July 4th red, white and blue symbolism for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

The theme for this week’s photo challenge is symbol.  From host Jen H:

Symbolism is uniquely human. We use symbols to represent intangible things like our beliefs and emotions, and to convert the abstract into something understandable. We may also use symbols to simplify and convey information.

Photography is often the same; an image illustrates a single moment in time, or captures an object in perpetuity. Much like symbols, photographs, too, may conjure vivid memories and mean a wide range of things to different people.


Last Saturday was the American July 4th Independence Day holiday.  I think the colors of the American flag is a strong symbol and recognized globally. It seems a good topic for this photo challenge theme!

These photos are from a July 4th community park celebration, where many people from all ages showed their patriotism and creativity, decked out with the red, white and blue colors of the American flag.

From socks to hats, the red, white and blue colors were everywhere.  Even pets had scarves with the colors or carried flags for their owners.


If you live in the U.S., did you attend a similar community celebration?

If you live outside the U.S., are there similar activities that inspire people to dress patriotically, or creatively express your nation’s flag colors?

Pistachios and the Manny Pacquiao ad

Pistachio Almost 100% of the pistachios grown in the U.S. are grown in California, mostly in counties in the Central Valley area.

Pistachios are a high value crop, and rank #5 in California’s agricultural exports, after almonds, dairy products, wine, and walnuts.

The pistachios grown here are the type called “Kerman”, which originated in Iran. I used to shop at a Middle East market when we lived in the East Bay that sold delicious baklava types of desserts, many featuring pistachios inside, or sprinkled on top.  It must play a big role in the food of Iran and the region.

California PistachiosAfter Iran, the U.S. is the 2nd largest producer of pistachios in the world.

This chart of the top 10 world producers of pistachios is interesting because though Iran leads in production, the yields per ton/hectare are significantly higher in the U.S, and high in Turkey.

Top 10 producers of pistachios in World

Chart via Wikipedia commons

So, the industry here in California must be doing something different, if they can produce more nuts per tree, or perhaps they developed varieties with greater yields.

I used to drive past what seemed like endless pistachio orchards during trips to Southern California, when my grandchildren lived in San Diego.

Pistachio Kerman

If I did not want to take Highway 101, I would cross over on another highway in Paso Robles, to get to Highway 5, the main artery freeway to Southern California.

The crossover part of the trip going towards Lost Hills was the area where a lot of pistachios are grown.  It must thrive in this part of California.

I do wonder if the drought situation we face here will affect the orchards.  Since pistachios are native to desert areas, probably not, and hopefully they will live on past the drought years.

Pistachio trees can produce nuts after 7 years, and peak production is at around 20 years.  I’ve read that they can continue to produce nuts until 50, and even at 80 years old, but by then, the trees are too big for the nut harvesting machines.


Do you remember the red-dyed pistachios?  I think the first time I had pistachios, we still lived in the Philippines — and they were red.  It only took a few nuts to turn my fingers, tongue, and lips red.

It turns out that the beige shells of pistachios can have stains due to hand-harvesting, so manufacturers dyed the nuts red to hide the stain.  Who knew!

They don’t do that anymore because pistachios are now harvested by machines…so no more stain problems.  Good thing, because who knows what mystery red dye # was used.  I think I would rather have my pistachios “natural” anyway…

I’ve seen a variety of humorous pistachio commercials over the last year, through a marketing campaign by the “Wonderful” brand The most memorable for me featured Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Have you seen this ad?  They may have just played in certain regions, which is why I am posting it.

As a Filipino-American, it is good to see Manny Pacquiao reach a level of success and appeal to promote and endorse products in the U.S. — even if I don’t like to watch boxing.  Here is another of his product endorsements (Hennessy) from the blog Taking a Deep Breath (and a write up about Manny’s recent fight against Mayweather).

Do you remember the red-dyed pistachios?  What is your favorite way to eat pistachios?  By itself or as a part of something else, like the baklava type desserts?   I remember getting green colored pistachio ice cream when my daughter was younger, but that ice cream flavor does not seem to be very popular these days.

Asian Festival at Salinas Chinatown: Celebrating Chinese, Japanese, Filipino culture and preserving history

What warms this lola’s (grandmother’s) heart?  Seeing the next generation Filipino-Americans continue to learn and dance the “tinikling” at the Philippine Community Center — one of the venues for cultural performances at the 8th Annual Asian Festival in Salinas last month.

A popular Philippine folk dance, the tinikling originated in the island of Leyte and is named after the “tikling” bird.  The dance imitates the movements of the birds as they walk along branches and grasses, and how they get away from bamboo traps set out by rice farmers.

I remember trying this dance while in elementary school, and my worries of getting my feet caught (and smashed) in between the bamboo poles!

Filipino Folk Dancing Tinikling keep the beat

Little ones help to keep the dance rhythm by banging half coconut shells — and audience clapping / participation also helps to keep the bamboo pole holders timing as they slide and clang the bamboo poles for the dance.

The motion and footwork for the dances is also an entry for the WordPress photo challenge — though unfortunately, my camera settings produced a lot of photos also appropriate for the challenge theme of blur.

Note:  If you are interested in Philippine birding, see this article from Cornell Lab of Ornithology Getting familiar with Philippine Birds, including the “tikling” bird.  Excerpt with dance description:

In one of those convergences that make travel fascinating, we sat in a barnlike banquet hall at dinner and watched a local dance troupe perform the traditional Philippine tinikling, in which two people kneel and clap long bamboo poles together while dancers hop in and out of the poles in rhythm. The dance is named for tikling, the local term for a rail: dancers mimic the graceful, high-stepping gait of the bird as it walks through the marsh vegetation. In the Villa Escudero marsh the next morning, we saw several members of the Rallidae including Buff-banded and Barred rails, White-breasted Waterhen, White-browed Crake, and Watercock.

Aside from folk dancing, the festival is also a great place to sample authentic Chinese, Japanese and Filipino food.

At the Philippine venue, my favorite banana leaf wrapped item — the suman — as well as cassava cakes, puto, fried banana turons and halo-halo were among the choices for dessert.

But first, you had to get your chicken adobo, lumpia, pancit and rice combo packs…

The afternoon presentation at the Philippine venue showcased traditional Philippine formal wear featuring the Barong Tagalog — Filipino formal attire, and traditionally made of pineapple fabric or a type of fine abaca (musa textilis related to the banana plant) — and the changes throughout history in traditional women’s attire, influenced by over 300 years of the Spanish colonial era.

Philippine fashion show at Asian Festival 1

The malong garment — traditionally used by a number of ethnic groups in the Southern Philippines and the Sulu Archipelago — and its many variations was an interesting part of the fashion show.

