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23rd of October 2018

Canada



Vancouver food blogger creates cookbook celebrating Filipino food

Filipino cooking, the authentic way.

Kare-kare (Oxtail with vegetables in peanut sauce) from Quintessential Filipino Cooking by Liza Agbanlog. (Reprinted with permission from Quintessential Filipino Cooking by Liza Agbanlog, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018.

Kare-kare (Oxtail with vegetables in peanut sauce) from Quintessential Filipino Cooking by Liza Agbanlog. (Reprinted with permission from Quintessential Filipino Cooking by Liza Agbanlog, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018. Allie Lehman

Quintessential Filipino Cooking: 75 Authentic and Classic Recipes of The PhilippinesCover art for Quintessential Filipino Cooking by Liza Agbanlog, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018.

By Liza Agbanlog

$21.99 | Page Street Publishing Co.

For many people, food provides a powerful reminder of home, conjuring up vivid memories of the scents and flavours of one’s childhood.

And, for Liza Agbanlog, that couldn’t be more true.

“Food and cooking played a big part in my life growing up,” she says. “I remember watching and learning from my mom and dad as they prepared food for our family.

“One of my fondest food linked memories is eating Sinigang (sour soup) as a kid. It was such a staple in our household and I remember buying the ingredients and then watching my mom cook Sinigang.”

When Agbanlog first immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in the early ’90s, she found herself longing for the familiar flavours of her home country. But, when she ventured to local grocery stores in search of the ingredients to create these beloved meals, she found herself frustrated that she kept coming up short.

The ingredients simply weren’t there.

Liza Agbanlog. PNG

Some oft-used but hard-to-find ingredients, Agbanlog discovered, included fresh guava, tamarind leaves and kangkong (water spinach). The absence of tamarind at nearby shops was especially disappointing for the home cook as it’s a primary ingredient in the aforementioned sour soup.

“When I moved here, it was difficult to find fresh tamarind to make the Sinigang soup stock,” she recalls. “I had to resort to using pre-made Sinigang soup stock mix, but still missed the authentic and natural taste of the tamarind.”

Thankfully, the availability of ingredients for Asian cuisines has improved exponentially in the past decade as more specialty shops have popped up across the country. And that meant more authentic ingredients for Agbanlog’s kitchen creations.

“I was able to find fresh and frozen tamarind in my local Filipino store, so now I can make Sinigang the way I grew up eating,” she says.

The availability of ingredients for her favourite Filipino dishes led to Agbanlog getting blissfully busy in her home kitchen as she prepared meals for her family — so, she decided to blog about it. She started her site, Salu Salo (a Tagalog word for eating together), in 2012 in an attempt to showcase her authentic culinary creations, and share her love of Filipino dishes with a broader online audience.

“If I brought a dish to a party and got asked for the recipe, I would direct them to the blog,” she recalls. “I never imagined that the blog would get to where it is now, and so I never imagined that it would lead to writing a cookbook.”

But, that is exactly what has happened — and Quintessential Filipino Cooking: 75 Authentic and Classic Recipes of The Philippines is the result. The full-colour cookbook offers a detailed dive into the colourful, eclectic and flavourful world of Filipino food.

“Filipino cuisine … (incorporates) Spanish, Chinese and Malaysian influences,” Agbanlog explains. “Because of all these influences, you can find combinations of sour, sweet and salty flavours in many Filipino dishes.”

With her new cookbook, the Vancouver-based author aimed to provide a compilation of dishes that would invoke powerful food memories for those from The Philippines, as well as introduce newcomers to the country’s tasty creations.

“There aren’t a lot of Filipino cookbooks out there and the opportunity came along,” she says of the motivation for creating the book. “For those who grew up eating Filipino food, I hope that this book will help them make the dishes they grew up eating. For those who are not familiar with Filipino cuisine, I hope they can give Filipino cuisine a try to get an appreciation for the cuisine.”

And Agbanlog says that the flavourful dishes are, in fact, often easy to recreate.

“Most of the recipes in the cookbook are simple and easy to make,” she assures those who may feel intimidated after thumbing through her full-colour book of artfully created cuisine. “I think even those who are not familiar with Filipino food can easily make them.”

Or, at the very least, will have a lot of fun trying to.

Aharris@postmedia.com

Sinigang na Isda sa Miso from Quintessential Filipino Cooking by Liza Agbanlog.

Sinigang na Isda sa Miso from Quintessential Filipino Cooking by Liza Agbanlog. Allie Lehman

RECIPE: Sinigang Na Isda Sa Miso (Fish in Tamarind Miso Soup)

(Reprinted with permission from Quintessential Filipino Cooking by Liza Agbanlog, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018. Photo credit: Allie Lehman.)

“Sinigang is a soup dish characterized by its sourness. The most common souring ingredient used is green or unripe tamarind but other fruits like green mango, calamansi, santol (cottonfruit) and kamias (bilimbi) are also used. This particular sinigang combines the sour taste of tamarind and the salty and rich flavour of miso. The addition of mustard leaves completes this tasty and flavourful soup.”

2 salmon heads, about 2lb (900g) each, cut in half, or 4 salmon steaks

Salt, to taste

5 unripe tamarind pods or 1 (1.76-oz.) packet tamarind seasoning

8 cups (1.9L) water, divided

1 (1-inch)]) piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned

1 large onion, sliced

1½ lb. (680g) daikon, peeled and sliced diagonally into ½-inch (13mm) pieces

2 tbsp. (30ml) fish sauce, plus more for serving

3 tbsp. (51g) miso paste

2 cups (112g) chopped mustard leaves (gai choy), or baby spinach

2 large tomatoes, cut into the wedges

2 whole serrano peppers

Steamed rice, for serving

METHOD

Season the fish with salt. Set aside. If using tamarind pods, in a saucepan, combine the tamarind and 2 cups (475ml) of water. Boil over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the tamarind is soft. Using the back of a spoon, mash the softened tamarind. Strain the juice into a bowl and set aside, discarding the seeds and shells.

Bring 6 cups (1.4L) of water, if using tamarind pods, or 8 cups (1.9L) of water, if using seasoning mix, to a simmer in a stockpot. Add the ginger, onion, daikon, and fish sauce, and cook until the daikon is tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the fish and cook for 4 minutes. Add the tamarind juice or seasoning mix, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the miso paste, mustard leaves, tomatoes and serrano peppers, and return to a boil. Season to taste with salt.

Serve hot with steamed rice and fish sauce.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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