Tag Archives: Philippine Food

Super Calamansi-istic

Corn and Calamansi Salsa

Salsa Alidocious!

As you will have seen from my Philippine Tasting Plate, I brought back a few things to use in my home cooking. And what better way to celebrate the recent good weather we’ve been enjoying than to use tropical ingredients?

I got the idea for this dish from a corn salsa I ate at Tomatillo. As is often the way, restaurant food inspires my dishes. The Tomatillo salsa is nice, but I knew that I could twist it a bit to make it even better.

I was already thinking that it needed courgette. Then I remembered the calamansi that I had packed away so carefully, and that was now residing in my fridge. I knew that I had to try to make the dish that began a while ago, and had now taken root in my brain.

Calamansi

Calamansi – about the same diameter as a 10 p piece (or €2)

Calamansi is a small citrus fruit. You can use them like limes, in salads dressings and to season stocks etc, but they are also a popular drink in the Philippines, as well as being a key ingredient in sisig. They are both sweet and sour at the same time, and have a lot of flavour despite their diminutive size.

They also have a lot of pips. I was going to chance my arm and see what would happen if I planted a few, but I forgot to tell the Big Guy what I was doing, and they got thrown out. Ah well, I know that growing citrus from seed is notoriously unreliable, so I probably saved myself a fair bit of disappointment in any case.

I first made this salsa for a birthday canal boat picnic I held for the Big Guy. It was great as a dip with tortilla chips. I was a little nervous to present it as salsa to that crowd, amongst whom were some Americans who have an in-depth knowledge of all things Tex-mex. I have previously been taken to task for a guacamole, because I had put tomato in it, which apparently makes it pico de gallo, and not guacamole. I have also been told my (Mexican recipe) chile con carne is not a real Chile (but the consensus was that it was very tasty). I needn’t have worried, this went down a treat with everyone on the boat. And no-one objected to me calling it a salsa.

I have since served this at a barbecue, where it was similarly well received, and went equally well as a garnish with my home made burgers as it did with vegan enchiladas. I think it would be great as a salad as well.

I made this with tinned corn, but you could also use fresh a little later in the year, although I’d recommend grilling it in the husk first on either the barbecue or under a hot grill. Then shuck and add to the salsa.

Recipe: Corn and Calamansi Salsa

Ingredients

1 red onion, finely chopped

Juice and zest of 6-8 calamansi (or one lime)

½ courgette, finely diced

1  tin of sweetcorn, drained (or one whole corn cob, grilled and shucked)

1-2 red chilis, deseeded and finely chopped

Small bunch coriander, including stalks, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Method

If, like me, you dislike raw onion then steep the chopped onion in the calamansi juice and zest for at least 10 minutes before you make the rest of the salsa. The amount of calamansi that you need will depend on the size of your onion. You should ave enough juice to just coat all of the onion. I have made this twice, and needed different amounts each time.

Raw courgette doesn’t taste of much, which puts many people off trying them twice. The secret to bringing out the flavour is to blanch them.  Because these are finely diced, they only need to be steeped in boiling water for about 30 seconds or so. If you like, you could squeeze a little more calamansi juice (or a couple of drops of lime) into the water. Drain immediately, and run under the cold tap to stop them cooking further. Allow to drain completely. The courgette will now taste of courgette, but will still have a bit of bite.

Mix together the onion, courgette, sweetcorn and chili. Season well, and set aside the salsa for about an hour to allow the flavours to meld. Taste, and add more chili, citrus juice or salt and pepper to taste. Stir through the chopped coriander and serve.

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A Philippine Tasting Plate

A fresh Fruit Breakfast - papaya and pineapple

The Freshest of Fruit

As I may have mentioned, I have been in the Philippines for work. I didn’t mention it before I went, because we were going to some areas of the southernmost island, Mindanao, which may not be considered to be safe. That said, we had a wonderful time, and saw no sign of trouble at all.

coconut and pandan juice

Pineapple and Pandan Juice

The thing I love most about travel is the different foods and flavours that I encounter. I ate many wonderful things, and I thought that I’d share some of them here with you. I hope you enjoy this little Philippine Tasting Plate. I also managed to bring back a few unusual ingredients, that I will be trying to make some interesting goodies with in posts to come.

Pineapple napkin ring

Pineapples Were, Unsurprisingly, A Bit of a Theme

Of course, I ate a lot of fresh tropical fruits; some of which were new to me, and some were more familiar. I had my first taste of mangosteen and durian (albeit in a crème brûlée) as well as many more familiar fruits. The mango, much like the avocado after my trip to Australia, has been forever ruined for me. You just cannot get the soft, sweet , thin-skinned little jewels that you find in the Philippines. My colleague and I stayed in a beautiful lodge in pineapple country, where there was a definite theme to the place, from the napkin rings, to the juice we had everyday. Fresh pineapple juice is a great start to a meeting.

Stuffed Squid

Stuffed Squid

Seafood is very popular, as you would expect from a country comprising of over seven thousand islands. I ate some really lovely dishes. Tuna is also very popular there, with many of their delicacies containing tuna. I haven’t eaten tuna in years, because there aren’t many left, and there is so much bycatch with the techniques that many fleets use. I remained tunaless, so I haven’t tried many of these specialties.

Chili Crab

A Catchy Crab Dish

I did eat very well in some very good restaurants. It is pretty difficult to be vegetarian in many of the local food places, all the Filipinos we met all said how much they love their meat. But that is not to say that it is impossible. I went to a very good vegetarian restaurant in Manila, who did a really tasty version of sisig – normally made with pork, but always with sharp flavours, often provided by calamansi (a local citrus fruit, more of which later). There are also many “foreign” food restaurants, where you can eat delicious vegetarian food. After a very long day of flight delays, and a cancellation, my colleague and I stumbled across an amazing persian restaurant. I am not vegetarian, but I can have too much meat, so I was really glad to find an Iranian curry, called Qalye Mahi. It was rich, soothing and sharp with tamarind, which isn’t something I’d really explored before. I must try to find a recipe for this.

A Philippine Vegetable GardenA Philippine Vegetable Garden

A Philippine Vegetable Garden

Amongst the other local specialities I tried were Kare Kare – slow cooked pork in a peanut sauce; Bicol – a fiery pork in coconut milk with a lot of chilis; and the ubiquitous adobo, which is meat cooked in vinegar and garlic. A particularly good one was a squid cooked in black vinegar and squid ink; another one I’m going to play around with. One of the more surprising things to eat was a type of yam called ube. It is bright purple, and is used in sweets, pastries and ice cream. I was originally told to look out for ube by Sally, who left a comment on this year’s resolutions post. I’m glad I was told,  I really enjoyed trying new ways to eat purple root veg masquerading as dessert, thank you Sally.

Taro - The Whole Plant is Edible & Often Cooked in Coconut Milk

Taro – The Whole Plant is Edible & Often Cooked in Coconut Milk

I was also delighted to learn of a fantastic tradition called Pasabulong. This is where returning travellers bring their family and colleagues gifts of food. Even if they have only gone to a different city. What a great tradition!

I continued this on, by bringing the Big Guy some sweets and dried squid. I also brought myself a few treats, including some ube. I am going to try to plant some, and I will see what I can cook up with the rest, and the other goodies that I bought. But that may be the subject for future posts.

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