A Day to Celebrate Love

Love Symmetry web

Love image from a mural at a school building, San Jose, California

Today is Valentine’s Day, and although celebrated by many as a day about romantic love, I think it should be a day to think about and celebrate love…in general.

Bloggers sometimes include a favorite quote when posting their photography, or articles.  I like this practice and include this for today…

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

—Rumi, 13th Century Persian Poet


Chocolate “beans” come from the fruit of the cacao tree. The pods grow on the branches and trunks of the tree.


Did you get or give chocolate – the most craved food in the world — today?

Click on the cacao pod photo to find out how cacao trees — source of chocolate — came to be grown in the Philippines.


Jose Antonio Vargas…and the upcoming Pistahan Festival

Jose-Antonio-Vargas-22Jose Antonio Vargas, a well-known activist for undocumented immigrants was recently detained at a Texas airport while reporting on the onslaught of minors crossing into the U.S. from Central America.

I posted about Mr. Vargas when he was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Pistahan Festival — a festival in San Francisco celebrating Filipino culture and cuisine.   Excerpt:

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.   Continue reading…

I am following his courageous work…and fears about him being deported (though always the possibility, and part of his reality) were allayed after reading the article from Mother Jones on 8 Reasons Why Jose Antonio Vargas Won’t Be Deported.  Made sense to me!


Members of the Kariktan Dance Company at the Pistahan Festival celebrating Filipino culture

And the post reminded me that the 2014 Pistahan Festival is coming up soon…

In case you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or nearby, Pistahan is the largest celebration of Filipino culture in the United States and worth attending.

Pistahan’s focus this year is the Visayan culture!

A huge and colorful parade kicks the festival off on August 9th, and the festival runs through August 10th at Yerba Buena Gardens — Moscone Convention Center area.  For parade schedule and festival information, visit Pistahan.net.

There are terrific performances and great food if you want to sample Filipino cuisine (the year we went, they had Pinx Catering serving up Ube Waffles).

More Filipino food related posts, here and post on Why Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world, here.

Champurrado to Champorado: origin of a favorite Filipino breakfast

In the Philippines, champorado is a chocolate, riced-based porridge typically eaten for breakfast.  In Mexico, champurrado is a chocolate-based drink (made with masa — lime treated corn dough, or corn flour) also served for breakfast.

champorado Filipino style

Champorado is typically eaten at breakfast but can also be served for dessert

The common ingredient is chocolate — but which version came first?

The answer is the Mexican champurrado, as the cacao trees (source of chocolate) grown in the Philippines originally came from Mexico.  And the connection, of course, is that Mexico and the Philippines were colonies of Spain.

Some of the most popular fruits and plants common in the Philippines —  avocados, pineapples, cashews, guyabano — are native to Latin American countries and arrived in the Philippines via the galleon ships from Mexico during the colonial era.  Rice and fruits like the carambola (star apple) and mangoes were transported from the Philippines to Mexico.

Champorado is a breakfast favorite of my oldest grandson, Jun.  Because there is a lot of stirring involved, he knows it is a special request breakfast and that his Lola has to wake up a little earlier to have it ready before school time.

As with many Filipino sweets, making champorado requires just a handful of ingredients.  Philippine chocolate tablets are the traditional ingredient, but we use cocoa powder in our version.  Recipe:

Philippine Champorado ingriedients w

  • 1 cup of sticky rice – usually marked “Sweet Rice” sourced mainly from Thailand, or the Philippine brands marked “Malagkit”
  • Water & Milk – start with 4 and 1/2 cups of water to cook the rice into a porridge (I add a cup of low-fat milk to the mixture when the porridge is almost done, and depending on the consistency you like, you can add more milk and water)
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – use from 1/2 cup or add more to your liking.  We keep a container of Trader Joe’s brand on hand, sourced from Columbia.
  • Brown sugar can be added during the porridge cooking process or served with the bowl of champorado.

Rinse, then cook the rice with the water over low heat, then gradually add the cocoa powder to make the porridge.  I add the milk and brown sugar when the rice softens and is almost cooked.  Watch over and stir the mixture often.  The champorado is done when the rice is mushy and cooked through.

In the Philippines, champorado is sometimes eaten with salted dried fish (tuyo), as Filipinos love mixing salty and sweet flavors.

For more about chocolate, see Most Craved Food post here, or click on the photo below.

Cacao Photo Group

Cacao tree growing next to a house in the Philippines, bottom photo are cacao seeds drying, and cacao seeds for sale at the market, Central Philippines. Photos Lolako.com

And a little on the early history of chocolate in the Philippines, said to be introduced by missionaries from Mexico in the late 1600’s.  Excerpt from the book “The Philippine Islands”, published in 1898…

The trees are usually planted in gardens near the house, and the chocolate-paste is made at home. A small quantity of the bean is sent annually to Spain; and there is a chocolate factory in Manila for the benefit of those that do not care to trouble themselves with either the growth of the fruit or the preparation of the kernel. The oil of the cocoa is used also for lighting the houses and streets.

It is impossible to find better chocolate than that made by the friars of the Philippines. Special pains are taken with the cacao tree, which is planted in the orchards and gardens of the monasteries, and in the manufacture of the paste and in the making of the beverage.

At Mexican eateries, here is how champurrado is sold (paired with tamales — so, except for the chocolate, completely different from Philippine champorado):

White King brand instant champorado web

White King brand instant champorado mix

Do you make homemade champorado or champurrado?

Or have you bought the instant type Filipino champorado mix at your local Filipino store (like the type pictured at left by White King)?  And if so, was the taste comparable to homemade champorado?

What are your favorite Filipino chocolate related memories?

More food posts from Lolalako.com:

Old photo and update to “Most Craved Food in the World” article

I updated the post “Most Craved Food in the World” after finding this interesting photo in a book about the Philippines, via the Gutenberg website and another old book published in digitized format from Google.

