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2/27/2008

Kublai's

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Kublai's was one of the restos Ruy and I frequented when we were just students. The experience of going back there, this time with Andrea, was definitely nostalgic.

Kublai's, when we were in college, offered the most affordable Mongolian Buffet out there. It's true that you could find a lot of restaurants offering their Mongolian Buffets for so much cheaper, but you'd be hard pressed in finding one with as much variety in terms of ingredients.

Mongolian Buffet virgins need not fear as Kublai's offers instructions for those who need them.



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Ruy and I get quite competitive when it comes to our Mongolian bowls. We have our mini competitions to see whose bowl would be better. With victory as our goal, we went through the different ingredients Kublai's offers.


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This is their carbs and egg section. You can choose from rice or the two variety of noodles.


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The carb station is closely followed by the veggie station. I wasn't able to take a picture of all the vegetables but there sure were a lot! Squash, eggplant, corn, cabbage, bean sprouts, young corn, carrots....this guarantees that even vegetarians would get to enjoy this place!


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Carnivores like myself would also enjoy the buffet which offers a whole lot of animals (hehehe). You have fish fillet, beef, pork, shrimp, squid, pork and chicken liver, crispy fish, etc. They even have pork tocino! My only complaint is that the ingredients don't seem to be at their freshest. The shrimp and tocino I tried were frozen, as if they were left overs from the day before. I hope I'm wrong in this assumption


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I particularly love creating sauces for my mongolian bowls. Kublai's offers a LOT of sauces. They have the basic ingredients like ginger, garlic, onion, chili, lemon water, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar etc. They also have ready made sauces like teriyaki, oyster, bulgogi, etc. This leads to a myriad of possible permutations in terms of the combination of ingredients. For those who might want to take a safer route, there are recipe guides to help you create your own sauce.


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The bowls will then be sent to the kitchen which is clearly visible to everyone. The chef skillfully mixes our creations.

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While Andrea watches in awe.

The result of this process?

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This is Ruy's creation.

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And this is mine.

Ruy kept on eating off my bowl and it was understood that I win this round...like always! Tsk tsk tsk...and people thought that Ruy was the cook in this household. =)

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Ruy was not ready to admit defeat so he set off to create another bowl (which I seriously think was inspired by my winning bowl)

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Ruy's second bowl -- I would admit that this was indeed better than his first. I could not eat another bowl though so we weren't able to have a round two of our competition...

2/13/2008

The O's in Ruy's Life

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Ruy has two O's in his life...Olivia and Olive Oil. I cannot tell you which one he values over the other, that's a tough call.

Ruy and his dad have a very strong preference for Olive Oil. They would slather it on anything and everything. Thank goodness that Olive Oil contains good fat, otherwise their hearts would be in danger.

I first saw them use olive oil with the dish Bacalao a la Vizcaina. They would first cook the fish using olive oil and as if this wasn't enough, they would still drizzle olive oil on the dish right before eating it. Ruy takes this a notch higher by slathering his bread with butter then stuffing it with olive oil - laden bacalao.

I personally love olive oil in pasta dishes. I sauteed a whole lot of garlic in olive oil then mixed in the Italian Sausages made by Ruy and voila a really tasty dish! I have also learned the beauty of putting chili in a bottle of olive oil and drizzling this on your pizza. This takes a simple dish to the next level!

While olive oil is generally used in Italian cooking it is slowly being used in our local dishes as well. Two weeks ago my lola cooked her mechado using olive oil and it turned a simple every day mechado dish into something more interesting.

Out of curiousity, how do you like your olive oil?

2/06/2008

Mapo Tofu

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There are a few things I’m not fond of eating and one of them would be tofu. A result I believe, of a tofu overload I had during childhood where we had tofu every other day for around a year or two as part of my father’s nutritional regimen for the family. This phase I believe supplied my tofu requirement for life.

That being said however, let me make clear that I still eat the wonderful invention that is curdled soy milk more popularly known as tofu. I have to admit though I don’t often get excited or do the dance of joy when I see tofu and bok choi being prepped for what is probably the only recipe its used for by my parents at our house.

A perk though of being nosy in the kitchen is that you get to “tamper” with what you don’t like too much and find a way to love it. Such is what has happened with tofu and me. A relationship that has gone cold but through an effort at reconciliation the fire was rekindled.

