Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kinilaw Recipe – Northern Mindanao

I was already an adult when I had my first kinilaw meal in Cagayan de Oro. I must admit; I ate because I was curious. Kagayanon kinilaw looked different from the simple vinegar dipped dish my Cebuano relatives prepared.

Aside from a whole heap of condiments, Kagayanons also use the juice of the tabon-tabon, a fruit found only in some parts of Northern Mindanao and the Visayas. The fruit juice is apparently able to remove the fishy smell and feel of the fish and can prevent indigestion.

To sweeten the dish, my father-in-law’s personal recipe includes using freshly harvested sweet coconut vinegar along with the more sour stocked vinegar.

The video below shows J preparing his father’s recipe.


Fresh fish, cubed
Sweet coconut vinegar
Sour coconut vinegar
Tabon-tabon juice
Onions, chopped
Ginger, chopped
Chili pepper
Green onions



1. Scrape some of the tabon-tabon meat and add a few teaspoons of vinegar. Press the tabon-tabon meat until juice is extracted. Set aside.

2. Wash the fish with a little vinegar. Drain. Do this quickly and don’t overdo. Otherwise, you’ll end up cooking the fish.

3. Add salt, ginger, onions and two types of vinegar. Mix thoroughly.

4. Add calamansi, tabon-tabon juice and lime. Mix.

5. Top with green onions and chili. Serve immediately.

The tabon-tabon


All ingredient measurements must be estimated by the person preparing the dish. There are no hard and fast rules, but the dish is best served while the fish is still opaque and not cooked throughout.

Want to know more about the dish? Read kinilaw’s origin, history and evolution here.

Wife’s Verdict: Eating kinilaw oddly gives me the feeling of carefree abundance. This dish is the manifestation of nature’s bounty and is the offspring of the marriage of freshness and taste. Exquisitely divine.

J’s Quip: "Don't let it wait."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Baked Layered Bacon and Eggs

This was another one of his dawn breakfast masterpieces that left me stunned and unable to speak. It might have been my cholesterol levels kicking up a notch, but I'd like to believe I was simply mesmerized by the heavenly bacon in a cloud of fluffy eggs. 


Bacon strips
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. salt
5 pcs. egg
¼ tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
Chopped green onions


1. Coat a square baking pan with olive oil.

2. Arrange a layer of bacon on the pan. Top with another layer of bacon perpendicular to the first layer.

3. Repeat the process up to the desired number of layers.

4. Bake in pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for five minutes.

5. Beat eggs, add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Add parsley and green onions.

7. Pour over bacon strips and cook for another five minutes.

Wife's Verdict: I could be biased, but I think baked trumps fried. I was too busy stuffing my face to have jotted down more taste observations.

J's Quip: My wife has grown in wisdom and width.

Friday, January 9, 2015

French Beans with Yogurt Mint and Blue Cheese Sauce

J saw Jamie Oliver prepare yogurt and mint sauce on TV and thought, “Let’s add some blue cheese in there.”

Regretfully, dawn meals and cheap cameras make for awful food photos. J said he’d recreate this for me so I can take a better shot, but he and I have been so busy, we’d probably have to schedule that reshoot ten years down the track.

So yeah, this awful image does not do this dish justice.


French beans
Mint leaves, finely chopped
Half a cucumber
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. blue cheese


1. Steam beans and set aside.

2. Peel the cucumber and use the peeler to shave thin slices. Do not include the core.

3. Add salt to the cucumber. Squeeze and discard the juice from the cucumber shavings.

4. Mix yogurt, cucumber, mint and blue cheese.

5. Season with salt to taste.

Wife’s Verdict:

I start work at dawn, but because I was a cat in my past life, no amount of sleep, coffee and enforced habit are ever enough to keep me fully awake and enthusiastic before sunrise. Amazingly, this dish woke me up. I suspect the mint was responsible for the nudge, but it could have also been the uniquely perfect mix of yogurt and blue cheese. I’d put this recipe under the eye-popping category.

J’s Quip:

“Great cooks don’t stick to rigid rules and measurements.”

Friday, October 3, 2014

Asparagus with Honey Garlic Sauce

I prefer my asparagus steamed, but J served this for breakfast, and he never has time in the morning for steaming. Every day we wake up at dawn. I start work at 4 a.m. while he has to be at his company bus stop by 5 a.m. Before he travels, he makes sure the kids and I have edible stuff in our food bowls. He has roughly 30 minutes each day to whip something up. Hence, ingredients invariably end up in the frying pan. Looking at this beauty, I don't think that's a huge deal breaker.


Asparagus, cut
3 tbsps. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
1 tbsp. honey
20 grams butter
Salt and pepper


1. In a small bowl, coat asparagus with 1 tbsp. olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper.

2. In a saucepan, melt the butter with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Fry garlic until golden brown.

4. Add honey, mix and remove from heat.

5. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a frying pan and fry the asparagus for approximately 4 mins., making sure to turn the stalks constantly.

