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Easy Garlic Fried Rice


One of our current staples in home cooking is fried rice. Garlic fried rice, to be specific. It’s The Man’s favorite kind of fried rice, and it’s so easy that I never really tire of making it. Here is how I do it.

  1. Prep your old rice by taking it out of the fridge and having it go to almost room temperature. Cooking cold rice will just make the process much longer.
  2. Take a whole bulb of garlic (yes that’s how we roll!). Peel the cloves, wash the cloves briefly, then dice them. It’s your choice if you like finely diced garlic or just roughly diced.
  3. Heat about a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in your nonstick pan.
  4. Fry the garlic in the olive oil until it starts turning brown.
  5. Put in your old rice. For this much garlic I can use about two to three cups of old cooked rice.
  6. Use a spatula (or two, I like to double-wield) to break down the rice until the grains separate and gets coated by oil and garlic. Be generous with your tossing around of the rice and garlic, to make an even mix. If you are using cold rice this can take a while.
  7. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper according to taste. I like to put only a shake or two of each, just to get a bit of flavor in. I don’t want to overwhelm the taste of the garlic.
  8. It’s hard to say when it’s done as I just eyeball it. Basically once the rice grains are separated and looks like it had a turn at the bottom of the pan, I stop cooking.

The whole process shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, unless you take a long time peeling and dicing the garlic. Take it off the heat and serve immediately. We usually serve this with smoked bangus or tocino, maybe a side of fried egg, and a tomato-and-patis salad.

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Posted by on August 17, 2013 in Random Cooking


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Maggi Magic Meals Chicken Pastel

One of my staple baon viands recently is Chicken Pastel, made so easy because of Maggi Magic Meals. I discovered this when Maggi was giving out samples at my work place. The idea of the Magic Meals is simple: put the required ingredients in the provided plastic bag, tie it shut, place it in the rice cooker along with your prepared rice and water, and cook it for 45 minutes. Let me show you how I did this Chicken Pastel.

This is what the Magic Meal pack looks like. As you can see, I bought it at Hi-Top for Php32.85.


It has two sections. The top section contains the special food-grade plastic that will hold the ingredients. The bottom section contains the flavoring powder that will transform those ingredients into chicken pastel. At the back you will see very detailed instructions. (Click the images for a larger version.)

magicmeals2 magicmeals3

I’ll now show you the steps I took to create my latest batch of chicken pastel.

1. Prepare your ingredients. Here I took a largish carrot and a medium potato, which I peeled and diced. I also have half a kilo of chicken thigh fillets, which I cut into small parts and scored the meat sections three times each to let the flavor in. I chose thigh fillets because it’s boneless (making it easier to eat when I take it to work) and more flavorful than say, breast fillets. This batch is extra fatty, which contributed to a creamier pastel later on.


2. Open up the provided plastic bag. It has a red sticker that keeps it folded. I take the effort to remove all traces of this sticker to make sure I won’t have sticker bits or glue in my rice. Put all the ingredients in the bag, then add the flavoring powder (bottom section) and 1/4 cup of water.


3. Seal the bag, making sure that the bag will lie flat and there isn’t much air inside.


4. Place the bag inside the rice cooker, making sure that most of the bag is submerged in the water. I usually cook two cups of rice here, so there will be enough water to accommodate the magic meal bag. Turn on the rice cooker. Usually the rice will finish cooking faster than the 45 minutes required for the magic meal. What I do is to just set the rice cooker to warm (so as not to burn the rice) to keep the cooking of the magic meal going. I turn off the rice cooker at exactly 45 minutes.


5. The chicken pastel is ready to serve! Cut open the bag and slide out the cooked pastel. Be careful here because the bag is probably very hot.


This batch will probably give me about two to three sets of baon. I just spoon it over the rice and seal my bento, and it reheats pretty nicely in the microwave. I will probably keep on using this kind of chicken, because it really made the pastel creamy and decadent.

Maggi has three other kinds of Magic Meals: Lechon Paksiw, Bicol Express, and Afritada. I’ve tried the first two, and Chicken Pastel remains my favorite.

Have you tried Magic Meals? Which one did you like best?

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Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Random Cooking


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Gift Series Part 2: Gifts for cooks and cook apprentices


Photo credit: Stephanie Kilgast

As promised, here’s part 2 of the gift series. This time, we will be focusing on the little things that your friends or family who are cooks (or even just cook apprentices) will appreciate receiving. Again, I will be focusing on “affordable” gifts, costing Php500 (~$11.41) and less.


Photo credit: Japan Home

Small sauce pans – Many home cooks have a set of pots and pans sized for an entire family. However, sometimes they will need smaller-sized pans for cooking sauces and glazes or even meals for only one or two people. From experience, you can really never have too many sauce pans! Saizen and Japan Home both offer their signature-priced pans, although they are not really very sturdy. Department stores offer better quality pans for around three times the price.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home, home and garden section of various department stores

A set of small glass bowls – These are the very small clear glass bowls that we usually see in cooking shows, those that hold only a tablespoon or three of liquid or powder. These little bowls can serve a variety of purposes: they can hold cooking ingredients, serve as dipping containers, and if you buy the right-sized bowls, they can even measure ingredients for you. These usually cost Php15-40 per bowl.

Places to buy: home and garden section of various department stores


Photo credit: Abhijit Tembhekar

Spices – Spices are always a welcome gift for any cook. Having a complete stock of spices is very difficult because they aren’t really all that cheap. Try to avoid the common herbs like thyme, oregano, and rosemary. Instead, focus on the different ones like allspice, cumin, paprika, and turmeric. Better yet, try to find the rarer spice mixes that come with its own grinder.

Places to buy: supermarkets, Gourdo’s, warehouse stores (S&R, Price Smart, etc)

Containers with screwtop lids – Ah, containers. These are my personal favorites. It is preferable to gift glass containers, since that is the least reactive of container material. Screwtop lids will prevent more dropped-container accidents than “vacuum” seals. Big containers offer good storage space for things like flour, pasta, and cereal. Smaller ones will hold sugar, coffee, and other table condiments. A matching set will make a great gift.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home, home and garden section of various department stores

I was thinking of going on to a third part, but seeing as Christmas is already next week and the stores will be packed it might be too late. I hope you enjoyed my very short series! 🙂


Posted by on December 16, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Gift Series Part 1: Gifts for the bento enthusiast

Christmas gifts!

Photo by Stephanie Kilgast

The Christmas season is undeniably here, even though the weather is still uncooperative. And of course, Christmas means presents! I’m going to combine two of my favorite activities, shopping and cooking, to present you with a series of posts dedicated to gifts. Part 1 will address the most specific: the bento enthusiast. Note that I will be focusing on “affordable” gifts, costing Php500 (~$11.41) and less.

Bento box for girls – What bento enthusiast will say no to a bento box? Even if it will be her tenth, or even fiftieth, there’s a good chance that she will not have that specific box yet. Just choose an unusual design or shape, and you’re good to go. For beginners, this will also be the perfect entry point and will definitely inspire them to further their skills.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home, Clipper, children’s accessories section of Landmark Trinoma, home and garden sections of various department stores

Furoshiki – The nice thing about furoshiki is it could be of any cloth material. It doesn’t have to specifically say that it is a furoshiki. Normal items such as square scarves, large handkerchiefs, and bandanas can serve as furoshiki. Just find any square piece of cloth, preferrably of soft fabric and interesting design. Make sure that it is hemmed on all sides to prevent unraveling. You can even use it as the gift wrapping material itself!

Places to buy: Saizen, various fabric stores, various department stores (for scarves, handkerchiefs, and bandanas)

Sushi set – mat, paddle, and mold (optional) – Many a bento meal will feature sushi. A sushi set will always be a welcome gift. You’ll need a good bamboo mat and a wooden or plastic rice paddle to start out the set, and if your friend is ready to venture further, the addition of cute bento molds will be a happy surprise.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home, asian section of supermarkets (for mat and paddle only)

Bento box for men – Sometimes your bento enthusiast will want to prepare meals for their significant others, sons, fathers, etc., and they will NOT appreciate being served meals in cutesy boxes. A perfect manly box is this black single-tier one from Saizen. Don’t worry about size, as they come in man-appetite-appropriate sizes as well.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home

Accessory set – cutters, sauce containers, and silicone cups – To round out the list, I suggest gifting food cutters, sauce or condiment containers, silicone cups, or any combination of the above. Food cutters are the easiest way to style vegetables or sandwiches. Sauce containers are usually small colored containers to hold soy sauce, ketchup, or even furikake. Silicone cups are the best to use for separating food inside a bento box.

Places to buy: Saizen, Gourdo, home and garden section of various department stores

Part 2 will address the home cooks and cook apprentices. Watch out for it!


Posted by on December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Bento # 10 Simple Starter Bento

My friend Randell suggested making an “easy-to-prepare-even-for-n00bs” bento, which I thought was a great idea and went immediately to making and photographing the preparation of a “starter” bento. My objective is to show how easy it is to prepare baon bento-style, without needing to purchase anything outside the standard appliances and utensils found in the kitchen nor to do anything beyond cooking rice with a rice cooker. This procedure prepares baon for one person.

Things you will need:

1. A rice cooker with steamer tray

NOTE: If your rice cooker does not have a steamer tray, you can use aluminum foil.

2. A sharp knife and a cutting board

3. Several small cups or bowls that are heat-resistant

4. A standard box for baon such as Lock n’ Lock or Tupperware, preferably one that can be tightly sealed

Food you will need:

Carbs: 1 cup of uncooked rice (Note: 1 cup of uncooked rice will probably yield way more rice than what you’d need for 1 serving. However, most rice cookers will have a minimum amount of rice to cook to avoid burning. Just put the remainder in a tightly sealed container and put it in the freezer.)

Protein: Any amount of hotdogs/sausages that you feel will be enough for 1 serving

Veggies: Any amount of “hard” veggies such as carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, onions, etc that you feel will be enough for 1 serving

Others: Enough water for cooking rice; Salt and pepper; Soy sauce


1. Wash the rice thoroughly. Drain and set aside in the rice cooker bowl.

2. Peel the veggies and wash thoroughly. Here you see that I used one small carrot and one small potato.

3. Cut the veggies into thin strips and place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, and maybe half a teaspoon of soy sauce. Toss thoroughly to distribute the flavor. Place into the steamer tray.

4. Cut the hotdogs or sausages into short sections. Here I used two jumbo-sized cheese hotdogs, and cut them into 6 each. Place in another small bowl and put it into the steamer tray as well.

Here you see I have a third bowl that holds leftover rice. For more information about freezing rice, go here.

5. Put the necessary amount of water you need to cook your rice into the rice cooker bowl. I haven’t specified the exact amount here because it would depend on the type of rice you are cooking.

6. Place the steamer on the rice cooker bowl and cover. Set the rice cooker to “cook”. Wait until the rice is cooked or until the rice cooker setting turns automatically to “warm”. The veggies and the protein will also be done by the time the rice is done cooking. Turn off the rice cooker.

NOTE: If your rice cooker does not have a steamer tray, you can instead use aluminum foil packets to hold your veggies and protein (separately). Place the packets directly on the uncooked rice. Make sure that each packet is tightly sealed to avoid any juices from spilling into rice. See a sample foil packet here.

7. Remove the steamer tray carefully, and set aside.

8. Get a desired amount of cooked rice from the rice cooker and place it to one side of your bento box. Note here I’m using a standard 550ml rectangular Lock n’ Lock, with the inner compartments removed. The rice here takes up around 33-40% of the box.

9. Take the sliced hotdogs/sausages and place them next to the rice. Make sure to drain the hotdogs before packing them (they will have shed some liquid while steaming). This will take a second 33% of the box.

10. Finally, place the veggies in the remaining space in your box. You may elect to sprinkle a bit of the liquid that it shed while steaming back on the veggies, but I prefer not to because I wasn’t using any dividers. The liquid will probably soak the rice and the hotdogs and mix the flavors, which may or may not make your food taste bad. Without the liquid the veggies will be a bit crunchy, like what I did with mine.

And there you go, a painless bento that will take you under 30 minutes to prepare, cooking included.


Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Soba and Somen: Cooking Japanese cold noodles

I love Japanese cold noodles. The first time I’ve tasted cold soba is from Komoro Soba at Megamall. They serve a cold soba set with an optional small bowl of katsudon for around Php 150 (~$3.33). In succeeding Japanese restaurants I go to, I always have an impulse to try their cold noodle offering but I end up getting something else like sushi or a donburi. I’ve also tried some assorted ramen-type dishes in various other restaurants. Recently, I’ve gotten the guts to try cooking cold noodles myself.

Here are the things I’ve learned (aka how to prepare cold noodles):

1. Japanese noodles aren’t really hard to cook. They are very similar to cooking regular spaghetti, just omit the salt and/or oil. Make sure that your water is already boiling before you put in the noodles. The length of time for boiling depends on the type of noodle you are cooking.

Soba – 10 minutes
Somen – 3-5 minutes

2. Washing the noodles is very important. They get rid of excess starch in the noodles. I find that the easiest way to do this is to dump all of the boiled noodles in a large colander, then run tap water through them. After a bit, you can gently stir the noodles around in the colander with your hands.

3. The ice bath is also important. After you have rinsed your noodles, transfer them from the colander into a prepared ice bath (a bowl of water with ice cubes). Keep them there for around a minute or two, then transfer into a serving plate like this.

4. I got the dipping sauce recipe (and the instructions on how to cook soba) from JustHungry. To save you from tracing back the steps, here’s a short version:

Bring to boil 1.5 tbs of mirin (should only take a few seconds) in a small saucepan. Add 1.5 tbs of white sugar and stir until all the sugar have been melted. Add 0.5 cups of soy sauce (light soy would work best), and stir a little. Take the pan off the heat. Add anywhere between 1.5 to 3 cups of dashi stock depending on how you want your dipping sauce to taste. Personally, I like to add all 3 cups of stock especially if you have rather strong soy sauce. Dashi stock? Dissolve 4 grams of dashi granules in 3 cups of water. You might need to heat the water a little to make sure all the granules are dissolved.

Make sure to chill the dipping sauce well before serving the noodles. Warm dipping sauce is not really delicious.

Notes: a) If you can’t be bothered with preparing your own dipping sauce, you can buy bottled mentsuyu in the Japanese section of your local grocery or supermarket. I’ve seen some at Landmark and Robinson’s supermarkets. Incidentally, you can also find dashi granules and the actual soba and somen there. b) The packets say that the serving size is 100 grams per person. Conveniently, soba and somen come in pre-bundled um… bundles, so just cook 1 bundle per person that you are serving. This amount will fill your entire carb requirement for a meal. If you’re planning to eat other carbs with your meal, adjust the amount appropriately. c) Usually you put condiments on either your noodles or the dipping sauce or both. The article above lists some condiments you can try. Most of the time I forget to put condiments, but the noodles taste good regardless.

Soba – thin buckwheat noodles that are usually brown, although I’ve seen some packs that say they are cha soba (green-tea flavored) and are thereby greenish. I mentioned that you should boil these for 10 minutes, but you could cook for a shorter period if you want to have firmer noodles. Here’s a meal for one I did a week ago.

Somen – very thin white noodles made of wheat flour, very reminiscent of vermicelli or angel hair pasta. Again here is a meal for one I made earlier this week. I find that I like somen better than soba because of its light airy texture. It also holds the taste of the dipping sauce better.

Next stop: noodle salads, noodles in bento, noodles in soup, and udon


Posted by on August 21, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Save prep time! Pre-portion your frozen goods

One of the secrets to successful daily creation of baon is efficient preparation. If you can lessen the things you have to do in the morning before you leave for work, the more time you can dedicate to styling your baon. Here’s one simple tip: pre-portion your frozen goods into your chosen portion size before freezing. This way, you will only have to take out the portion/s that you’re going to use for your baon. It will take a lot less time to defrost, and it will reduce the risk to the rest of the food due to refreezing.

I made this little guide for your use, since I had this 1-kg packet of cocktail hotdogs ready for pre-portioning.

1. Determine your serving size. It really depends on what you are pre-portioning and for whom. From previous experience, I have determined that 4 cocktail hotdogs are enough for one serving, either for me or for my daughter.

2. Place one serving in a sandwich bag (does not have to be ziplock). Fold the sandwich bag such that the food is completely enclosed. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible.

3. Repeat #2 until you’ve used up all the food from your bulk package. Don’t worry too much if the remainder is less than your serving size. You can either bag it by itself, or distribute it to some of your other packets.

4. Place all of your single-serving packets into one big ziplock bag. Again try to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing. Place in your freezer.

And you’re ready to go! Just take out one serving packet the night before you’re going to use it, and put it in the ref to defrost. By morning it should be nicely defrosted and ready to be cooked. No more waiting for the entire package to defrost before you could pull out only a couple of hotdogs. No more accidental spoilage because of all the defrosting and refreezing. I do this to all sorts of food: hotdogs, ham, chicken nuggets, chicken breast fillets, fish cakes, even rice. The only disadvantage to this method is you’re going to be using a lot of plastic, which is not really good for the environment. I do my part by reusing the ziplock up to 3 times in this manner before throwing it (not the sandwich bags though!).


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Posted by on August 5, 2010 in Uncategorized


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