Welcome to adobo-down-under!

Musings. Family. Food. Stories. Cooking. Recipes. Eating. A recipe journal. From simple Filipino dishes to challenging recipes and exciting gastronomical failures. This is for my girls to look back on for comfort, memories, laughs, love and lots of food!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Black sticky rice revisited

My muscles are recovering from yesterday’s Bridge Run, which was approximately 10k from Milsons Point ending at the Government House along Macquarie Street.  Unlike last year’s experience, this year brought more sore muscles and pain in my butt, thighs and legs. As I ran, jogged and walked the route in light rain, I kept thinking of Murakami’s book which reminded me of his experience in the many marathons that he runs around the world – how he prepares for each mentally and physically.  I constantly had to remind myself to concentrate on the breathe and focus on the path ahead, one step at a time.  This kept me focus for the whole 1 hour and 32 minutes.  The weather wasn’t as glorious as it could have been, but the view always gets to me - passing under the magnificent Harbour Bridge, the spectacular harbour and the iconic Sydney Opera House. I can never get tired of these Sydney wonders!   

Soaking in the light drizzle, my head was soaked from a combination of rain and sweat.  My work colleagues who joined me have dispersed into the distance as we approached the bridge, and I could only whisper in between breathes, “hey, wait up!” , each of them already zooming around other runners as they satisfy their own fitness goals.  There were moments of doubt when my thoughts turned to stopping and giving up and cheating by taking off my bib and going through the Domain and ducking in with the crowds at the finish line. The medal was not something aimed for anyway.   But there was that nagging thought inside me, pushing me to go take that extra step, take that next kilometre in stride and it’s all going to be fine.    

Running alone amidst a crowd of thousands (does that sound weird?), it was so easy to get distracted by the noise from the spectators, music from sponsor stalls along the route, the cheers from the volunteers as they hand cup after cup to the runners. Breathing in and out, slowly pacing myself, I see older men and women triumphantly passing me with their slow calculated pace and that kept me inspired.  Oooh, oooh, oooh.... inhale, ooh ooh ooh ooh, inhale.  I calculated my breaths as if I was breathing through flows in my Vinyasa yoga practice.  Although it is not a marathon by any standard, the run/job/walk was something I did not prepare for.  Except for my 2x yoga sessions and intermittent 30-minute walk around the block a week, there were no special trainings that went with the decision to do another Bridge Run this year.  It was another whim decided amongst office colleagues.  Albeit the sore muscles, I felt it was one of the most exhilarating runs I’ve ever done, as well as the longest.    

As I turn onto Macquarie Street, the running crowd from the opposite lane approaching the finish line is always an inspiring sight.  As I slowly ran my way following the course, I can’t help but get distracted and amazed at each of runner sprinting their way towards the finish line.  Their faces expressing varying degrees of intent, focus and determination. Some huffing and puffing but still eyes set forward to the finish line. Some sweating so much, red faced by eyes glued straight ahead. 

Although this is my 3rd Bridge Run experience, this year has given me a strong sense of belief in myself – where usually doubt sits comfortably.  I felt energized after the run and had so much energy even until late last night, when the muscles started tightening and soreness creeping slowly into each muscle tissue.   I went to my yoga practice with slightly stiff legs today, but as always, I come out feeling taller and calmer. 

And after a day of strenuous activity, there’s nothing that I would love more than to indulge in comfort food.  So we’re revisiting an old post with new photos! (It’s actually just an excuse to give life and new photos to posts from the archives!) Black sticky rice with coconut cream and toasted sesame seeds!  I tell you.  This one cuddles you in all the right places.  Sore muscles or not.


3 cups black glutinous rice
3 pandan leaves, tied in a knot

1 tsp salt 
375g palm sugar. grated
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
500ml coconut cream (use Kara brand in tetra pack)

Wash and rinse the rice until water is almost clear.  The water will still be a little bit dark but clean.  (This took about 5-6 wash-and-rinse)

Place the washed rice in a 6L or 8L pressure cooker.  
Add water to cover the rice, 6cm above the rice level.

Add salt and pandan leaves.  
Close pressure cooker lid tightly and bring to boil on high heat, approximately 5 minutes.

