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Food

Kombucha

I love the taste of kombucha. Since I already do some fermentation at home, I figured that I could try fermenting my own ‘booch at home, too. So last month, a friend gave me a jar of kombucha with a gelatinous, leathery-like film floating at the top. It was pretty gross-looking, but this was the SCOBY or the “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” and it was essential for making my own kombucha.

There are plenty of kombucha-making tutorials online, but my friend recommended that I watch the You Brew Kombucha channel on YouTube. Andrea and I learned that it’s actually pretty straightforward to make kombucha, and it’s also really cheap! It’s just tea and sugar (and time). There are basically two parts to kombucha making:

First Fermentation

We put sweet black tea (we use Assam tea at home) along with the SCOBY in a large jar, and we just basically let it sit there for 7-10 days. We should be okay as long as we have a piece of cloth over it (to prevent contamination) and that it’s away from direct sunlight. We also try and taste the tea from time to time to see if it’s good enough for our liking.

Second Fermentation

We technically have kombucha after the first fermentation, but the second fermentation adds additional flavor and carbonation. This is fun for us because we get to mix in different fruit juices and try out different flavors.

We first puree the fruit and put them in bottles. We then pour the kombucha into those bottles and shut them tight. The sugar will turn into carbon dioxide as it ferments for a few days (4 seems to be the sweet spot for us), making the kombucha fizzy.

My personal favorite so far is honey with lemon juice. It makes a really refreshing kombucha.

Categories
Food

Bagels and Bibingka

Last week I got to make bagels with my coworkers over Zoom. We were supposed to get together in person for our annual meetup, but we opted to do everything online instead because of the pandemic. That bagel-making class was honestly one of the highlights of my week! I feel like it’s such a treat to see people in their own kitchens.

I rarely bake, so bagels were a bit of a mystery to me. I heard that bagels are boiled and then baked, so I assumed that it would be difficult to make them at home. It turns out to be pretty straightforward, and you can check out the whole recipe here. The hardest part for me was probably kneading the dough for ten straight minutes.

I think learning how a particular dish comes together is what I find enjoyable in cooking. And that I get to eat it if it all goes well! Even though bagels can be found in just about any grocery store, I feel I have a better appreciation of it now that I know how to make it.

Last week, I also got to make Bibingka for the first time. It’s a rice cake that’s usually sold as street food during Christmas in the Philippines. Andrea thought that since we had just made salted duck eggs, we should use it to make Bibingka, too. You can find the recipe that we followed here.

Bibingka and salted duck eggs were things that my family never made back in the Philippines because there was really no need for it—you could easily get them from a street vendor or at the store. But now that I don’t have easy access to Filipino food, I feel like it’s become a bit of a necessity for me. I’m feeling proud of myself for learning the dishes that I ate growing up, and that I’m seeing them in a new light now that I’m making them as an adult.

Categories
Food

Salted Duck Egg

I grew up eating a lot of itlog na maalat or salted duck egg when I was growing up in the Philippines. My family usually makes a simple salad out of it that you either eat with rice or on the side of the main dish. It really only has two ingredients:

  • Hard-boiled salted duck egg
  • Tomatoes

You can also add onions, fish sauce, or black pepper if you want to add some variation to the taste and texture. Salted duck eggs are usually sold in Asian markets, but because of COVID, it’s not easy to go to one. Fortunately we got a delivery of fresh duck eggs from Imperfect Foods, and we thought that it might be fun to try and make our own salted duck eggs at home. It turns out to be easy, but it takes a long time to make: 3 weeks. Here’s the recipe that we followed: Salted duck egg recipe (video version)

Duck eggs in brine.

Update

It’s a success! It tastes exactly how I remember it to be. I’m not sure if it’s worth doing, but I’m glad that I know know how salted eggs are made.

Categories
Food

Repulgue

Yesterday, I learned how to repulgue or crimp an empanada to get that beautiful braided edge. I had trouble doing this the first time when I was following Bon Appetit’s video on making empanadas, but I finally got it when I followed the technique in this other video. The difference is that the second repulgue used a flat surface to help with the crimping.

Categories
Food

Stuck at Home: Easy Recipes

Sautéed Sardines

Fried sardines with fried rice and fried egg were one of my favorite meals to eat when I was growing up in the Philippines. It’s really easy, and it’s basically the same as this Jamaican recipe. I personally like to eat it with vinegar on the side, but that’s optional.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can sardines in oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Small onion
  • Black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Rice

Instructions:

  1. Heat up the oil from the sardine can in the pan
  2. Sauté garlic and onion until caramelized
  3. Add sardines and cook for a little bit
  4. Add pepper to taste. Depending on the sardines, it might already be salty.
  5. Fry the egg and the rice in the residual oil

Mackerel in Coconut Milk

I had some mackerel in my freezer that I didn’t know what to do with, but Andrea found this Filipino recipe online called Ginataang Mackerel. Ginataan means “done in coconut milk.” This was also pretty easy to do, and I like how forgiving it is when you’re missing some of the ingredients. Instead of fish sauce, you can use salt. Instead of chili, you can use cayenne and chili flakes.

Shrimp and Tilapia in Coconut Milk

After I ran out of mackerel, I made a modified version of the ginataan but with shrimp and tilapia. It’s mostly the same recipe, but just make sure to add the shrimp at the very end. You don’t want to over cook it!

Chana Masala with Cauliflower

This is one of my go-to recipes when I’m feeling lazy. I follow this recipe, but I substitute heavy cream with coconut milk. I don’t have naan, so I use flour tortillas as a substitute.

Categories
Food

Stuck at Home: Yogurt

So I’ve been making yogurt at home again. I figured it’s worth it since I eat quite a bit of yogurt every week, and it isn’t exactly cheap. Target, for example, sells their cheapest yogurt for about $0.09/oz ($2.99 per 32oz container), but it also sells milk for about $0.03/oz ($4.19 a gallon). Since a gallon of milk turns into a gallon of yogurt (unless you strain the liquid out to make greek yogurt), I can have yogurt for just a third of the cost!

The first time I made yogurt was four years ago, and I’m still surprised that all you really need are two things:

  • Milk
  • Plain store-bought yogurt

Of course, there’s the optional fruit or honey or sugar that you can add to it depending on your preferences. The milk can be whole milk, 2% fat, or 0% fat—as long as it’s not lactose-free, you should be fine. You need the lactose because that’s what the bacteria eats. Where do you get the bacteria? You can get that from yogurt that you bought at the store. Make sure it has live and active cultures in it.

There are good resources online that teach you how to make yogurt like Bon Appétit and NYT Cooking, but the gist is:

  1. Heat the milk until it starts to steam. Make sure to heat it slowly and occasionally stir so that you don’t burn the milk.
  2. Let the milk cool down. For me, I just let it sit to cool for around 20 mins or until it’s just warm to the touch. (Wash your hands! I’d use a thermometer, but I unfortunately don’t have one at home.)
  3. Add your store-bought yogurt. Mix thoroughly until it dissolves to distribute the bacteria evenly.
  4. Put it in the oven with just the light on. This should keep it warm enough to encourage the bacteria to grow.
  5. Wait for 12 to 24 hours. The longer it ferments, the thicker and more sour it gets.
  6. Take it out and put it in the fridge. The yogurt will thicken even more as it cools down.

And you’re done! You can use this yogurt to make even more yogurt in the future.