Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Erica's Kitchen: Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I've always like Vietnamese Spring Rolls, mostly because I love the rice paper wrapper used to roll the filling with. I love how it's bubbly and kinda melts in your mouth and sticks to your tongue when you eat it, and I also love love love nuoc mam, or fish sauce based dipping sauce, made with warm water, patis, lime, sugar, garlic and chili. Some people add vinegar, but I'm not a big fan of suka so I stick to lime.

This was my first attempt to make this kind of spring roll,or nem as they call it. They usually use pork and shrimp, but I guess any meat is fine, depending on your preference. Here's how I did my version:


250 grams ground beef
1 carrot, chopped
1 red onion, choped
2 tablespoons sugar (better if you can find palm sugar!)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup ubod, chopped
1 cup small shrimp
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz vermicelli noodles, softened in hot water then cut into smaller pieces
Rice paper wrappers

For the dipping sauce:
1/2 cup warm water
1/8 cup fish sauce
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1-2 red chilis, chopped (de-seeded if you don't want it too spicy
juice of 1 lime
1-2 garlic cloves, smashed

(these are all estimates so just adjust to your taste!)


Lettuce leaves
mint leaves

How to:

  • Mix together all ingredients for the filling and set aside in the refrigerator while preparing the sauce.
  • Mix together all ingredients for dipping sauce, and adjust to your taste.
  • When ready to cook, remove filling mixture from fridge. Get a tablespoon ready.
  • Soften rice paper by dipping in warm water until soft and transparent. Lay on a board, being careful not to poke holes in to the rice paper. Be careful, it's quite delicate.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of filling about 1/2 inch to the end closest to you and flatten slightly. 
  • Fold over end closest to you, then fold the left and right side in. Lastly, roll the rest of the wrapper until you have a cute little spring roll. 
  • Finish all your filling- you can keep these spring rolls in the freezer until ready to cook if you made too many.
  • Fry until wrapper is crispy and meat is cooked. I totally cooked one and cut it in half to check, then fried the rest of them for about that amount of time.
  • Serve with lettuce, mint, cilantro and dipping sauce.
  • To eat, wrap a nem in lettuce and add mint and cilantro and roll. Dip into the nuoc mam and enjoy!
Love this! And my BFF and roomie Margaux said they were really good, so pat on the back for my first try :)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

#SOULFOODSATURDAY Chicken in Milk ( Erica's version of a Jamie Oliver recipe)

It seems like a weird combination, I know, but ever since I came across this recipe by Jamie Oliver, I had been wanting to try it. When I got a dutch oven for my birthday, I knew I had to bless it with this dish!

Those clumpy bits you see are all curdled milk, and this happens because you add lemon zest. Make sure you cook it with lid on for an hour and fifteen minutes and uncovered for the last 15 minutes. This was one of the easiest to make and best tasting, tender and juicy roast chicken I've ever tasted. So good!


  • One whole chicken
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 tsp butter mixed with chopped garlic (my addition)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • juice 1/2 lemon (my addition)
  • handful of sage
  • 1 sprig Rosemary (my addition)
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard (my addition)
  • Worcestershire Sauce, to taste (my addition)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 2 heads garlic, peeled
What I omitted- 1/2 cinnamon stick (coz I didn't have any at home hehe!)

How to: 

  • Make small incisions on the chicken's skin ( breast area, leg/thigh) and stuff with garlic butter.
  • Rub entire chicken with mustard and add Worcestershire sauce. Marinate for a few hours.
  • When ready to cook, season with salt and pepper.
  • Pre-heat oven at 375 F, and while waiting for it to heat up, fry your chicken in a dutch oven until skin is brown on all sides. Remove oil.
  • Add all other ingredients and cover. Stick it in the oven and cook for 1 hour and fifteen minutes.
  • Remove lid and cook for another 15 minutes, basting every five minutes.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What I ate today: Hey Jude Pizza in Boracay

The legend lives on. I just got back from a half traumatizing, half regenerating weekend in Boracay. For all those of you who have been partygoers in the past, if you have frequented Boracay in the past, then you know the legendary Hey Jude Bar. It's where I, 9 years ago accepted a summer job as a bartender during the busy summer months, and where I met all the people who have become such an integral part in my being, people I will never stop calling my family.

After a quick hiatus when the structure of D'Mall beachfront changed, Hey Jude opened another joint, this time on the more peaceful Angol, which is in station 3. Hey Jude South Beach has rooms, a bar and a restaurant, and so when my friend Christine and I spent the day at South Beach, we just had to have the Hey Jude Pizza - some might say a pizza is a pizza, but this one conjures up feelings in me like no other.. Pizza.

