food is sacred.

Soy Lime Marinated Beef, dressing made with Chef Rossy Earle's Diablo Verde hot sauce on rice noodles (a dish I made recently)

Some recent conversations about food I’ve had with friends in Toronto and New York prompted me to write about it today. I was raised with an almost sacred view of food. I realized how much this has contributed to my perspectives, love and respect for food of all types as an adult. Some of the unwritten rules around food in my childhood were:  

 · try everything once (especially food you’re afraid to try; there were very, very few exceptions)

· never scoff at food you don't necessarily care for (esp. when at people's home cooked dinners or even restaurants) because that would be extremely disrespectful to whomever prepared it – and to food, in general

· meals are enjoyed together and talked about at length

· nothing is ever wasted (before the ‘nose-to-tail’ was ever a trendy thing, poorer countries practiced this as a given), so excess was frowned upon

· processed/packaged food wasn’t readily available in the Philippines and also more expensive. Therefore nearly everything was cooked fresh (thankfully) 

· you ate everything on your plate because so many children around go hungry everyday so a clean plate was a sign of gratefulness

· when dining on the beach, you ate with your hands on picnic tables lined with banana leaves 

All of this taught me to enjoy and respect food as much as I do today. I think it’s normal to have personal preferences. But a narrow-mindedness about food and scoffing at food you didn’t like was looked down upon and simply not allowed when I was growing up. So it drives me crazy when I see narrow-mindedness now. I feel lucky and grateful to have had the upbringing that I had. I love that I was brought up this way. I love seeing children who are growing up with a wider palate and an open-mindedness about food. I have my parents —especially my mom— to thank for this. I was never the kid who was fixated by eating candy. Nor was I allowed to be picky. I was always more interested dinner (not to mention, dessert). Filipino culture centres so much around food in many ways too. So none of this is a surprise. I lived there until I was almost 12 before moving to California. Food was the other religion. Meals were, in essence, pure love and joy. Meals were everything. Not much has changed today.

Living in New York starting in 1999 only helped enhance and widen my perspective and palate. I'm surrounded by even more people over the past two+ years who regard food in this same way in Toronto. It's an endless journey of discovery. It's so fantastic and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 


sublime brussels sprouts : david chang's recipe

Over the holidays, I spotted a brussels sprout recipe that I had the pleasure of having at Momofuku Ssam Bar this past fall. Chef David Chang is one of Manhattan's top chefs in my book and his restaurants are some of my favourites in the city. My sister Christine and I made the version I found in GQ magazine (to eat with Christmas dinner) which uses sriracha sauce and bacon (so GOOD!).

This weekend, I will make the version I ordered at Ssam bar which I found on Serious Eats. The dressing is amazing. It has mint, lime, garlic, fish sauce and cilantro. All ingredients that I love!

Can't wait.

Find the recipe here.

resolutions : more or less

So here are my resolutions for 2010:

1) Take more dance classes (and more push-ups!), have fewer excuses. I take amazing classes Alvin Ailey Extension and I'm eager to try Peridance Capezio Center again... they just moved to a gorgeous new space.

2) More juicing fresh green juice. My favourite: green apple, cucumber and spinach or celery (or ginger). Juicing has had a huge impact on my digestive health and it just feels great when I do it on a consistent basis.

3) More cooking at home. Maybe take more classes at the Institute of Culinary Education

4) See more of my sisters (they live in Toronto). Spending time with them over the holidays makes me want to see more of them in general. I need to make it happen more often this year. Over all, I need to spend more time with like-minded, ambitious, intelligent, passionate, positive souls. Spend a lot less time with toxic, negative beings who don't nourish my life.

5) More travel! I rented an apartment for a month in Paris in 2005 and I haven't been able to do anything similar since. Something more tropical is always a desirable option too. The photos below are of me cycling in front of the Louvre and the other is from a trip to Palawan (Philippines) a few years ago.

6) More peace = less worrying = better sleep = better skin. Really. This is probably the most challenging of all but I'm determined.

7) I need to read more. The list of books to read next is ever growing. Next up is my friend Ken Wheaton's First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival.

sunday nite dinner : fried rice with chinese sausage & broccoli

I can't wait. Just returned from Chinatown. I have all my ingredients ready – Chinese sausage (YUM!) was key for this very easy dish. I found this great recipe on the Sunday Nite Dinner blog last year and I've been wanting to make it again. My version will be heavy on the Chinese broccoli and I will be using dried shiitake mushrooms. Perfect.

caramelized black pepper chicken love

Vietnamese food rocks my world. I love this quick, easy and flavour-packed recipe from GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow's weekly newsletter. In fact, I've made this several times already. It was lifted from Food & Wine magazine and it's by chef Charles Phan who runs Slanted Door, a great Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco. My variation of this recipe uses less sugar and fish sauce. I also like to marinate the chicken in the sauce ingredients for at least a half an hour before I stir fry – this gives the breast meat the chance to absorb more flavour.  Most importantly, I top the dish with a TON of fresh cilantro before I devour it! Just thinking about this is making me salivate. I'm looking forward to making this again... tomorrow night. 

View or download the recipe here (scroll down to the bottom).