Chocolate maker

Photo from the book “The Philippine Islands” from the Gutenberg website, by Ramon Reyes Lala, published in 1898 by the Continental Publishing Company.  He is rolling out a paste (that is later dried into tablets) of what we now know as the most craved food in the world.

Click on the photo above to link to the updated article…

I love finding these interesting books on-line!

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.

The “Ube” and Purple Filipino Food

Update January 2015 — I’ve added photos of more ube products found at Asian stores.  From ube flavored crackers, cakes….even ube flavored Otap!  Snack companies continue to add purple ube flavors to their product lines.


The theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge on the Daily Post is the color Purple.

I thought about food…specifically Filipino food, as I was working on a purple food post.

Indian Eggplant at Moss Landing, California Market Stall

There are many food in shades of purple. There is the eggplant of course, and grapes, purple potatoes, purple cabbage, purple basil, onions — which we call red, but really is often the same shade as purple cabbages.

Boy behind “red” onions at his family’s vegetable market stall, Philippines

Purple shade foods — beets and onions — for sale at the Old Monterey Farmers Market

However, when it comes to purple foods, I think Filipino food wins in the “most” category.  This is all thanks to the ube — pronounced “ou-beh” — a type of purple yam from the Philippines.

Filipinos are accustomed to purple food from the flavor and coloring of ube — and it must be ingrained in us.

Ube flavored food varies from a light shade of lavender to a deep, dark purple.  It does not matter the shade as I think I can speak for most Filipinos and Filipino-Americans here, that when we see purple or an ube-shade of food, we immediately think…oh look, purple…yes, it’s ube…its good….get it….eat it!

The purple ube by itself is a health food, with anti-oxidant properties.   But perhaps how we prepare it in the Philippines — whipped with milk and sugars, or stuffed in breads, cooked with biko or other rice flour based desserts — takes away its health benefits.  Or maybe there is still enough ube in there to count for something…

Here are some of my ube food photos.  It is common to see these at San Francisco Bay Area Filipino grocery stores and eateries.

Pan de ube — bread stuffed with the purple yam jam!

Philippine sticky rice with coconut dessert “Biko” plain (brown) and purple ube flavored.

Philippine “kakanin” or snack food called Puto, in plain white, or purple, ube flavored.

“Sapin-sapin” a type of layered, sticky, rice flour based snack food and dessert, ube flavored

It is also common to find ube flavored drinks, ice creams and ube snacks at  Filipino eateries, and even fast-food restaurants. This is from Chow-King, advertising halo-halo (an icy treat that translates to “mix-mix”). Click on the photo for Lolako’s Halo-Halo post.

Woman selling snacks contained in banana leaves, at the market, Philippines. The tube shaped items are filled with sticky rice cooked in coconut milk, then steamed. The cupcake looking items are “puto”, a fermented rice flour sweet snack, also cooked inside a banana leaf. You can see purple, or ube flavored ones along with the yellow and pink putos.  Click on photo for more on the Philippine banana-wrapped snack foods.

Ube flavored snack contained in banana leaves

The food snack and Chinese style pastry  “Hopia” typically has yellow mung beans, but lately I have seen these with ube flavored filling, too!

Purple Yam is available in a powdered format, if you want to add a natural food coloring (and some ube flavors) to your food.

Jeff made pan de sal — a traditional breakfast bread in the Philippines — with ube, using this brand of powdered ube.

The recipe is from Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens. They are owners of the restaurant Purple Yam, in Brooklyn, New York.

Homemade ube pan de sal with store-bought ube spread.

Frozen UbeFrozen, whole ube is also available at most Asian or Filipino markets.

You can also buy frozen ube that is already grated —- so you can save time if you want to make ube halaya.

Booth at Pistahan Festival in San Francisco – August 2012

Ube Waffles with caramelized macapuno (coconut) syrup by Pinx (www.PinxCatering.com)

Philippine ube “flower bread”

Picture is a small dish of super purple, ube “halaya”…sweet favorite of grated and mashed ube, cooked with milk (cooked by stirring, then stir, stir and then more stirring).  It is usually topped with bits of coconut curd.

We noticed at our local Filipino store, there are more products with ube flavoring!

Ube flavors snack companies

Ube flavor crackers and more

I was surprised to see ube flavored otap — a type of puff pasty popular in certain parts of the Philippines.  When I was a kid, otap was just plain otap, and now there is ube otap?

Ube is now in so many products…which confirms how much Filipinos love this food flavor.  Or again, maybe it is the color that reminds us of ube “halaya” and other traditional desserts, and food and snack manufacturers know we will likely try it.

What do you think?  Way too strange or…I’ll try that!

Related links:

Purple yam, Dioscorea alata (in cross-section above courtesy Deepugn – via blog In the Company of Plants and Rocks)


Blog post “Will the real yam please stand up”, from the blog, In the Company of Plants and Rocks.

Excerpt…Plants of the genus Dioscorea, the true yams, are perennial vines.  The yams themselves are root tubers…


Ube Flavor Ice Cream from Magnolia – Ramar Foods Intl.



Lolako’s Purple yam…or corn and cheese ice cream…anyone? On the unique, ice cream flavors from the Philippines.



Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

And more of Lola Jane’s Filipino food posts:

  • Champorado origins – a chocolate rice porridge and favorite Filipino breakfast
  • Burgers…and Bangus?  Why the bangus fish is often thought of as a Philippine national symbol
  • About ginamos & tuyo…and can you bring in your luggage when traveling to the US
  • About Sinangag, and how much I missed rice while in boot camp in the US Air Force
  • Use of Banana Leaves in Filipino food

pumnpkin spice oreo cookies webAnd just as Philippine food companies use purple and ube flavors in more and more products, see this post about the pumpkin and pumpkin “spice” flavor trend in the U.S.

Don’t put all your bananas in one basket

So…all those rotten bananas from the China export mess taught Philippine banana exporters a lesson.

Banana Plantation, Photo Source: www.freshplaza.com

A lesson that reminds me of the insurance industry terms, risk management and risk separation, or…. don’t put all your eggs — and bananas — in one basket.