Check out Hey Jude South Beach near Red Pirates, Station 3 Boracay Island

Monday, May 18, 2015

What I Ate Today: UMU Japanese Restaurant at Dusit Thani Manila

Thank You Dusit Thani for always being so good to me! I have spent numerous birthdays in this hotel eating my favorite Thai food at Benjarong, but this year, I got a birthday treat from Umu, the Japanese restaurant at the G/F of the hotel. Above is my daughter eating her newest favorite- Unaju, or grilled teriyaki eel over sticky rice.

I drank raw smoothies all day to prepare my stomach for a massive intake of food later that night. I wanted to be able to enjoy every bite, and because my stomach capacity is usually so small, I was afraid eating at all prior to the dinner would ruin my appetite.

Umu is a huge restaurant- way bigger than it initially seems when you walk in. It has the main front area, a few private rooms for intimate dinners, plus more space in the back, with one area having a teppanyaki section.

My companions and I shared a few starters of sushi, sashimi and this super yummy fried chicken with a sweet, sticky garlic sauce. I could have eaten this particular appetizer as a meal with rice, it was so good! The sushi roll above is the Umu roll and contains unagi, mango, cucumber and cream cheese.

I was the only one who did not choose beef that night- surprisingly! I had scallop teppanyaki and fried rice, but picked from the steak with Wafu sauce ( middle photo) and the Gyudon.

I think we were all hungry that evening and we finished our food in less than an hour! Yup, all of it! Ananda brought home some of her unagi that she didn't finish but we wiped out most of it.

I love food, and I can eat cheap food and more expensive food, but there's really a difference especially when it comes to the raw stuff and sushi when you buy cheap and when you are willing to spend a bit more. In my opinion, spend for things like raw fish and good steak because you will definitely see and taste the difference.

Umu is a great place for a barkada date because it's fun to order a lot and share. I would not recommend it for a first date just because you don't want to roll home all "bundat" from all the food, but definitely come here once your comfortable with your s.o. LOL!

I want to go back and have more of that garlic chicken! And those scallops! Thinking about them while I am stuck in the office on my lunch break with not a lot of choices around me! Be back soon, UMU. Thank You for the birthday treat!

UMU is located on the GF of Dusit Thani Manila

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review: My Month as a Vegetarian with V Kitchen

Vegan Korean Pancake for breakfast. Addition of Kecap Manis by me :)

First and foremost, me say a few things:

1. I was vegetarian for 2 years, from 2004-2006, so this is not my first experience not eating meat. It's been really long though since I gave up meat and dairy so I consider this my first time again.

2. I cheated on weekends. I could not help it- my job requires me to do food and restaurant reviews so I had no choice.

Ok, with that out of the way, here's my experience with V Kitchen-

Being someone who is constantly hungry, AND a foodie who cooks, it's difficult for me not to eat meat. I usually have no biases when it comes to food, with the exception of exotic animals and farm animals that we don't normally eat (like horses- Hello France and Japan!) I will try anything once.

Although I allow myself this luxury, I also keep things in moderation, to stay healthy and fit, so being vegetarian for three weeks was both a challenge and a gift to me, to see how far I can go. I'll tell you straight, I don't think I can ever go back to strict vegetarian living, but after this program, I can say that I can skip the meat at least 3 times a week. I love feeling full but not bloated or feeling like I have a rock in my stomach for hours (as meat tends to make me feel) and I liked being able to regularly go to the toilet ( FIBER!) 

Don't get me wrong, this meal delivery is not all rabbit food. There's pasta, tacos and other starchy foods so don't expect something completely low calorie, but the lack of animal fat on the menu sure does help and keeps it healthy. Plus, servings are just right and won't leave you hungry. In fact, I could not finish my food sometimes ( although I do have a weirdly small stomach capacity)

Here were some of my favorite meals:

Vegan Gyoza and Cha han Quinoa- so tasty and filling. I finished this and wanted more!

Tofu Katsu Curry with Quinoa- Again, a super filling meal you won't miss the pork at all!

Cauliflower Tempura with Orange Sauce- Who says cauliflower is boring! Not when it's battered and smothered in citrus!

Matcha and dark chocolate Muffin for breakfast- A sweet, dairy free way to start your day!

I was generally happy with all my meals, save for some that, not that there was anything wrong with them, were just really not my general taste. During those times, I simply just made myself something at home with no meat.

