recipes

yana's ube bibingka & no forks given

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After traveling all around the US hosting kamayans in 50 states over 52 weeks (!!), my kasama Yana Gilbeuna is writing a book! Not only do I think No Forks Given is the best title ever (that literal and pun perfection tho), I think this book is critically important today with the influx of Filipino food in mainstream media. 

Can we talk about that for a second? In the past year or so, friends have been tagging me all over the interwebz whenever something remotely Filipino food related (but especially ube related) is posted.

I love this. After a childhood of having to explain being Filipino, it means a lot to see more of my culture in the media. I love that there are more Filipino restaurants. I love that people are learning that "Asian food" is not a homogenous thing, but actually complex and different everywhere. I love that I can talk about eating fried fish with rice and eggs for breakfast without getting weird looks. I also love that people finally know what ube is.

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But I don't love that people keep calling Filipino food "the next big thing" (see here and here). I don't love that these posts quote "established" white chefs confirming this notion (like here and here), as if Filipino food might not be relevant without their blessing. I don't love that the conversation is often about Filipino food being a cool new thing in America when Filipinos are the second largest Asian-American population here.

With this influx of attention to Filipino food, it's critical we center the conversation around Filipino voices. We don't need to read more stories about how someone "discovered" how amazing our food is (cause dude, we know). We need to read more stories from Filipinos themselves on how complex, personal, and often political our food is, as we hold so much of our identity in what we eat and share.

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We can and will continue asking for more representation in the media, but we can also fund projects by independent artists to help get their voices out into the world. Backing Yana's book on Kickstarter is a great way to do that-- to fund the change you want to see, as my Twitter hero Jee says.

On a more personal level, I'm really pumped about this book because the team behind it is mostly Filipino and Yana asked yours truly to take the photos (!!!) So if you have the means to donate, or even some time to share, by backing this project, you're backing independent artists, you're backing women of color, you're backing POC telling their own story and taking back their own narratives.

Back No Forks Given here! And without further ado.. 

yana's ube bibingka

1 package glutinous rice flour
1 package regular rice flour
a carton of coconut cream
1 cup water
1 jar of ube jam
ube flavoring
a jar of macapuno
1/4 cup muscovado
banana leaves
butter to taste
 

Whisk the two rice flours together, then slowly incorporate the coconut cream. Add about a cup of water to loosen up the mixture if it's too thick. Mix in your ube jam and add extra ube flavor to taste. Take Instagram pics of the cool marbling effect. Mix in your macapuno and muscovado. 

Line a backing dish with banana leaves, pour in the bibingka batter (don't worry about filling to the tip-top because this doesn't really rise), and bake at 395°F for 20-30 minutes, preferably while watching Riverdale and gawking at Jughead. Once the top has baked, rub some butter over the top then return to the oven. Bake for another 10-15 or until a toothpick comes out clean. Sprinkle with moscavado. Share with all your friends, the true Filipino way.

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adrian & the wild roses | columbia river gorge

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Before I left for the summer, I stopped and admired every flower. I watched the seasons change but within the seasons, saw each flower bloom and fade in my tiny Portland neighborhood. First the camellias, then the cherry blossoms, then the lilac, tulips, dogwood, peonies, and at long last, the roses. 

I wasn't brave enough to forage them, because they were so precious, but I'd collect newly fallen petals and dried them out in hopes of making rosewater. My dear friend Adrian saw this and told me about a place in the gorge where there is bush after bush of wild roses, plentiful and heavenly to forage. It's a secret place she kept close, and when she invited me to come I knew I was in for something special. 

Adrian knew how to get there by sight-- there weren't specific directions, just that she knew what looked familiar and what didn't, and before I knew it, we walked into a clearing of wild roses. It was quiet, except for the bees, and when I looked down there were wild strawberries at our feet. We took our time, following the wild roses until they brought us to a hillside of wildflowers and then I really lost it.

I asked her if she had a system for picking petals, and she said she only took what called to her-- though she was always careful not to strip an entire area. She'd pluck a few in one spot, walk around to the other side, then make her way to the next bush, much like a bee. I juggled foraging and also taking photos with two cameras, and when I looked up, Adrian was halfway across the clearing, small as a tiny dot.

We could have stayed for hours, but we both had real life to come back to. I let the petals dry for a day then put them in a jar to steep in honey, and now I have the most fragrant rose honey. The other day I was thinking about how lonely I was when I first moved to Portland and lost my job. I didn't know when it would feel like home, or if I'd find people who'd feel like home, too. Two years later I find myself with friends and adventures I couldn't have dreamed up better myself.

Happy, happiest birthday Adrian! I'm so lucky to call you my friend <3

wild rose honey

1. allow the rose petals to just begin wilting, preferably laid out on a drying rack
2. pack the wild roses into a jar. seriously, pack them in
3. fill the jar with honey
4. flip the jar upside down every 12 hours for the next 3-4 days
5. drizzle onto your morning toast, your afternoon tea scones, or dip a pinky in

as many wild rose petals as you can manage
mild, local honey

palitaw + filipino desserts for food52

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I wrote and shot my first piece for Food52 and it's all about Filipino desserts and I'm so proud/tired/elated I could faceplant in a bowl of ginatan (mmm...).

I called my mom every day over the two months it took me to write it, and I'm really glad she was my lifeline throughout. (Most of my texts to her were along the lines of, "does this look horrible?" and "oops I...")

Anyway! These palitaw are included in the round up, but I'm sharing the (non) recipe here! These are vegan and gluten free, as many Filipino desserts happen to be, and are similar to mochi in texture. My mom happened to be visiting for my birthday when we made these, so you've got her expert hands to guide you with visuals. Enjoy!

ingredients

glutinous rice flour
water
grated coconut
sesame seeds
sugar

instructions

Fill a pot of water and set to a low simmer on the stove. Shred and flatten the grated coconut on a plate and set aside.

In a bowl, slowly add water to the rice flour, kneading as you go, until the mixture is no longer pasty but still sticky. (Think mochi!) I can't emphasize how important it is to go slowly with the water! 

Once you have a big blob of perfect consistency, pinch of a gumball-sized chunk, roll into a ball in your palms, then flatten. Drop the palitaw into the boiling water until it floats, then scoop out and place on the bed of coconut. "Bread" each side with coconut and place on a plate.

Once all the palitaw are coconut-ed, toast the sesame seeds then grind with a mortar and pestle. Mix with a bowl of sugar, then sprinkle the sesame-sugar mix onto the palitaw. Share with your friends who don't know what Filipino desserts are ASAP.

for my grandmother

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On the day that my grandmother would have been 91, I made a dish that reminded me of home and of her. I'm almost embarrassed to say how long it's been since I've had any food that really reminds me of home. About a year or so into college, I became a pescetarian and with the exception of travel, never had meat outside of fish and seafood. I liked living this way, for the most part. But since moving to Portland, it's begun weighing on me more and more that in adopting this lifestyle, I was essentially rejecting a huge part of my culture.

Filipino food is almost all meat-based. I can't remember a single vegetarian dish from my childhood. As I moved further away and my trips home became less frequent, it began to bother me that I'd created a restriction for myself that denied me one of the richest parts of my heritage.

So for the first time ever, I made my own version of misua ("mee-swah"). I thought of it first when I was at a farmers market and found a chayote. I don't think I'd seen once since I lived with my mom and even though I had no idea how to cook it, I bought it. And sent my mom this text.

As it turns out, my mom and grandmother don't really put chayote in misua ever (I was confusing it with patola), but it still turned out okay and it was my first time really attempting anything filipino and I'M REALLY PROUD, OKAY?! As I made this, I called my mom, guessed, called my mom again, and guessed more. If I've learned anything about Filipino cooking from my mom, it's that there aren't really recipes and you can do whatever you want. (My mom sent me a "copy" of the recipe like this.)

And this is a very roundabout way to say this but my heart sang and cried and burst when the misua was done. I realized I used the "wrong" vegetable and the noodles lumped together and it is certainly not the most photogenic dish, but it was my dish. Inspired by the most amazing women I know. On my grandmother's birthday.

I miss her so much. Making and eating this makes me miss her a little less and a lot more at the same time. 

Happy Birthday to the only person I know who's never put a single person before herself. I love you, Mama Hely.

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Chayote Misua
inspired by the best women I know

Ingredients

a splash of olive oil
one small onion, chopped
cloves of garlic, minced
1 chayote, peeled, pitted and cut into cubes
3/4 lbs ground meat (I used pork)
salt and pepper
water
a handful of the extra fine rice vermicelli 
 

Recipe

Heat the olive oil in a large pot then add the garlic and onions. Once the onions soften, add the chayote. Simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the chayote begins to soften. Add the meat, season with salt and pepper, and stir until just cooked. When all of the ingredients have cooked, add enough water to just cover everything by a little less than an inch. Allow to simmer on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes to let the flavors combine. Salt and pepper to taste. When you're about 10 minutes before serving, turn up the heat and allow the soup to boil. Once bubbling, add the noodles and allow to soften and cook for about five minutes. 

Share with your friends and serve over white rice (of course).

A big thanks to my friends at Staub for helping me find my perfect dutch oven. This one is gorgeous and works like a dream.