First Date of the Year – Teppanya Evia

Yesterday’s journal entry was about our first date in 2022. My husband and I usually open the year by going on our first date, which is usually just a quiet meal and some time to read and write in a cafe before heading home. After a good Christmas celebration with our family, we were really looking forward to a quiet first date. It was our first time at Teppanya and it truly did not disappoint. The service and food were excellent. It was our first time to watch a chef perform over a teppanyaki grill and it was a lot of fun.

By the time we went home in the afternoon, though, it was pretty clear that we are in the early stages of a COVID19 surge. I’ve been monitoring and recording the new cases, deaths and positivity rates in my journal and the increase in new cases is so quick. It’s nothing like the Delta-driven surge of last year. Time to buckle up and go  back to sheltering in place at our respective homes. I hope this surge will be over soon, and that fewer people will need hospitalization.

Bamba Bistro

Today’s food journal entry is about a meal at Bamba Bistro, one of our favorite, cozy little hole in the wall at BF Homes. This pandemic has  been really rough on businesses, and I’m really happy that this favorite spot of ours is still open. My husband and I had lunch with friends last Sunday, it really looked like more people are beginning to venture out and meet up with family and friends. This is the first time we ate out with people who aren’t from our own household. Bamba has an al fresco dining area, and we enjoyed the cool weather under the trees. I missed eating out with friends, and really missed Bamba’s food. They always  have an adventurous take on food and I love how creative they are with their flavors.

I had their salisbury steak dish named “Not your momma’s salisbury”. It’s cheese-stuffed beef patties with porcini mushroom sauce over rice, served in a cast iron skillet. It’s a beautiful, creamy dish that’s part of their holiday menu. I like that the patties are done just right, with a beautiful sear on the outside and still moist and juicy inside.  The porcini sauce is so, so gloriously delicious. None of that overpowering faux-truffle flavor that stays in the mouth long after you’ve had your meal. The pancit negra is also part of their holiday menu and it’s a really good example of how they’re very creative and adventurous about layering their flavors. I think the pancit may be pancit bato, but I’m not sure about it. It’s thin pancit with squid ink. There’s perfectly cooked shrimps with crispy kangkong and chicken skin for texture and flavor. Don’t skip the vinegar, it brightens the dish up with that pop of acid. Their crispy lapu-lapu is a mainstay. The fish is cooked just right, crispy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside. The chorizo rice is a nice complement to it.

Being able to share a good meal with good friends after two years of isolation feels incredible. I missed this so much.

The downward trend of covid19 infections, the aggressive and consistent vaccination drive of LGUs, and high vaccination rates of our respective cities played a part in giving us confidence to meet up with friends. Of course, we still mask up and avoid crowded places. Here’s hoping that there won’t be another surge, and that we’re finally seeing the light at the end of this long tunnel.

Asin Tibuok

Yesterday’s art journal entry is about asin tibuok. I first saw this on the feeds of my friends and of course the appearance was the first thing that attracted my curiosity. It looked like a dinosaur egg, it’s so cool. I looked for an online reseller and ordered one. After a week, it’s here and it looks pretty awesome.

This dinosaur egg-shaped curiosity is a chunk of unbroken sea salt inside a specially-made clay pot. Asin tibuok is a heritage salt from Alburquerque, Bohol. I found this very interesting article about it on Grid Magazine (The Price of Salt). This type of saltmaking technique has been around for centuries, even before the Spanish colonization. I remember the process being described briefly in Pigafetta’s journals, but it was also mentioned in the writings of the Spanish missionary, Father Francisco Ignacio Alcima. The article features one of the last saltmaking families in Bohol and the last asindero of their line, Nestor Manongas. I like how the writer described that salt making  used to be part of their everyday lives, is even a rite of passage for little boys. They still use the time-honored methods that they learned from their elders and which has been passed down from generation to generation. I hope that the tradition can be preserved by the next generation. It would really be quite a loss if we lose the knowledge of how to make this heritage salt.

The little pot is filled to overflowing with asin tibuok. It’s small but heavy. It tastes salty with a bit of umami, it’s a bit savory and smoky. I feel bad that when you look at groceries these days, himalayan pink salt made it to the mainstream, so to speak. We should do the same for our own heritage salts. So many asinderos have abandoned their craft because the production process of asin tibuok and other heritage salts are labor intensive and it takes a long time. Soaking the coconut husks alone takes about 3 months. Add to that the difficulties of getting permits and licenses and that it’s hard to compete with cheaper, more readily available imports. There’s a market for artisanal salt, though. I am thankful for people like those behind Ritual.ph for making these available to people like me, who have never even heard of this wonderful heritage salt until now. As I was holding this beautiful pot of salt in my hands, I feel humbled knowing that it’s the product of months of labor of Mang Nestor, and it’s the product of ancestral wisdom and know-how passed on to families for many generations.

