Inihaw na Baboy (Grilled Pork Belly)

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Ingredients:

I pack of pork belly (usually three strips come to a pack)

Bay leaves (4-5)

Garlic powder (about 1 tablespoon) or Fresh Garlic, finely chopped. I prefer the latter but, in a pinch, the garlic powder does a nice job.

Ground pepper (approx. 1 tablespoon)

I can of Coca-Cola or Kalamansi Soda

Soy sauce and/or Knorr Seasoning Sauce (mixed with the soda, enough for the strips of pork belly to be submerged)

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients, minus the pork belly, in a Tupperware container or Pyrex dish. Stir it to make sure all the flavours blend

2. Add the pork bellies, making sure they’re submerged. DO NOT slice the pork belly*. You can let this sit for a few hours and it’ll be ready for grilling but I like to leave it overnight in the refrigerator. If you do that, make sure its covered so it doesn’t dry out.

3. When ready to grill – which you can do in a barbeque pit, outdoor grill, or the broiler pan of your indoor oven – cook each side for approximately 8 or 9 minutes (could be less or more, depending on the proximity of the pork to the flame and/or the strength of the cooker you’re using). Bottom line: make sure the pork is cooked thoroughly and that there is a nice browning on the outside.

4. Once the pork is cooked, slice each strip into 1/2″ pieces.

5. Serve with white or Filipino garlic rice, laing (stewed banana leaves in coconut milk). As a condiment, you can use Mang Tomas dipping sauce and/or suka (white vinegar), with or without diced red pepper.

Garlic rice, inihaw na baboy and a scoop of laing

Garlic rice, inihaw na baboy and a scoop of laing

 

* Do NOT slice the pork belly until after marinating it and, for me, after cooking. For my taste, this is the best process for the following reasons: 1. Cutting the bellies before marinating it can lead to the pork getting overwhelmed by the marinade. When eating it, you should get a taste of the marinade while still being able to taste the meat. 2. Cooking the baboy when it’s already sliced can lead to the pork becoming dry.

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Banana Cream Pie

Two Fridays ago, just before watching the ballet, I had dinner with my wife, our son and some friends at The Redeye Grill in New York City. It’s located at 57th and 7th and their website is naturally, redeyegrill.com.

We were a little rushed but, nonetheless, we were able to have a full meal with starters, mains and, of course, dessert. Between the five of us, for afters, we shared a chocolatey mash up that was concocted with whipped cream, what I think were brownie pieces and nuts of some kind, and a Banana Cream Pie. The chocolatey thing is called something like Mama’s Mash-Up. It was good but, for me, nothing that special. What was really tasty, however, was their Banana Cream Pie.

Growing up in Hong Kong, I can’t recall ever tasting a BCP before coming to the United States. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever said its name before either. My first taste of a BCP was at a diner in New Jersey when my sister ordered a piece and I’d tasted a bit of it. (I had an identical introduction to Coconut Custard Pie but that’s a blog for another day. And, I own up to that shamefully; that being from The Philippines, the home of Buko Pie, my first encounter with ‘coconut’ and ‘pie’ in unison was not until I moved to America.)

Anyway, the bite I’d had that monumental day at the diner was a tasty one. The pie had a thin but firm Graham Cracker base, banana pieces mixed into a custard /pudding middle, and a thick, but light, layer of whipped cream on top. The slices of BCP that I’ve had since have been very much the same, although finding BCP at diners these days seems increasingly rare. And, just for the record, I’ve enjoyed them all and I won’t hesitate to have a slice of diner BCP in the future.

The BCP at The Redeye Grill, however, is true to its name. The diner variety could honestly be renamed Cream Banana Pie or Custard Banana Pie. You see, in some cases, the layer of whipped cream on top is thicker than the pie itself. In others, while there are chunks, pieces or slices of banana in the custard, they’re often fewer and far between than the dessert’s name suggests. At times, it’s a combination of the two. At The Redeye Grill, however, it’s all about the banana. Just look at the picture below, which I must apologise was taken after I’d had two bites* from it. That’s how good it was.