Once boiling (pressure cooker hissing loudly), reduce heat to low (hissing gently) and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool/decompress for another 15 minutes. 

While rice is resting/cooling/decompressing, toast the sesame seeds - using a non stick pan.  
 On medium heat, fry the sesame seeds until golden.  No oil needed.  
Transfer into a small bowl and let cool.

Using a sauce pan, dissolve the grated palm sugar in the 1/2 cup water.
Remove pressure cooker lid and remove pandan leaves.  Stir in dissolved palm sugar. 

Serve warm in bowls drizzled with coconut cream and toasted sesame seeds.

Tips and tricks
* Use Kara brand for the coconut cream.  I find that this brand is creamier than those that come in tins/cans.
* Be extra careful when using pressure cookers, as they can cause burns if opened while still hissing.
* Remember that pressure cookers once lid has been locked, should not be opened at any time, unless the hissing has completely stopped and the safety red button (differs in various brands and models) has completely sunk.


The real prize for running the 10K Bridge Run for me, was not really the medal. It's winning against all the self doubts inside and pushing through to the finish line regardless of the time.  And this year, I actually beat my last year's record by 17 minutes.  So that's a bonus.  The half marathon next year doesn't seem too far after all.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Lemon and sour cream cake with raspberries

I found a new hobby.  Colouring books!  If you haven’t already noticed, adult colouring books is the trend at the moment and publishing companies are selling them by the millions.  Marketed as therapeutic and anti-stress, colouring books for adults have become hip thanks to social media.  People who are into colouring books posts their creations on social media and it just creates the pull which is making the publishers very happy.

A standard page would take me from an hour to 3 hours, glued to the page instead of watching some TV series on Netflix or browsing on Facebook and Instagram.  While it may be my own form of digital detox, it does deliver its own spell of mindfulness and calmness claims.  Indulging in a new hobby, engrossed with colour pencils sliding across the page, sticking to the lines, mix matching colours onto patterns somehow gives me a sense of fulfillment as I create something visual and beautiful.  I started borrowing colour pencils from the girls, but now that I have my own set, I can colour to my heart’s content.

Although this does not replace my love for cooking, baking and writing, it does give me something to do while waiting for dinner to cook, or the cake to be warm and the cookies to cool.

How about you?  Have you started a new hobby lately?

Now to this cake that is a revisit from the archives.  A lemon yoghurt cake dressed with raspberries.  This is my go to cake recipe when I'm asked to bring a cake.  Why?  Because it's easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3.  No need for a mixer.  Just good ol' fork and little bit of elbow grease.


1 and 3/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-3 teaspoon lemon juice

grated rind of 2 lemons

3/4 cup light olive oil

1 cup sour cream

2 cups self-raising flour

1 cup (or more) fresh or frozen raspberries

Icing sugar for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 180*C.  Line a round 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

In a mixing bowl, mix rind, oil, eggs and sugar with a fork.

Add remaining ingredients and combine well.

Add the raspberries and stir to distribute around the pan and some to sprinkle on top of the batter.
Pour into cake pans and bake at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes.

Leave to cool on a cooling rack, then turn out onto a plate.  

Dust with icing sugar (if using).

* You can use natural yoghurt or buttermilk as substitute for sour cream and the result will be the same.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bottle gourd stir fry

Filipino cuisine is making waves around the globe which makes me proud.  Just recently, I wrote a post about a pop-up afternoon stand up event in Sydney delighted the palates of the locals with the introduction of classic savoury and sweet Filipino dishes. There's quite a few of these Filipino restaurants now in Sydney and it's getting a good following from locals, not just fellow Filos or Pinoys as we usually called ourselves. 

The well known amongst the community is La Mesa along Goulbourn Street, Haymarket.  It has been around since 2002 and previously located in Dee Why.  In 2012 they moved to Haymarket and have since created a good following of locals and tourists.  The decor is reminiscent of an old fashioned Filipino home - a mix of contemporary and classic Filipiniana decor.  The serving platters are all home-grown Filipino vessels flown from the Philippines. Sizzling Fillo in Lidcombe boasts of authentic Filipino dishes served in big portions enough to share amongst 3-4 people. The place invites locals and those who will travel a few kilometres to partake of the generous servings and Saturday night karaoke.  Eating and singing - two of Filipinos favourite things to do.  Sizzling Fillo also boasts of a regular "boodle feast"- a buffet of selected classics served on "your" table on a bed of banana leaves.