A group of women who performed a folk dance earlier in the day also participated in the afternoon’s fashion show.

Filipino-American artist Elgene Ryan Tumacder was at the festival to exhibit some of his artwork…

Fil Am artist Elgene Ryan Tumacder at Asian Festival

You can see more of his work at the 2015 Capstone Festival, California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) on Friday, May 15th at the Visual / Public Art Buildings – 100 Campus Center, Seaside.

The exhibit by the Monterey Bay Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) is a must see, especially if you are looking to learn more about the Filipino community’s history in the Monterey Bay / Salinas Valley, and Filipinos in the context of the history of the United States.

I also add two random photographs taken at the festival because 1) the Philippines’ most famous athlete Manny Pacquiao fought against Floyd Mayweather last weekend and 2) I love the Tagalog word “makulit” and spotted a little guy with the word on his T-Shirt.

Makulit means one who is stubborn, or annoyingly asks questions that have already been answered…and hopefully the “makulit” person is toddler aged, when they ask the same thing over and over, and not an adult, right?  Though you can call anyone, regardless of age MAKULIT.

This year, children representing the Chinese community also performed at the Philippine venue stage.  Their dance delighted the audience!

If you missed this year’s festival and want to learn more about the  history of Salinas Chinatown, you can visit the Asian Cultural Experience (ACE) Salinas website.

Virtual Walking Tour Salinas ChinatownWhile there, be sure to check out the site’s historical timeline feature.

The timeline starts with the California Gold Rush, then the arrival of Chinese workers recruited to build the transcontinental railroad, and later as laborers to drain lakes and swamps that created 500 acres of farmland in Salinas, to the arrival of Japanese and Filipino immigrants to work as farm laborers.

The timeline feature gave me a better understanding of the struggles of Asian immigrants, and their contributions to the modern-day agricultural wonder that is Monterey county.

Historical Timeline Salinas ChinatownThe ACE Salinas website also features an oral history archive, conducted by California State University Monterey Bay students and faculty, as well as video documentaries about Chinatown produced by professional filmmakers and film students.

Oral History Archive

Click HERE to visit the Oral History Archive main page and here for the Filipino Community oral history archives.

And to learn more about the Monterey Bay Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society, click here.

I hope to see this festival continue grow in the coming years, and with the support of Monterey Bay residents, I believe it will.

Trash and Trends: The Keurig® single-cup coffee brewing system

Jeffs Blueberry Cherry Tea Cake

Image from my post “California Cherries”

— NOTE: I’m also submitting this post for the new weekly WordPress challenge on the topic of PLASTIC WASTE REDUCTION, because sometimes, we buy new products that unintentionally add more plastic trash to our waste stream.  To see other submissions for the theme click here.

Coffee is a beverage enjoyed by people all over the world, and like most coffee lovers, it is part of my morning ritual.

Single coffee brews

Image snapped from from the Keurig Web Site

When I started seeing single cup coffee makers like the Keurig® brewing systems, I wondered if it was a fad, or just a passing trend.

I continue to see these systems sold everywhere — so, it seems it is here to stay.

Yes, it is convenient, and perhaps less wasteful if different members of the family can make their own cup —  especially if say, one likes a dark roast and another a lighter type roast coffee.

But of course, I thought about the resulting TRASH.

All those little single serve plastic containers and covers, that most likely will not be recycled, and end up in trash cans — adding to our landfills, where it will stick around for hundreds of years.

And it turns out I’m not the only one thinking of all the trash resulting from these single cup coffee pods.  Excerpt from the website TakePart.com:

About 95 percent of K-Cups are made from #7 plastic, which usually isn’t biodegradable and may contain BPA.

As for the remaining 5 percent of the pods, it’s tough to recycle them because the plastic container is attached to a foil lid—a big no-no for recycling centers.

A 2013 survey from the National Coffee Association found that nearly one in eight American households owns a single-serving coffee machine, and last year Keurig Green Mountain, the manufacturer of the machines and the pods, produced 9.8 billion K-Cups. There’s no way to tell how many of those ended up in landfills.

Which is why it was great to see a 97% Biodegradable single serve coffee pod, made by the Rogers Family Coffee Company.

Single Serve Coffee Biodegradable

The new, mostly biodegradable product made me say “Yeah!” — a product for those who love the convenience of this coffee brewing system, but concerned about the resulting trash problems.

The problem though is that the new versions of Keurig® single cup coffee brewers “lock out” competitor brew pods.

And so then it was….”oh oh… not so fast, Jane, it’s not that easy” (and cue dejected sound from a sit-com ringing in my head)…

From the Rogers Family Coffee Company blog:

In August of 2014 Keurig Green Mountain® replaced the standard Keurig K-Cup® brewers with a new version 2.0. This new version is very similar to previous models except for ONE thing… it includes a new lockout technology that only allows “Authorized K-Cups®” to work.

It does this by visually identifying a special ink on the lidding. Any cup without this “special” ink is rejected by the machine thus ensuring Keurig’s® marketplace dominance. While other companies are quickly working to adopt this special ink to their cups we at Rogers Family Company® believe that your right to choose any option is imperative.

Thankfully, Rogers has come up with an adapter called a “Freedom Clip”…and if you have a newer Keurig® coffee maker and want to use the biodegradable coffee pods, you can adapt it:

Freedom Clip

The Rogers Family Coffee Company is offering these “Freedom Clips” free on their website, along with a free sample of their biodegradable one-cup brews (click here for more).

Are you a coffee lover too, and own these Keurig® systems?

How do you make your coffee?

Recycle GlobeRelated: If you are not sure what the difference is between the terms biodegradable and compostable, check out this Native Leaf blog post to learn more.


What grows in the rich soils of Monterey County

Note:  This is a follow-up to my earlier post, Monterey, Melons and more (that Monterey County is the only county in the United States with more than $1 BILLION annually in vegetable sales).

Sunset Seaside Monterey County California rd

Seaside Sunset in Monterey County, Central Coast of California – photo LolaKo.com

The coast, the beautiful landscape, the Monterey Jazz Festival, John Steinbeck country, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and Fisherman’s wharf, Pebble Beach (among the top Golf destinations in the world) and the spectacular Big Sur Coast are among what makes the Monterey County area well-known worldwide as a tourism spot.

Big_Sur Wiki Photo by Calilover

Big Sur Coast, Monterey County, California photo via wiki commons by Calilover

Steinbeck Mural Salinas California

John Steinbeck mural, downtown old Salinas — Steinbeck was a native of Monterey County Photo: Lolako.com

From an economic standpoint though — tourism dollars aside — the Monterey County agricultural industry is what amazes me.

basket of heriloom tomatoesI wanted to know more.  What exactly do we grow here that produce such high dollar values?