ImageYou can see that the middle layer is just banana. It’s banana that has been layered with other slices of banana to form what I call ‘the banana wall.’ It still has a thin cracker base and there’s still some whipped cream on top but, as you can see, it’s all about the banana. And, the layer of cream topping isn’t thicker than the middle layer. In fact, the whipped cream is only a touch thicker than the crust base. What’s on top is vanilla ice cream, which makes for a unique touch on this cold fruit pie. It’s a cold a la mode, almost. Completing the dessert, chocolate slivers were dropped on top and around the slice. The chocolate slivers, I must say, are essential to the dish and not just ornamental because they add a nice break from the sweetness of the banana, whipped cream and ice cream, without overtaking the pie’s flavour. The slight bitterness of the chocolate cuts the sweetness nicely in a way that almost cleans your palate so that you can truly appreciate the main ingredient – banana.

One thing that may be a negative of The Redeye Grill’s BCP, however, compared to the lighter (in terms of filling you up) diner variety is that the banana wall is extremely dense and, while I didn’t enjoy it to the point of suffering, I can imagine it might sit in your stomach if you have too much of it. The Redeye Grill BCP is truly a dessert that can – perhaps, should – be shared. That aside, it is the first BCP I’ve had that has truly lived up to its name.

Rating: Two Bites In!

* In my last food review (click here), I didn’t have a rating system yet. I still don’t but since I took two bites of the piece of Banana Cream Pie at The Redeye Grill before taking a picture of the slice for this blog, I’m going to rate the dishes I write about according to the number of bites I have before I consider it for review; the theory being the more bites I take, the tastier it is because it’s taken over me and my raw sense have won over my rational mind. As of now, then, my rating system will be as follows:

0 bites = Don’t bother. I suffered for you.

1/2 bite = I enjoyed it enough – I had to eat something, after all – but I wouldn’t recommend it.

1 bite = Good. I’d have it again but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.

1 1/2 bites = Very good/super tasty. I’m definitely going back and I’m bringing friends. If I weren’t married, it’s somewhere I’d take a first date to. That’s how good it is.

2 bites = Unique, I’ve never had (and probably won’t ever have) better than this, this is what I want if I were going to be executed and I could have whatever I wanted for my last meal, Epicurean Orgasm!

Kalamansaki

 

Kalamansaki (aka Cabanatuan)*

 

Kalamansaki

 

Ingredients:

Saki (your choice; the variety will determine how dry or smooth the drink is)

Tonic Water

Kalamansi juice concentrate or Fresh kalamansi juice (with or without sweetener)

 

Method:

It’s really a case of bunging everything together, to taste, stirring it and serving the concoction over ice. Actually, it tastes very much like a Mojito. The amounts you mix together depends on how much kick you want from the saki and how much sweetness or tart you want from the kalamansi concentrtate or kalamansi juice. Living in the United States, the concentrate is much easier to get than fresh kalamansi, and I have a bit of a sweet tooth anyway, so the concentrate is nice. However, there is still nothing like the smell and taste of fresh kalamansi, whether it’s being used in a cocktail, for kalamansi juice or soda, or as a condiment for pancit or daeng na bangus with toyo (soy sauce) and/or suka (vinegar).

Anyway, back to the Kalamansaki.

1. In a highball glass, pour 2 or 3 shots (or saki cups) of saki and 1 or 2 shots of the kalamansi concentrate. Stir.

2. Fill the glass about 2/3 full of Tonic Water and stir gently.

3. Pour into another highball glass with lots of ice in it.

 

 

* I’ve decided to give the Kalamanskai an alternate name, the Cabanatuan. This is for the area of The Philippines where what is regarded as the greatest rescue mission of World War II took place. US servicemen, alongside Filipino guerillas, rescued a battalion of captured US soldiers who were held in a POW camp by the Japanese.