Asin tibuok was added to the Ark of Taste by Slow Food back in 2016. This is an online catalog of endangered heritage foods worldwide.

Ink Swabs: Vinta Christmas Collection: Karol 1990 and Parol 1908

Our friends at Vinta Inks sent me bottles of their new Christmas collection. This collection has two colors in it: Karol 1990 (Carol Red) and Parol 1908 (Jewel Green). I’m happy that they came out with a Christmas collection, we could all use more sheeny, shimmery goodness. The sheen on these inks can be quite pronounced in certain lights, especially if you use a wet nib or glass pen. The parol in the photo below looks like it’s drawn with gold foil.

In indirect light, the inks can appear a bit dark but the red and green still show through. The red shading on the Parol ink in particular can make it look darker sometimes, depending on the pen and paper you use.

Continue reading “Ink Swabs: Vinta Christmas Collection: Karol 1990 and Parol 1908”

Pinoy Vinegar

Today’s art journal entry is about locally-made vinegar. I got curious about this when I read “Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic” by Felice Sta. Maria which describes locals offering alcoholic drinks and vinegar and “Tikim” by Doreen Fernandez which mentions locally-made vinegars in several of her essays. Vinegar in the Philippines are primarily made from coconut (sukang tuba, pinakurat), nipa palm (sukang Paombong), and sugar cane (sukang Iloko). Vinegar is made by fermenting juices from sources like coconut et al so that they become alcoholic (producing ethanol), then exposed to oxygen and the acetobacter bacteria and fermenting it further to produce acetic acid. Water is added to acetic acid to produce vinegar. Other spices may also be added. In the case of sukang Iloco, molasses is added to sweeten it. It’s a shame that vinegar-making has become a dying industry in the Philippines. Many vendors just opt to skip the fermentation process and use synthetic acetic acid. Not only does synthetic acetic acid-based vinegar taste different, they’re also unhealthy in the long run because it’s made of petroleum by-products.

We were recently able to try several flavors of naturally-fermented vinegar called Basimatsi (suka with bawang, sibuyas, kamatis, sili). I particularly enjoyed their version of hot sauce, which is Labuyo Cerveza. It has local siling labuyo fermented in vinegar. I like that it doesn’t feel like physical punishment when you use it on food or in dipping sauce. While store-bought hot sauce is so spicy that it’s just painful, Labuyo Cerveza has a pleasant level of spiciness that dissipates into heat that highlights the flavor of vinegar and peppers. It reminds me of other homemade hot sauces that I’ve tried  before where the sauce is not so painfully spicy so that you can detect the nuances in taste of the peppers and other spices used.

Naturally-fermented vinegar doesn’t taste so caustic. It accentuates other flavors instead of overpowering it with caustic sourness. It’s hard to find authentic, naturally-fermented vinegar these days, especially those that are specific to certain provinces. It’s worth the effort trying to find them, though.

Quince!

I finished reading Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic–Culinary Encounters During the First Circumnavigation, 1519-1522 by Felice Prudente Sta. Maria a few days ago. It had a lot of interesting details in it about the first circumnavigation and Pigafetta’s account of their adventures/misadvantures, even the food. According to Sta. Maria, at the time all seafarers know that as glamorous as an adventure at sea sounds, the reality is decidedly unglamorous and dangerous. Magellan’s voyage was not just fraught with danger from elements and enemies, they faced starvation as well. The provisions of mostly biscocho or hard and dry sea biscuits as well as wine and salted meat really weren’t enough to last them until they got back to Spain. Most of the seafarers suffered from scurvy, where their gums rotted and their teeth fell out, among other symptoms. People that time were aware of the condition but not what caused it. The only people who escaped from this condition were those well off enough to take their own provisions with them, including their favorite quince jam which are packed with vitamin c.

I looked for some on Shopee because I wanted to taste it. There aren’t any growing in the Philippines, I don’t think I’ve seen them in markets either. The jam I ordered on Shopee had bits of shredded quince that had the same texture as pears; a bit crunchy and grainy, like fruity sand. The taste is somewhat like a cross between pears and green apples, but strangely foreign on my tongue. Like it’s almost familiar, but it’s not. I can’t say I enjoyed it a lot, but at least now I know what it tastes like.

Ink Swab: Dominant Industry Manschurian Violet

When Everything Calligraphy sent over a few samples of Dominant Industry inks for me to try, this color caught my attention right away. It’s a soothing, mellow pastel color and I mentally noted that I’d like a bottle of this for my collection. I don’t think I have a lot of violet or purple inks in my collection aside from Diamine Bilberry. It’s one of those colors that I like sometimes, but  not enough to buy. Then I would flip through my journal pages and see entries written in pretty purple ink and I wonder to myself “why didn’t I get a bottle of this color?” Well, I got a bottle of this color because it looks really pretty and soothing to the eyes. It’s a little hard to photograph because under some kinds of light, it looks more blue than violet. I thought at first that it looked similar to Periwinkle Blue but this ink is really more pastel violet than blue. While wet, it looks like standard violet, but it lightens as it dries. It’s actually pretty fun to watch the ink dry because the color changes noticeably as you watch. It becomes milky violet and the shading shows up really well after it’s dried.

Compared with the first few Dominant Industry inks that I tried, this ink doesn’t flow too wet. I would put the flow level at moderate. Of course your mileage may vary, depending on the paper and pen that you use. I used a Cross Century II with a medium nib and Tomoe River Paper for this writing sample. Also, it dries a bit longer at almost 25 seconds. The color is a bit too light when you add water so you won’t get any dramatic effect on it if you want to use it for painting. It’s saturated enough so that it’s not difficult to read, and the shading is really expressive. It’s really a fun-looking ink and I’m happy to add it to my collection. Here’s a few more photos of the writing sample:

Of Pinangat and Favorite Food Memories

Yesterday I was able to taste what I think is the best pinangat I’ve ever tasted in Manila. My father was from Bicol, but we only visited his childhood home as a family twice. We grew up pretty disconnected from my father’s Bicolano roots except by way of food. He was a pretty awesome home cook, and when we went to Bicol, our palates just reveled in all the familiar food that he cooked for us at home. My favorite was pinangat from this particular restaurant called Paayahayan. It was so memorably delicious. It made such an impression on me that from that time on, anytime I would see pinangat at any carinderia or restaurant, I absolutely must try it, but I have to admit that it’s been hard finding well-cooked pinangat in Manila. What a surprise it is to find one that is so close to the one I tasted 21 years ago at Paayahayan, and I found it on Facebook, of all places (here’s the page, if you’re curious, it’s called Jo’s Pinangat).

From what I can gather, pinangat is made with slices of pork or fish wrapped with gabi leaves and tied up in a neat bundle with tanglad. It’s simmered slowly on low heat with a generous amount of kakang gata flavored with garlic, ginger, alamang, siling labuyo and tanglad stalks. It’s simmered on low heat until the coconut cream curdles and become yellowish, and the leaves become so tender. The pinangat I had yesterday had leaves that were so soft, and pork bits that were so tender. The maillard reaction on the kakang gata has caramelized it and made it thick and sweet, it’s almost like latik. It’s incredibly delicious. I think that the pinangat that I tasted from other sellers don’t have enough kakang gata so the taro leaves taste…leafy, not creamy, and the texture is a tad dry instead of melt-in-your-mouth soft. Properly cooked pinangat is when the leaves are so soft that it’s mixed so well with the kakang gata infused with delicate flavors of aromatics and the saltiness of alamang. It takes time to make, but of course all good things take time.

Eating this wonderful serving of pinangat yesterday brought a flood of happy memories with my family, especially of my papa’s excellent cooking. It just made me so happy.

Ink Swab: Dominant Industry Periwinkle Blue

Dominant Industry’s Periwinkle Blue is a bit hard to capture on photo. Sometimes it looks baby blue, sometimes it’s milky blue with purple tones, sometimes it looks dark blue. I think this is one of those inks that you really need to see in person in order to appreciate. Like the first two Dominant Industry inks that I tried (thanks to Everything Calligraphy for sending those free samples, yay!), Periwinkle Blue flows wet, almost watery at first. Then the colors develop on the page and show off wonderful shading of different shades of blue and pink. It’s a whimsical ink color that looks really fun to use. It dries pretty quickly too, at a little over 15 seconds. I like this. I don’t have a similar-looking ink, so I will get a bottle of this for my personal collection.

Here’s a few photos of the writing sample:

The Life of Olaudah Equiano

Today’s art journal entry is about a book I’m currently reading, The Life of Olaudah Equiano. It’s my first time to read a slave narrative, all I know about those dark times were what I read in history books and books on African American social issues. Slave narratives connect with you in a very different way. I find Olaudah’s narrative overwhelmingly sad, and one can’t help but wonder about the incredible capacity of humans for cruelty. I’m halfway through the book, I have a few more slave narratives lined up. The illustration in the journal entry is about Olaudah’s description of an iron muzzle, a contraption put on a slave’s head to prevent them from talking or eating while working on the field or in the kitchen. Like I said, it’s an overwhelmingly sad read.