My favourite is Cafe Manila in Kirribilli - a small cozy cafe serving traditional Filipino dishes suited to the western palate - leaning away from traditional starchy dishes and the portions are just right. The interior is very minimalist and the tables are quite small creating an intimate experience for the diners. Chef Ricky Ocampo is always in the house serving up dishes with a smile as if you are a guest at his home. The menu is lean and the food is well presented on the plate.  Chef Ricky is one of local Filipino featured in the SBS Food Safari Filpino Food.

Another one in north shore is Pamana Cafe and Filipino Restaurant in Chatswood.  The place is cafe style with tables for two, up to ten.  The menu is more extensive with a range dishes from breakfast to dinner, entree to desserts -  a variety of traditional Filipino dishes both savoury and sweet.  They also offer "boodle feast" on select days. Although the location is quite away from pedestrian traffic, it has since opening in 2013 gathered a local following.

Now this dish is not something you'd see in any of the menus from these restaurants.  This is a super simple dish that's not worthy of a restaurant feature but definitely worth the 30 minutes that you spend to cook it. The thing with Filipino dishes is, if its easy enough to cook at home, you won't find it at restaurants.  We (Filipinos) when at these restaurants, usually order dishes we seldom cook at home, or not at all.

Bottle gourd is an indigenous vegetable in the East Asian region.  It is commonly called "upo" in the Philippines or calabash in some western countries.  The bottle gourd has a lot of health benefits and in some countries, they juice is used to encourage weight loss.

I love the simplicity of this dish.  Almost pedestrian.  You only need 5 basic ingredients.  And can even make it vegetarian by omitting the pork.

Here goes.


250-300 grams pork, cut into cubes

1 piece bottle gourd, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 cup water

1 tablespoon cooking oil

salt and pepper to taste

fish sauce (optional)


In a medium sized skillet, heat the oil and cook the pork pieces until crispy.  Set aside.

In the same pan, saute the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, not burned.

Add the tomatoes and stir until soft.

Add the bottle gourd slices and water and bring to boil.

Season with salt and pepper, or fish sauce is using. Season to your taste.

Turn down heat and simmer until the goured is soft and cooked.

Add the crispy pork slices on top.

Disclaimer: The feature on the mentioned restaurants is a simple feedback from the writer's experience dining at these establishments.  Dining at the restaurants were to the writer's own expense.  This is not a paid feature.  The feature is written to assist locals and tourists who may be looking for Filipino restaurants within Sydney metropolitan. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sydney Markets launch of 2016 Fresh Awards

I dream of owning a farm one day, or an orchard even.   A dream my husband doesn't share with me.  I don't know where this fascination with farm living came from.  Not that I grew up in one. My parents did purchase a farming land a couple of years before but it wasn't a proper farm. While we had 500 mandarin and 300 mango trees in this farm, I never really got to spend time there.  My parents also cared for chickens and goats and 1 or 2 cows at a time.  There was even a time when we had corn planted in parts of the land.   Working in the city, having a family of my own, it was a rare occasion that a trip home was made - usually limited to holidays and birthdays.  On this rare occasions, we would go back to the city with a car full of fresh produce.  Only spent 2 or 3 days,  I never much fancied the existence of this land at the time.  I never much cared for the idea that my parents were growing their own produce, that they were living sustainably.  A few years on, the farm was sold and my parents moved to a modest house just near the town.  It was when the farm was gone that I felt some bitter resentment over the fact that we don't have it anymore. Somehow, I didn't realize the farm brought us joy.  There's a different kind of joy when you grow the produce.  To get your hands dirty and toil, and harvest when its time. 

Now living in the greater Sydney metropolitan area, we have a small raised garden bed at the back of our rental home growing our own chillies, herbs, raspberries and a calamansi plant. I still dream of owning a farm somewhere in the south of NSW.  Maybe in Mudgee.  Maybe in Orange.  Maybe one day.  With cows, chickens and ducks and some acres of fruit bearing trees, a white modest house with wrapped around porch and small swing in the front, a vintage kitchen with modern equipment where I can cook and bake to my hearts' content.   In my 40s, I can still dream right?

