My Mom, like every other mother out there, is a hardworking woman. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I’d remember how she’d get up every morning to sweep the entire house, she’d cook all 3 meals 6 day’s a week, do everyone’s laundry, and scrub the stove like it was going out of style. As a child, I would look in fear and awe at how this diminutive woman could possess this unnatural energy to do the same thing day in and day out for more than a decade with only the occasional pocket book or cooking show to amuse her. Of course that unnatural energy I later found out (yeah…I’m not exactly the brightest light bulb in the bunch), was pure unadulterated Love.
But she had her moments. Looking back, I knew which days she wasn’t in the zone; when the energy just wasn’t quite there. Looking back at her dinners, I could tell which days she wanted nothing more than to lie down and rest her tired bones. Those days were the ones where her dinners had less than 6 ingredients and minimal prep. Those days were not the ones where she pressure cooked ox tail for 2 hours to make her rib-sticking soup, or the ones where she baked multi-layer Shepherd’s Pie against the protests of my Filipino-to-the-core father’s taste buds that craved rice and soup. Those were the days when she stuck a fish in foil, threw it in the oven, and simply called it “Baked Fish”.
The more bougie of us know this as “Poisson En Papillote” or “Fish in Parchment”. Of course our version utilized a Filipino sentiment, swapping the parchment for foil and favoring the cheaper milkfish. A truly bare bones recipe, this one is perfect for the end of a tiresome week when all you want is some peace and quiet. Less than 30 minutes to cook and because of the perfect balance of acidity and fat, you get comfort without all the effort. It was a dish that said: “I’m dead tired, and yet I will feed you the very best”.
OK…so don’t burn me at the stake for saying this…but sometimes, I dread coming home from work. And no it’s not because I hate downtime as much as Bieber hates sentences that contain more than 5 words (Google: “Justin Bieber deposition”…proceed to lose hope for humanity). But there’s a point when you’re walking home, and you’re super pumped to get all this stuff done, but the moment you get into your room, you just collapse in a heaping pile of numbness and the only cure is to watch an hour’s worth of YouTube videos (currently watching: Wong Fu Productions and house dance battles). I mean…what happened to all that motivation I had from lunch onwards?!
Busy season auditors be like…
And so here I was realizing it was now 11 PM and even though I had gotten out of work 3 hours ago, I have yet to cook dinner or do anything productive. And so I crawled back out of bed, pulled out the trusty wok, and stared at the pile of vegetables in front of me thinking: “why in God’s name did I give up meat?”. With 30 mins. remaining before my brain would shut off from sleep deprivation, I had to pick a recipe that would not only be quick, but also pack more flavor than that limp, over-dressed salad at the corner deli store. Enter the Indian-style vegetable curry. Of all the world’s cuisines, it is of my opinion that Indian is the only one that can pull off vegetarian dishes that make me want to reconsider my relationship with steak.
So you’re reading this thinking: “Damn…I gave up meat for Lent too!” or if you’re an Accountant: “Food. Mouth. Now”. Well read onwards O Weary One.
(Side Note: maybe I should Instagram my pictures first before posting them here…or get a better camera :P)
I once read that you shouldn’t buy pizza in Italy. That unless you’re in Naples, pizza in Italy is a far cry quality-wise from the deep dish varieties in Chicago or their $1 foldable cousins in Manhattan. I wonder if that holds true for other cultures when eating out.
In the Philippines, it’s quite true (most of the time). Sinigang (a staple of every Filipino household, a light broth soured with tamarind and usually accompanied by pork spare ribs or fish depending on your region) sprinkled with a scant few pieces of wilted lettuce and a few lonely radish slices. Adobo (vinegar/soy sauce-braised chicken) that’s more gristle than meat. Lumpia (incorrectly translated as “Spring Roll”) where there was more wrapper than filling. I guess these are more a symptom of our economic circumstance than culinary prowess…but I digress.
However, we were pleasantly surprised by a visit to the Kanin Club at the Ayala Triangle Gardens, an atmospheric green zone in the middle of bustling Manila where wait lists for the simplest cafes rivaled those of Michelin-starred powerhouses in Midtown New York. A friend I had met at the embassy the other day recommended the place based on their focus on quality ingredients and not being skimpy on the food though the place has been open for some time now.