After Japan, China was the 2nd largest market for Philippine banana exports.

In mid-May, China impounded Philippine bananas and instituted strict quarantine measures — which many suspect was really due to the ongoing disputes over the Scarborough Shoals, in the South China / West Philippine Sea.

Philippine banana exporters realized that they cannot rely on just a few export markets, and the industry is now looking at other markets, like Pakistan and countries in the Middle East.

And the good news, the Department of Agriculture announced that Dole Philippines is sending its first ever shipment of Cavendish bananas to the USA.  Cavendish are the common type of banana sold at grocery stores.

Bananas at the grocery store

Ecuador is picking up the Philippine banana import void to China.  Though halfway around the world from China, Ecuador’s government is providing a subsidy for their China-bound banana exports, to give their producers a price advantage.

Did you know…bananas are the 2nd top commodity by weight (after furniture) in all container shipments arriving at USA ports?  For more, view the post “What’s in the Box”.

Top 10 banana producing nations
(in million metric tons)
 India* 26.2
 Philippines 9.0
 China 8.2
 Ecuador 7.6
 Brazil 7.2
 Indonesia 6.3
 Mexico 2.2
 Costa Rica 2.1
 Colombia 2.0
 Thailand 1.5
World total 95.6
Via Wikipedia-Source 2009 data-Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
*Note: Although India leads in banana production, most of it is for domestic consumption and not for export.

Related banana links:

Fresh Plaza – Global Fresh Produce and Banana News

All about bananas, from Wikipedia

Lolako’s “What’s in the Box” - Top Commodity, by weight, arriving in U.S. container ports

Bananas – Philippines

Clever line from Philippines Today columnist Fred G. Gabot…“save the sagging saging, Sir“.

Saging is the Tagalog (Philippine national language) word for bananas.  It is pronounced something like sah-ging — the ging part rhymes with ring.

I heard about the Dole banana plantations in the Mindanao region, but prior to this post, I did not know that the Philippines is among the top nations growing and exporting bananas…how about you?

Two items NOT to bring in your luggage, when traveling from the Philippines to the U.S.

Yesterday, Carol, from the Philippines posted a comment / question about bringing a walis tambo — a traditional Philippine broom — with her, when she visits her relatives in New Jersey next month (see my response about walis in comment section of blog post, here)

In the process of getting her question answered, the customs official I spoke with also mentioned two items often packed in the luggage of those traveling from the Philippines, that are currently banned from entry to the U.S.

And these item are:

  1. Tsitsaron (or chicharron) — My response was…What?  Really? You are just kidding right?  Nope, he was not kidding, so leave your favorite bags of tsitsaron for your friends and relatives in the Philippines, and not as a part of your pasalubong items.
  2. Any chicken bouillon type seasoning (a popular brand is “Magic Sarap”) — again, my thought was….hmmm,  that is strange one, but it may have something to do with minimizing bird flu risks.

So…you will have to buy your tsitsaron from U.S. manufacturers, and leave your Magic Sarap packages behind.

I have seen this brand for sale at our local Filipino stores, so the formula may be different for export (?).

And just a reminder that if you want more information on specific items you want to bring back from the Philippines, you should contact directly, your port of entry airport (such as, Los Angeles, etc.)

For the San Francisco International Airport – Port of Entry officials on this topic can be reached at telephone # (650) 624-7200, extension 415.

To find your own local authority, you can Google “Port of Entry” along with the name of your airport of entry.

It is always a good idea to contact your Port of Entry authorities first, to check if you have questions on items you are bringing in from the Philippines, in case of rule changes!

Dried fish (tuyo) for sale at a Philippine market. Photo Lolako.com

And by the way, as of now, it is still OK to bring as much dried fish and fermented seafood products from the Philippines — like tuyo, bagoong and ginamos — that you can fit in your luggage. NOTE: This applies to SEAFOOD only, not beef or poultry. And of course, not ever any FRESH seafood!

The most important thing is that you DECLARE your items, in case the agriculture department wants to see the items and scan through their X-ray machines.

For more on bringing tuyo, bagoong and ginamos when travelling to the U.S., see the comments section on my  “Luggage with a special kind of stinky” post.

And if you like this post and want to see other Philippine related post from LolaKo.com, click here…

Among Lolako.com’s most popular Philippine related post are about

~ Lola Jane

Update on October 2, 2014 — in case your Magic Sarap packages were confiscated by US Customs…and if you absolutely must have the Magic Sarap brand seasoning mix, no worries as it is available at many Asian Market / Filipino stores in the US.

Magic Sarap for sale at store web

Magic Sarap seasoning mix for sale at Virginia, USA based Filipino store

I spotted these packages while at a Filipino store & restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia a few weeks ago…

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

Rare Golden Bangus

Bangus (or milkfish – see previous post about Jollibees and “Burgers…and Bangus”) is silver-colored, like many fish.  Somehow though, this one came out a golden color.

RARE GOLDEN BANGUS–-Dr. Westly Rosario, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) research center based in Dagupan City, holds a live rare golden bangus (milkfish) donated to the center by a fish farmer from Binmaley for research and propagation. The 16-month old fish is measured at 50 centimeters long and weighs 1.2 kilogram. (Photo by Cesar Ramirez) Source: http://sundaypunch.prepys.com/archives/2012/04/16/rare-golden-bangus/

Read more from Yolanda Sotelo, from the blog Northern Watch.  Excerpt:

The “golden bangus” aged one year and four months, could be a freak of nature, much like albinism, BFAR center chief Westly Rosario said. The rare bangus has golden scales, head, fins and tails, which are usually silver in “normal” bangus.
(Albinism, according to Wikipedia, is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin. Albinism results from inheritance of recessive gene alleles and is known to affect all vertebrates, including humans.)