Now back to the Fresh Awards - a long running awards program organized by the Sydney Markets which recognizes and celebrates "excellence in fresh fruits, vegetables, and flower retailing and growing.  Last week, I'm so grateful to have been invited to the launch of the 2016 Fresh Awards which showcased a banquet of amazing fresh produce prepared by Chef Matt Kemp, and attended by producers, growers, florists and selected media.  The launch introduced new categories, including an award for bloggers "to recognize the contribution of the blogging community in drawing attention to, and encouraging support of independent fresh produce and flower retailers. "

Sydney Markets Retail Support Manager, Sue Dodd says, "we have had great success with each of the awards over the last 13 years. Through them, we have been able to shine a light on the efforts and achievements of retailers and growers, but this next evolution gives us the opportunity to bring all those achievements together and really turn it into a celebration of our industry."

With this in mind, I think it is fate that I have been invited to be a part of this launch.  As I have been amiss with blogging and writing lately, the idea of showcasing my local green grocer for a blog post has got me excited.  Maybe its far from my dream of owning that farm.  But its close enough.  Not to mention it would be fantastic to be win that prize too!      

The new logo of the Fresh Awards showcases people and the celebration of produce. 

* all photos taken with my iPhone 6

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Pork and beans

Growing up a few decades ago compared to today, there were so few choices when it came to food.  The cereal variety was maybe about less than ten.  There were no gluten free pasta or bread, no dairy free butter, no sugar free muffins.   Coffee was coffee, no soy, light, chai, etc.  A steak was usually T-bone, no varieties such as Wagyu, Angus, or labels such as corn fed, grass fed, aged, dry aged, etc.  Food was food.  There were no unnecessary labels.  Whether it was fresh - from the ground, from a tree/plant or packed - cans, boxes, plastic packaging.   Today, it's an entirely different story.  Whatever happened to simple food?  

In his 2009 book Food Matters, Mark Bittman mentioned modern agriculture, global warming, sustainability and the change towards conscious eating. These days, we don't look at calories anymore. Consumers are conscious about where their food comes from, the carbon footprint, whether its organic, grown locally or imported from half way around the globe.  This kind of mentality creates a good set of consumers. Smart consumers.  But then we also create a lot of waste.  In Australia alone, consumers waste an estimate of 4 million tons of food each year!  Because what happens is we tend to shop more than what we can actually consume.  (How not to waste food shall be for another post!)

I'm not a fan of food fads but I do believe in simple good food. Seasonal cooking is always how we plan our menu at home.   Simple food prepared at home. With love.  For family and friends.

Now growing up, we were fed with lots of food I wouldn't normally buy these days. Our parents back then fed us with what they knew best.   Powdered orange juice (Tang), canned vienna sausages... including a favorite breakfast fare a million years ago.  Canned pork and beans.  A mixture of beans covered with sweet tomato sauce and about 1 to 2 pieces of pork.  We used to eat it on toasted white bread and loved it for breakfast and even after school snack. And sometimes ate it with rice too.  It's a Filipino thing (rice with everything).

Now this is my take on the canned pork and beans I grew up eating.   A simple dish made of 2 basic ingredients:  pork and beans! 


200 grams pork belly, cubed

300 grams French beans, cut into 2 inch pieces

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

vegetable oil 

chilli flakes (optional)


Heat a shallow pan and add cooking oil.

Fry the pork pieces until crispy.  Set aside.

Using the same pan, add the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Do not overcook or burn.

Add the beans, and stir to cook the beans until bright green, about 2 minutes.

Add the cooked pork and stir to mix through.

Add the chilli flakes (if using) and stir.  Turn off heat.

Serve with steamed rice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pilyo Sydney - Pop Up Afternoon Delight

Last weekend, I went down memory lane on an afternoon degustation of classic Filipino dishes I miss from home. To be honest, it was like physically whirling back into select moments of my life and waking up with a sweet (and savoury) bite into reality.  You know that movie effect, when the actor looks like he’s rapidly floating backwards and the screen looks like everything comes to a slow motion?  Yep, that bit.  It was fabulous! It was cheeky!

If you haven’t heard, this new cheeky Filipino degustation popping up in the North Shore area since early this year is PILYO (or cheeky in the English parlance).  PILYO has been challenging your traditional Filipino dish with its own cheeky twist.  PILYO’s concept is “putting the bold and saucy into Grandma’s cooking using a playful approach whilst paying tribute to traditional flavours.”

The crew behind this modern take on the Filipino cuisine are Chefs Inigo Castillo and Morris Baco, both experienced chefs in Sydney who work passionately in an effort to bring Filipino food into Sydney’s mainstream food map and Chrissie Ablaza-Castillo, who handles the management and social marketing side of the brand.

 “I think Australians will be very surprised that our cuisine is an amalgamation of Asian, American, Latino-American, and Spanish flavours, ingredients, and methods of cooking,” says Spanish-Filipino Chef and Co-Owner Inigo Castillo. “This makes our food familiar and unique at the same time. For example, it’s interesting to have a Philippine-ised chorizo with an Indian style achar, which is what we Filipinos know as longganisa at atsara. And this is something we as Filipinos should know and be proud of. Our influences come from the four corners of the globe.”

PILYO is not new to the food scene in Sydney.  Operating the Purple Yam Cafe umbrella at the Cammeray Golf Club, co-owner Chrissie Ablaza-Castillo says, “We thought it’s about time we share a little bit of our heritage, so PILYO is here!

“As Filipinos, we are proud of our cuisine and are very particular about food. It is not uncommon for a Filipino to quip ‘di ganyan adobo ng lola ko! (that’s not like my grandmother’s adobo!)’, says Chef and Co-Owner Morris Baco. “We respect these recipes that are part of our tradition but at the same time we apply cooking techniques that make the dish, including its presentation, current.”

With two successful pop-up dinners, the team introduced a stand up afternoon weekend pop-up event showcasing delightful classics “merienda” (afternoon fare) presented in modern proportions which appealed to all the senses. 

The batchoy tonkatsu was just as close to the classic “batchoy” one might partake from any eatery from back home.  It was as traditional as it gets, with handmade noodles, chicken strips, a soft boiled quail egg, drowning in pork bone broth with lots of depth. Topped with pork crackling crumble and lots of garlic, this soup swept me off my feet!  

Batchoy Tonkatsu

The naked lumpiang betel leaf was two bites of heaven.  We needed more!  The classic lumpia of prawn and pork crepe with crushed peanuts was lifted up a notch with puffed rice, powdered seaweed and peanut sauce, wrapped in fresh betel leaves.   

 Atsara (pickled papaya/carrots) which is a Filipino style chutney balanced the flavours of the Lechon Kawali Bao – an open sandwich of steamed bun and crispy pork belly.   

Naked lumpia in betel leaf and Lechon kawali bao
Naked lumpia in betel leaf and Lechon kawali bao

Chorizo de Pilyo with coleslaw, cream cheese and mango-sultana chutney was one of the highlights, served with a piece of fried cassava – which I loved! 

Add caption

The empanada made of sweet and savoury beef, tomato, green olives and sultanas with a piece of fried plantain and a vinegar sauce served in a pipette got everyone at our table giddy.  A playful take on serving sauces!

Empanada ni Lolo O

Empanada ni Lola O

The big finish was a Filipino classic sweet brioche (ensaymada) filled with coconut jam, with three cheese ice cream and a parmesan crisp.  The ice cream was sweet, salty and creamy!  It was divine!  I actually wanted more!

Ensaymada with coconut jam filling and three cheese icea cream with a parmesan crisp.  Sweet, salty and everything nice!

The queue to get some of that ice cream!

You scream. I scream.  We all scream for ice cream!

The portions were perfect – not too small, not too big, presented in a style that paid homage to the Filipino heritage of simple and traditional.  Classic Filipino dishes with a modern take.  Now that’s cheeky! 

For more information on PILYO SYDNEY events, you can follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Disclaimer:  The writer was invited to attend the afternoon stand up event as a guest.  The post is written based on the writer’s experience.


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