Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Spaghetti, American Style

Matt Norris was a Rotary Exchange student who stayed in our Lahug home in the early 1980's. His father, a chef, had taught Matt well. He shared his homemade spaghetti recipe with me as well.

Three weeks ago, I was in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where I made a modified version of this recipe. Since I didn't think it was as good as Matt's recipe, I'm sharing this one with them.

May you have a great spaghetti supper sometime!


Extra virgin olive oil, for sauteeing
1/2 kilo (or 1 lb.) lean ground beef
1 large onion, minced
2 large cans peeled whole tomatoes (drain the liquid)
1 "tall" can of tomato sauce
1 "small" can of tomato paste
worcestershire sauce, to taste
chopped basil, to taste (you can used the dried version)
chopped oregano, to taste (you can used the dried version)
garlic salt, to taste
Montreal Steak seasoning, to taste
1 can of sliced button mushrooms (drain the liquid)
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheeses OR extra-sharp Cheddar Cheese (I use Cabot's)

1. In a wok or dutch oven, start with very little extra virgin olive oil (about 1-2 tbsps.) and brown the beef, chopping up the pieces so they don't clump into "hamburger buns" or meatballs. Add onions, cut-up whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Toss in the mushrooms.

2. Add your spices and worcestershire sauce to taste. Let simmer in low heat until done (about 20 minutes or more).

3. Boil water in a dutch oven. Add some extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt into the pot. Add one package of spaghetti noodles or other pasta noodles. Cook until "al dente."

4. Drain the water off of the spaghetti noodles in a colander.

5. Put the noodles in a pyrex dish or pasta serving dish.

6. Either pour the spaghetti sauce on top of the noodles OR set the sauce aside in another container for the people to serve themselves.

7. Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheeses. You can also use extra sharp cheddar cheese, especially for Filipino taste buds.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Pasta Sauce

This is my innovation and revision on a recipe given to me by Sharon Sweeney when we were work colleagues at Brook Furniture Leasing and Sales. This is an uncooked sauce that is heart-healthy, meant to be prepared at least an hour before serving, refrigerated, then allowed to stand at room temperature so that flavors blend well. I've successfully made the sauce a day before serving it at a party.

1. Parboil 3 large ripe tomatoes in a pot of boiling water to loosen its skin. After peeling the skin, de-seed (yes, take off the seeds!) and chop these tomatoes in a food processor (I use a Cuisinart). Set aside the tomatoes in a glass bowl and refrigerate (yes, use a plastic wrap to cover the bowl).

2. Using the same food processor (no, you don't need to wash it), process the following ingredients, one after the other. NOTE: You can use your own ratio of ingredients. For instance, I tend to use more cilantro (chopped off from its stems with kitchen scissors) and I therefore adjust the amount of olive oil I use (meaning, I add slightly more olive oil).

a. chopped sweet basil, 2 tbsps
b. chopped fresh chives, 1 tbsp
c. chopped cilantro or chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley, 2 tbsps
d. finely grated Fontina or Mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup
e. finely-chopped fresh garlic, 3 cloves

3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the tomatoes and ingredients (in step number 2. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate the sauce in a covered glass bowl. Let stand at room temperature one hour before serving.

4. Cook 8 ozs. (1 package) of dried or 12 ozs. fresh spaghetti or any desired pasta until "al dente." I personally prefer fusilli.

5. Combine sauce and hot pasta in a pre-heated bowl.

6. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

This recipe generously serves 4 people.
The pasta sauce takes about 15 minutes to make.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Bachang or Bak Chang

This recipe is certainly not for people who are in a hurry. Whenever I pass by Chinatown in San Francisco, and peer at the display windows to salivate at the various dimsum products, I would spot leafy triangles in a steamer, wrapped in twine or kitchen string. I smile because I remember that a long time ago, I had this Chinese (Fookienese) boyfriend who taught me what his favorite foods were. He even went to the extent of bringing me some expensive Chinese black mushrooms for this recipe. I did some research on "Bachang" (there were no online recipes then) and found a basic recipe I liked. I revised the recipe for the Filipina cook's taste buds and availability of resources.

I found a Malaysian blogger, Hochiak! Delicious Asian Food, who seems to describe best about my then-boyfriend's love for Bachang, Bak Chang, or Bak Zhang. I checked's Creative Commons Attribution to see if I could share some of the website's tips with you to complement my own efforts.