…Rosario said he has seen a golden bangus seven years ago in Taiwan, but this is the first time that such kind was reported in the Philippines  More…

Interested in why the Philippine bangus is considered an unofficial national symbol?  See the previous post “Burgers and Bangus”, and then check out the post Haring Ibon: the magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle to learn about official, national symbols of the Philippines).

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:

San Miguel – beer and more!

The choices for beer brands, specially from smaller, independent craft breweries in California is dizzying.  According to the California Craft Brewers Association, as of 2012, there were 312 independently owned, craft breweries in our state alone!

Nationally, I’ve heard that there are now over 2,000 breweries in the U.S., producing 13,000 different labels of beer.

Source: www.sanmiguelbrewery.com

Beer brand choice was quite simple when I was growing up in the Philippines.

Beer was just beer, no need to say a brand name, simply because there was typically just one beer available for sale in the Philippines.  And that brand was San Miguel Beer.

San Miguel Beer was founded in 1890 as La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel, a single-product brewery in the Philippines.

It is an iconic Philippine brand, and continues as the #1 beer brand in the Philippines, capturing over 95% of the beer market, and is the #1 brewery in Southeast Asia.

San Miguel has grown, and the brewery — the foundation of its business — is now a subsidiary of the vast San Miguel Corporation (SMC).  SMC is the largest food, beverage and packaging company in the Philippines, with over 100 facilities in the Philippines, China and Southeast Asia.

These days, the San Miguel Corporation’s products range from beer, hard liquor, juices, processed meats, poultry, dairy products, condiments, flour, coffee, animal feeds as well as packaging products.  Their “new business” seems far removed from their core beverage and food products, and are in the areas of:

  • Fuel & Oil
  • infrastructure
  • Power and Energy
  • Mining
  • Telecom
  • Banking

San Miguel was in my radar recently, when I read that the San Miguel Pure Foods Company’s (SMPFC) revenues hit an all time high in 2011.  Excerpt from San Miguel Corporation below:

San Miguel Pure Foods Company Inc. (SMPFC) registered all-time high revenues of P89.6 billion for 2011, up 13% from P79.3 billion in 2010 and driven by increased demand, aggressive distribution expansion, introduction of new products, and higher export sales.

Despite a significant increase in input costs, particularly in its agro-industrial cluster, income from operations increased 4% to P6.1 billion, with significant contributions from its value-added meats, dairy, flour, and coffee businesses.

Profits were boosted mainly by higher volumes, improved efficiencies, a good wheat position, a strong peso, and effective cost reduction across the entire group.

Net income rose to P4.2 billion, up 4% from P4.1 billion in 2010.

Nearly all of SMPFC’s businesses posted significant revenue growth due to higher volumes and favorable selling prices.

Its Value-added business chalked 5% growth in revenue, while its Feeds business posted an 8% revenue growth in commercial feeds.

Revenue growths were also seen across Magnolia Dairy, Magnolia Ice Cream and San Miguel Coffee, which benefited from wider distribution, brand-building initiatives and better selling prices.

For more on this topic, click on the article “SMC more than doubles revenues” from the Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation.

Pure Foods was acquired by San Miguel Corporation in May, 2001.

The San Miguel Corporation is huge, and hugely successful…and definitely not the San Miguel known by our parents, or THIS lola (grandmother).

Living in the United States, do you still drink San Miguel — or are there just way too many other beer choices here?

Related Lolako.com posts:

Purple yam or corn and cheese ice cream…anyone?

Have you eaten Filipino style ice cream?  If not, you are missing out on some of the best tasting and most interesting ice cream available to us, right here in the Bay Area!

Magnolia Brand “UBE” Ice Cream, from www.RamarFoods.com

When we lived in San Francisco years ago, Mitchell’s Ice Cream on San Jose Avenue (at Guererro and the corner of 29th Street) was the “go to” place for tropical ice cream.

These days, it is still the “go to” tropical ice cream place in SF.  It is quite unusual to see a business with over 1000 Yelp reviews, let alone one with over 2,000 reviews. As of this post date,  Mitchell’s Ice Cream has 2,230 reviews (“in English” out of a total of 2,235 reviews).   And they rate consistently 4.5 out of 5 Yelp stars!  Their tropical ice cream menu consist of:

  • Avocado
  • Buko (baby coconut)
  • Coconut Pineapple
  • Ginger (available November through February only)
  • Green Tea
  • Halo-Halo (buko, langka, ube, pineapple, mongo & sweet beans)
  • Langka (also known as jackfruit, a relative of the fig)
  • Lucuma (a tropical fruit native to Peru)
  • Macapuno (sweet coconut)
  • Mango
  • Tropical Four (banana, guava, mango & pineapple)
  • Ube (purple yam)

They note on their website that the most of the fruit imported for their tropical ice cream line is from the Philippines.

My grandsons like the purple, Filipino ube (pronounced “ou-beh”) — the purple yam ice cream, as well as the coconut or macapuno flavors, made from sweetened young coconut meat.

My grandsons Jun and Gabriel love ube ice cream (and licking frosting off beaters, after their Lola makes cake)!

Mais Queso Ice Cream by Magnolia Foods. Photo from www.ramarfoods.com

And my favorite?  It is the uniquely Filipino, ice cream combination of corn and cheese!  Yes indeed, corn and cheese was my favorite as a little kid, and it still is among my favorite ice cream concoctions now that I am a Lola (grandmother) of two beautiful boys.

I don’t see my favorite Filipino ice cream flavor on Mitchell’s current menu. However, it is easy enough to find at most Asian/Filipino stores.

A popular Filipino brand is  “Magnolia” by Ramar Foods.  Magnolia brand ice cream is made here in the U.S, at Ramar’s Pittsburg, California headquarters.  Magnolia’s ice cream fruits are also sourced from the Philippines, for the most authentic flavors.

Ramar’s Magnolia Ice Cream line features 16 flavors, including a “halo-halo” flavor (see previous post) and my all time favorite, corn and cheese — though they call it the Spanish  “mais queso”.