One suggestion I have for V Kitchen is that sandwiches should come disassembled, because sometimes the bread gets soggy, and cannot be reversed even when I toast it. I feel the taste and presentation is compromised when that happens. Other than that, no complaints at all. I felt full, satisfied and happy.

For those who want to kickstart a healthier lifestyle OR try out vegetarianism to see if they can hack it, this is a good first step. I highly recommend trying it for a month to see if it's your thing.

You can find V Kitchen on Instagram and Facebook: @vkitchen.manila on IG and V Kitchen Manila on Facebook

Monday, May 11, 2015

Staycation: Dusit Thani Manila

A couple of weekends ago, I took my daughter, who had just arrived from a two month Australia-New Zealand holiday, to Dusit Thani Hotel for a little R&R. As you might have noticed, I love staycations, as it allows me to have a mini-holiday without even having to leave my city.

Dusit is currently in the process of renovating some of their rooms and we were fortunate enough to stay in one of them. The style is a little more modern, and the suite we got had a huge bathroom (like I could literally throw a party in there!) and a cozy receiving area. Our room was on the 16th floor, just one elevator ride away from the Executive Lounge, where one can go for snacks and drinks all day. My daughter definitely made use of that perk, bringing me crinkles and other random pastries every time she had the munchies.

The king sized bed is ultra comfy and gives enough space for both me and my super likot daughter. For the first time ever, she slept next to me without me feeling even the slightest kick from her. Yay! Good Sleep! Something that eludes me most of the time.

Staycations are probably the easiest way to get away from real life even just for a day or two. Dusit is also really close to the mall in case you need anything or want to watch a movie or eat out. My staycations are usually opportunities for me to zone out and forget everything else exists. If you think it's too excessive, like I used to, think again- sometimes we need to spoil ourselves since a lot of us work so damn hard!

Dusit has 3 4 food outlets to choose from, my favorite being their Thai restaurant, Benjarong, but for something different, Ananda and I decided to try Tosca for some Italian food. My daughter likes anything with cheese so the Quattro Formaggi pizza was a definite must for this meal. She also had the Risotto Milanese and needless to say, was in a food coma after and went straight to sleep when we got back to our room.

I had the porchetta. I'm not a big pork eater but when it's roaster and has crispy skin, I can't resist. This one comes with a salad on the side to counter the heartiness of the pork. So yummy and flavorful but heavy! I suggest sharing this and something else so you can try a few dishes.

It's always wonderful to be able to spend time with my daughter outside of our home. It gives us the opportunity to talk more and catch up on each other's lives without all the distractions of the tv or her playmates, or for me, work. Good food and a comfortable bed, plus not having to pick up after ourselves certainly helps. 'Til next time, Dusit Thani! Thanks for having us!

Visit for inquiries and reservations and follow them on instagram: @dusit_manila

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Savour Shanghai at Shang Palace

For the next week, Shang Palace at Makati Shangri-la will be having a special promo, which I got to try last week. I love Chinese food, but being from Manila and only going to Hong Kong and never having been to mainland China, I think I've only really had Cantonese Cuisine, so this was something familiar but still a little different for me.

Up there is the Clove Pork Ribs, my favorite out of the 8 courses. I'm not usually a big pork eater, but these were super (sorry for the cliche) fall-of-the-bone tender with a thick, mildly sweet sauce. If I was not at a hotel, I would have picked them up with my hands and devoured accordingly, but I decided to be a civilized adult and use utensils.

 I realized that Shanghai style food is very simple, but complex at the same time. There's nothing complicated about it, and yet it's extremely satisfying. These two dishes- the Yellow Croaker Soup and this Grouper with wine sauce was so comforting and something I felt I will keep looking for over and over again. The taste is clean but earthy and nothing felt too heavy. I did not feel the way I do after the usual Chinese meal- bloated and ready to pass out. Instead, I went straight back to the office, did a few interviews and had a meeting and I was completely fine.

The Guest Chef, Wade Wei Zhong Ziang is an award winning Senior Sous Chef from Pudong Shangri-la East Shanghai and prepared a set menu that will be available for a limited time only (Until May 16 so hurry!)

Shanghai appetizers are different from what we're used to when we say Chinese food. There is no char siu pork, jelly fish and century eggs or cold soy chicken. Instead we had pig ears ( shaped like actual pig ears so don't expect a chopped up sisig-like dish!) a pumpkin dish with a sweet syrup and steamed shrimp.

Savour Shanghai is available from May 6-16 at Shang Palace, Makati Shangri-la. Call 8142584 for inquiries and reservations