Let me share with you one of the recipes which has given tofu a new meaning to me in my life. An ancient but very common Chinese recipe called Mapo Tofu which comes with its own legend care of wikipedia

Ma stands for "mazi" (Pinyin: mázi Traditional Chinese 麻子,) which means a person disfigured by pockmarks. Po (Chinese 婆) translates as "old woman". Hence, Ma Po is an old woman whose face was pockmarked. Legend says that the pock-marked old woman (má pó) was a widow who lived in the Chinese city of Chengdu. Due to her condition, her home was placed on the outskirts of the city. By coincidence, it was near a road where traders often passed. Although the rich merchants could afford to stay within the numerous inns of the prosperous city while waiting for their goods to sell, poor farmers would stay in cheaper inns scattered along the sides of roads on the outskirts of the ancient city.

It is said that the first people who tasted the old woman's cooking were a farmer and his son who arrived late to the city during a terrible rainstorm. They were forced to find shelter in the old woman's home having found that all of the inns were full.

Pleased with the company, the old woman prepared them a meal from her paltry larder, including the dish now known as Ma Po Dou fu. The dish was so delicious that soon each time the father and son passed the old woman's home, they would stay for a meal. In this way, the old woman's renown spread as others joined the father and son in visiting and staying at her home. These visitors would often bring the ingredients for her dish so as not to burden her larder.


Ingredients: Recipe adapted from Rose's Kitchen)

350g soft bean curd (cut into 2cm cubes)
200g minced pork (I like it meaty)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 slices ginger, chopped
1 red chilli, diced
2 stalks spring onion, chopped
2tbsp canned tausi

3 tbsp cooking oil
7 tbsp water


2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sugar (i like it a bit sweet but you can adjust this accdg to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp rice wine (I used local rie wine but chinese cooking wine is the norm. I love how it works the pork)

Cornflour Thickening:
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp water


Method:


1. Marinate minced pork with 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp oil and 1 tbsp cornflour for 10 mins.
2. Heat the 3 tbsp oil in a wok. When hot, fry the garlic, chili, ginger and beans .

Add the marinated minced pork and continue to fry for a while more. Sprinkle rice wine and 7 tbsp water.

3. Add in the tofu cubes sesame oil, soy sauce and the remaining sugar.

Thicken with cornflour thickening.

Keep stirring for 2 minutes and add the chopped spring onions.






KUNG HEI FAT CHOI!

2/03/2008

Arce -- This is How Ice Cream Should Taste Like

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It has been expressed more than once or twice in this blog that I am into cakes and Ruy's into ice creams. It's been a clear and clean delineation. It has worked well for us. I can eat my cake without having to share much with Ruy (imagine me rubbing my palms grinning in selfish delight) while Ruy can do the same with his ice cream.

Our peaceful world of dessert sharing was shattered when Mr. Manila Boy himself opened our eyes to the delights of Arce Ice Cream. He convinced us directly by telling us that they make really good ice cream and indirectly (you should have seen him devouring his ice cream sandwich made out of arce ice cream, it looked almost sinful).

The next day after meeting with Doc Chef and Spanx, Ruy trekked to the nearest grocery store to find a pint of Arce Ice Cream. Ruy took a bite and made a sound which sounded like "Uhm uhm uhm" with matching eyes wide open and a smile on his face. Score one for Manila Boy.

I was hesitant. I am not into ice creams and find most of the local brands to be too artificial. I don't know if any of you can relate to this but I find most local ice creams to be not cold enough. So I take one reluctant taste and boy was I blown away. For the first time ever...I asked Ruy to share his ice cream with me.

From that point on, it has become a staple during our trips to the grocery. Here are the flavors we've tried:

Orange - I love this but Ruy can't stand it. It tastes exactly like the Orange Freeze from Pancake House (which was a fave of mine when I was younger). For people like Ruy who are not into citrus, this is not for you.

Caramel - Love, love, love, love, love this. Oh and did I mention that I love it? Ruy looked for this as Spanx recommended it and this is the flavor which got us both hooked on Arce's Ice Cream.

Dark Chocolate - Ruy's current favorite and I'd have to admit that it's to die for. The best way for me to describe it is by asking you all to go back into your childhood. Remember those Chocolait Drinks which comes in those huge glass bottles? Take the taste of those, make them richer and add more chocolate...then turn them into ice cream. (Ruy said that he felt like he was tasting chocolate ice cream for the first time)

I'd have to quote the film P.S. I Love You...with one bite of this ice cream, life as we knew it ended. =)

Coffee Crumble - this was good but nothing out of the ordinary.

Ube - a creamier version of this popular filipino flavor.

We still have other flavors on our must try list: Dark Caramel, Avocado and Buko Lychee. We'll update you once we've tasted more.

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