6. Remove asparagus from the heat, arrange in a plate and pour sauce.

7. Garnish with minced onions.

Wife's Verdict: I am decidedly neutral towards asparagus. To me, it's one of those veggies you just have to eat for its nutritional value. I suppose the secret to making it more appealing is the sauce. Most recipes I've tasted pair asparagus with some type of cream sauce, so this sweet innovation is a welcome change.

I'd imagine this would have been overpowering if sugar was used, but honey gave it a more subdued tone, mixing perfectly with the mildly bitter garlic and the moderate sharpness of minced onions.

J's Status: Working to perfect the honey sauce.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Baked Meatball Sandwich

When Jan feeds me breakfast like this, he says he has an ulterior motive. He says he wants to fatten me up. For what reason, I'm not sure, but I can almost imagine him channeling the wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel. Kidding aside, I know why he does this. He simply enjoys it.


½ kilo        ground beef
3 tbsp        tomato paste
2 cups        diced tomatoes
1 cup        water
2 tbsp        dried oregano
2 tbsp        dried basil leaves
2 tbsp        olive oil
1 cup        chopped onions
Salt and pepper
Aluminum foil
Mozzarella cheese slices
Thick slices of bread



1.    Sautee onions in olive oil until translucent.
2.    Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste.
3.    Add water.
4.    Add half the dried oregano and basil leaves.
5.    Add salt and pepper to taste.
6.    Let it boil in slow heat.


1. Mix the remaining basil leaves and oregano with the ground beef.
2. Add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
3. Form into balls about 2 ½ inches in diameter.
4. Brush aluminium foil with butter and arrange meatballs.
5. Preheat oven for 15 minutes at 200oC and cook the meatballs.

Sauce and Meatballs:

1. Spread tomato sauce on two slices of bread.
2. Arrange 3 meatballs on top of one slice.
3. Pour 1 tablespoon of the tomato sauce over the meatballs and cover with a slice of cheese and the second slice of bread.
4. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

Wife's Verdict: Jan's taste often veers towards salty but this one was noticeably subdued. That was just as well though. I think meatballs with tomato sauce are supposed to be low in salt so the real stars of the dish can shine through.

Jan's Quip: "This is how spaghetti sauce should taste like."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Roast Chicken Breast Wraps

We all ate in silence, pondering the gentle roll of sweet cherries over a fusion of soft chicken and crisp bacon. We passed out after, unhealthy but profoundly happy.

We haven’t been able to post anything here for some time. As many of you understand, life can sometimes get in the way, but when J is able to jump back into the kitchen and I onto my keyboard, the result is always a gustatory celebration.

This time, J decided to recreate a recipe from Perfect Roasts by Paragon Books Ltd. Of course he’s had to improvise. Thanks to my mom, we now have an oven to make improvisation and experimentation a lot easier.

To prepare the meat for cooking, simply season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. We’ve had to use seven half chicken breasts instead of seven whole ones. Wrap each in bacon strips and sprinkle with thyme.

Spread some butter on aluminum foil, one piece per chicken breast. Wrap each breast lightly in foil.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. While waiting, prepare the sauce. For our version we’ve had to use cherries instead of cranberries as recommended in the original recipe. Melt some butter in a pan and add lemon juice, cherries, sugar, salt and pepper. Use your best judgment on the measurements because these days, J hardly ever uses exact measurements, making life difficult for his scribe. :P Cook for a minute or two.

Next, cook the chicken breasts in the oven for 15 minutes. After which, remove the foil and transfer the chicken breasts and its drippings on to the roasting pan. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve with the sauce.

How does it taste? Sweet. Crunchy. Soft. Mildly salty. Yes, I’m never able to write complete sentences when there’s good food on the table.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pan Seared Salmon with Basil Pesto Sauce

I’ve been out of sorts lately, too busy to even comb my hair much less blog. Hence, none of the personal cook’s delectable dishes have found their way here. There were quite many in the past two months.

I can’t just let this blog die though. After all, the objective has always been to maintain a place to document all of his culinary experiments --- online memories we can someday happily revisit. So here’s one of them. He whipped this up to make me feel better while the responsibilities of life harassed me.


2 slices salmon steak
2 tbsps. sliced button mushrooms
4 tbsps. olive oil
1 tbsp. pesto
2 pcs. basil leaves, shredded
¼ cup cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper


1. Pat salmon steak dry and season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat 2 tbsps. olive oil in a non stick pan and fry salmon for approximately one minute on each side or until a light brown crust has formed. Remove from heat.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil and sauté the garlic and mushrooms.

4. Add the cream, mixing occasionally for one minute.

5. Mix in the pesto and basil leaves.

6. Remove from heat and pour over salmon.

Wife’s Verdict: My mother-in-law would only eat fish if it was fried stiff, so when we were living under her roof, fish always had to be cooked that way. Although I’d eat fish regardless of how it’s prepared (as long as it’s not cooked black as charcoal), I do prefer fish with a little juice in it. This one was just what I needed. Soft, juicy, creamy… yum.

Jan’s Implied Quip: “When life gets you down, have some salmon.”
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