The  website for the Monterey County Office of the Agricultural Commissioner and their Annual Crop Report provided exactly the information I was interested to know.

Here are the most recent numbers…

  • Leaf lettuce is in the number one spot with a value of $777.4 million
  • Strawberries accounted for  $713.9 million
  • Head lettuce was at $454.2 million
  • Broccoli at $297.3 million
  • Nursery production at $260.7 million

So there it is…lettuce is the top crop.

Makes sense…the weather is so mild here, and lettuce can be grown and harvested in such a short time!

Plus, companies in this region of California are pioneers in lettuce production and sales, having originated the ready to go salad — washed, bagged and ready to eat lettuce we now are accustomed to buying at the grocery store.

Nursery Field of Begonia Monterey County rd

Begonias growing in sandy, well draining fields of Marina, Monterey County, California – Photo LolaKo.com

What was also interesting, is that the 4th largest agriculture commodity in Monterey County is nursery production.

I knew about the orchid growing facilities here, but there are also many more types of flowers grown here!  From the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner website on nursery production…

…The local climate creates ideal conditions for raising a large variety of nursery stock including bedding and potted plants, cut flowers, poinsettias, vegetable transplants, woody ornamentals, propagative materials, turf and orchids.

Monterey County field of Yarrow flowers

Yarrow field — flowers growing in Monterey County, California – Photo LolaKo.com

It turns out, along with lots of spring greens, lettuce greens and heads of lettuce, Monterey County grows a lot of flowers like gerbera daisies, Asiatic lily, carnation, tulips and roses.

And so…Monterey County’s total crop values in the year 2011? A whopping  $3,853,004,200.  Again, Wow!

Here are related links:

body_2006_Oliver_hand-laborWebsite for the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner and Latest Monterey County Crop Report — living and working in Steinbeck Country (the 2012 report should be out soon)

nursery begonia field marina californiaBlog Begonias in the Mist – “We’re planting begonia seeds again.   We’ll drop over 2 million little begonia seeds and hope for the best….”

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Monterey County field of Lavenders


Creekside Farms in south Monterey County – grows flowers and makes gorgeous fresh and dried wreaths (see LolaKo post here, for more on Creekside Farms.


Lavender-Fields-creekside farms

Lavender Fields at Creekside Farms. Photo LolaKo.com

From USA Today, 25 years of “eureka” moments – #10 is Lettuce in a bag…

…Americans discovered there’s more to salad than iceberg lettuce drowning in bottled dressing after the rollout of mixed lettuce greens in a bag.  Fresh Express in Salinas, Calif., made that possible by inventing a high-tech plastic bag introduced nationwide in 1989. That helped ignite a whole consumer category of portion-controlled foods, such as bagged baby carrots.

Fresh Express productFeatureSalinas, Monterey County, California based Fresh Express Company Fresh Express created the very first ready-to-eat packaged Garden Salad available in grocery stores nationwide in 1989.

Monterey, melons and more…

Did you know that Monterey County is the only county in the United States with more than $1 billion — yes, that is BILLION — in annual vegetable sales?  Wow!

Monterey County Fields

Monterey County, California farm field, near the Hwy 1 freeway. Photo www.Lolako.com

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most recent Census of Agriculture for the category of vegetables, potatoes and melons, the top five counties were:

  • Monterey County, California
  • Fresno County, California
  • Yuma County, Arizona
  • Palm Beach County, Florida
  • Kern County, California

Summer and Globe Squash Monterey County

Monterey County grew almost twice the sales value of the next largest county, Fresno… and produced almost 9% of total U.S. value of vegetable production.  Another, wow….and it is true that the Salinas Valley is the salad bowl capital of the U.S. (and the world?).
Monterey county artichokes
Most of what I see driving around Monterey County and neighboring counties are a whole lot salad green fields, and a lot of strawberry farms.  Not so much melons or potato fields.  This billion dollar number must mean mostly salad greens and artichokes, since strawberries are under another category for berries and tree nuts — an even bigger agriculture industry in California.
Textured MelonsIt is nearing summer time, and I am thinking of cherries and melons and luscious fruits to enjoy this summer, and places to take our grandchildren like “U-Pick” types of farms.    The melons pictured on this post are the Casaba melons, which originated from Kasaba, Turkey, and are in the “winter melon” group that includes honey dew melons.  “Winter” meaning they are hardy melons, since these melons are actually available in summer and fall.
Casaba Melons
I looked at the California Agricultural Tourism Directory website, clicked on the “U-Pick” category, and was surprised to find out there was only one listed for Monterey (The Farm – in the Salinas Valley). Surely there are more U-Pick farms in Monterey County? If you know of others, please comment.  Thank you!

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Silhouette Art at the Moss Landing Antique Street Fair

The theme for this week’s WordPress.com photo challenge is Silhouette:

SILHOUETTE. The proper definition of a silhouette is “the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass.” In photography, often we achieve that effect by putting light behind the object whose silhouette we want to capture, effectively darkening out the features of the subject instead of highlighting them. My silhouette of the Colosseum in Italy I think still shows off the ancient landmark while bringing other details into focus.

Share a picture of a Silhouette with everyone!

I captured this photo of palm trees silhouette on my HTC Evo phone camera, during a late day walk in our neighborhood in July (more on the post “Spectacular Sky” here).

It was interesting to find out the origin of the word silhouette.  Although portrait art that we know as silhouettes — an image of a dark, solid shape on a light background — have been around since the mid-18th century, according to a Wikipedia article:

…the term “silhouette” was seldom used until the early decades of the 19th century, and the tradition has continued under this name into the 21st century. From its original graphic meaning, the term “silhouette” has been extended to describe the sight or representation of a person, object or scene that is backlit, and appears dark against a lighter background. Anything that appears this way, for example, a figure standing backlit in a doorway, may be described as “in silhouette”. Because a silhouette emphasises the outline, the word has also been used in the fields of fashion and fitness to describe the shape of a person’s body or the shape created by wearing clothing of a particular style or period.

Soon after taking the silhouette photo of the palm trees, I visited an antique street fair in the town of Moss Landing in Monterey County.

Moss Landing Antique Fair – photo in front of Captain’s Inn Bed
and Breakfast

There were several vendor booths with silhouette portraits…and having just taken my silhouette photograph, I found them interesting and took photos of a few.  The theme in general, were old-fashioned and of another era — well, it is an antique fair after all, right?

What do you think of this form of art & portraiture? Do you have one? Have you tried to make silhouette portraits or do you have one displayed on your wall?