I know it sounds weird — well perhaps not so weird if you are of a Filipino background — but corn and cheese ice cream is really tasty.

The corn pieces give the creamy ice cream added unique texture and flavors…and combined with slightly tart, orange-colored cheese bits…well, you will just have to trust me and try it.

But, I do understand if that sounds truly too strange for you to venture into the land of tropical ice cream.  So instead, you might just try:

  • Avocado ice cream — avocados have long been eaten as a “sweet” in the Philippines, as in avocado icicles, or ice pops, or the iced-avocado, sugar and milk snacks of our childhood.  And now, I am seeing avocado cheesecake recipes in magazines!  So finally, it seems…..Americans are trying avocado beyond its role as a vegetable, in guacamole or as ingredients for a salad and sandwich.
  • The mango, jackfruit or coconut flavors (like buko or macapuno)
  • The delicious ube — or purple yam.  Thanks to this purple yam, you will see a good share of Filipino snack foods in shades of purple .  Ube is used not only in ice cream, but also sold as a preserve (nothing like purple yam jams!) and stuffed in breads and added to many Filipino rice-based desserts.
  • And if you can’t decide and want to be adventurous, try the “halo-halo” ice cream, which translates to “mix-mix” or “to mix”, and where many ingredients are thrown in the ice cream mix (again, see prior post on halo-halo).

Growing up in the Philippines, I remember buying ice cream from the sorbetes man, scooped fresh, from his colorful push cart.

Jingling bells signaled the arrival of the sorbetes man on our street, and we would pop outside to let him know we would like to buy, and dash back inside to get our money, and favorite drinking glass, bowl, or cup, to contain the ice cream.

I can’t remember if there were even ice cream “cones” sold by sorbetes man back then, only that we would buy whatever scoop quantity we wanted and he would scoop it directly into our chosen containers.

Back inside and spoon in hand, we worked fast to eat our quickly melting ice cream.  Fresh ice cream from your favorite mamang sorbetero — the ice cream man — has to be one of the best snacks to eat on a warm, Philippine afternoon.

We did not know it, but back then, this was a very “green” method of getting a snack or treat, no waste of plastic packaging or paper trash to deal with.

Hmmm…I do wonder….can one still buy ice cream this way in the Philippines?

Related: Lola Jane’s Filipino food posts:

  • Burgers…and Bangus?  Why the bangus fish is often thought of as a Philippine national symbol
  • About ginamos & tuyo…and can you bring in your luggage when traveling to the US
  • About Sinangag, and how much I missed rice while in boot camp in the US Air Force
  • Use of Banana Leaves in Filipino food
  • The Ube, and why Filipinos love purple food!

Halo-Halo: Saveur’s Recipe Comix

Is Filipino food going mainstream, finally?  The March, 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine featured a recipe for the quintessential Filipino national dish, the chicken adobo (also noted by Local Nomad).

And earlier this week, Saveur Magazine’s website featured this halo-halo cartoon recipe (as they note, proof that a recipe does not have to be just words on paper).

Halo-Halo translates to “mix-mix” and is a much-loved, icy, Filipino treat, perfect for the hot Philippine climate, especially in the mid-afternoon.  It is also delicious as a dessert.

The artist for this recipe comix is Toronto-based Michael Deforge.

Halo-Halo is available at Goldilocks and other Filipino restaurants in the Bay Area.

In the Monterey Bay, Lola’s Kusina — not THIS Lola — on 265 Reservation Rd, in Marina (831)384-2600 is a good place to get your halo-halo fix.  My grandsons enjoy their halo-halo topped with their ube (purple yam) ice cream.

For a step-by-step (from scratch) halo-halo recipe, please visit Jun Belen’s blog,  http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/10/10/how-to-make-halo-halo/  Jun Belen is a Philippine-born, San Francisco-based professional food and cookbook photographer.         I have been a fan since learning about Jun’s Saveur-nominated blog — a collection of his Filipino recipes with narratives, and his absolutely beautiful photographs.

And if you have a favorite Bay Area halo-halo spot, please comment and share.

Do you think one day, Filipino food will be as common — and as readily available — as Chinese or Thai food here in the U.S.?

Shopping For Rice

Years ago, shopping for rice in the U.S. was pretty straightforward, as there was not much to choose from.  Usually, you had a pick of Calrose — the stickier sort we think of when eating Japanese food — Thai Jasmine, or Texas Long Grain.

That is no longer the case, and rice, in an array of choices — sold in 25 lb or 50 lb sacks — are now sold at most Asian markets or Filipino stores.  The photo below is from the rice section aisle at the Filipino chain supermarket, Seafood City.

Seattle location of Filipino supermarket chain Seafood City

So far, Seafood City has 19 locations in California, 4 in Nevada and a new store in the Seattle Area.

The original Seafood City was established over 20 years ago with the opening of its first store in San Diego.

They bill themselves as a “home away from home” for Filipinos and Asians in the United States.

The larger stores also have Filipino restaurants or tropical bakeries and dessert shops nearby, or within the strip mall area of the supermarket.

The Seafood City Supermarket I visited in Milipitas, California has well known, Philippine-based restaurants such as Goldilocks, Max’s of Manila and Chow King.

There were also Filipino cafes, a Valerio’s Tropical Bakery (famous here in the San Francisco Bay area for their Pandesal and “merienda” or snack items) and a Filipino Desserts Plus, which is new to Northern California (they have 3 stores in the San Diego area).

If you are looking to buy rice and are not near an Asian or Filipino supermarket, your mainstream type grocery store will still have several options (and sizes) available.  Just look in the Asian / Mexican Food or Ethnic Food aisle, and you will usually see a variety of rice to choose from — the photo below from the chain store, Save Mart.

rice is located in the Mexican & Asian food aisle at chain store Save Mart

Rice is also sold in bulk at markets like Whole Foods, along side other grains.

rice sold in bulk, via dispensers at Whole Foods Market

The rice choices locally include California “sushi” rice, brown California basmati rice, jasmine rice, sweet brown, and white arborio rice.

rice sold in bulk, via dispensers at Whole Foods Market

The rice we buy for our family here in the U.S. is usually the Milagrosa or Thai Jasmine type — fairly easy to find at local stores, and even available in 25 or 50 pound sacks at most Costco stores.

Shopping for Rice at a Western Style, Philippine Grocery Store

It is interesting to see the opening of new supermarkets in California, targeted to the ever-growing Filipino and Asian-American population here.

At the same time, there are American or Western Style malls and grocery stores opening up in far-flung provinces and places in the Philippines.

It is just part of modern migration trends and much more diverse, global communities living….well, everywhere!

In the Philippines, these new, Western style grocery stores — even outside major metropolitan areas — also serve  the needs of foreigners and Filipino-Americans retiring and/or deciding to move and live in the Philippines, and perhaps looking for the same, familiar, grocery stores from years living in the U.S. or abroad.

While in the Philippines, we went shopping for rice that our Mother might like, similar to the Thai Jasmine variety, sold here in the U.S.   A new Western style mall about an hour and a half drive from our Mother’s home, had just opened, and we went to check it out. There was a new grocery store inside the mall, and we were able to buy pretty much anything we needed and things you would find as a “staple” here in the U.S.

In particular, we were happy to find yogurt, and a nice selection of cheese, which was not so common just a few years ago, and non-existent there when we were growing up.

Rice Varieties and Pricing at a Western Style, Philippine Grocery Store

However, the rice varieties at this new grocery store —  though also sold in large sacks — were limited to Dinorado, Well-Milled, Sinandomeng or Whole Grain.

Dinorado is a popular, traditional aromatic variety of rice.  Sometimes, unscrupulous sellers will pass off lower quality rice as higher quality, and more expensive varieties like Dinorado.

Hopefully, that is not the case with these sacks of rice sold at the new and shiny grocery store.

We will check it out again during our next trip to see if they have more rice choices.  We also heard a new mall has opened just minutes away from our Mother’s place…so perhaps we do not need to drive far to get those U.S. style pantry basics.

Photo Source: IRRI

For more about rice — a staple food for more than 3 billion people who eat it every day — visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) website, here, or click on the bowl of rice photo.

Also, more rice articles are available in the “Rice, Rice and more Rice” Category.

Filipino Foodie Event in San Franciso Saturday, January 21: Kulinarya 2012

If you are a foodie and live in the Bay Area — or just interested in learning more about Philippine cuisine — make plans to go to the 2nd Annual Kulinarya event this Saturday, January 21st in San Francisco.

Kulinarya is the Filipino term for “cuisine” or “culinary”.  The event will feature cooking competitions and food tastings from Philippine food companies, local Filipino restaurants, and gourmet food trucks.   Admission is free, and food sampling tickets will be available for sale on site or in advance (details on advance ticket purchase at the end of this post).

Part of the proceeds will benefit the Typhoon Sendong relief efforts.

The event will take place from 3:00 to 8:00 PM, at Carnelian by the Bay, One Ferry Plaza, behind the Ferry Building.

Schedule and more delicious details on the official website www.KulinaryaShowdown.com (and the place to get your food tickets in advance).

My favorite Philippine nut — the pili — is featured in a pili nut cook-off.  The pili nut is now among the country’s most important food product export.  If you have not had pili nuts — this is a good opportunity to sample this delicious nut, which tastes something like a cross between macadamia and almonds.

Whole Egg Leche Flan

Recent visitors to LolaKo.com found the blog through Google searches for leche flan recipes using whole eggs (instead of the more traditional, egg yolk only recipes).

Many Filipino families will have leche flan on their tables, as part of their Christmas feast or the Noche Buena tradition.

I have added these flan pictures to the original post “My New Flan”.  Click here to view the post and our simple and delicious coconut leche flan recipe, using whole eggs.

To learn more about Christmas traditions in the Philippines — a country known for celebrating the longest Christmas season in the world — click here or the photo of Philippine parols (Christmas lanterns) below.

Maligayang Pasko, Merry Christmas!

Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever

Since my earlier post was food related, and with the holiday season here, I thought it would be a good time to post my pancake recipe (and really, so I don’t lose the recipe).

It is simple and easy to make — a requirement for a busy Lola — and super delicious.  Here it is…

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk (more if needed to thin batter)
  • 1 cup flour (you can use 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white flour too or add a bit of cornmeal for more texture)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg.  Blend in buttermilk.  Add the remaining 4 ingredients and mix just until batter is smooth — do not over mix.  Blend in vanilla and melted butter.  Adjust if needed with more buttermilk for thinner pancakes.

I like to use a cast iron griddle — we have had this one since living in Germany, and pretty much use it just for making pancakes.

Serve with maple syrup or your favorite syrup — another favorite of ours is olallieberry syrup.

The pancakes are so good, they really don’t need extra butter, but by all means serve with butter if you like more butter with your pancakes.

Note: This recipe is just enough for my two grandsons, so if you have a big family, double the recipe (and as grandsons get bigger, I may have to make 2 batches anyway — boys can eat a LOT of pancakes!).

Taste tested more times than I can remember by grandsons — and expert pancake eaters — Jun-Jun and Gabriel.

And though technically this is not Filipino food, I’m also including it in my Filipino food category, since I have a feeling all lolas (grandmothers)  — no matter their background or nationality — love to make great pancakes for their grandchildren.

I hope you enjoy this pancake recipe as much as we do. Let me know…

Related: From Marion Cunningham’sThe Breakfast Book –  Special and uber delicious Lemon Pancakes

Most Craved Food in the World

Do you know what it is?


Chocolate Cake for your Chocolate Craving

—Article updated December, 2014—

The Spaniards brought cacao trees (the source of chocolates) from Mexico to the Philippines towards the end of the 17th century.

Today, you can still find cacao trees growing in the backyard of Filipino homes  — or in the case of the picture below,  right next to a home, so you can climb out the window to the tree to pick your cacao pods…or escape out of the house to the street.

Cacao Tree – The seeds from the light green color pods (which will ripen and turn into a reddish color) are what is dried, roasted and then ground to make chocolate tablets.

Here is a photo I took of cacao seeds drying by the side of the road.  The size and shape are like almonds.

After drying, the seeds are ground up and pounded with wet sugar (and in earlier times, grounded with toasted rice flour or Philippine pili nuts).  The paste is rolled and formed into tablets that are easier to store and dissolve for later use.

And in parts of the Philippines, if you do not have a cacao tree on your property or do not want to mess with opening up the pods and drying seeds, you can go to the market to buy the quantity you need.

Cacao seeds for sale, price difference by size / quality.  Photo Lolako.com

Can you imagine buying cacao seeds like this here in the U.S.?  And roasting your own seeds to make home-made chocolate?  Actually, that may be fun for true chocoholics….

Chocolate is native to Central America and was introduced to Spain in the early 16th century, in Italy and England in the 17th century and in Germany in the 18th century

unripe cacao tree pod

Chocolate “beans” come from the fruit of the cacao tree.  The pods grow on the branches and trunks of the tree.

These days, about 70% of cocoa produced in the world come from African countries and human rights issues continue to plague cacao plantations.  Big chocolate producers must lead in changing these conditions by creating and enforcing policies that address how cocoa farms run (see the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate).

Large scale chocolate production is dominated by

  • USA-based companies Mars, Hershey and Mondelēz International Inc (Cadbury brand)
  • Switzerland-based Nestle and Chocoladenfabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG
  • Japan-based Meiji Holdings and Ezaki Glico Co Ltd

Above data source: International Cocoa Organization

Although most cocoa is produced in Africa, only 1% of chocolate is actually made there.  The company Madecasse is doing something different and creating a whole new category of chocolates…actually growing / sourcing  AND making chocolate bars in the country of Madagascar.  Their chocolate products are sold internationally and through their website.  

As always, a blog post leads me to learn more!  Although I started this post when I learned about the most craved food in the world — and wanting to share my cacao seed photos and information on why cacao trees grow in the Philippines — the next time I have a chocolate bar craving, I’ll definitely consider where and how the cacao is sourced.

Also see Equal Exchange Fair Trade Chocolates and look for chocolates from Fair Trade producers.

I’m happy to see that Costco is making a statement about their chocolate source for their Kirkland brand.  On their box of 70% Chocolate Truffles, a statement about their cocoa starts with:

…Costco is proud to support a cocoa program that improves crops, helps farmers and reduces the environmental impact of farm operations.   Our goal is to procure cocoa beans that are traceable, of high quality, and grown in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

And since Costco is the 2nd largest retailer in the U.S. (after Wal-Mart) and the 3rd largest retailer in the WORLD, their cocoa sourcing policies will certainly make an impact for cacao farmers.

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

Related LolaKo.com post:

Champorado origins – a chocolate rice porridge and favorite Filipino breakfast

Babe The Pig…Vegan Campaign?

My grandchildren are watching the movie “Babe”, a 1995 movie about a cute talking pig.  The farmer wins Babe at a contest, and enters a sheep herding competition (Babe entering the contest in the role of a Border Collie).

The movie is sweet, entertaining and well made.

It is also a movie that makes me feel guilty about eating and enjoying my lechon and other pork dishes (and this after I just posted a story about the piggy….see My Germany and Philippines connection).

There are many talking animals in the movie, including a neurotic little duck named Ferdinand….thank goodness we don’t eat much duck!

The animals differentiate themselves by which animals the human “bosses” eat.

The house cat tells Babe “Pigs don’t have a purpose but to be eaten by humans.”  Which makes Babe realize what happened to his mother, father,  sisters and brothers at the at the farm operation where he was born.

The cat adds “Bosses have to eat…they call it pork, ham, bacon…they only call them pigs when they are alive.”

I remember having discussions about eating meat with my friend Patrick.  His family had a farm in Germany.  His perspective, coming from a farming family was that we raised these animals for the sole purpose of eating them, so in essence, the farm-raised ones at least, would not exist without us.

The movie –and thinking about farm animals and then chickens — also reminded me of my Auntie Terrie.  When I was a teenager in the Philippines, my Auntie Terrie, came to visit and decided to teach me how to cook. She was a good cook and I recall that she had a little turo-turo restaurant (translates to point-point — Philippine fast food style eateries), and at one point ran a factory cafeteria.

She took me to the market, where we purchased a live chicken.  Odd to think about that live chicken in our baskets among other food and produce we purchased.  The chicken was tucked in the space under our seat on the jeepney ride home.

At home, she showed me how to kill the chicken and prepare it for cooking.  To her it was just a matter of fact act, and she was passing this knowledge to me.  And I was OK with this (though I have not had to buy a live chicken to cook since then–thankfully).  I wonder how many of us would actually eat meat if we had to take part in killing the animal that we consume.

So…this blog post goes from discussing the movie “Babe” to the topic of meat-eating.  And oh dear, my conflicted feelings since I love animals (I had a friend who use to call our home Dr. Doolittle’s house at a time when we had 3 dogs and 2 cats, a fish tank and a hamster)….and that also, I like to eat certain animals.

Maybe that is the point and the goal of the movie…..beyond entertainment.  To make you think about this —- and to promote becoming a vegetarian.

I googled “movie Babe about pig, vegetarians” and turns out the actor James Cromwell,  who played farmer Arthur Hoggett, is a vegetarian and active in animal rights.  He was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category for this movie role.

Babe was a box office and critical success when it was released.

Have you seen the movie?  Did it make you have second thoughts about eating meat or did you become a vegetarian as a result?

My Germany & Philippine Connection

I was talking to my younger sister about a connection that Filipinos and Germans share.  She laughed and said “what connection?”

Note:… if you are a vegetarian, you might want to skip this post.

The connection? It’s the pig of course.

Crispy Pata!

As in crispy pata, or cooked adobo style, or sweet sticky Filipino BBQ sticks, in sisig, in sour sinigang soup, as lechon —  bamboo pole slowly turned over hot coals and whole pig cooked to crispy skin perfection…and why I don’t think I can ever become a vegetarian.

And…one of the reasons I enjoyed living in Germany.

Filipinos love their piggy.  The Germans love their piggy too.

When I got the news that I would be stationed in Germany, I phoned my sisters…and they said, “Great!  You have always wanted to go there!”

Really? I did?  Apparently when I was a little girl, I spoke of this wish to go to Germany…hmmm, must have been all those castles I heard about.

And as soon as we got there…I loved it.

I loved the green scenery, uber clean streets, loved the villages, the autobahn, loved the architecture and the castles, loved the volksmarching, loved the wine, the people we met, and the food.

Wittlich Pig Festival signWe lived in the western part of Germany while I served in the U.S. Air Force, and among the first festivals we attended was the village of Wittlich’s —very popular — Annual Saeubrenner Fest.

Translation?  Pig Festival!

Picture from the Wittlich Pig Fest courtesy of Sandy…click on this link for the history of the Pig Fest and Sandy’s blog, Rowdy in Germany.

Walking around the festival…and seeing all the roasted pigs….well, strangely, reminded me of the Philippines.

Wittlich Pig Festival 1

Jeff,  however, not used to seeing whole roasted pigs, was a bit startled, especially seeing pig heads on platters.

Wittlich Pig Festival

But no matter, the jaeger schnitzels, curry wursts, micro-brewed and flavorful beers hooked him in right away.

Distance between the Philippines and Germany?  Over 6,000 miles (or over 10,000 kilometers).  But for this Filipina, I felt at ease and happy living there.

We lived in a little town called Dudeldorf (really, I am not kidding,  say it and it makes you pucker and smile).  Dorf translates to village in German.

The town butcher shop was a regular weekend shop stop for me to try the deli meats and German wursts (sausages — which Germans take to a whole other level).  There were always ready marinated pork cuts to buy and take home to cook.

The shops knew my little baby girl, Dominique, through seeing her with babysitter Oma Lonien.  I think because of this —or maybe just because Germans love little kids– Dominique would get a slice of something yummy from the shopkeeper, whether the meat shop or the local bakery…where she got bread, a roll or some other treat.

A true Filipino celebration is not be complete without the Lechon – whole roasted pig.  And there is a part of me that thinks I should be disgusted with looking at a whole animal presented on the table.  And then there’s the other part that says…ahh yes, lechon — party time!

Lechon – whole roasted pig is a part of Filipino celebration and feasts. Photo by Lola Jane

And so even if geographically and culturally at least, the Philippines and Germany are far apart, one of my memorable connections….is the piggy.

Well, unless you count that letter pronunciation thing, like the Germans pronouncing “W” words like “V” and vice versa (wise wersa).  As in…so come and wisit me in my Willage Vittlich.

And so with Filipinos replacing the letter “F” in certain words with a “P”….as in, be carepul, por you might pall opp! (And get hurt and not able to enjoy your lechon at the party!)

Related Germany post:

My New Flan

Nope…that Flan in my title is not a misspelled word.  I’m talking about my new Leche flan, a type of egg custard dessert made of milk and eggs. Leche flan is a favorite dessert for a Filipino party or special occasions.

So….what does this (old) picture of an old fort have to do with Filipino Leche Flan?

Sometime ago, I read about the use of egg white for construction of these old Spanish forts and Spanish colonial era churches.  The egg whites were used as a type of mortar to hold the stones together.

With so many old Spanish era churches in the Philippines,  there must have been an enormous amount of leftover egg yolks during construction.

And not to waste anything…dessert anyone?

How about egg-yolk leche flan, or another favorite yolk-only Filipino treat like the candy called “yema” (ingredients are egg yolks, milk and sugar).

We have made traditional Philippine leche flans, which is ultra rich and made entirely of egg yolks — many recipes call for up to 12 yolks!

But since we now live in the modern era and have advanced beyond using egg whites in our building techniques….I think it is OK to use the whole egg in making flans (unless you just love to separate eggs and make meringues).

I now make my flan using an easy recipe adapted from a condensed milk company.  The recipe calls for:

  • 3 whole eggs (yes only 3! And update May, 2014 — readers also report using 4 whole eggs for a richer flan)
  • One 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • One 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk.

And that’s it.

After mixing the 3 main ingredients, I add either a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract, or a touch of nutmeg or cardamom.  You can also add a bit of orange zest.  Or nothing else if none of those appeal to you.

I am not an expert at sharing recipes, so this assumes you have already made flan before…which requires first making caramel.  Caramel on the pan bottom makes the flan a golden brown–instead of a boring cream color, since the flan is steamed in a water container in the oven.

To save time on the caramel part, I make the caramel (1/3 cup sugar) directly on the metal baking pan I will use for the flan.  I use a standard round or square metal cake pan.  Place metal pan directly on burner and slowly —starting on low heat —melt and stir the 1/3 cup of sugar, stirring until you get a liquid, lovely brown caramel color (fascinating how that dry white sugar turns into liquid golden caramel).   Spread caramel evenly on bottom of pan and pour in the egg mixture.

Place the flan pan into a larger pan filled with about 1/2″ of water.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Note: it may take up to 1 hour to cook, depending on your oven.  You can do the toothpick test — insert a toothpick into the middle of the flan — if it comes out clean, the flan is done, if it is still runny, bake longer until firm.

Cool completely, run a knife along edges, carefully flip to a serving plate, cut and serve.

There will be a bit of caramel liquid surrounding the flan.  It is a little silkier in texture than traditional flans, but overall, super yummy.

And anything with coconut milk is Filipino enough for this Lola —-and less 9 egg yolks too!  Let me know what you think.

Related: Lola Jane’s Filipino food posts:

champorado Filipino style

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge