In love from the first bite: When mochi cakes reached Manila

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From afar, they look like cute little hedgehogs stored inside a glass fridge. Passing through the shops, these delicacies are usually caged inside glasses and presented to customers as is — light-colored, small circular cakes lined together in rows.

They are increasingly becoming quite popular nowadays in shopping malls. But unaware passersby, with their presentation, would normally ignore them and get on with their lives. For one, who would spend around PHP 75.00 per small piece of the cakes seeing it so plain on the outside?

But one night, I tried to buy a couple of the cakes that the native Japanese call “mochi cakes.” I have to admit I loved the pastry from the first bite.

Mochi cakes are Japanese rice cakes made from glutinous rice, the same ingredient that makes up a round of tikoy, for the Chinese.

They are among those delicacies that look innocent on the outside, but are unwittingly much tastier on the inside. Mochis are filled with unexpected tastes, that many first-timers would think they are served hot but from the first bite, they are cold heaven.

MOCHI GRAPHIC

Mochi cakes are made of rice on the outside but are filled with different flavors inside. They come in different flavors such as pumpkin, butter, mango, strawberry, and chocolate. There are also other recipes that fill them with apricot, maple and soy beans.

I visited the store called Mochi Cream Cafe in Quezon City to try out how they taste like. This shop and other similar stores have opened branches in many cities around the world including Shanghai, New York, Kuala Lumpur and in Manila.

Like the Chinese tradition of eating rice cakes, mochi cakes are consumed during New Year rituals and ceremonies in Japan. They are also used as toppings for soups during celebrations, as well as ice creams that children enjoy around Japanese villages.

I tried three pieces of mochi cakes on my first visit and ordered a ceremonial matcha tea. The tea went well with the mochis and I got the prepare the ceremonial tea by myself as well.

The ceremonial matcha tea served to me was complete with a ceremonial bowl, not a cup; a bamboo whisk; a bamboo stirrer; and a black heavy tea kettle that is far from the traditional looks of Chinese tea materials.

Matcha, on the other hand, is a tea powder, not leaves, that are often used in rituals and ceremonies performed by Japanese monks.

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The tea became a perfect pair for my mochi cakes that night, with a few spaces between drinking the tea and taking a bite, because of the contrasting temperatures of the hot tea and the cold cakes.

I might have been a little earlier for the Japanese new year but with these mochi cafes hanging just around the corner, we can celebrate the goodness of New Year, all-year round.

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In The Kitchen with California’s one stop burger shop, CaliBurger

CaliBurgerA paradise. Land of dreams. The Golden State. California has been called many things in countless ways—most of them true. Now, CaliBurger brings that all-out California spirit and lifestyle to you in a setting that says, “This is me. This is who I am.” Sit down. Take out. However you enjoy it is alright by us.

CaliBurger believes that fresh tastes best, that selection matters, that service still counts. When it comes to quality, no detail is too small. Our made-to-order meals are always prepared in open kitchens by experienced chefs who carefully monitor quality and adhere to strict standards for processing, cooking, and sanitation. It all adds up to a difference you can taste.

Buttered fried chicken by me

I usually don’t cook. I love baking more than cooking, partly because of the after smell cooking brings to my fingers and because I can dip a clean finger in a baking mixture and try a free taste. I rarely cook a dish. The only dish I cooked by myself would start way back from elementary days: Estofadong Liempo, and I won’t forget that.

But because of many realizations and being exposed to much media now, I think I want to try out gourmet cooking one day. And it starts from one simple step: cooking up Buttered Fried Chicken for dinner.

Fried chickens are too mainstream, from fastfood restaurants to an easy-to-prepare chicken dish only to be coated with breading mixes. I want to try out a fried chicken out of the norm. When I found a small bottle of turmeric powder in our kitchen cabinets, I knew what to do.

And voila! I was able to cook the second dish I made my entire life, which, my sister (a chicken foodie, by the way) loved so much. Warning: not for health-conscious people, it’s bathed in butter plus fats plus cholesterol and what-not.

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Thanks to the Magnolia website for the recipe!

Ingredients

1 kilo Magnolia Chicken Cut-ups, assorted parts
1 tbsp Calamansi
1 tbsp Garlic, chopped
2 tsp Ginger, chopped
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Pepper
Magnolia Nutri-oil for deep-frying
2 pc         Egg, slightly beaten
½ cup Cornstarch

½ cup Magnolia Butter-licious!, melted

Procedure

  1. Marinate the Chicken Ups in calamansi, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Dip chicken in beaten eggs and roll in cornstarch.
  3. Deep fry chicken until golden and cooked through then drain in paper towels.
  4. Toss fried chicken in melted butter. Serve hot.

Serves 4.

Red tongue: Spice adventures

When God showered blessings of a tongue with taste buds friends with spicy foods, I was so in front of the line. And I call it a blessing, a bountiful one, that I am given this special ability of withstanding a dish’s spice at a certain level of threshold. It’s blessing because other cannot do that. My mom surrenders to a spice level I consider so low.

Here in the Philippines where spicy delicacies are only concentrated on specific regions and provinces, the taste is never a sidekick but a pet peeve. When eating sinigang laden with a single chili, my mom and my siblings would stop me if I try to slice the chili and let its seeds (which contain the spices) mix with the soup. I had to use a separate bowl to enjoy my craving.

In the university, whether it’s everyday, I never get tired of ordering a pack of pancit canton flavored “hot,” and not just hot but “extra hot.” The brand’s Chili-mansi flavor has a weak spice for me.

Until I visited Singapore (for the second time), the haven for spicy foods with Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand. I attended a conference called Model Asia-Europe Meeting summit with food and accommodation provided free for us.

I always loved Europe and South America for their cultures more than Asia. If I were to travel around the world, I would visit London, UK or Sao Paolo, Brazil first than Asian countries. But after I visited Singapore, there was a sudden shift and change of heart. I am starting to love Asia because of the richness of its flavor – that if I go to an Asian country, the first thing I’ll look for is its specialty dish.

In Singapore, we ate this fried chicken breaded with spices, chicken rice with a chili pepper paste, a sting ray topped with chili sauce, and a hot and spicy ground beef. The country also serves a spicy chicken burger and fries dipped in a mixture of chili sauce and ketchup. I loved them! I think I’ve found my home in Singapore in terms of its food.

When I came back to the Philippines, I felt homesickness for that wild craving and thirst for authentic – and spicy – Singaporean dishes, that I began looking for restaurants that serve those kinds of Asian food.

But it came to me, why don’t the Philippines have a love for spice – despite the fact that we were discovered by the Spaniards mainly because of spices? The reason perhaps is that, our dishes are more Spanish than Asian. Menudo, mechado, adobo, tinola, etc.

Today, I was able to satisfy my thirst after my encounter with bibimbap, a Korean signature dish with beef and mixed vegetables (usually carrot and cabbage strips). I asked for an extra chili pepper sauce from the crew.

And I must say, it’s like eating in hell. But I loved it. You get to enjoy the food at the same time become happy as you dread with it. I was on fire eating it, drinking water every now and then, and the moment it is done, everything turns back to normal and becomes calm once more.

This is my first food adventure – equivalent to extreme sports and jawbreaking recreations. And I can’t wait to have more.