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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

entry arrow12:05 AM | Food Books for the Hot Days

Hey, look. Sunday Inquirer Magazine has given out its annual hot list of recommended readings for the summer, and Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Marily Ysip Orosa's A la Carte is one of them. Here's the capsule review from staff writer Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz:

You'll need two vital ingredients before you start devouring this book: a full stomach and a comfortable seat some distance away from a working kitchen and a food court. Because definitely, a hungry reader will be torn between finishing the sumptuous stories and rushing off to try out the recipes offered as appetizer at the start of each chapter. The tasty morsels leave you convinced that food is more than just repast; it is also the stuff of national pride, childhood memory, romance, regret, rivalry, and even bloody murder. This book is one thick bubbling stew that satisfies one's hunger and imagination while whetting the appetite for more. Best cuts: "Wok Man" by Jose Dalisay, Jr.; "Closopen" by Janet Villa, "No Salt" by Nadine Sarreal, "Pedro and the Chickens" by Ian Rosales Casocot, "Kitchen Secrets" by Shirlie Mae Choe, and "Does It Matter What the Dead Think?" by Erwin Cabucos.

I say, yay.

While I was doing the rest of my Sunday reading of newspapers, this interview in the Lifestyle section of Philippine Daily Inquirer with Cendrillon owner Amy Besa (who co-owns the famous New York restaurant with chef Romy Dorotan) caught my eye. I've read about Cendrillon before, when New York Times food critic Frank Bruni gave it a terrific review ("... it's daring, different and a sure remedy for the malady, too widespread these days, of dining déjà vu. That has to matter, and that gives food lovers a real investment in the survival of this unconventional place") in 2005.

It trumpets, first of all, their new cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens, which may be the first significant book on Philippine cuisine published by a major American publisher. (The book -- which features food photography by Neal Oshima -- has been picked by Barnes & Noble as its book of the month.) Over all, however, it's a wonderful interview with the Playtime staff, which basically covers the growing popularity and critical acceptance of Filipino cuisine in mainstream America, and a lot of hunger-causing discussion of local food. An excerpt:

Is pig's blood readily available in the US? Even in the East Coast?

How about entrails?
When we do dinuguan we don't use entrails. We use pork meat. It's very difficult to clean entrails; you need to remove the smell.

How do you serve it in your restaurant to make it a bit more palatable?
It's in a bowl. People love it.

With puto?
We can't make puto. (Laughter) It is the most difficult thing in the whole world to do, believe me. Try it! You know when you get a good puto, appreciate it.

There are different kinds! There are so many kinds. There's the white, there's the ube, the pandan, the putong pulo, then there's Biñan, the big one. But then, you know, they put cheese. (Looks queasy then laughs)

What makes puto difficult?
Puto is really a mixture of ground rice and cooked rice that you ferment, right? The secret is in the fermentation. You have like a lavadura and you mix it and you let it rise. Some people put a little yeast and some put baking powder.

Steaming is just the most difficult thing in the world. You have to steam it for the right [length of] time. If you lift that cover before [it is cooked] forget it!

I'm already hungry.

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