Bak Chang (or Zongzi), meat enclosed in glutinous rice filling, is traditionally eaten in June for the Chinese. It stemmed from the Dragon Boat Festival which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Of course, in this day and time, eating Bak Chang is more of a “seasonal food” though it is not uncommon to see Bak Chang being sold all year round.


circa 1984

4-1/2 cups glutinous ("Malagkit") rice
30 bamboo leaves (or substitute with banana leaves)
1/2 kilo pork (or 1.1 lbs.)
5 pieces Chinese black mushrooms*

Mixture I.

1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 tsps. soy sauce
1/3 tsp vetsin (monosodium glutamate; see quote below)
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp rice wine
1 to 3 tbsps minced and sauteed shallots

5 yolks coming from salted eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps dried shrimp

Note: For those who want to make homemade salted eggs, the recipe is also found below.

Mixture II.

1 tsp salt
1/3 tsp vetsin (monosodium glutamate; see quote below)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper

Optional: Pandan leaves (screw pine leaves) for the cooking pot.


* Pre-condition mushrooms. Soak them in warm water until soft. Remove stems and discard. Use the mushroom caps as directed.

1. Rinse rice until water runs clear. Drain and soak rice for one hour. Drain again slightly (leaving the rice with some water).

2. Wash bamboo leaves and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. If you are using banana leaves, pass them over a fire until slightly wilted and soft. Wipe dry.

3. For the Filling:

Cut pork into 15 pieces, then cut each piece into 5 pieces.
Cut previously-soaked mushrooms into 15 pieces, then cut each piece into 3 pieces.
Mix pork meat and mushroom pieces with Mixture I and soak for 20 minutes.
Cut salty egg yolks into 15 sections.
Equally divide above ingredients into 15 portions.

4. Cooking Procedure:

Heat frying pan and add 1/4 cup and 2 tbsps cooking oil.
Stir-fry dried shrimp until fragrant. Add rice and Mixture II.
Add any remaining sauce from marinated meat (Mixture I).

Stir-Fry over medium heat until almost dry and the sauce has almost been reduced.
Remove the shrimp-rice mixture from the fire and separate into 15 portions.
From my test kitchen, that's 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps per portion.
Let cool.
Add 5 pieces meat and 3 pieces of mushrooms per portion to the shrimp-rice mixture and blend thoroughly.

5. For Assembling:

Place 2 bamboo leaves or banana leaves together (about a foot long). Use the smoother side of the leaves for the inner portion.
Fold the leaves into a cone shape. However, one top should be longer than the other.
Add 1/2 of a rice portion, pressing rice gently to line cone.
Add a portion of the filling: a piece of egg yold, meat, and mushroom.
Then, cover with the other 1/2 of the rice portion.
Fold over the long end of the leaves to form a cover and encase rice and filling.

6. Wrap and bind with string. Place the leafy cones in a pot with water to cover and some pandan (screw pine) leaves. Cook covered over medium heat for 1 hour.

Number of servings: 15

BONUS: A Youtube video showing how to wrap the Bachang. (I don't need to re-invent the wheel, so thank you,!)

I have also linked's recipe for Bak Chang for those who want to compare notes.


1. Boil 6 cups of water and 12 cups salt (I prefer sea salt). Cool.
2. Carefully place 12 chicken eggs in a wide-mouth glass jar.
3. Pour the salt solution in the jar. Weigh down the eggs with a plate or cup to keep them from floating to the surface.
- Instead of a jar, you could use a sealed plastic bag (a huge ziploc bag could work!) filled with salt solution.
4. Cover the mouth of the glass jar with perforated paper. Keep in a cool, dry place.
5. Try an egg after 12 days by boiling in water. Taste it to see if the saltiness suits your taste buds.
6. Soak the eggs again for 5 more days if you feel that the tested egg isn't salty enough. You can also use duck's eggs but you have to soak them for a longer time.
7. After 5 days, the eggs should be salty enough. Boil a test egg, just to be sure.
8. Boil eggs in water for 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 more minutes.
9. Color eggs, if desired.


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that is "generally recognized as safe," the use of MSG remains controversial.

MSG has been used as a food additive for decades. Over the years, the FDA has received many anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to foods containing MSG. But subsequent research found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and the symptoms that some people described after eating food containing MSG. As a result, MSG is still added to some foods.

Continue reading about MSG at

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