we were doing what’s best for it but we managed the opposite. I consoled myself with the thought that it somehow knew we cared deeply, and that we tried.
What is it with passing away that leaves such a void in our souls? The chasm I still have in my heart almost a decade after my old man died is still as empty as it was that fateful day he left. People die, we grieve, and we ought to move on. But sometimes, no amount of toughening up, time and change, is enough to say you’ve totally healed after your loss. I believe part of the misery comes with the regrets we harbor. The ‘what ifs’ and the ‘what could have beens’ make it harder for the soul to mend. Knowing you could have done better, done more, then maybe it won’t be as painful.
But we can only look back in hindsight. In my case, I allay my sorrows with the thought that I did not have the wisdom of age. But however way I look at it, there should be no excuses for me not having been kinder. And God knows I wish I’d been that–kinder. I wish I’ve been more forgiving. I wish I’ve been more compassionate and understanding. I wish I have been more.
I was not spiteful towards him. It’s just that I thought we had more time, and I knew time mended things. Time has the ability to make things better, and we can make our relationship better with time. But that was what escaped me, the fact that time was not something I had control over. It is not generous, it’s fleeting and we can only do so much. So now I can only live with regrets as I bear my grief, my loss, and my pain.
There’s truth in what they say that fate can teach you the hard way. And it did, I learned mine the painful way. So as I drink to my father’s memory today, I pray that even if I missed out in showing it, that he somehow knew he was loved until his last days. That to this day, I hope I made him proud.
Tintin the hatchling (yes we named the bird) was with us briefly before he succumbed to death. It took another bit of my heart away with his passing despite the short time we spent together. The bird flew to his final plateau. I pray he knew he was loved. I know we showed it.
But you, Dad, I hope you knew you were loved. Take it against me for not knowing how to show it, that will forever be on me, but you were.
Definitely one of the indisputable challenges of living away from home is missing the local tastes and flavours. Though it’s always thrilling to explore something new and different, taming the palate to not crave for tastes that one’s accustomed to does not happen overnight.
Hence my delight when after three years, I was finally able to once again have a genuine, non-commercial, homemade “tapey”. I was brought to tears with elation. Because that’s how powerful food can be. It’s not just the euphoric gastronomical experience but the emotions that come with it. And in this case, “tapey” is home–a surge of heartwarming memories that involved a daringly playful childhood, a warm hearth all day long in my grandpa’s hut, village parties, “watwats” and “kikans”, lavish offerings to the deities and the gods.
The beauty of Sagada’s tapey is that we are taught to enjoy it in its unrefined version–to indulge in both the fermented rice and the juice alike. But since we’re making and selling the rice wine commercially these days, we now see them mostly in packaged and corked bottles.
Japan’s sake and or the Chinese rice wine is not any different in terms of the fermentation methodology. But for some reason or reasons, the tastes are tremendously different. So when I was on the quest for finding a traditional “tapey” here in Vancouver and got kind recommendations to get Chinese rice wine as an alternative, I said, it just won’t do. I have to have that familiar taste.
Local winemakers tend to be meticulous in choosing the ingredients they work with. I’ve seen and heard numerous times that the secret lies in the “bubud” (yeast) used. Our local yeast come in hardened, pancake-shaped chunks that you simply crumble and add to cooked red rice (balatinaw) as required. These are not widely sold however that I remember having to scour the public market to look for one before.
As grapes are fermented and stored in casks made out of oak and other kinds of wood that contribute to the woody or vanillin flavors of red wines, “tapey” is traditionally aged in heirloom jars, thus keeping the purity of the red rice. Sugar can also be added to alter sweetness levels as desired. No wonder my grandmother can finish a bowl of “tapey” like it was just porridge.
I originally searched for “tapey” in this city hoping I could utilize it as an ingredient in a pastry I was working on. But when I uncapped the jar and got a whiff of its contents, all I could think of now is blowtorching a whole broiler and making myself a hearty pot of home. Then I would call on my ancestors and the deities to partake of this local ambrosia. Pinikpikan it is!
We used to jokingly say you can never claim to have tried genuine Sagada “etag” (cured pork) if you haven’t had one with those wriggling “foodstuff” that sometimes come with a chunk. I had my fair share way back and fortunately had the stomach to literally stomach it. But of course that’s not a recommendation. Contamination in food is a definite no-no. This just shows though that our local methods were a work in progress way back. I’d like to believe we’ve come far from the crude ways we utilized before and are now more meticulous and mindful with our preservation techniques.
Like the ancient civilizations that experimented and or accidentally discovered methods to extend food perishability, our local forefathers used meat preservation procedures that are still prevalent in today’s local food practices. Curing pork has been a tradition that most possibly dates back to the earliest settlers in our “ili” (village). Salt is generously spread on big slabs of pork, left to dry for several days, smoked then stored–accessed when an occasion calls for it.
Salt was a luxurious commodity decades ago. My grandmother recounted traversing mountains with a sack of produce on her back to exchange for a pound or two of salt with our lowland brothers, the Ilocanos. This image never fails to plaster on my mind every time I extravagantly season every dish I make with these priceless crystals.
As an elder of the village, Lolo always got one of the best part as his “watwat” (meat share when a pig is butchered during a festivity). He’d then spend days working on his slab and I could just gape but not allowed to ask too many questions. This was decades ago but I can still see myself tailing him to the back of our “inatep” (nipa house) where the magic happens.
A typical Sagada etag would be cured following these procedures. Variations are employed in-between depending on preferences but it generally follows the preservation method that’s done for pork; salting, sun-drying, smoking, storage.
*Some skip the smoking part and simply store the salted pork in earthen jars. Etag cured this way misses the reddish dark coloring that is typical of the common Sagada etag.
Like the mold that forms when cheese is aged, a thin, whitish mold would cover the etag after a few days. Maggots also hatch on the meat. Unfortunately, you can’t protect the salted meat from flies 24/7. This then requires a rigorous amount of washing prior to cooking. And of course boiling the meat in 100 °C or more to kill any bacteria that may still be thriving therein.
For the uninitiated, etag is not the kind of food that is love at first bite. Especially if one has seen those wriggly little “flavours” before they were washed off. Interesting how it was even featured as the top most bizarre Filipino food because of such. But as earlier mentioned, we’ve come a long way from the unrefined methods we’ve employed decades ago.
Today, we see more advanced ways to preserve the etag. Local entrepreneurs are even packaging this native delicacy in vacuum-sealed packets thus ensuring longevity and the prospect of importing it for sale to far places.
It is a celebrated native gourmet that Sagada has repackaged its annual town fiesta to showcase the etag as its major theme. The ingredient is featured as a main element in various dishes, to show that it can be furthered as a dish. Not just as what we’ve grown accustomed to, an enhancer to the “pinikpikan”, but a standout on its own.
The etag’s flavour profile is so distinct that personally I cannot classify it as a ham, bacon, or any cured pork product that has used similar procedures in its preservation. The secret might be with the species of the wood used to smoke it. Maybe the local pig and the local slop it has eaten. Or maybe, those wriggly “foodstuff”? That’s a secret I would not be so keen to uncover for everyone to know.
Food captivated me the moment I entered my grandfather’s nipa hut when I was barely four years old. My young mind vividly recalls the sight of corn, tied in a bunch and drying near the “dapwan” (hearth), meat that was darkened by the smoke, and the sound of chickens clucking somewhere in the corner. There was a sharp, distinct smell permeating the cramped indoor which I could not register then. I only came to find out, months later, that it was the aroma of “etag”, pork that was cured the Sagada way.
I consider myself lucky growing up with grandparents who enriched me with traditional ways. I was a daring kid who climbed up mulberry and nisperos trees with the neighborhood boys, the one who proudly came home in the evenings with scraped knees and insect bites. What had always been a treat though was being called off the dusty Dao-angan road by Lolo Bacagan an evening every week so I could go wolf down the “batikuleng/batik-o” (gizzard) while Lola had the “eges” (intestines) after Lolo finishes his prayers and “atang” (offering) to the “anitos” (spirits). I had older siblings but Lolo always set aside the “batik-o” for me. That made me feel really special.
“Pinikpikan” was the highlight of my weekends. Lolo would butcher his choicest chicken, slice generous slabs of his “etag”, scoop a ladle or two of his prized “tapey” (fermented rice) from an aged “gusi” (ornate jar) and produce the most delectable dish from the “dapwan”. My siblings and I would huddle with our grandparents as we heartily grabbed heaps of rice from a common serving plate we call a “bituto”. We each had a “sukong or apagan” (bowl made from coconut shell) that we can fill and refill to our hearts’ and stomachs’ content.
The delights I experienced from this native delicacy propelled my fascination with food and flavours. Unfortunately, it was a small town where folks send their kids to the city to become nurses and engineers. Pursuing a career in the culinary arena was rather unexplored in my time. That or it was a repressed passion for me that I was just too scared to venture on. Until now.
I realize now that my childhood was an introduction to a romance with food that was only rekindled when I reached my thirties. It’s extremely terrifying to be thinking about doing a leap between careers at this stage in my life but I know that passing up the opportunity would not only make me unhappy but will guarantee that I’ll forever be haunted by these native edibles that I can never rediscover, explore and innovate if I don’t equip myself with the appropriate and ample knowledge and training to guide me on.
We have rich local flavors that can easily be enhanced with the freshest produce from our backyard gardens. In a world where food movement is rapidly evolving to suit different lifestyles and preferences, and the ways to enjoy an ingredient is countless, I am inspired with this little dream to learn about our flavorful roots, and share. Food is meant to make us happy. Food is meant to be shared.
I’m embarking on this long overdue journey of food discovery and appreciation. They say the best way to begin is to go back where it all started. That means revisiting what made the “pinikpikan” explode with flavors. What makes it a staple in Igorot dinner tables since time immemorial? What makes it distinct? How can I describe that wonderful aftertaste? What spikes the flavor? Is it the “etag”, was it the way the chicken was butchered? I’ve eaten the dish probably a thousand times but I’m realizing just now how naive, if not clueless, I am. Maybe I’ll start with the “etag”. And that is a story for another post.