Sunday, April 29, 2007

For the love of egg molds. Bento for 2!

Alright, this next bento has no rice in it because on the day that I made this, my boyfriend and I agreed that we'll meet in the office for lunch and he'll take care of the rice as long as I took care of the viands. So, for that day, I made a tonkatsu sauce stir-fry with beans and mushrooms, a helping of bagnit and a pair of bunny hard-boiled eggs. The star candy was, of course, dessert.

Anyhoo, one of the things that I learned about making this bento was that the candy stars may not have been in such a good spot. I only figured this out because in the 15-minute trip to the office, the wax paper holding the candies was starting to get moist from the tiny bit of sauce in the stir-fry. If I had to let the bento sit for longer than that, and if my boyfriend and I didn't end up eating immediately when I got to the office... well, I would have ended up with a weirdly-colored-splotched bunny egg, or worse, tonkatsu flavored candy. Bleh. O_O;;;

Anyway, lesson learned. At least the photos don't show that I've botched it. XD XD

The bento lid was shut with the help of a couple of bands from my other bento boxes, and it was carried to the office in a furoshiki. ^_^;;

(Yes, I couldn't decide on which shot was better, as they're both kinda dark. Again.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Trip to Hong Tai Yang Shabu-shabu/hotpot Restaurant

Last April 20, I and some officemates decided to drop by this particular hotpot restaurant that Noreen (the girl in the striped shirt in the photos) has been recommending. We've been planning the trip for quite a while now, and even though some people didn't make it, the trip pushed through, and we are now ever so thankful that it did. Why? Because Hong Tai Yang is da bomb. Lolz.

Anyhoo, they have this special where they drop the price of the hotpot buffet from 490 pesos to 360 from 11:30 am to 2pm. We got there a bit too early, so we literally had to camp out in front of the restaurant for about an hour, waiting for it to open. Thankfully, Noreen, a Chinese citizen, spoke with the Chinese manager/owner and we were allowed to wait inside the restaurant, and away from the direct heat of the noon, Philippine sun.

So, because of that, we ended up being seated at a prime table (a.k.a., right beside the buffet table), plus we were allowed to start eating at 11am instead of 11:30. So yeah, we had a head start, and we ate heartily since we were, you know... STARVING. Oh, and we ate DOUBLY heartily because Enrico (guy in the gray shirt) paid for our drinks and half of our food since he wanted to celebrate his upcoming college graduation.

As we ate, we were completely overwhelmed with the sheer amount of food available. There were so many types of fish, shellfish and meat available, that I couldn't make up my mind. We didn't even bother to ask for rice since we were all intent on gorging ourselves with the items from the buffet (though I was intent on stuffing myself with all the yummy shrimp I could eat).

Anyway, enough with the talk. You have to see it to believe it.

The entrance to the restaurant. Notice the blazingly-hot, high-noon sun...

So, when Noreen finally managed to get the restaurant owner to let us wait inside, I was pleasantly surprised to find such a neat table set-up. I'm a sucker for things like that.

But then, what intrigued me the most was the individual silver pots that were snugly contained in holes in the marble table. Then, I noticed the stove knobs.

This being THE FIRST TIME I'VE EVER EATEN AT A HOTPOT RESTAURANT, it was then explained to me by Noreen that the pots were later going to contain broth which we could boil our food in. It was then that I noticed that ALL marble tables were decked with the same pots... Silly me.

When we first seated ourselves, the buffet table was completely empty, and it wasn't until later that it started filling up with trays upon trays of raw or half-cooked food. As we watched the restaurant crew placing the stainless steel trays into their spots, one of the waiters finally approached us, and asked us to pick one of 4 different types of broth. I picked the chicken broth (I don't remember what the other three were since they had sort of weird names), and when the waiter poured the broth into my own pot, we were all happy again as we knew that we can finally EAT!! XD XD

See? We were overjoyed. :D Those stack of plates on the side are for everyone to place their raw ingredients on.

And the glorious buffet of ingredients. Meat, fish and shell fish on the left; veggies, more seafod, cold cuts and I-don't-know-what-else on the right. HEAVEN!!

Must. Stop. Taking. Pictures. In. Happiness.

This is Max.

We have the same idea when he said that we should stuff ourselves with food that we can't afford on an everyday basis. So, he went for the baby octopi. And he named this one "Cthulhu".

On top of the food itself, though, there's the small table containing the condiments and spices. From here, you can help yourself to soy sauce, hoisin sauce, minced garlic, red onions and ginger, chopped up chilies, etc etc. Then, you can either use these for dipping your food in, or you can toss it into your broth.

And this is Noreen and Enrico attacking the buffet table. (Yes, that's just half of the buffet table.)

Eventually, we made it back to our table and started cooking on the hot plate in the middle. To cook everything, the waiter also provided us with a small bowl containing chunks of butter. This bowl-o-butter was also continually refilled by the attentive staff. We were actually beginning to wonder if the staff was planning to cook US afterwards, and they were just fattening us up...

It is unbelievably fun to go to a hotpot with friends. Not only does everyone's nuances, and quirks with food come out (we discovered that someone likes their bacon half-burnt), but it's just plain fun playing with your food with your friends around. The casual air is also nice, and I'd recommend this place for someone who wants to take someone out on a date. It's fun, AND you get to stuff your face with food that you like, and food that you cooked, just the way you like it.


Remember Cthulhu? Well there it is now.

More photos of us eating!! Hehehe...

This is a photo of Noreen as she wonders where the heck Enrico kept all of the food that he ate. This guy downed a couple of platters of meat, and he said that he was just getting started! Well, yeah, he and Max are guys, so that may count for something...

Help yourself! (Just stay offa' my squid rings!)

See that? Each crab is about the size of my whole palm (without the legs). The best part is that the crab has already been cut in half, and its legs have been separated so that you just have to toss the whole crab into your broth without worrying about having to chop the whole thing and messing up your table. The waiters also provide nutcrackers so that you can get all the meat out from the crab legs. Mmmm...

Sitting at a table right beside the ingredients help, too.

And yes, all that made us incredibly happy...

So, after all that bottolmess food (until 2pm anyway), then comes the bottomless dessert. And for that, the restaurant has got all the watermelons and pineapples you could eat, as well as all the halo-halo, and all the ice cream you can eat (comes in orange, chocolate and strawberry). Yes, I ate from all three offerings...
(If you're not sure what halo-halo is, and what those colorful things in bowls are, then check this link for a general description of the dessert.)

My friends helped themselves out, too, of course.

And this is us after we've paid the bill, wondering where the heck to get a taxi, as well as if we'll ever be allowed back in next time, what with the way we cleaned out the menu...

It was really a shame that my boyfriend, Ian, wasn't able to join us as he had work, but I promised him that I'll take him to the hotpot restaurant some time soon, so that we can both gorge again (because we just love food!). ^____________^

Lolz. Actually, I'd use any excuse to go back. XD

(If you're in Manila and you're wondering where this restaurant is, it's right beside the GSIS building, behind the World Trade Center, and close to Mall of Asia. I think the place is called... um... Hobby World? Hobby Store? Hobby Crafts...?? O_O;;)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Learning new things everyday: Tanuki Udon, etc!

I've been randomly surfing for the past half hour, and I came upon this particular article which discussed certain types of udon. Now, I do know that there are lots of udon types and udon dishes out there, but what piqued my interest the most was the one known as Tanuki Udon. Hehe... and yes, I like the sound of it for obvious reasons, and wouldn't it be cool if the owner of Tanuki no Bento actually learns how to make Tanuki Udon? Haha!! Anyway, moving on...

Besides being a sort-of-namesake for me, descriptions of the dish also make it sound like it's pretty easy to make. According to Japan Travel Guide:
The Tanuki Udon mainly consists of deep-fried and sliced fish sausages known as Naruto. These deep fried Narutos are then placed on the boiled Udon with slivers of leek for added color and flavor. Vegetables can also be sliced and placed atop the Udon for a more healthy variety.

I like the sounds of it since I'm pretty fond of naruto anyway, and I'm pretty sure that anyone who has seen my past entries will see this. Lol. Mmm... fried naruto...

Then, there's the other description which includes the nice, crispy bits left from your tempura dish (again stuff that I love):
Ingredients for Tanuki Udon:

* Naruto
* Tenkatsu: crispy pieces that are left when deep frying tenpura. If not available, you can cut some leek, mix it with tenpura batter and deep fry it.
* Leek or green onion

As for how it's supposed to look like (according to various sources...)
According to Yamada Udon...

According to a soba-udon site...

And according to a blog that's written in a language that I unfortunately cannot understand...

Looks simple enough doesn't it? Now if I only knew how to make the most important part of it all: the broth! Lol. I have no idea about the type/brand of sauce that you have to use when making udon. Now I really should get myself a Nintendo DS and a copy of Cooking Mama so that I can find out! XD

Anyway, on a closing note, googling for pictures of the tanuki udon has also brought me this adorable thing from Yamacon...

Needless to say, it tickles me pink. XD

K's first attempt at making mashed potatoes...

Well, here we go. I'm finally getting around to posting old bento pics that I've taken so were we go!

As the title suggests, the star of this bento is actually the sorry-looking mashed potatoes. Hehehe... I've actually tried making mashed potatoes before, but the VERY first attempt ended up being potato SOUP because I placed too much milk in the whole thing. ^^;;; I'm also loathe with the idea of buying those mix-in-hot-water types of instant mashed potatoes at the grocery so I insist on making my own, stubborn oaf that I am.

Anyway, the bento is composed of tamagoyaki, hotdogs, yet another of K's vegetable-with-cinammon stirfrys, and then, mashed potatoes with cheese. No gravy. Just quickmelt cheese.

The container below shows servings for two people. My boyfriends and I ate from the same bento that day since I got to join him for lunch. ^_^

Meanwhile, a single serving which I had for dinner that day, looked like this:

Messy-looking as it is, I'm actually proud of the potatoes since the consistency came out just right.

The potato recipe
Anyway, it's made of a batch of marble potatoes (the tiny ones). I chose those since they cook a lot quicker and more evenly. I was afraid that I'd be boiling the potato for an hour and I'd STILL end up with a raw core in the end, if I used one of those big potatoes...

Anyway, I washed each tiny potato carefully, then boiled it in water which was some salt and a laurel leaf. Once it's cooked, I mashed it all up (yup, with the skin on), seasoned with salt and pepper and added a small amount of milk to make it creamy. On a whim though, I took about 4 tablespoons of water and placed some crushed rosemary in it. Then I heated the water in the microwave and ended up with rosemary tea. I let it cool as I mashed and mixed the potatoes, then when the the rosemary has steeped enough, I poured it into the mashed potatoes (I used a sieve to get the rosemary bits out, of course). Then, top with cheese!^__^ I thought it was actually pretty nice, despite realizing much later, that I should have had gravy and butter somewhere in the recipe. XD

For size reference...

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