My earlier blog post was of something similar but modern and current, that is, cut paper art from Emily Brown and Kevin Miller, now on exhibit at Sweet Elena’s Cafe in Sand City, California.  Click here, the home page for LolaKo.com and scroll to “Missing the Blog…” to see a sample of their striking and beautiful art.

Missing the blog…

Life, family, work. and more than the usual things all converged resulting in a busy September, and though I am working on few articles, I have not posted anything in weeks.

Well, what better time to reacquaint with blog than while waiting for one’s car to be serviced.

And so here I am at Sweet Elena’s café in Sand City, with a vegetable galette, enjoying the interesting collection of their current art exhibit, featuring cut paper art from Emily Brown and Kevin Miller.

From Sweet Elena’s Facebook Page:

Sweet Elena’s upcoming exhibition will focus on works from Artist Kevin Miller and Emily Brown. The exhibition will showcase their astounding paper cut work!

Kevin Miller creates his images from a single sheet of paper by cutting them out with an Exacto knife. He sparingly layers more paper to form backgrounds or provide contrast. At times humorous, at others sinister, Miller’s imaginative and often complex cut-paper vignettes offer glimpses of apparently ordinary life, whose mysterious stillness is full of possibilities.

Emily Brown creates large-scale black and white images on paper, often derived from a closely-observed piece of landscape, whether a water surface or tangle of branches. She uses traditional Asian techniques in a loose, contemporary style to explore the rythms and patterns of nature. The result is work that feels quiet & contemplative, sometimes minimal, sometimes overwhelmingly detailed. Brown, a former Pew Fellow, has lectured and taught at both the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Fine Arts and the Graduate Program of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. 

Sweet Elena’s in Sand City, Photo courtesy of www.SweetElenas.net

Sweet Elena’s Bakery & Cafe is a sweet spot in Sand City’s auto repair hub…and within walking distance of various specialty mechanics, body / window / glass repair shops.  So whether you need one, two or three hours to kill (OK I’ve always hated that term, but yes, time to pass), a delicious cup of coffee, a croissant, quiche or galette, or their soups and petit sandwiches will help do the job.

Here is that vegetable galette, filled with spinach, butternut squash, some chard, onions and topped with tomatoes and cheese.

Delicious….and I just the call that my car is ready.

San Francisco Pistahan Festival – August 2012

With the weather near perfect and the sunshine abundant, people came to Yerba Buena Gardens from near and far to enjoy the Pistahan Parade and Festival, and to support the largest celebration of the Filipino-American experience in the Western U.S.

Entertainment on the main stage as well as other venues at Yerba Buena were constant, and it seems there was something for everyone to see and to do.

Present were well established companies promoting their products to the huge concentration of Filipino Americans at the festival, as well as non-profit organizations like Jeepney Projects, sharing information to the community on their mission to save the magnificent, and sadly, the critically endangered Philippine eagle.

Here are a few shots from my HTC Evo phone camera.  Yes, there was plenty of SUN and no fog at all in San Francisco for the Pistahan Festival weekend.

Members of the Kariktan Dance Company

Pictured above are Ana, Gabby, Samanta and Krisel, members of the Kariktan Dance Company – a non-profit group from Concord, California, promoting Philippine culture through dance and music.  They performed the Bulaklakan, a popular folk dance, as well as the Subli on the Pistahan Main Stage.

Earlier in the day, Mahea from the Paamano Eskrima Performing Arts group, based in Garden Grove, California, demonstrated their Eskrima skills.

Mahea has been active in Eskrima since she was 9 years old.

Eskrima — also known as Arnis — is a form of Philippine martial arts which emphasizes fighting with weapons (sticks, knives and blades).  It is one of only 4 official Philippine National Symbols.

Eskrima is the Filipino version of the Spanish word for fencing (esgrima).

Mahea, pictured in costume, also danced in the “Building Bridges” presentation on the main Pistahan Stage.

If you would like to see traditional Philippine folk dances, there are many videos on YouTube, from  groups promoting Philippine cultural traditions.

Here are other random crowd / festival participant photographs.  If you were at the event, please leave a comment.

Ube – now in waffles!

Why not?

At the Pistahan Festival in San Francisco this weekend, the catering company Pinx offered a new way to enjoy waffles.

Their clever twist on this classic food?  The addition of the beloved Filipino purple yam, the “ube”, presented with a caramelized syrup made with macapuno (sweetened strips of young coconut meat).

What did this Lola (grandmother) think?

Uber delicious ube waffles served up by Pinx Catering.

Come on…it’s got ube in it!  Ang sarap…delicious!  And I will add to our photo collection on the post, The Ube and Purple Filipino Food.

Winner of the 2011 San Francisco Street Food Festival contest, the Pinx motto is “Life is short…eat something memorable”.  I agree — and eat well too!

Check out their website and menu at www.PinxCatering.com.

Jose Antonio Vargas at the San Francisco Pistahan Parade and Festival

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and have an interest in Filipino culture, do plan to attend the Pistahan Parade and Festival this weekend.

Pistahan is a fantastic festival of Filipino Culture and Cuisine, celebrating its 19th year at the Yerba Buena Gardens.

From the Pistahan website:

On Saturday, August 11 the Pistahan Parade, with nearly 100 contingents, kicks off the festival! It begins at 11 a.m. on Beale Street, goes down Market Street, and ends at Folsom and Third streets. The grand marshals are Cheesa Laureta, a contestant on “The Voice ” comedian Joey Guila; Ali Ewoldt, who appeared on Broadway in “Les Miserables”; singer Meleana Brown from TV’s “Duets”; and Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented Filipino-American journalist who wrote a Time magazine cover story about his experiences trying to gain legal status in America.

The Filipina Women’s Network and the Filipino American Arts Exposition are hosting a community networking and Filipino themed breakfast (with ingredients from Ramar Foods) and featuring a keynote speech by Jose Antonio Vargas.

Jose Antonio Vargas was part of the Washington Post team covering the Virginia Tech shootings, earning a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. Vargas profiled Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker in 2010, and his articles on AIDS inspired the documentary, The Other City.

In 2011, Vargas became the “story” when he revealed that he was an undocumented immigrant, in an essay for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Visit the Pistahan website for full details, including the parade route map, and the Pistahan and Bayanihan Stage schedules.

And…stop by Native Leaf’s booth and say hello — near the Pistahan Main Stage, on the Mission Street side of Yerba Buena Gardens.

Monterey Bay Birding Festival – September 13th to 16th

From the Elkhorn Slough Foundation’s latest newsletter, Slough Buzz…

The eighth annual Monterey Birding Festival is fast approaching! This year the festival will be held September 13-16th at the Watsonville Civic Plaza. September marks the peak of fall migration, with wintering shorebirds arriving en masse.

Greg Miller, one of the three key characters in Mark Obmascik’s book “The Big Year” (now a major motion picture) will be the keynote speaker on Saturday, Sept. 15.

When Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) started this festival years ago we had hoped to share the joy of birding with a few local enthusiasts. After all, Elkhorn Slough is a mecca for birders looking to check off their ‘life bird’ list with our more than 340 species of bird species.

The Elkhorn Slough Birding Festival quickly grew into a giant celebration of all things bird, and became an entity all its own: today’s Monterey Birding Festival. You can join other birding enthusiasts on hikes, tours, in classes and more at this years’ festival, so we hope you’ll come enjoy the company of your fellow fans of our feathered friends!

For more information on the festival or to register visit http://montereybaybirding.org/

And for more on Elkhorn Slough (pronounced “slew”)  — an ecological treasure in Monterey Bay and the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside San Francisco Bay — please visit www.elkhornslough.org.

California Cherries

Just as last year, the summer is again passing by at blazing speed.  It must be the nature of getting older…every year seems to go by faster than the last.

This year, I wanted to eat plenty of local cherries, since last year, I felt I missed out on the cherry season.

Photo: www.Lolako.com

Jeff has been in baking mode, and made this tea cake with blueberries and cherries.  It turned out lovely.  The blueberries and cherries sink towards the bottom of the super moist cake, releasing slightly tart flavors — along with scents from the lemon zest and cardamom — with each bite.

And as far as eating more delicious and plump California cherries this year…well, so far, so good!

The tea cake recipe was in the book, Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking, and came from Sam Hayward, chef-owner of Portland, Maine’s Fore Street Restaurant.

Cherry trees in bloom at spring time, surrounded by mustard flowers. Photo www.lolako.com

To see recipes for divine summer treats and beautiful photographs from a California cherry farm, please visit Deborah Ryan’s blog and website, East of Eden Cooking.

For inspiration, Deborah starts her recipe post with quotes from John Steinbeck.  Here is the quote for her post on Triple Cherry Brownies, a decadent summer dessert:

“Look Charles, things grow so fast in California they say you have to plant and step back quick or you’ll get knocked down.”  East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside (Pacific – King Salmon)

The theme for this week’s photo challenge at the The Daily Post at WordPress.com is Inside.  From Sara Rosso…

Inside. I like to snap multiple views of something and often the inside of something is even more interesting than the outside. This canelé (a French pastry) was definitely worth photographing – I’ll remember all those nooks & crannies!  

I like the food theme from Sara, and I’m posting my salmon photos.

Background:  When we first moved to the Monterey Peninsula, Jeff went on a group salmon fishing trip with his co-workers, on a commercial fishing vessel.  Before he left (cooler in tow), I half-jokingly told him that he should not come home if he does not have any fish for me.  After all, I am from the Philippines, love seafood — especially fresh seafood!

When he came home — again, cooler in tow — he looked rather sad.  I said…”oh no…you did not get any fish?  It’s okay honey, I still love you”.

He was playing with me, as inside the cooler was a huge salmon!  For his first Monterey  fishing trip, he caught the first salmon — and the heaviest one — which won him a cash prize and a Home Depot gift certificate.  Lucky!  There were also rock cods in the cooler.

So you see…a little pressure is not such a bad thing!

Here are my photos of the salmon…outside, and cleaned (and by the way, the biggest fish I have ever cleaned), and the inside, cut up and in steaks and ready to cook.  It was the best tasting fish we have ever eaten.

Gills and guts removed, all cleaned!


The kitchen sink is the double sink type, and the salmon took up both sink spaces.

Maybe I should have done this cleaning business OUTSIDE…I made a mess.


Salmon inside — many slices and servings

Here are some of Jeff’s photos, before they headed out.

Monterey Bay Harbor, California, at dawn

Monterey Bay Sunrise

Almost ready to take off….Monterey Bay Commercial Salmon Fishing Boat

My other fish and creatures-of-the-sea posts:

On Tilapia – Top Aquaculture Fish, if you have ever wondered about the origins of Tilapia, and if it is a safe fish to eat…

On Sharks

  1. About the 4,000 pound Great White Shark caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez
  2. and A comparison of shark attacks vs. number of lightning fatalities, U.S.A. West Coast

On Seahorses

  1. Seahorse Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  2. Males who get pregnant and give birth?
  3. Seahorses, Magical Fish, about the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world (the huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines).

On Sea OttersThe Sea Otter’s One-eyed Peek

About the endangered leatherback sea turtles (which  can grow as big as a Volkswagen bug car!)

About the Philippine Bangus (Milkfish)…the #1 farmed fish in the Philippines and dried and fermented fish, luggage with a special kind of stinky.

Rest in Peace Marion Cunningham

Marion Cunningham, cook, author, and advocate for home cooking, died on Wednesday, at the age of 90.

For many years, Marion Cunningham wrote a column for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times, and contributed articles to Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Gourmet magazines.  She lived in Walnut Creek, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I remember reading some of her articles in the Contra Costa Times, or articles about her when we lived in the Bay Area.

Until I heard about her death, I didn’t know that she was already 50 years old when she started her career path towards the cooking world.  She was proof that it is never too late to take up a new career, when you are doing something you love.

Marion Cunningham’s book, Good Eating

We own a few cookbooks, and among them is Marion Cunningham’s Good Eating, which is actually two books in one (The Breakfast Book and The Supper Book).  I’ve used it more often than our other cookbooks.  The recipes are solid, and most are simple, no-fuss to make, meaning they are also kid-friendly.

Some of our cookbooks (Jeff likes to cook!)

The recipe (and LolaKo post) Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever, is adapted from her recipe.  I’ve also made other pancakes — buckwheat,cornmeal — and waffles, using recipes from The Breakfast Book.

When my grandson Jun (an enthusiastic pancake eater) was home sick from school and I was looking after him, I decided to try another of Marion Cunningham’s pancake recipe.  I settled on Lemon Pancakes, since we had lemons and cottage cheese on hand.

Jun sat at the kitchen counter, and watched.  It was different from our “usual” pancakes — both in the process of making it, and in appearance.

I slipped the first pancake on a plate, swirled syrup on top, and presented it to Jun, who was about 6 years old at the time.  He took a bite, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, smiled, and uttered, “ummmmm…Lola!”.

You can imagine how happy I was at his reaction — and he got better rather quickly too!

I don’t normally make these pancakes as cottage cheese is not an item we keep on hand.  But…it is tasty, and well worth making if you want to make a special treat for your enthusiastic pancake eaters…even if they are not sick.

In honor of Marion Cunningham, here is her recipe.

From The Breakfast Book –  Lemon Pancakes

These pancakes make you sit up and take notice.  Serve them with fresh raspberries or raspberry syrup and you will have a summer morning special.

  • 3 eggs (separated)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.  In another bowl, stir together the egg yolks, flour, cottage cheese, butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest until well mixed (I use the rotary egg beater I used for beating the egg whites).

With a large spoon or a spatula, fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.  Gently stir until there are no yellow or white streaks.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Grease lightly and spoon out about 3 large tablespoons of batter for each pancake.  Cook slowly for about 1 1/2 minutes, then turn the pancake over and cook about 30 seconds.  Keep the pancakes warm in a 250 degree oven until ready to serve.

Related Links:

San Francisco Chronicle SF Gate article, with Marion Cunningham’s recipe for raised waffles.

New York Times article on Marion Cunningham’s death, with her recipe for coffee cake

Lola Jane’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever

More photos from the Obon Festival

Additional photos from the 66th Annual Obon Festival at the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple

Salinas Kendo Dojo Demonstration

Seibukan Jujutsu Demonstration

Seibukan Jujutsu Demonstration

Seibukan Jujutsu Demonstration

Shinsho Mugen Daiko

Shinsho Mugen Daiko

Shinsho Mugen Daiko

Shinsho Mugen Daiko

Bon Odori Dancer on the way to the temple

Best Food Vendor!

Of the food we sampled — from gyozas, beef and chicken teriyaki, tempuras, yakisoba  — our favorite was the Kushi Katsu vendor.

If you were at the festival, let me know your favorite part of the day…food or event.

Related Links:

Salinas Kendo Dojo – www.salinaskendo.org (The Japanese martial art of fencing)

Monterey Budokan  Martial Arts Academy – Seibukan Jujutsu

Shinsho-Mugen daiko of Monterey – www.shinshomugendaiko.net

Yosokan Dojo Martial Arts Center –  www.yosokandojo.com

www.aikidomonterey.com  – Aikido of Monterey

Lolako’s post on Monterey Peninsula 66th Annual Obon Festival

Annual Obon Festival at the Monterey Peninsula Buddist Temple

While the Washington D.C. area bakes in 100+ degree weather, the temperature was cool and in the 60’s today at the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple, in Seaside, California — home base for the 66th Annual Obon Festival.

From the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple website:

The Obon festival is a Buddhist tradition to celebrate, remember and express gratitude to all family members who have died.  The Obon festival has been celebrated in Japan since 657 AD.  The first Obon in the United States was held in Hawaii in 1910; festivals on the mainland began about 20 years later.  2012 marks the 66th year of the Obon Festival on the Monterey Peninsula.

The first Monterey Obon Festival was held on August 25, 1947 at the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Hall in Monterey, home to the Temple then. In 1963, the event was moved to the Monterey County Fairgrounds where it was held for 30 years.  The Obon Festival returned to the Temple, now in Seaside, in 1993.  3,000 to 5,000 people from across the Monterey Peninsula and beyond attend each year.

We visited the festival for the first time since moving to this area, and were pleasantly surprised.  It was a well-organized event, featuring plenty of food booths, martial arts demonstrations, tea ceremonies, a book and Asian gift store, and exhibits of bonsai – the practice of long-term cultivation and shaping of small trees growing in a container.

The bonsai displays were interesting, and once we realized how old the trees were — from 20 to 50 years old — we really appreciated the devotion it takes to practice this Japanese art form.

It is fascinating to see a redwood tree (sequoias) — the tallest living trees on our planet, and normally growing 300-350 feet tall — in miniature format, and growing in a tiny ceramic pot.

Bonsai Redwood Tree – Click on the photo to learn more about Giant Sequoias and Coast Redwood Trees, and about one that traveled to the moon and now planted in downtown historic Monterey

Bonsai Monterey Pine Tree

Bonsai Olive Tree

Bonsai Elm Tree

Bonsai with flowers!

There were also presentations of ikebana – the Japanese art of flower arrangement.  As much as I love vases overflowing with flowers, it is enjoyable to see a minimalist style of presenting flowers, where the emphasis is also about the lines, the stems and the twigs.

Some beautiful examples below:

Did I mention the wonderful volunteers happily pouring free cups of hot green tea to festival attendees?  The hot green tea was perfect for the cool weather (warm sake, cold beer and sodas were also available for sale).

My one complaint…the Styrofoam cups, which are difficult to recycle!  If you read this and plan to attend next year, bring your own mugs for the free hot green tea and other beverages.

More photos from the festival, tomorrow…

Related links: Japanese-City.com – link to 2012 Japanese Obon & Bon Odori Schedule

Monterey Bonsai Club

Monterey Peninsula Buddist Temple

Ikebana International – Monterey Bay Chapter

City of Monterey, California celebrates ban on plastic bags

Native Leaf will be part of a community celebration on the city of Monterey’s ban of single use plastic bags, which is effective July 1, 2012.

Join us for the celebration on Saturday, June 30th, from 11am to 3pm at the lawn in front of City Hall (Pacific Street). There will be free reusable bags, live music, terrific food vendors, art activities and interactive displays and information from organizations including

  • Save our Shores
  • Communities for Sustainable Monterey County
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Save the Whales

At 1:00pm, the Mayor of Monterey and City Council Member Libby Downey will speak about the ban & their commitment to sustainability.

For further details, click here or visit.the Green Heart Works Facebook page (the event organizer).

If you are a resident of Monterey, I hope to see you there!

Found! U.S.A. farmed tilapia

It turns out you can find U.S.A. farmed tilapia for sale at stores — just outside of the Monterey Bay area.

So far, Lion Supermarket – located on Tully Road in San Jose. is the only store I have seen that offer whole, fresh, U.S. farmed tilapia.  Lion Supermarket products are geared towards the international and Asian community.  They have 5 store locations (mostly in San Jose).

The tilapia is from a company called Desert Springs Tilapia, based in Arizona

How can you tell — aside from 100% trust in your grocer and fish dealers — that your tilapia is from U.S. based farms?

These particular tilapia fish had the Desert Springs Tilapia tags.

U.S. Farmed Tilapia from Desert Springs (Arizona)

And…. just because tilapia fish are marketed as “farm raised”, it does not necessarily mean it is farmed in a safe and sustainable way.  For more about tilapia fish, including Seafood Watch information and ratings, please see my post Tilapia – Top Aquaculture Fish.

For local tilapia sources (Monterey Bay), please see post country of origin for tilapia fish sold locally.

Now that I know more about tilapia, and after reading reports from the Seafood Watch program from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I am only buying tilapia farmed in the U.S.A (best choice), or from countries listed as “good alternatives”.   How about you?

Country of origin for tilapia fish sold locally

This is a follow-up to the post Tilapia – top aquaculture fish.

I was curious about the country of origin of tilapia fish sold locally (Monterey County, California).  Here is a sample:

Sign – seafood counter at Phil’s Fish Market, Moss Landing, CA

Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing had whole tilapia fish available (but no fillets) at the time of my visit.  However, their pricing sign did not indicate country of origin.  When I asked for assistance — near the bar and entrance — they did find out quickly, and told me their whole tilapias were farm-raised, from Canada.

There is room on the sign to write the country of origin, so it seems easy enough for Phil’s to let customers know where their tilapia is sourced.

Whole tilapia and other fish for sale at Phil’s Fish Market, Moss Landing

If you visit Phil’s website, the home page states “In our continuing commitment to protect the environment & provide the highest quality seafood available, we now partner with Safe Harbor, a comprehensive seafood safety certification program.”  

Safe Harbor Certified Seafood are tested for mercury, radiation, industrial pollutants, use of hormones, and unregulated aquaculture   For more on Safe Harbor, click here.

As far as I can tell, Safe Harbor is strictly a testing program for fish safety — to eat, which is great!.  But individual restaurants or fish markets still need to be mindful of fish sustainability practices (e.g., Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program) along with being a Safe Harbor partner.

Fresh tilapia fillets – Whole Foods

The fresh tilapia fillets at Whole Foods (top photo) are from Ecuador and label indicates “fresh farmed, responsibly raised, hormone & antibiotic free”.

Whole Foods fish counters had these Marine Stewardship Certification signs, indicating “third-party certified sustainable fishing”.

Whole Foods Market Marine Stewardship

They had frozen tilapia fillets available (bottom photo), also from Ecuador, and marked “no antibiotics, no preservatives, no added hormones”.

Frozen tilapia fillets – Whole Foods

At the Asian Market in Marina, tilapia was available in the freezer section only, and marked “Product of Taiwan, R.O.C.”.

Frozen tilapia fillets at the Asian Market – Marina

Frozen tilapia fillets country of origin info – Asian market

The chain grocery store, Save Mart, sold farm raised, previously frozen tilapia fillets, marked “Product of China”, as well as frozen whole tilapia, also marked “Product of China”.

Save Mart – previously frozen tilapia fillets

Whole tilapia fish – Save Mart

I did not find any tilapia from U.S. based fish farms —- not surprising, as the Seafood Watch Report from Monterey Bay Aquarium indicated less than 10% of tilapia consumed in the U.S. are from U.S.-based, tilapia fish farms.

As you can see from the photos, there is a big difference in tilapia price between the stores.  Only Whole Foods had tilapia sourced from areas marked as “Good Alternatives” on the Seafood Watch program — i.e., Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras.

Please visit the original post “Tilapia – Top Aquaculture Fish” for more information on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.

And let me know if you see tilapia from U.S. fish farms (rated “Best Choice” from Seafood Watch) for sale at our local markets, or restaurants.

Update: I did find U.S. farmed tilapia fish, view the post here – Found! USA Farmed Tilapia.

Tilapia – the world’s top aquaculture fish

Writing about the Philippine bangus / milkfish these last few days got me thinking about the most popular farmed (aquaculture) fish in the world, the tilapia (Oreochromis, Sarotherodon).

Introduction, from Tilapia Production Report, Globefish.org:

Tilapia is both a genus of fishes in the Cichlidae family and the common name for nearly a hundred species of freshwater and some brackish water cichlid fishes belonging to the three genera Tilapia, Sarotherodon, and Oreochromis. 

Nile Tilapia Drawing (1898): WH Flower, Guide to the galleries of reptiles and fishes of the British Museum

Tilapia is often called “St. Peter’s fish” because according to the Book of Mathew (17:27) the fish which St. Peter caught was a tilapia. Also, the miracle of Jesus Christ in which it says a crowd of five thousand people were fully fed with five loafs of bread and two fishes (Mathew 14:15-21) may have also been a tilapia since this is the species most found in Lake Tiberius (Sea of Galilee) in historical Palestine. It is also called as Nile mouth brooder, or Nile perch.

Most important and abundant in production, capture and aquaculture, is the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus); followed by the Blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus); Mango tilapia (Sarotherodon galilaeus) and Sabaki tilapia (Oreochromis spilurus). These are native to Africa and the Middle East.  Blue and Mango tilapias are captured although in limited quantities while Sabaki tilapia is only cultured.

In the twenty-first century tilapia is dubbed as “wonder fish”.

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

Although tilapia is native to Africa and the Middle East, 98% of all farmed tilapia is grown outside its native habitat, by about 85 countries.

Tilapia was the 4th favorite seafood in the U.S. in 2010, moving up from its previous position as 5th favorite.  And because it is an affordable fish, worldwide demand continues to grow (www.Globefish.org).

According to a Seafood Watch report by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, tilapia are the most widely grown of any farmed fish. They are highly adaptable, easily cultured and

  • provides more protein than it takes to raise it (unlike farmed salmon or tuna)
  • are omnivorous and adapts eating habits to available food (they feed on phytoplankton or benthic algae but readily accept compound feed)
  • can tolerate low oxygen levels and a range of salinities
  • occupy a wide range of habitats (ponds, rivers, lakes, canals, irrigation channels)
  • have high reproductive capacities and readily establish self-reproducing populations

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

For many years, it has been available at Filipino supermarkets here in the U.S. and is a popular fish choice for markets that have a “free” fish frying service.

More and more, I see it offered as a fish option at restaurants, and it is usually always available as a fish choice in Filipino eateries.

From a sustainability standpoint, here is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program’s stance on tilapia:

Your “Best Choice” is tilapia grown in the U.S. in environmentally friendly systems. “Avoid” farmed tilapia from China and Taiwan, where pollution and weak management are widespread problems.

Rating Market Names Where Caught/How Caught
Tilapia Best Choice Izumidai U.S. – Farmed
Tilapia Avoid Izumidai China, Taiwan – Farmed
Tilapia Good Alternative Izumidai Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras – Farmed

More tilapia consumer notes  from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch:

Most tilapia consumed in the U.S. comes from China/Taiwan (frozen) or Central and South America (fresh). Less than 10 percent of tilapia consumed in the U.S. is farmed domestically.

A mild, white fish, tilapia is available year-round. It’s available whole, fresh, frozen, or even live in some Asian restaurants. It can also be found as fresh or frozen fillets. Tilapia is known as izumidai when prepared for sushi.


Tilapia is an important source of protein, especially in developing countries. Tilapia is a good candidate for farming, as it provides more protein than it takes to raise it. This is in contrast to some other fish raised in farms, such as salmon or tuna.

Tilapia is a hardy, freshwater fish that tolerates a wide range of water conditions. This means it’s easy to farm, but it also means it easily invades many habitats and threatens native fish populations.

In the U.S., most tilapia is farmed in closed inland systems that guard against escapes and pollution. However, in many other countries, tilapia is often farmed in open systems where escapes and pollution are bigger threats. However, tilapia farming methods vary widely within any given country.

U.S. farmed tilapia is the “Best Choice,” with tilapia from Central and South America as a “Good Alternative” to other imported product.

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

The bottom line for U.S. consumers of tilapia:  Look at country of origin packaging labels, and ask your fish dealer, or your restaurant, the country source of the tilapia that they sell and/or serve.

This way, you can at least know if you are consuming “Best Choice” — that is, U.S. farm raised tilapia — or “Good Alternative”, sustainably grown tilapias (again, from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Honduras).

Although tilapia is one of the better farmed fish to eat — because of its mild flavor, affordability, and from a sustainable fish standpoint — it is still a fairly new fish in the world of modern aquaculture.

Under the right conditions, they can become an invasive species when deliberately or accidentally introduced in tropical climates.

In Florida, the blue tilapia (oreochromis aureus) is the most widespread of foreign fish species and a problem when tilapia populations compete with native fish.

Blue Tilapia – Photo credit: Michael Rupert Hayes

Tilapia is now the second most popular farmed fish in the Philippines (after the bangus).

A report from www.Globefish.org indicated that Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was introduced to the Philippines in the mid-1960’s.  Excerpt from Globefish report on the Nile tilapia:

The culture of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times as depicted on bas-relief from an Egyptian tomb dating over 4000 years ago, which showed the fish held in ornamental ponds.

While significant worldwide distribution of tilapias, primarily Oreochromis mossambicus, occurred during the 1940s and 1950s, distribution of the more desirable Nile tilapia occurred during the 1960s up to the 1980s.

Nile tilapia from Japan was introduced to Thailand in 1965, and from Thailand they were sent to the Philippines. Nile tilapia from Cote d’Ivoire was introduced to Brazil in 1971,and from Brazil they were sent to the United States in 1974. In 1978, Nile tilapia was introduced to China, which leads the world in tilapia production and consistently
produced more than half of the global production in every year from 1992 to 2008.

I recommend reading the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and Globefish.org reports below, if you need more information to decide if tilapia is a fish you want to include in your diet.

Related Links:

Lolako.com’s country of origin for tilapia fish sold locally and Found! U.S. Farmed Tilapia

Tilapia-US-Farmed-Lions-MarketLolako.com’s Found! U.S.A. Farmed Tilapia

Seafood Watch – Seafood Report on Farmed Tilapia, by the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How to Raise Tilapia in the Backyard (http://www.pinoybisnes.com)

www.Globefish.org – Tilapia Production Report and Tilapia Archives

Jollibee burgers…and bangus? And why bangus is considered an (unofficial) Philippine national symbol

Where else, but the Philippine fast food restaurant Jollibee, can one order hamburgers AND fried bangus (pronounced something close to “bung-oose”), served with rice?

Jollibee Food Corporation (JFC) started in Manila, soon after McDonalds made plans to enter the Philippine market.

They are one of Asia’s most successful and fastest growing companies, and the Philippines’ largest chain restaurant.  They continue to expand beyond the Philippines, with most U.S. locations in California.

Not yet familiar with bangus (also known as milkfish)?  It is a commonly eaten fish in the Philippines, and an unofficial national symbol.  And because of its popularity in aquaculture or fish farms, it is available just about everywhere in the Philippines, and easy to find here in the U.S.

Here is a description and biology from Wikipedia:

Milkfish (Chanos chanos) have a generally symmetrical and streamlined appearance, with a sizable forked caudal fin. They can grow to 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) but are most often about 1 metre (39 in) in length. They have no teeth and generally feed on algae and invertebrates.

They occur in the Indian Ocean and across the Pacific Ocean, tending to school around coasts and islands with reefs. The young fry live at sea for two to three weeks and then migrate to mangrove swamps, estuaries, and sometimes lakes and return to sea to mature sexually and reproduce.

Bangus (Milkfish) – Chanos chanos by Sir Francis Day

And on the history of the bangus / milkfish:

Milkfish aquaculture first occurred around 800 years ago in the Philippines and spread in Indonesia, Taiwan and into the Pacific.

Traditional milkfish aquaculture relied upon restocking ponds by collecting wild fry. This led to a wide range of variability in quality and quantity between seasons and regions. In the late seventies, farmers first successfully spawned breeding fish. However, they were hard to obtain and produced unreliable egg viability.  In 1980 the first spontaneously spawning happened in sea cages. These eggs were found to be sufficient to generate a constant supply for farms.

Bangus is available fresh or frozen at most Asian markets, and at chain supermarkets that serve the Filipino-American (Fil-Am) community (e.g., Seafood City, Island Supermarket).

Bangus milkfish for sale at Seafood City Markets – photo by Lolako.com

It is cooked in soups (sinigang), stewed in vinegar, ginger and spices (paksiw), fried, grilled or barbequed, stuffed (relleno style), and also “dinaing”, marinated in vinegar and spices, and fried, as in the style served at Jollibee.

Targeting the American market with their chicken and burgers, and offering a menu with familiar, native style foods like fried bangus is a solid marketing strategy, since U.S. Jollibee locations are in areas with established Fil-Am communities.

Bangus is a bony fish, so perhaps marinating or “dinaning” style of preparation is among the best method, as the acid in the vinegar makes the bangus bones soft, then crispy when fried.

Bangus is also available at Jollibee for breakfast, served with traditional Filipino garlic fried rice (sinangag) — and an egg of course.  For the breakfast menu, they do call it milkfish, and highlight the belly  or middle part — a favorite for many, including me!

Bangus is a tasty fish, and it must now be abundant enough — and hopefully grown in a sustainable way — to meet the supply demands of a large restaurant chain like Jollibees.

I checked the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list, and did not see anything on chanos chanos, milkfish or bangus.  They did have a Fish Farming Methods Fact Card that indicate recirculating type systems (enclosed fish tanks) as the best method, though costly to run due to reliance on electricity or other power sources.  If you happen upon this blog and know about the bangus industry, I would appreciate getting a comment on modern bangus aquaculture methods.

I often wondered why bangus often shows up or is thought of as a Philippine national symbol.  So…now I know it is because Filipinos from 800 years ago were the first to capture bangus in the wild, and grow bangus in fish farms!

Lastly for this post…I found out there is a bangus festival in Dagupan City during April until early May.  Dagupan City is in the province of Pangasinan.  A festival centered around the tasty bangus… sounds like fun!

Related Links: